Written by Doug O’Neill

“Tally up your receipts at the end of every work day – and allow yourself to get creative with your business plan. Those are two pieces of advice I’d share with every young entrepreneur,” says Jacob Marshall, a second-year Radio and Television Arts student from Ryerson University who participated in the City of Toronto’s 2018 Summer Company program. “Of course, I learned a whole lot more throughout the experience, but those are two of the strategies I intend to stick to in the career that awaits me – especially the importance of allowing myself to always be creative.”

Marshall is no stranger to creativity. “Storytelling has always intrigued me, and I was fortunate to have had some amazing videography opportunities in very first year at Ryerson,” he says. Marshall is quite proud of one video project he worked on that was designed to help deaf people advocate for themselves. “My main client  was legally deaf.  It was a learning experience for me to try to communicate with him about creative concepts and work effectively with my team and my video subjects,” says Marshall. “I've also done work with programs involving mental health issues and for organizations that support people who are blind.” The busy university student has also put his video-editing skills to use at Ryerson’s student newspaper, “The Eyeopener.”

Marshall’s reputation for his video skills drew more and more requests throughout his first year at Ryerson: “This prompted me to apply to the Summer Company program with the City of Toronto so that I could establish myself as an accessible media creator and a more official producer for the disabled community. I established Bonfire Productions as a media production company focused on being accessible and empathetic towards the differently-abled community. I’d never thought of starting my own company but doing so under the guidance of people with expertise really appealed to me.”

By meeting on a regular basis with other “newbie entrepreneurs” like himself, Marshall has learned business concepts which he’s been able to apply to his video company. “I learned the basics of setting up a business, interacting with government, filling out necessary start-up forms,” he says. “I also got an introduction into marketing techniques, and how to budget my grant money.”

He’s most appreciative of the feedback and advice he got one-on-one, as well as from the small-group discussions that were part of the program. “There was one student in the program who taught us how to use Facebook for marketing,” says Marshall. “Another student talked to me a lot about face-to-face networking. I also learned how to put together and present my portfolio of work to potential clients – something I found incredibly useful.”

Marshall learned about brand identity from one mentor who advised him to “Narrow your target market. Know who you are. Know the people to whom you’re marketing your product or service – and think about how you’re going to reach everyone you want with your limited budget.” 

The Ryerson student also grew to appreciate some of the more mundane aspects of running a company: “Never ever again will I put off recording receipts and time sheets until the following day. I tell everyone ‘Do your paperwork every day. Otherwise, it will just pile up and get out of control.’”

One of Marshall’s most valuable lessons from the Summer Company program: “I learned that it’s important to be creative with your business plan. By all means, stick to your business plan as much as possible but if you need to change your approach – or adjust your entire company – don’t be afraid to do so. Just allow yourself to get creative. It will pay off in the end.”

Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real