McGowan actually started working on the business 6 months ago, right before the pandemic reached its height. A combination of good timing and sudden spike in demand for PPE has allowed him to already attain six-figure revenues from the business.
“Our marketing strategy consists mainly of social media and Kijiji ads. We get sales from nursing homes too,” says McGowan. “I feel great knowing I can do something to help people access the equipment they need during this time.”
McGowan says he lets his parents help as much as possible with the company’s money management admitting that he probably spends a little more than he should but that most of the money has to be put back into the company.
The face shields are made in Canada but the gloves are imported from China, which means McGowan is involved in every aspect of the business from clearing goods at customs and processing orders. “I spent the day today at a warehouse and then unloading a truck of goods into storage space.” He gets a lot of help from Dad also, who recently drove a large order all the way to Western Canada.
Marcus comes from entrepreneurial stock, his dad is Ian McGowan, founder and chief technology officer at Rap Riderz Innovation Centre and his mother is Claudette McGowan, a global technology executive and creator of the Black Arts & Innovation Expo.
He started his first business at age 12, called Lonotek. The service offering was helping seniors understand technology, and Marcus put in most of the work during summer breaks from school. “I felt like it was the best way to get some kind of work experience when I couldn’t legally get a job yet. I think the second a kid shows interest in making any type of money they should try to get into the game as early as possible.”
Lonotek ran for three years, then Marcus opened his second business, a clothing line called Rogue Outsider. “It was great, my friends would promote my line and they bought pieces too. And I just thought it would be really cool to have my own clothes that I could wear. But it wasn’t easy. It’s complicated trying to find high-quality materials and getting the designs from paper to shelf. But the hardest part is marketing and getting the name out there. It was eye-opening for me.”
McGowan says surprisingly, he hasn’t run into any major difficulties doing business as a teen. “Actually I think people respect me more because I’m younger and doing these things. They’re kind of like okay cool, this kid is doing big things.” He says the main challenge is obtaining knowledge on all different parts of the business. “When you’re a kid you look at things kind of one dimensionally but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that you don’t think about. Like there’s a lot of manual labour involved. You have to put in a lot of work at the beginning to get any kind of success. It’s so easy to just put off a lot of the work, so you have to stay committed.”
While he’s reveling in his entrepreneurial success and acknowledges that there’s a multitude of options online for young people to make money, he still holds strong to formal education. “I know a lot of people my age think they don’t need school to be able to make money. And that may be true, but I think education is still the most surefire way to amount to anything in life. I can get an education and pursue my business interests at the same time.”
McGowan says he sees a future for himself studying business management or computer science at university. “Whatever I do, it will definitely be in the business world, I don’t see myself in any other profession.”
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Camille Dundas is the editor-in-chief of ByBlacks.com.