Since reaching college-age, millennials have been changing the way we think about everything, from the ways we learn and teach, to the ways we consume, live, entertain, and probably most frequently, the way we work. Job scarcity, autonomy, easy access to information and the desire for meaningful work seem to have created a perfect storm for entrepreneurship. Many young people are making the choice to work for themselves, and several King’s graduates are living proof that good ideas and hard work can pay off.

Michael Potters '12, Ellie Cook '13, Jen Pastorius ’13, and Corey Dubeau '11 are among the many King's graduates who choose to be their own bosses. 

Michael Potters ’12, is the founder of Toronto based Parachute Coffee, a service that direct-ships artisanal Canadian roasted coffees to subscribers. Michael was familiar with subscription-based companies, and believed coffee presented a unique business opportunity.  “I love coffee, but there was no way for me to discover all of Canada’s amazing small-batch coffee roasters without ordering from them individually.”  Rather than spend a considerable fortune bulk-ordering specialty coffees from different roasters, Canadians can now sample their wares affordably, and without leaving home by subscribing to Parachute Coffee. The best part of Michael’s job? “Answering emails in my kitchen with my morning coffee – that’s pretty cool. And meeting awesome people roasting awesome coffee.”

King’s alumnae. Ellie Cook ’13 and Jen Pastorius,’13, together with a group of like-minded foodies, opened The Root Cellar Organic Café in London’s Old East Village in 2012. Both Ellie and Jen are graduates of the Social Justice and Peace Studies program at King’s, which, at first glance, might not seem like a natural fit for the restaurant business. As it turns out, social justice and the politics of food were critical issues that motivated the group. “I realized how very little I knew about the food I was consuming,” Jen admits. “It really snowballed from there with more and more investigation and learning.” Starting the restaurant was about activism at home. “I really wanted to help foster the food movement,” explains Ellie. “Learning about food sovereignty and the control of the production, consumption and distribution is important.” Obviously these are philosophies that are resonating with the community – The Root Cellar expanded its operations in 2014 to occupy more space, expand its selection, and now includes a selection of locally produced beers on tap.   

Corey Dubeau ’11 started his company, ATMOS Marketing, after finding corporate work uninspiring. “I had a few opportunities to work in corporate settings, but found them too structured and boring. I had a passion for art, technology and business, so a Digital Marketing company was an ideal choice. It was also great timing, as there was a void in that sector of the market.” The company has experienced tremendous success, having served well over 100 clients and boasting a staff of 10 (and growing). Both the company and Corey have a number of awards to their credit, including a Top 20 Under 40 Award, which will be bestowed on Corey at an official ceremony on November 12. What does Corey like most about his job? “Waking up every morning and wanting to go in to work, because I know that I work with such a great team of people, have awesome clients, and deliver a high quality service that I’m proud to show off.”

Start-up businesses often require large investments of time, resources, energy and often finances, but entrepreneurs know that nothing comes easy, and for many the benefits of starting a business far outweigh the drawbacks. Michael’s recipe for success is simple: work hard and be better than the other guy. “Go hard, fail fast, and never half-ass anything. Look for efficiencies everywhere, and always innovate. Be faster and more nimble than the competition.” Corey advises aspiring entrepreneurs to persevere. “Pick one idea and stick to it. Don’t lose faith and don’t be distracted by new ideas until you’ve seen the original one through.”

Young graduates may have a different approach to work than previous generations, but for many creativity, hard work and a liberal arts education can go a long, long way.

Are you a King’s graduate and a business owner? Tell us about your company at kcalumni@uwo.ca