Ryan-Oneil Knight | detailing knights
As told to Jess Baria
When I was younger, dad often told me that the only way to get rich was to run your own business.
I wanted to become an accountant in a full-time job, since I was good at math and accounts. But when I started my career as a purchasing agent with a company in Mississauga, I soon realized that the desk job wasn't the right fit for me due to my attention deficit disorder
Then, due to some circumstances internal to the company, I was laid off. That came as a shock -- I felt as if my life got a reboot!
It made me recall my dad’s words, and I decided that entrepreneurship would afford me a way to control my own destiny.
ESTABLISHING YOUR BUSINESS
While I was out of work, I noticed my brother had a small, on-the-side business that involved cleaning cars. He holds a full-time job, so this, for him, was a supplementary activity.
I helped him taking care of the financials of his business, and he, in turn, taught me the art of cleaning cars. Quickly, I began to specialize in waterless car washes, and knew that it was something I’d like to develop into a growing business. So I launched Detailing Knights as a registered enterprise in November 2011.
KNOCKING ON DOORS TO GET CLIENTS
My first challenge was to get some clients!
Since my car-cleaning services were offered at people’s homes or offices, I started knocking on doors in my neighbourhood, introducing myself and my business. This sort of marketing really required a lot of legwork! To get one customer, I had to knock on about 50 doors! For every 10 customers I gained, seven gave me repeat business.
Ironically, one of my other challenges was to keep track of my business's financial side of things. I had a tough time keeping a check on the money coming in -- which was about C$26,000 in the first year -- and going out.
IGNITED CAPITAL - WINNING SECOND PRIZE!
My waterless, car-cleaning business had plenty of demand, as several people do appreciate the essential service delivered to their doorstep.
But as a one-man team, there was only so much I could do. I wanted to scale up the business, hire more people to join my team. To do this, I needed seed money.
When I first learned of the Ignite Capital competition in 2013, I decided I would take part in it
It was awesome meeting the other contestants who were also entrepreneurs like me! In fact, I've stayed in touch with a couple of them! I also had meaningful interaction with Pat McNamara, from whom I received some good advice on how to make my business more viable.
I came in second, winning a business loan of $5,000!
With the Ignite Capital loan in hand, I was able to finally kick-start my mini-franchise program as part of my expansion plan.
As per that plan, I was able to enroll college students over the summer to affiliate with Detailing Knights. I taught them teach them the ropes of the trade and loaned them money to buy equipment -- which put them in a good place to start making their own money in their own neighbourhoods.
It made me happy that I was helping others and at the same time, growing as a team leader. With the extra help, annual sales increased to just under C$60,000 (from $26,000) in 2014. Today, I have nine people working with me, six of which are full-time employees.
Of course, growth brought with it challenges too!! As I took employees on board, I realized that my business success was directly linked to the livelihoods of my staff. It was a sobering responsibility -- one that caused me to often second-guessed myself on every business decision, because I needed to maintain the cash flow to pay out salaries to my team.
But I soon discovered that stress can be used in a positive way. It gives you the ability to plan and organize solutions and influence outcomes. And that’s empowering!
Today, Detailing Knights’ clients includes companies such as Zipcar (Toronto), and we help them reduce costs and reduce the stress of training and managing staff to keep cars clean.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS A CAREER CHOICE
It’s been such an amazing entrepreneurial ride, so far! I look forward to rolling out the business model across the GTA first, and one day across Canada.
At every opportunity, I speak about the advantages of entrepreneurship. People who have their own business ideas but are afraid to run with them, often ask me about the risks of being an entrepreneur. I assure them that it is definitely a great career option, and a brilliant alternative to the regular 9 to 5 job.
The key to getting entrepreneurship right is to acquiring the right skill set, the right equipment, and making your product or service visible and appealing to your potential customers. And remember, entrepreneurial success comes in all shapes and sizes. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy! One doesn't have to become a Zuckerberg to enjoy the fruits of entrepreneurship.