Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Barry Hillier, founder and CEO of eQuo, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
90% of entrepreneurs are building "small" companies below $10M ARR. But so much of our infrastructure for funding and supporting businesses is made for start-ups and scale-ups aiming for billion-dollar valuations.
There's a mismatch in the marketplace, and founders building smaller businesses — no matter how great or profitable they may be — don't have access to the same support.
eQuo is changing that. We're building the first matchmaking platform that connects small businesses with investors, capital, customers, and talent. With eQuo, entrepreneurs get access to the support they need to grow, while accredited and retail investors get access to great small businesses.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Barry Hillier. I am a quintessential bootstrap entrepreneur who loves to inspire, ideate, build and disrupt. I have also learned through my experience that building never happens in a straight line.
After working in advertising from 1992 to 2000, I founded Dashboard in 2001 and grew it quickly to become one of the top creative boutique agencies in Canada. Dashboard built a client list including Unilever, Wrigley's, ING Direct, Toyota, H&R Block, Corus, Torstar, Atlantic Lottery Corporation, LCBO, and Kraft. My work has won over 50 awards, including NY Festival's, FWA's, London International Awards, Applied Arts, Marketing Awards, and many Cassies for business results, including the Grand Prix for my work on Hellmann's as part of the strategic team that repositioned the brand to number 1 in Canada.
In 2009, I created my first SaaS platform, a Content Management System called Glovebox, built for the automotive industry. In 2014, I helped build Bumper, a fully customizable omni-channel SaaS retention and conquest marketing system, reaching 10% of the automotive market in Canada as well as expanding into the USA.
In June of 2017, I've sold my company and began to create eQuo in 2018, a distributed marketplace built from my own experience and passion for entrepreneurs. I recognized gaps in the ecosystem and wanted to create something that would elevate entrepreneurs and allow them to scale.
eQuo is much more than a business endeavor for me. It's a passion to provide a voice and build a community for entrepreneurs around the world. This is also why I work with start-ups and scale-ups as a Board member, advisor, and consultant.
In April 2020, during the Pandemic, I Co-Founded Neighbourhood Coffee with my wife, daughter, and some neighbors as his first e-commerce based company.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm really grateful for a history of accomplishments, from creating one of the world's first rich media video players to launching several companies to winning multiple awards for innovation and creativity.
But I think the ultimate accomplishment, though, will be eQuo.
There are so many under-estimated entrepreneurs who need the opportunity to prove themselves and realize their potential. eQuo is a marketplace that will be much more than transactional but transformational by allowing all entrepreneurs to be able to realize their potential.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Managing through the doubters and the negativity that entrepreneurs endure every day. There are always people who will throw up roadblocks or who simply can't see what you can see possible. You have to have the ability to believe in yourself, your ideas, and your ability to achieve what others think is impossible. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Manage your cash flow and get someone on board to ensure your books and your accounts are properly managed, and you have a clear understanding of your future cash flow at all times.
- Take time to take time for yourself. You can't help anyone or build a company if you aren't in a good mental and physical state. Find the time to ground yourself. As a founder, your state of being will resonate through your family and your team, whether it's good or bad. So make it good.
- Use the good times to plan for potential bad times. When things are good, pay yourself, get credit facilities that will be hard to get when things are bad, and build a safety net to cover things when they turn bad.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Don't be afraid to change directions or even to stop building a company if things aren't working. Too often, entrepreneurs push ahead in spite of all the signs that they should change direction. Your future is still unwritten. Sometimes the best path isn't started.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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