“I started a successful business and sold it for big bucks”
Adam McNamara, 28 // Ottawa
I graduated from the computer science program at Carleton University and started my own small business with two friends. We worked from home for the first six months, perfecting mobile applications for cellphones. We then moved to a larger space and received a $30,000 government grant. I was even able to start paying myself a $40,000 salary. I used 75% of that for living expenses and the rest for savings.
I had a keen interest in pursuing various technology projects as soon as I graduated from university. My partners and I were young, had flexibility and few financial responsibilities, so we were comfortable earning less. As our small tech company grew, so did my salary. By the second year I was making $60,000.
Then earlier this year, we got more good news. We sold our company in February and it netted me and my partners enough money to be able to follow our dreams and never have to work again if we didn’t want to. But we love what we do. I’m glad we didn’t go the conventional route of taking a regular job after university, because we probably wouldn’t have ever started our own business—financial responsibilities would have come first.
I started a savings plan from Day 1 of working full time. I found the best way to do that was to have money deducted automatically every month from my paycheque into a savings account. Even today, I’m making six figures and continue to save. As my salary has increased, so have my savings. I now save 60% of my net salary every year.
The key to starting a successful business is to surround yourself with good people. Choose partners who complement your skills. But most of all, love your work. It was more like a hobby than work to us.
It also helps if you’re comfortable living on less, and if you’re ready to invest some of your own money in the business in order to help it grow. It will help you persevere when times get tough, and other investors will want to see you have some skin in the game if you’re ever looking for money. As a young person, I was fortunate to have flexibility in the early stage of my career. I also had an exit strategy ready for the next stage of our business.
I’m sure we could have gotten more money from other suitors who were also anxious to buy our business, but we thought the company that eventually bought us out was interesting. We were able to arrange it so we could continue doing more tech projects with them. The truth is, if you’re resourceful in your personal life, you’ll be resourceful with your startup and probably be a success as well.
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