Sharing success stories of small business owners that find success with their startups is something we love to do. Especially when we talk about companies such as this one owned by Mark and Terrance from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Being able to get government funding of $76,750 in order to purchase 2 trucks for their junk removal startup business after all of the major banks said no due to their collective bad credit and lack of business experience.
Take a look at the interview questions and answers as we had a chance to speak with Mark and Terrance:
Tell us about your small business:
We are a junk removal business that specialize in residential and commercial junk removal – but with a twist. We partnered with a few recycling plans locally and we provide a lot of the junk we collect to them to re-use; and we also partners with a few charities where the “junk” we collected that can be repaired and re-used such as furniture, electronics, tools..etc we donate. We currently have one large truck and 2 smaller vans for the work; but now thanks to the funding we are looking to get 2 more large trucks and really expand our operation.
What made you want to start a business like this?
We both actually worked for a local recycling plant and got the idea when we saw how many people were throwing out perfectly good stuff. Like the old saying, “one persons junk is another persons treasure”. No doubt this was the case as we saw A LOT of stuff going to waste. At the time we both knew it’s something we wanted to get into and we started part time with one of our pick-up trucks we had and it sort of took off a little.
What were some of the challenges you faced starting up?
What wasn’t a challenge. That would be a better question. Everything was an issue; we didn’t make any money since we only did it on the weekends since we had to work full time at the plant; gas money, it cost us money to recycle; the stuff we found that was worth something we tried to list on Kijiji and it took some time to sell so we needed cash flow, we needed a bigger truck, we needed to spend more time on it; we needed people to call us to come pick up their junk rather then us just driving around looking for it; and we needed partners. But most realistically, money would have helped us a lot to get everything done right.
What would you do different?
Everything. We did everything backwards as we didn’t know any better. I think the best thing would have been is to create a website first, print out some fliers and go that route. Probably even partner with the plant we worked in sooner then later. And apply for government funding versus going and wasting time at the bank pleading.
How did you overcome those challenges?
Well it took a while to learn. It was our first business so everything was a learning curve. We ended up telling our boss that we have a side business and explained what we did. He was actually happy and told us to bring what we get to him and he will recycle it and pay us (versus us paying), so that was a start. Other challenges we didn’t really overcome, it was just an on-going battle as we needed more money. I think we visited every single bank in Saskatoon to see if we can get some funding.
What kind of help did you receive?
From the banks? None at all. In fact I took our approval for funding letter in to the bank after we were accepted just to share with the branch manager who laughed at me. We had a business plan, we were making money and we wanted to get a real truck, we just needed a loan. But no chance was the bank willing to help. And not just one bank, but every single one. It was very discouraging.
What did you do instead?
Well we didn’t do anything in terms of funding. We waited and worked part time at the plan and part time driving around. It did take the entire year to actually save some money to put a down payment on a truck and we did it ourselves with no help. Probably what made us a better company today.
How did you hear about CanadaStartups.org?
Well Terrance wanted to update our business plan and see if we can apply to get another truck and some operating capital from the bank now that we were more successful; so he started researching ways to improve a business plan for funding. That’s how we found Canada Startups. A tool to help with a business plan plus a professional expert to review it plus access to government funding and private investors and help from experts….it was like a dream come true. Especially since a month before a local business hub told us $1,300 to get that kinda help. Here is was under $300.
How did CanadaStartups.org help?
Well we actually used the entire list of tools that were provided. We got our business plan rewritten, proof read and reviewed by an expert. We did our financials and projections and showed a positive. We created a pitch deck presentation and actually got their help to locate 7 funding programs that were of help to us. We applied to all. And overall they were just helpful in guidance with our business, our website and our marketing strategy.
How much funding did you get?
We applied to 7 programs and each one was for something different. We ended up getting $76,750 total from 4 funding programs. $12,750 for advertising and promotion, $46,000 to use towards purchasing trucks and we got $18,000 for training employees and hiring additional staff.
Tell us about the process of getting your funds?
It seemed fairly easy with Canada Startups as everything was very detailed and organized. Go here, click this, fill this out, send to here and done. After that it was just a waiting game. So it took a while to get the actual funding. Well funny story, we applied for 7 programs and within the first 2 weeks we got 3 letters back saying Denied, Denied, Denied. Our dreams once again were shattered and we sort of said, okay let’s do it again on our own. Terrance said, it’s okay we have a better business plan let’s try the banks again. On the day of our bank appointment, we got a call from one of the agencies telling us we were approved for $46,000. The few weeks after every other agency replied as well!
What is next for your business?
We recently partnered up with a large facility in Regina and now with our expansion to additional trucks we will be able to meet a higher demand. This means we are looking to expand our fleet and number of staff as well as our reach. Most likely will be seeking additional funding down the road.
What is your advice to others?
Your business plan is very important to the success of your business. Everyone looks at this! Be sure to have your idea on paper and to show how you will make money. It’s a lot easier to get funding when you are able to show that you are invested in your business (not just money, but your time). Don’t waste your time with banks if this is a new business; incited try the government for grants and loans. Use the experts at Canada Startups to get your questions answered, get guidance and help at a fraction of the cost a business adviser may charge.
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