Employee to Entrepreneur
From Travel Industry Job to Travel Entrepreneur
Jason Kucherawy is an entrepreneur in Toronto in Canada. His company went through a variety of changes and he ended up unemployed. Like many of the entrepreneurs we feature in this section of our site, he's made the best of it by using unemployment as a transitional device to pursue his goal of owning a business and making the most of his talents.
Jobs in the travel industry are sometimes not as secure as other positions, because economic changes have a big impact on travel.
Jason Kucherawy saw his travel industry job go up in smoke, but his love for travel persists.
He's midstream in launching a couple of travel-related businesses and was nice enough to share his experiences with us.
Jason, what type of firm were you working at when you were let go? Was it part of a downsizing? How long had you been there?
I was working for an educational tour company. The company I worked for had been bought by a larger international travel company and merged us with some of our former competitors, also recently acquired.
The new directors replaced the customer service department with more accountants, and decided they didn't need anyone doing anything innovative with the current economic situation and had to cover for overexpenditures and compensate for huge losses the previous year and they decided my job did not warrant a full-time position.
I had been there 6 years.
Why have you decided to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?
I decided to become an entrepreneur because I was tired of not being able to use my strengths and abilities to their maximum potential or to stretch and grow professionally.
I was also tired of working very hard to make money for other people. Owning my own business would be a challenge, a test, and a great deal more rewarding in every way down the road.
Will you be buying a business or starting a business from scratch?
I have started a business from scratch with a partner, will be starting a non-profit business with two other partners, and am working as a freelance consultant on the side.
What type of business are you looking at owning? Why do you think it's the right business for you?
I am looking to own businesses that involve meaningful travel: a ESL teacher recruiting agency that places teachers in schools overseas, and a volunteer coordination service for a charity community centre in Peru.
The ESL recruiting business is called TO Recruits. We offer customized job searches for ESL teacher candidates.
I have traveled extensively, and believe that it makes people more understanding, and is essential to living a great life.
I have worked in travel and tourism for more than 12 years now, mostly with students so I have seen how travel changes people for the better. It's what I know and love, and I am able to apply my strengths and skills to various aspects of the business.
Are you going it alone on this process or are you consulting with others for advice? If you are talking to others, who have you met with? What good advice have you heard?
I have been using the web for most of my insight and advice, but know many people in the travel and tourism industry and speak to them frequently about what I am doing.
None of the advice I've heard really stands out. Most people (friends and family) have told me that they believe in me, and that they think I will be successful in my ventures.
Owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of things you think will be different? Are there any concerns or issues that you think folks in a similar situation should be thinking about?
The biggest difference is the perception of time and its value. As an employee I was never fully aware of what my time was worth and how time spent translated into work done and money made.
As an entrepreneur, I feel as though I really have to make each hour of the day count. I am now only accountable to myself, and my success no longer depends just on showing up at the office. It all depends now on how I perform.
Are your loved ones and family supportive of you making this transition? Please share any stories you have regarding their feedback?
My loved ones are very supportive. My dad is convinced that I'm going to be very successful, and the rest of my family thinks I've made the right decision for the long term. They know I am a creative and ambitious person. I suppose I just have to prove that to myself now.
What is your timeline for becoming an entrepreneur? Are there some specific goals that you hope to achieve by a certain time? What are those goals?
I have not set any specific goals as far as earnings go, but we have already "launched" the ESL teacher recruiting agency, and the volunteer program is already up and running - it's just a matter of rebranding it as we move away from being a part of the charity community centre itself. We hope to have made the transition for summer of 2009. In the meantime, the consulting work should hold me over until the two other ventures pick up steam and start flying with little effort some time in 2010.
Almost the last question. What makes you think you will be successful in running your own business?
I was part of a team that started a successful educational tour company so there was a lot of learning that happened in those six years.
I have read a lot about being an entrepreneur and marketing, I am motivated and driven by things that are new, and I understand what makes a successful leader, should the day come that we can hire employees.
Most importantly, I have support from my family - both moral and if need be, financial.
Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from being laid off to starting a business?
The scariest thing about the whole transition was the uncertainty of the future.
If I had fought to stay with the tour company, the way things were going, I would have been extremely unhappy within the year and when starting a business, that time would have been better spent on that. I took the plunge for the sake of my happiness.
"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." - that is a favorite quote of mine from William Shedd.
That a great quotation and one that I hadn't heard. Thanks so much for joining us for an entrepreneur interview and sharing your story. Good luck with all of your ventures!
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