Entrepreneurial spirit encouraged

Alan Quarry, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University spoke on the afternoon of Oct. 9 to a substantial crowd in the Senate and Board Chamber, on entrepreneurship, its pitfalls and the fulfillment that can be achieved with the right combination of persistence and sacrifice.

Steve Farlow, executive director of the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship at Laurier, introduced Quarry, whose talk is one of many around Waterloo as part of Entrepreneurship Week from Nov. 8-12. He called this area, “the best place in North America to start a business.”

Quarry’s speech dealt with his experiences building a business from the ground up including moments of near-failure and the gradual development of Quarry Integrated Communications, a marketing communications and advertising agency headquartered in Waterloo with offices in Toronto and the U.S.

“How many of us here are anxiously awaiting a career as a middle manager?” he asked the crowd, later identified through a show of hands as the lecture was mostly comprised of School of Business and Economics (SBE) students.
He added, “Trust me, if we don’t get some level of enjoyment, if we don’t get joy out of what we do, it’s probably not worth doing or we’re not doing it right.”

Leaving a cushy job at TD Canada Trust in his early thirties to go into business with his father and eventually taking over the company, Quarry saw his fortunes dip when he was forced to put his family’s home on the line to secure a loan to revive the business in the late 1980s.

“Fear is good for you, it makes you run faster,” he recalled.

Quarry, who also teaches marketing courses at Laurier, emphasized the qualities of the university that make it ideal for young entrepreneurs to grow.
“This school has one of the best business schools in North America, and it’s inside a school that has some of the best social programs and some of the best arts and science programs,” he said.

“We have this tremendous integration available to us here at Laurier that other schools don’t have. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to move forward.”

Dean of SBE Ginny Dybenko explained the importance of having entrepreneurs-in-residence like Quarry as a resource for students.
“Entrepreneurship, really unlike any other thing we try to develop here at Laurier, really can’t be taught in the same way other subjects can,” she said.
“It’s really not something in my way of thinking that comes out of a textbook.”

Students have been responsive to the presence of Quarry in the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship as someone to talk to about their ideas as they consider entrepreneurship possibilities during or after university.
“The response from the students has been very gratifying,” Quarry said. “I have office hours Mondays and Wednesdays and my schedule is usually booked.”

He said he enjoys listening to students’ plans and offering ideas of his own, though he noted that it’s often about asking people what they are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of a dream. “If you want to do something, great,” he said. “What are you going to give up to get that?”

“It’s just a matter of being there to listen,” he said of his role. “I’m just turned on by the imagination and the ideas that the students have.”