Photo Credit: blog.clearbanc.com

Yesterday, the Samari Communications team had the privilege of listening to renowned entrepreneur and Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, Michele Rominow at a Women of Influence event in Toronto.

During her captivating keynote speech, Michele candidly discussed her journey from being a young and eager student at Queen’s University to founding Clearbanc, her investment firm and latest venture helping the next generation of entrepreneurs grow, and how it helped her to become the force in business that she is today.

She summarized the takeaway of her many years of experience and several entrepreneurial  endeavours into three main points:

  • Building a business is messy;
  • Stop planning and start executing;
  • And, innovation comes from iteration–the Eureka moment does not exist.

Building a business is messy.

Michele’s advice: get scrappy.

To illustrate this point, she told us about the ‘million dollar idea’ that she two of her classmates came up with in university. They were determined to see it through and grow into a successful business.

They saw an opportunity in the luxury sector of caviar, then rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Although this sector seems luxurious, looks can be deceiving. Michele explained the reality of it all and how her team researched the landscape, entered many business plan competitions to get funding, and then, upon receiving some funding (which you would think would be a huge win), the real work began.

This meant driving all the way to New Brunswick hoping to fish sturgeon but with no real experience in this area, finding someone with a sturgeon license, buying a boat, hiring a fisherman, waking up at 5 AM daily, processing the catch by hand, packaging caviar and the sturgeon and selling both the fish and the caviar.

At any point along this very bumpy road, it would have been easy for anyone to throw up their hands and quit. But, as Michele says, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do,” and her team forged on.

Unfortunately, this caviar endeavour was not successful in its own right because the recession hit, but, the team did learn a lot along the way and the remaining capital left from that business went on to fund Michele’s first big success: Buytopia.

Stop planning and start executing.

Because all the planning in the world won’t make you successful.

This lesson was learned when the recession hit and the caviar business had to be dissolved. Michele’s team had projections in their business plan all the way until 2020, and at the rate they were going, they probably would have been a huge success, but, you can’t plan for the unknown.

With the caviar business, everything they needed to learn was learned by executing rather than planning anyway.

In her next venture, Buytopia in the e-commerce space, her team launched at a trade show before their site was even up and running with only a jpeg of their site with one working button for a demo. They got to engage with their prospective customers and put up some respectable numbers at the trade show even though the event didn’t go exactly according to plan.

The business was ultimately a huge success and, by 2013, had over 2.5 million subscribers.

Innovation comes from iteration—the Eureka moment does not exist.

Michele’s final point challenges the premise of the Eureka moment. She emphasizes that a great idea comes from all the cumulative experiences you have leading up to an idea and continuing to learn and experiment along the way until you succeed.

Here, she uses three examples including Uber. Believe it or not, the Uber app, in its original form, was designed as simply an auto-dialer to call a black car to your location within the city of San Francisco. This business model slowly evolved over time to be the wildly popular Uber app that millions of us around the world use today as a pseudo-taxi-service.

For Uber, or the Uber that we know now, their team didn’t say ‘Eureka!’ and build the current version of their app right away; they came up with their original idea and grew it into what we know it to be now.

Come up with your ‘million dollar idea’ and be willing to grow it, makes changes along the way and be fluid to suit the demands of the current marketplace.

Michele closed with some final words of wisdom, “You need thick skin. The entrepreneurial profession is hard, you just fail a lot to be successful (80% of ‘projects’ fail before you have one success).”

But, hopefully, by following her advice, getting scrappy, executing rather than over-planning, and growing a great idea instead of waiting for one Eureka moment, this room of entrepreneurs will be better equipped to rise to the occasion and find entrepreneurial success as well.


If you’re ready to take your new business to the next level, register below for a free one-hour consultation with Samari Communications, a Boutique PR agency in Toronto specializing in communication for fashion, beauty, technology and lifestyle brand.

Author Profile

Amanda Albert
Amanda Albert
A Humber PR grad with a diverse background in the entertainment and fashion industries, Amanda Albert lends her experience to Samari Communication in her role as a PR Coordinator. Her 10+ years working in fast-paced, lively work environments enable her to assist her clients to effectively navigate today’s millennial culture in the ever-evolving PR industry. Her life-long love of fashion and its role in culture and the arts has inspired her to complete a collection of short stories. She is currently working on her second collection. You can find her on LinkedIn or contact her via email amanda@samaripr.com.

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