Getting down to the business of being your own boss

Anna Van Tuinen, founder of her own start-up business Paper Anniversary, making her handmade jewellery. Photo provided by Anna Van Tuinen

Are you thirsting to start your own business but remain burdened by your fears? Are you craving to be your own boss? Have you been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, but are afraid to let it penetrate your life? It’s time to annihilate those fears, reassess your goals, and consider that startups may not be as daunting as they may seem.

Anna Van Tuinen, founder of her own start-up business Paper Anniversary making her handmade jewellery. Photo provided by Anna Van Tuinen

Anna Van Tuinen, a 25-year-old American entrepreneur and creator of Paper Anniversary, was inspired by the overwhelming amount of creativity upon her arrival in Montreal. Since the fourth grade, she’s been playing with origami and for the last six years, she’s been making paper jewelry as a hobby. Recently, she decided to transform this pastime into a business and now she sells sustainable jewelry online made of bamboo paper that’s imported from Japan, Thailand, and Nepal. Her idea was incited by the western cultural tradition of giving paper for a first year wedding anniversary gift.

“Though this began as a hobby, after reading Jesse Krieger’s Lifestyle Entrepreneur and speaking to an entrepreneur friend, I realized I wanted that self-employed lifestyle,” she said.

Van Tuinen embraces self-employment because she can make her own schedule and work from any location. After creating her website,, through Shopify, her business was launched in a mere 24 hours.

By setting goals, testing the market, and learning to prioritize, she turned her business into a success in three months, which allowed her to quit her day job.

John Molson School of Business (JMSB) professor and Concordia graduate, Eric Martineau, another entrepreneur, recommends getting started while you’re still in school and your day job is not yet your livelihood. By asking his advertising professors for guidance and building relationships with them while he was in school, he was able to grow his own business.

“If you want to start your business, do projects in school on an industry you’d like to look into,” said Martineau.

Martineau, co-founder of Lavacar, a mobile car washing service that comes directly to your workplace, started his company while writing his Masters thesis at Concordia. His friend suggested the idea, while waiting endlessly in line for a car wash. As they were two broke students, neither of them wanted to enter an industry with high startup capital, but they invested what little money they had and managed to get it started. They knew they had nothing to lose and that they could partake in this endeavour without compromising their means to survive.

“Right now is by far the best time in your life to start a business,” said Dominic Tarn, author of The New Goldrush: A Quick Guide to Startups. “Having said that, never make any compromises on your studies [or jobs], but the opportunity is there for the taking right now if you want to dive into entrepreneurship.”

Concordia economics graduate, Jordan Choo, also believes in getting started as a student. A born entrepreneur, Choo began selling ebooks online at the ripe age of 15. Currently a web developer and online marketer with a number of side projects, his experience has allowed him to broaden his network.

“Talk to everyone you meet,” said Choo. “As a student, you have a network of people you see on a daily basis that can help you grow your business.”

Despite the guidance from his peers and mentors, Choo’s biggest challenge was to stay  motivated when obstacles obstructed his path. His mistakes helped him find the holes in his business and resolve them.

Choo explains that his Dad’s advice has been the most helpful.

“The only thing that holds you back is yourself. If you really, truly want something, you will find a way to get it.”

Choo is one of the many students who have participated in Concordia’s entrepreneurship programs. As a former member of Enactus Concordia, an international non-profit organization that helps mobilize students into becoming business leaders, and a participant in The Apprentice, a case competition for students in Montreal, Choo was able to talk to business executives, learn to improvise, and work with a team. He also named District 3 and The Founder Project, two programs that aim to assist student startups, as integral to his success.

“The entrepreneurial spirit in Montreal is taking off at a lightning quick pace. Student startup organizations are popping in campuses across Montreal, the country, and really all of North America”, said founder and CEO of The Founder Project, Ilan Saks.

The Founder Project has contributed to creating 200 student startups, and the Concordia startup program, District 3, located in E.V. 7.105, has already produced numerous startups and founders in the span of a year.

At District 3, students meet with mentors weekly to assess their progress and work individually on their projects in a professional environment. To join the program, the only requirements are a business plan and an appointment.

“You have the name Concordia under you. Every time you meet a sales representative, they can come into a nice building, a conference room. You are being backed unofficially by Concordia,” said Charles E., a graduate of the finance program at JMSB.

Charles E. belongs to a group of students that created a mobile travel agency that helps plan weekend getaways. According to him, the best part about District 3 is that you get to network in a space that provides you with access to expensive resources.

Another JMSB graduate, Jamie Klinger, is also jump starting his business through District 3. His project, the Jack of All Trades Universe, is an online community that provides an outlet for the exchange of products and services through a variety of currencies between people in the same geographic location.

“District 3 introduced me to tools that are good for organization,” he said. “It gives me a useful mentorship, presents what I’m working on, and lets me know if I’m on track and what to do next.”

Aside from classes offered at Concordia that teach students how to become entrepreneurs the access to information provided by programs like District 3 creates an environment of burgeoning business-minded individuals. There is nothing more satisfying than being your own boss, and with all these resources at your fingertips, now is the time to start. So let’s get down to business, shall we?



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