When I was graduating from school and applying to Universities, I didn’t have a lot of help or direction on what program to take. As the first person in my immediate family – and for that matter my extended family – to go to University, deciphering the various programs and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life was pretty daunting. In school I had always done relatively well and I enjoyed science and math so, like a lot of people, I figured doing something in these fields be a good idea. In the end, I made my decision and the following fall away I went – living 3 hours from home in my snazzy 1960’s styled dorm room I settled into my first year.
I was pretty lucky in school. I had never really struggled in High School with grades and my first year wasn’t terribly challenging. There were the typical issues with time management and pulling all nighters, and some of the material was challenging, but, at the end of the day, I was looking for more. During High School I had always played competitive hockey, and, now that I wasn’t playing any longer, there were only so many hours I could spend wandering the halls of rez and lying on my friends beds. It was then that I learned about an opportunity to run my own business with College Pro while going to school.
Being a bit of a science geek, the idea of running my own company had never really occurred to me. In terms of school, I had already realized that a general science degree wasn’t really going to cut it for me, and I had started making the transition into engineering – which is the degree I would ultimately complete. College Pro seemed like a cool option in terms of getting a more complete education while attending school. I could get my fill of the science from classes and learn more about the world of business in my spare time and during the summer.
After making it through the College Pro interview process– in many cases this in itself is a feat – I was offered a franchise for the summer of 2002. I registered my company and dove right into learning exactly how to launch a profitable business while still attending classes. From talking with other past franchisees, I knew my College Pro success would depend on my ability to balance these two major priorities – school and the business. To help me with the time management, I ended up going back to a schedule that was similar to what I would do in high school. I found most of my classes, labs and tutorials were during the day which meant I had a small window, usually in the evenings (where I would typically have had hockey practice or games) and on weekends, where I was finding I wasn’t very productive anyway now that I didn’t have tournaments and away games.
The first year wasn’t easy – and I didn’t achieve the College Pro success I was really looking for. I had made some money, learned a ton (I would have probably had more success had I listened to my coach more!), and knew that, given the time and money that I already put into it, I would run a business twice the size the following year. Now, confident I could take over the world with my experience, I signed on to run a franchise for a second year. While I didn’t quite double, the 64% increase in sales had to be considered a College Pro success! It was at this time that I was again looking for more challenge and I started working with new franchisees in the area around my own business to help them increase their success. With my own business, coaching five other franchisees and completing my Chemical Engineering degree, it was definitely hectic. However, I think that it was this time in my life that I realized that I was capable of significantly more than I had realized. I realized that I loved the business world, and that I was actually pretty good at leading people. Upon graduation, I decided to continue down this road and took a full time position as a general manager for the franchises in eastern Ontario.
Today I would attribute a lot of my College Pro success to simply working hard. I wasn’t afraid to put in the hours that it took to be successful. However, there’s something to be said about a system that consistently churns out successful young entrepreneurs year after year. Many of the franchisees that I’ve worked with have taken the skills they’ve learned at College Pro and launched their own successful ventures, and I think that’s really what College Pro success is all about. It’s about learning how to be self sufficient, and how to take control of situations that you’re not sure how to control. It’s about being comfortable with uncertainty, and making the best of things. It’s about continual learning and growth – every time you think you have a handle on what you’re supposed to be doing you are either given more responsibility or something happens to disrupt the cart. But, that’s what’s cool in the end – no one can take those experiences away from you. Just like your degree, once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
College Pro has become so much of who I am in business that I can’t imagine where I’d be without the experience. It has helped me in so many ways I can’t fully describe it. I would encourage any young entrepreneurs who are thinking about the plunge to stop thinking and start doing it. Take the first step. Start with a simple model – painting isn’t rocket science – and then launch your billion dollar venture. Regardless of what you’ll do in the future, College Pro success on your resume will open doors. It’s helped me to get to where I am today, and if you want that success, it will help you as well.
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