When I ran this year’s Tales from the 2.9, one of the more unexpected responses was from Ann Asher, who proposed writing a piece on a local entrepreneur to profile! There’re so many people living in this country of ours, and Stan Grey is but an example of everything Canada has to offer!
Please enjoy today’s piece and we’ll see you tomorrow for the next instalment of #Chronicle150!
Game-Changer: How The Internet is shaping the 21st Century Entrepreneur
Raise your hand if you had ever wanted to start your own business? Was starting this year one of your New Years resolutions? There are literally thousands of businesses that get registered in Canada every year, and according to a June 2016 Key Small Business Statistics report, of the 11.6 million Canadians currently employed as of 2015 approximately 70.5% (8.2 million Canadians) work for companies with less than 500 employees. Needless to say, small/medium enterprises (SMEs) continue to make up a significant portion of employment for many in this country. And when you factor in the variety of businesses operating exclusively online, the impact of SMEs grows considerably.
As Stan Grey would put it, the Internet has become a game-changer in its breakdown of multiple barriers-to-entry in virtually (pun intended) every industry – which, unfortunately in the past, deterred many people from exploring a career in entrepreneurship.
As a sci-fi loving, Apple product enthusiast, Stan Grey took the time to examine some of these new resources for today’s entrepreneur, and coupled his futuristic thinking with his passion for graphic design and technology to create Build & Evolve; an online business that he runs from his “corner office” literally next to his living room couch. Providing services such as web and logo designs, social media marketing, and SEO expertise, Build & Evolve works closely with SMEs to establish and/or improve their professional appeal to their consumer base, and the rest of the world.
Sitting in my living room, armed with my MacBook and voice recorder app ready on my iPhone, I wait less than five seconds for Stan Grey to answer FaceTime on his end. We see each other without any audio-visual interference or delays that would remind us that he’s all the way in Scarborough and I’m a 90-minute bus ride in Brampton conducting this interview. What does come to mind, however, is how far the Internet has come in changing the way we interact with one another in the last 25 years.
So tell us, what inspired you to start Build & Evolve?
SG: I’ve always had the mentality of running my own business, and Build & Evolve was an idea that I had come up with a year or so ago after I noticed a former classmate using his personal cell phone for his small IT consulting business, [and] didn’t have any business cards. From the outside world, the whole thing did not look professional. When he wanted my take on all of it, I was like, “Yeah, I can help you with that”. So I did some graphic designing for him, [I] did his business cards, and I just did a website for him. He was good at IT; he just didn’t know anything about making his business look professional.
In comparison to things like “Wix” and other do-it-yourself-style of online businesses where the customer can build their own platforms, how is Build & Evolve different?
SG: A lot of people don’t have the patience, the time [or] the know-how [to do it themselves] because that’s not what they do. Like, they’re into baking and [they want to] make money but they don’t know anything about how to set up their services to look good, how to create invoicing… so [that’s where] I would come in.
This isn’t your first entrepreneurial venture in graphic design. How has the Internet changed the way you operate your business this time around?
SG: I had a graphic design business in the early 2000s, and it was a lot harder to do back then. But I was able to come up with a website, which I mostly coded by hand in HTML and an answering service for my phone that ran from my computer. So when people called they’d get the ‘hold’ music, a professional greeting, and different departments to choose from. And when I talked to customers they actually thought I was a larger company based on that. Now, the plan is to basically build the company and hire more people. But instead of having a brick and mortar [office space] I would operate completely online; hire people from anywhere I could find them, [and have] no headquarters. It would just be a bunch of [people] working together from their living rooms, producing awesome stuff.
What were some of the challenges that you had to overcome when you first started Build & Evolve?
SG: I guess the main challenge was… time, [and] when you’re working full-time it’s always hard to start your business. [But] the most important lesson I’ve learned is to start. You [will] always have a lot of things going on in your head about how it’s not going to work, and it discourages you from doing it. But once you just throw it out there you’re gonna have to find solutions to those issues; by having no choice but to do it.
What are your general thoughts on black entrepreneurship in the 21st Century?
SG: My own thoughts are [that] I wish more black people would actually try the entrepreneurial route. There are so many black people that have all these talents that go to waste when in this day and age it’s so easy to start something on your own. Lynda.com is a great place to learn any skill that you don’t have and it doesn’t really cost that much; it’s a lot cheaper than going to school. And if you’re running your own business you don’t really need to go to school for the skill, just learn the skill and then apply it – the way people used to work. And there are other tools like Waveapps.com that basically take away the hard part [of] having to figure out where your income and expenses are going. They’re even doing business loans now, so you can even get yourself a business loan [and be] approved in minutes.
So… I just wish a lot more black people would try. It’s so easy to build a community that way. We can actually have a financial online community where we can come together and make money, share money, spend it, invest it, and do all of these things to help everybody. The Internet changes everything.
And finally, what keeps you focused? What keeps you persevering?
SG: Well, for me, I really like doing graphic design, [and] the dream of my company working with a bunch of people from anywhere, keeps me going. It would be amazing to say [that] I run a multi-million dollar corporation from my living room where I wear pyjamas every day and I work with fifteen people [from] across the world. Like I [always say], the Internet is a game-changer; anything you can think of you can probably do if you just take the time to look it up. I always found it amazing that [Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak] were two guys in a garage in the 70s – before the Internet even existed – [and they] started a multi-billion dollar corporation. You’d be surprised at how many companies start out in garages. You look at those situations and think, “Really? And you can’t do it?”. We have all this information at our fingertips, why not go for it and see how far you can go.
I think that’s really great advice. I hope a lot more young, black leaders start recognising the Internet for what it is and start taking advantage of what it can really do. I’d like to thank you, for taking the time to sit with me, Stan. I look forward to see how your business builds and evolve. I wish you the best of luck.
And if you are ready to build or evolve your business’s online image, take advantage of the discount code: 2Point9 for a 15% discount on any Evolution Pack, and as a bonus, get 20% off annual hosting plans when starting your new website.
Stan Grey (Founder and Creative director, buildandevolve.com) interviewed by Ann Asher, Scarborough, Ontario, February 22, 2017.
Ann Asher has been expressing her unique sense of humour, wit and social perspective in written word since childhood. With such a vivid imagination, it’s hardly a surprise that this introvert exudes a passion for filmmaking and photography with an unquenchable thirst for travel. Her first novel, The Impact of Absence, is set to be published this summer, but you can get acquainted with a few chapters of this juicy drama about love and loss here.