Laurier student launches PPE company to protect Canadians

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In early June, a first-year student in Wilfrid Laurier University’s business program tackles the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) by starting his own company, PPEOnDemand.ca.

Nineteen-year-old Cole Starkman knew he wanted to start a business, so with the help of his education and his drive to contribute to the economic community, Cole is helping PPE be accessible and readily available for people across Canada to protect themselves in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When everything happened with the pandemic, I wanted to look at that as an opportunity. With every disaster comes opportunity, no matter what it is,” said Starkman during his interview.

“I wanted to start a business at some level, but I didn’t really know what type. I saw how everyone was struggling to find this stuff, so I thought this would be a great idea.”

PPEOnDemand.ca can ship anywhere and currently sells seven products, including disposable facemasks, that are predominantly manufactured by Canadian suppliers, thus surging the company’s customer reviews in support of aiding the Canadian economy.

“Finding a supply chain was definitely one of the biggest struggles and still sort of an ongoing struggle, but it’s pretty much sorted out and we can get anything. I’m actually in the works of trying to get a COVID-19 test kit,” Starkman said.

Starkman credits his success to Laurier’s business program, praising their curriculum in BU127: Introduction to Financial Accounting, and the course work for the new venture project that spans across the entirety of the first year. “A big thing that I learned was to be prepared for everything single problem that could because it probably will happen,” Starkman said.

While Starkman said he has learned a lot from school, he wasn’t prepared to settle for just any job in his field. “I was actually thinking of doing door-to-door sales for the alarm company ADT, but it wasn’t for me and I wanted more…I didn’t want to have a job; I wanted to run the show.”

When discussing the lifetime of his first companyStarkman said, “Obviously there’s a timeline on this. This pandemic is not going to be a five-plus year thing, so I don’t really look at this as a life long thing, but it’s definitely the first steps in my career.”

“While things are slowing down in Canada, they aren’t really south of the border, so that’s why we’re going to probably move a lot of our marketing efforts into the United States,” he added.”

Even though Starkman is looking to expand his company’s product line and marketing, new obstacles and problems are destined to arise. Starkman finds his biggest challenge is time.,

“I could literally be working on this 24/7 and still not have enough time, but obviously, 24/7 is not realistic so I’m probably putting in 16 to 20 hours into this per day and it’s not even close to enough.”While Starkman further states he’s learning better time management and prioritization, he says outsourcing work has been a big help.

On top of this, Starkman worries about balancing his time running the company when he returns to school this September.

Starkman says he’s looking to hire students in the Waterloo region for long-term and short-term positions, “Anyone that wants it, I can find a role for them.”

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