Cover Story

Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Alive & Well In Local Millennials

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Alive & Well In Local Millennials

It’s not unusual for new generations to be criticized for being spendthrifts, feeling entitled, and only interested in what involves them in a direct way on a daily basis. But, there are dozens, if not hundreds of millennials under the age of 40 in the Windsor Essex area, who are actively building a future for themselves and others by opening their own businesses.

Most operate small, nimble family-style businesses capable of adjusting quickly to today’s ever-changing marketplace where personal service is once again being valued. Others run larger businesses, which have shown remarkable growth since opening their doors.

But, all are working hard to cast aside myths held by many.

For Yvonne Pilon, President and Chief Executive Officer of WEtech Alliance, those negative descriptions are outdated and unfair to the many young entrepreneurs in the local region who are not only creating jobs for themselves, but also employment for others.

“Millennials like the opportunity to make a difference and do their own thing,” says Pilon. “This is not their parents’ economy where people tended to stay in the same job and with the same company for most of their working lives.”

Pilon estimates that millennials might have 10 or 12 different jobs in a variety of sectors before they retire and most will be in small companies and not major corporations.

“Millennials embrace change rather than being nervous about it,” believes Pilon, 33, who is a millennial herself. “Not everyone is cut out to be a young entrepreneur, but millennials are fully capable of working hard and taking risks to get where they want to go in life.”

Pilon and her employer, WEtech Alliance (Wetech-Alliance.com) are also moving on up in the business world and recently re-located to the Entrepreneurship Practice and Innovation Centre — EPICentre — at the University of Windsor, 2455 Wyandotte Street West, 2nd Floor. EPICentre is an on-campus entrepreneurship centre and business incubator created to encourage entrepreneurship on campus, and to support students and graduates interested in launching their own businesses.

In many respects, young entrepreneurs have to be more focused than many of their predecessors because many are leaving university with a considerable amount of student debt and little or no work experience, according to Francine Schlosser, EPICentre Executive Director. (EPICentreUWindsor.ca)

“Windsor doesn’t have a long history of Angel Network funding opportunities so many millennials have to deal with this investment burden on their own and that takes considerable self-confidence,” remarks Schlosser.

“It’s relatively easy to find $5,000 for a start-up,” states Schlosser. “It’s a little harder to find $30,000 and even if you do, you are often asked to match it. So what you often find is that millennials will launch multiple businesses in order to generate enough money to help keep them all afloat. It’s a challenge but many are meeting it.”

David Burman — Mister Maid
At 26, David Burman has found his niche as an entrepreneurial business owner.

After spending a few years working in the hospitality and big-box store industries, Burman decided in July 2012 that a major change was in order.

Now the Owner of Mister Maid, which he bought five years ago, Burman has 40 employees working directly for him and has never been more fulfilled.

“It was a tremendous leap of faith, which it is for any business owner, but it’s one that I do not regret for a minute,” says Burman. “There’s always been entrepreneurship in my family going back as far as my great grandfather, so I guess it’s been in my blood for a long time.”

Burman acknowledges there are many people who believe millennials feel entitled and that they are, in some way, self-absorbed and short on work ethic, but he also believes he’s just one of thousands of young entrepreneurs working hard to dispel those myths.

“Yes, I want to be successful, and yes I want instant gratification, but I also want to work hard for it and earn it on my terms,” Burman stresses. “It’s not only about the money, it’s also about being part of a wider young business community, many of whom are working hard to improve society and help their employees earn a stable living.”

Burman pays his employees between $13 and $20 an hour depending upon experience and seniority. He started out with commercial clients exclusively, but now about 50 percent of his customers are residential accounts.

He notes that 10 of his employees have come to him from Community Living Windsor, which provides work situations across the region for people with developmental disabilities.

“It allows those employees to earn a decent wage and develop their skills for possible future employment,” states Burman. “I believe there are many millennials who are thinking outside the box and providing a host of different ideas and opportunities that can only help society as a whole.”

Burman mentions he is always willing to sit down with older business owners because he wants to absorb their life lessons and business advice.

“I’ve often heard that entrepreneurs either succeed alone or fail alone and I don’t want to work in a vacuum,” says Burman. “I want to succeed with the help of others and by helping others myself.”
For more information on Burman and his business check out: MisterMaid.ca or stop by his new location at 4776 Wyandotte Street East in Windsor.

Ali El Gamrini — Pushers Collective
Ali El Gamrini opened Pushers Collective, a six-business complex in the heart of downtown Windsor, a little over two years ago after leaving a job in the city’s logistics industry.
“I just felt I was getting older and I was no longer interested in a regular job,” recalls Gamrini, now 33. “The world is full of people who wish they had tried something when the chance came along and I didn’t want to be one of them 20 years from now.”

Gamrini, a rapper with a growing fan base, started out writing and recording his own music, but soon branched out.
“There’s not a lot of money to be made locally in music so I decided to get into merchandising as well and we have just kept growing from there,” says Gamrini who has 12 employees.
Pushers sells high-end street wear including hoodies, jackets, joggers, zipper tees, sweatshirts, caps and athletic shoes. And you have probably seen their items, which show respect to the City of Windsor with the YQG logo.

“We design all our own merchandise in-house and we are getting busier all the time,” Gamrini reports.

The complex also houses a barber shop, photo studio, full-service print shop, recording studio and a dining/lounge area (Blanche) which fills up on weekends.
Gamrini believes one of the traits of the growing millennials’ business base is their desire to give back to the community and help other young individuals achieve their dreams.
“It’s not work if you enjoy it, but you have to find someone who can give you encouragement,” says Gamrini.

As a result, Gamrini hosts workshop and youth-oriented events at his business, including recording lessons, barber lessons and entrepreneurial workshops designed to help young people reach their potential.

Among the people who have helped out at these workshops are former Michigan State Spartans football player Arjen Colquhoun and celebrity barber Pacinos, who visited from his base in Lake Worth, Fla.

“We also have a Wall of Fame with photos of celebrities wearing our gear, and when the kids see that they’re surprised those people have bought merchandise here in Windsor,” states Gamrini. “It’s all part of showing them they can achieve their dreams if they work hard.”

As well, another way Pushers helped support the local community happened when they gave away more than 100 gifts to children in Windsor over Christmas.
Pushers Collective is located at 487 Ouellette Avenue in Windsor and on the web:. PushersCollective.com.

Feature photo: “We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you?” Not only do Windsor Essex millennials have plenty of entrepreneurial spirit, but they also are big cheerleaders for the region they call home. Our profiled group of young business executives show off their civic pride by wearing Your Quick Getaway (YQG) brand clothing from Pushers Collective. Top row from left: Yvonne Pilon, David Burman, Mesia Walker, Ali El-Gamrini, Jordan Lupas and Bianca Rivera. In front: Marius Petean and Nena Buduhan. Missing: Eric Kukucka and Santiago Rivera. Photo location: The Art Gallery of Windsor, 401 Riverside Drive West (AGW.ca). Photo by Rod Denis.

Cover story continues HERE.