Finding success as an entrepreneur – by Michael St. Amant
I recently dropped by Tik-Tok Media to discuss a project with Trevor Cherewka who owns the business along with his partner Kevin Wynne. As I sat across from Trevor, I could not help but notice how busy he was multi-tasking. As we talked, he was busy answering the phone, responding to e-mails and making adjustments to his printing machine. Two thoughts crossed my mind. Trevor is not unlike many of the other small business owners and entrepreneurs I have encountered here in Brant and how much I admire their work ethic.
Being a small business owner is not easy and chances of success are difficult. During the past year, the Brantford-Brant Business Resource Centre reported that 231 master business licenses were registered at the BRC through Service Ontario. Of these, 55% were in the service sector, 18% retail, and 23% construction. According to the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, nearly 50% of these firms will be out of business in three years, and 70% will have disappeared within six years. The majority of the people who start-up small businesses would be between 35 and 54 years, have a post- secondary education, want to be their own boss, and are interested in developing a business that
will provide them and their families with a comfortable income. The majority would have had experience in the sector they have established their business and many would have undertaken the enterprise as an alternative to unemployment or because it has a low cost of entry. They are, however, the backbone of our economy, and small business, firms with fewer than 100 employees, account for 97.8% of all firms in Canada.
Trevor and Kevin established Tik-Tok Media in 2009. Trevor, who is 40, was a graduate of the Toronto Business School’s Restaurant and Hotel Management Program. After six years working for a furniture rental company and eight years with Ball Media where he was involved with the business-to-business media sector, he decided he wanted to be his own boss. Since then, he says that it has been an on-going learning experience in which he could afford few mistakes. “One of the things I learnt very quickly is that it is not about being your boss,” he recently told me. “In fact, you end up replacing one boss with a whole bunch bosses who have expectations that you will meet their requirements on time and at a price that they can afford. I quickly learnt that you can over-stretch yourself and that that you have to work smarter. Your focus has to be on how you can make a profit while meeting customer expectations.”
Trevor points out that there are many pressures on the independent small business owner. In the case of Tik-Tok, the partners are the marketing and sales department, they order the supplies they need, price the jobs, carry out the production, deliver the end product and even take out the garbage. At the same time, he says that it is important to balance family responsibilities. His wife, Tabitha, is also a small business owner and they have four children. His family is very supportive and he feels that Tabitha provides him with balance both with respect to his family and his business responsibilities. By helping to keep him the “straight and narrow”, he says that it has forced him to work smarter.
When he first started his business, Trevor did everything which meant that he worked long hours and was very focused on providing his clients with what they needed. Part of the learning curve he pointed out. Over the past four years, he has established a network of self-employed media professionals who have expertise that he can draw from. This means that Tik-Tok can be more flexible in the services that it offers its clients and can meant their demands for quick turnaround on projects. It also allows Trevor time to do what he does well, market and provide creative input. It also allows him an opportunity to experiment with other projects such as Tweet- stock and Grandelicious, both of which benefit Brantford. Tweetstock promotes the use of social media and Grandelicious is an upcoming food and wine fair that promotes restaurants, wineries and microbreweries from the communities along the Grand River.
In many respects, Trevor reflects the thriving small business community in Brantford. It is built on talent and a capacity for hard work. It is also community oriented. So, as I watch Trevor, I believe that he will beat the statistical odds. I suspect that he knew what the odds were because the printing and media sector is very competitive. I also believe that he has enough confidence in his own abilities to ignore the odds and march on success.