What started as a simple class project quickly morphed into a full-fledged business for recent Saint Mary’s University business grad Leah Skerry. The assignment was this: Invest no more than $10 and make a profit.
And profit she did – in more ways than one. “The assignment was really the catalyst I needed,” says 22-year-old Skerry, “to take my skills out into the public domain, market them and make some money doing it.” As her core offering, Skerry used her newly learned design skills from her electives at NSCAD, hitting the streets of Halifax to create logos, posters and other designs for local not-for-profits.
Before she knew it, Skerry’s small assignment snowballed as she started picking up more and more clients through word of mouth, networking and referrals. Not wanting to stop once the assignment was over, EQ Media was born. Specializing in marketing and graphic design, EQ Media helps companies create their brand image through everything from logos and letterheads to website design. EQ Media also runs promotions for local bars and restaurants.
As with many new business owners, staffing was a big challenge for Skerry. Knowing when it was appropriate to hire someone or contract work out was a big learning curve for Skerry. “At one stage, I was paying so many people that I wasn’t making any profit,” she comments.
Seizing opportunities with both hands is second nature for Skerry, so when she heard about the Students in Business program, she saw it as a chance to grow the business. “The program helped me focus on my financials and keep track of where the money was going,” explains Skerry. It also contributed towards operational costs like marketing and allowed her to buy key equipment such as a camera, and a tablet – a special computer screen you can draw on using your mouse.
“But there’s a lot more to the Students in Business program than just funding,” explains Skerry. “The networking, workshops and mentorship from the program facilitators have also made a big difference.” It’s not hard to see how Skerry’s hard work has paid off. Her 2007 sales increased by 440% over her first year, and she generated enough revenue in 2008 to warrant taking on major expenses such as office space and employees.
So what’s next for this young self-starter? “I’ve just finished university this month, so now I’m diving head first into EQ full-time. I want to grow it by taking care of the operations and the client side of things.” She’s also in the process of convincing her younger brother to take advantage of the Students in Business program. We’re sure with someone to look up to like Skerry, he won’t be far behind.
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