Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

Matrix Mobile: Teen turns cell repair into multiple store business

Owning a business with two locations is a tough task for just about anyone. But throw in the added task of being a high school student at the same time, and it’s something most folks wouldn’t even dream of.

But Kyle Jagassar isn’t most folks, and by the time he graduated from Dakota Collegiate in June, that dream was a reality.

Kyle, who recently turned 18, is the owner of Matrix Mobile, an electronics repair company operating with two locations in Winnipeg. The first location opened in the Exchange District in late 2015, and the second followed up in St. Vital in the spring of this year.

“I’ve always wanted to start a business in tech,” said Kyle. “I’ve always looked for a way of doing that, and my way of getting into the technology industry was by doing repairs. It’s something that I like to do and I’m passionate about.”

“I was really curious to see how it all worked. I wanted to take it apart and put it back together,” said Kyle, who got some of his knowledge from watching tutorials on YouTube. “The first time I did it, I was really excited.”

Early Beginnings
Kyle’s first foray into the business world was when he first entered high school a few years ago. At that time, he was making custom phone cases. What started off as something small among his friends soon grew to be in demand at high schools through the south end of the city. Kyle called them ‘Matrix Cases’.

From there came Matrix Repair, based out of Kyle’s bedroom. There, self-taught through YouTube videos and hands-on learning, he developed the skills required to repair cracked screens, broken home buttons, water damage and any other conceivable phone ailment. Once again, his business gained popularity.

Kyle first started running his phone repair business out of his bedroom, before making the plunge and buying a store front at the age of 17.

“I kind of miss it, honestly. But it just got to the point where we couldn’t handle the customers and the calls and everything.”

“So eight months ago we got the Exchange District store, and two months ago we opened up the St. Vital store.”
Giving Back in Different Ways
Part of Kyle’s plan going forward with Matrix Mobile is to give back to the community, with a main goal of establishing a scholarship for high school students in Louis Riel School Division who have started or are looking to start their own business.

“We have three paths for giving back to the community: event sponsorship, silent auction donation and a scholarship. We’re trying to stand out in the community, and we’re trying to give back in that way.”

Down the Road
Kyle will be attending Red River College starting in the fall, enrolled in the school’s business administration program. Kyle acknowledges that he will have to be less hands on when school starts in the fall, focusing mostly on the back-end of the business.

“I won’t have lots of time, so I’ve set the business up in a way that I can do less. We have managers at each store, and they’ll be able to watch the stores. Most of my work now is in the back-end, focusing on finances and that sort of thing. I’ll just have to find time to do it.”

“We have lots of plans, and there’s lots of room or growth. If you don’t know about matrix yet, you’re going to in the next few years.”

Smak Dab mustards up recipe for success

Working with food was, and continues to be, a major passion in her life, but the demanding schedule that comes with cooking in restaurants was not exactly what one local cook had in mind for herself.

“I’ve been involved with food my whole life,” said Carly Minish, Owner and Red Seal Chef of Smak Dab Foods Ltd.  “My grandma was a dietitian, my mom was a really good cook and I’ve always been very involved with food. So when I had to make the decision where to go for school, culinary school was a natural fit.” Continue reading Smak Dab mustards up recipe for success

WECM Gives Opportunities to Women in Manitoba

In 1994, when the federal government recognized that women were at a disadvantage when it came to starting and expanding businesses, it opened the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba. The WECM was the first provincial program in Western Canada aiming to help women pursue their business dreams, and was part of a federal program from Western Economic Diversification Canada.
WECM’s CEO Sandra Altner has been with the organization for eight years, and notes the difference in what is available to women in comparison to their male counterparts.
“Women in business do not have the same resources as men, in terms of access to capital, as well as recognition and credibility within the business community. Women also did not have access to the same level of business school and education opportunities.”
The WECM works to close that gap by providing three basic services:
1. Advisory services provided by their team of business advisors, working in house to guide potential and current business owners in the decision making process, guiding them over any hurdle they might encounter. Legal, financial, personnel advice are just some of the services that the advisors provide.
2. Training seminars and workshops to help women to increase their management capacity, to develop high end business plans and feasibility studies and how to run their businesses based on the teachings of subject matter experts.
3. Loans up to $150,000, allowing women to gain the capital required to build or improve their businesses.
“We help close to 250 businesses per year, close to 1500 appointments, 2500 information services provided,” says Sandra. “We’ve provided 20 million dollars in loans since ’94 with a very low write-off rate. 75% of our loan clients are still around after five years. For every dollar invested into Women’s Enterprise Initiatives across the west, it generates 20 dollars back in economic impact, and 30 leveraged dollars.”

Starting Out

Some people come to the Women’s Enterprise Centre with only an idea. Others come looking for an idea, while others come with businesses that have been established for ten years or more.
“More women are starting businesses now than men. But they’re not starting at the same level of capitalization,” said Sandra. “They are not able to access the growth capital to the same extent. Women are just not there yet in terms of having the credibility with investment organizations, or having the confidence to approach venture capital and investment organizations for their initiatives.”
Sandra was once an entrepreneur herself, and notes how much things have change since she first ran her own business.
“I think back and I just wish I had had these opportunities and these resources when I was business,” said Sandra. “There was nothing to support entrepreneurs in general, much less entrepreneurial women. Now when you look around, you see the recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship to global economic growth is so much further along than it was. In those days, the idea of being in business was seen to be somewhat shady. Now it’s seen as the impetus for growth.”

A Landscape of Change

With different provincial centres running in different ways, they are often on divergent paths but with a common goal, Sandra says everybody benefits.
“With the regional programs evolving in slightly different manners which allow each other to learn from each other’s experiences and grow from each other’s discoveries.”
WECM has been involved with encouraging women at Red River College and the University of Manitoba to get into business and entrepreneurship, with scholarships at both institutions.
Sandra sees the business world changing to become more accommodating of women as business leaders, and hopes for a day in the near future where institutes like WECM no longer need to provide the services that they do.
“I hope that in the next five to ten years we see a level playing field, where organizations like ours don’t need to be around anymore because it’s not even a question have the same opportunities to start and grow their business, access capital and gain credibility within the larger business community. We’ve seen a major change in the time we’ve been around, and expect that it’s going to be exponential in the next few years. It’s already starting to happen.”
“The world has progressed in a very healthy way, and I think it’s only going to get better from here. When women take their proper place as generators of wealth and developers of assets, the world will be a much better place.”

Tray this on for size

Sometimes in life, you find yourself staring into the void, looking for answers to tough questions, like how to get your ad in front of a mass audience.
For the guys behind Portray Advertising, the answer was staring right back at them.
Co-founders Kyle Boult and Greg Lipschitz formed the food tray advertising company and launched the pilot run during the 2013 holiday season. The inspiration for the idea actually came from a brain storming session that Kyle had at a mall while working for American Express in Toronto.
“My boss and I were at lunch, bashing our heads on what to use as a creative campaign and thinking of ways to get in front of mass audiences and it hit me,” said Kyle. “I was literally staring at it while we were having this conversation. I pitched the idea to Greg and here we are.”

If at first you don’t succeed…tray, tray again

Before they were able to do their initial launch at St. Vital Centre, there was a lot of pounding the pavement and cold calling to line up advertisers.
“We set up meetings with 170 retail stores,” said Greg. “We explained the program and the benefits to their store, and if they weren’t the decision maker they passed it along to their district manager or their marketing department.”
The initial campaigns for ads were very successful, and featured large brands such as Scotiabank and Rogers. However, the first batch of trays wasn’t up to standard.
“Initially the trays were a little bit too heavy, and we couldn’t change the ads quick enough,” said Greg. “So that’s what led Kyle and I to work in the food court for three months, scrubbing trays, washing dishes. You name it we did it.”
Kyle and Greg made the changes to the trays in time for the 2014 season, and continued to maintain their relationship with mall staff at St. Vital Centre.
The hard work and long hours did not go unnoticed, as St. Vital Centre management brought their efforts to the attention of 20 VIC Management Inc., the company that manages St. Vital Centre.
“They’ve become a champion of the program,” said Kyle. “They worked with us to bring the program to their superiors, so they’ve been advocates for us, and we’ve been able to work with them and their superiors to roll this out nationally. 20 VIC owns a portfolio of 18 malls, so we’re rolling out with all of their mall locations in November.”

Sticking to their roots

Kyle and Greg have been working together since they met at St. Paul’s High School, and upon graduation they both attended the Richard Ivey Schools of Business at the University of Western Ontario. After graduation, Kyle started work at American Express in Toronto while Greg worked with Richardson Capital back home in Winnipeg. When the two decided to go into business, the logical choice was to make the effort together and to set up shop in Winnipeg.
“Greg and I were both looking to make the plunge at the same time,” said Kyle. “We compliment each other extremely well from a skill set. I come from a sales and marketing background, whereas Greg is more operations and finance.”
“We’re very appreciative of our network here,” said Greg. “That’s why we launched in Winnipeg, because this is where our network is and it’s allowed us to use all of our resources.”

Giving back

Apart from business and entrepreneurship, Kyle and Greg also share an interest in philanthropy, starting with volunteering while at St. Paul’s. They have contributed to various efforts, and have found one that ties in nicely with Portray Advertising.
“We partnered with Breakfast Clubs of Canada, which was an awesome fit with the platform, plus Greg and I wanted to be able to give every kid the sort of opportunity to educate themselves and learn,” said Kyle. “You never know who that future Wayne Gretzky or who the next Einstein is going to be.”

Going forward

With the national campaign set to roll out in November, Kyle and Greg hope to one day expand to venues other than malls, such as amusement parks, cruise ships and universities. They also aspire to move into international markets.
The work remains difficult, but being friends for so long helps make the difficult times much more bearable.
“It never stops, but I guess the most rewarding part is I’m doing it with my best friend,” said Greg. “It doesn’t end, it’s a constant journey. So I think the fact that we can do it together and have so much fun with it, to me at least, is the most rewarding.”

Seeing things differently

What’s the first thing you think of when going to an optometrist’s office?
Probably something along the lines of a sterile, blank-walled environment where fun is left at the door. This was the sort of thing that cousins Dr. Jessie Fillmore and Bonni O’Hara were looking to avoid when they opened up G is for Glasses on Taylor Ave. in 2014.
“It was a brand new building so we had a completely blank slate with what we wanted to do with the space too, which was really cool,” said Jessie about their location.
Indeed, that is far from the case at G is for Glasses, with an ever-changing display of assorted “random things” on the walls, with objects like vinyl records, oars and dinosaurs on display. And of course, they have glasses too.
  From Point A to Point G
When Jessie was looking to go to optometry school, her options were limited to two: the only Canadian school, Waterloo, or elsewhere. She ended up going to the University of Chicago in the United States, graduating in 2009. Having been away from family in the city she grew up in, Jessie decided to return.
“I wanted to come home,” said Jessie. “I was away for four years. That was long enough to experience the world. I got to live in Alabama for three months but at that point I said ‘okay, I miss Canada.’”
Together, Jessie and Bonni often discussed different things that should happen when Jessie would open her own practice, until one day a life-changing decision was made.
“We’re at the cottage and Jessie says‘how about this: we’ll open a store together’,” said Bonni. “‘Ok, sounds great!’”
“I was at Ikea before this, and I’m a mom so I needed more flexibility,” said Bonni. “Retail is a hard industry to be in and I’d been in for almost 20 years. It’s evenings, and weekends and never the same schedule. I wanted to be a more active mom and I wanted to be closer with my family, and still have a career. I love working and I love working hard towards something.”
G is for Glasses has a rapidly expanding social media platform, as the team is constantly trying to build and improve relationships.
One of the sights you will often see if you follow them on Instagram is people posing with their new glasses…and a large nail. Customers pose in a variety of positions, using the nail as a prop while sporting their new spectacles.
The idea came when Bonni and Jessie were running errands one day in early 2014, as they prepped for the opening of their store in June.
“We walked by these nails, and I asked ‘hey Bonni, can we get one of these?’ And they were l89 cents,” said Jessie. “Bonni said ‘we need this for something’. She texts me that night ‘oh my god, nailed it with a big nail’. And it was the best 89 cents we’ve ever invested in our entire lives.”
It’s all G
G is for Glasses celebrated its first “birthday” in late June, and there are no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Jessie and Bonni both highly value family, which is why that was important when hiring the rest of their team. Ken Bond works as a dispenser for G Is for Glasses, and Kelsey Gullett working as receptionist.
“When we were starting this new venture, it was important to us that we hired people with a good vibe that we trusted,” said Jessie. She and Ken had worked together for five years prior, while Kelsey experience and commitment to family made her an easy choice for the team.
Eyes on the future
“It takes a good four years to build a full practice, and we built the store to have another optometrist, so end game another five years we have another doctor in here and keep on building,” said Bonni. “We’ll change the inside, we built the inside and did the fixtures so we could easily change things around.”
“We didn’t want to pigeon hole ourselves, we wanted some fluidity with what we could do with the space,” said Jessie. “We change with the seasons, we change with our moods. We want evolution, we want to be constantly changing things up, but also remain who we are at the same time.”