Today’s Notable young entrepreneur is David Ahola, the CEO of Epicater, a catering company that fuels some of Toronto’s most influential companies at lunchtime.
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
Epicater makes it easy for companies to feed their employees by sourcing meals from the best local food vendors that your city has to offer.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
Working for startups in the past was inspiring as I learned that you don’t have to be a genius to succeed in life and as an entrepreneur. It has been said that a formal education can get you a job, but constant self-educating can make you a fortune. Being someone with just a high school degree, I related well to this and chose a career in sales and entrepreneurship.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
I would have to say overcoming Epicater’s initial challenges and doing so when others were sure I’d fail. Even our angel investor pulled the plug when they heard my partner had left and assumed that Epicater was doomed. Two years later, our valuation has gone up 10 times and the same investor has been courting us again.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
In five years, I see myself working with the same incredible team (just more of us), scaling Epicater nationally and into our first international city. In 10 years from now I see myself starting another company, perhaps a business-to-consumer venture. In 20 years, I’d like to get into politics and even run for office.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Why do something good by yourself when you can do something great with others? More often than not, it’s your team that will decide whether or not you succeed.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I support Sick Kids Hospital as they give our future generation a second chance to be just that. (They also patched me up splendidly when I cut my head open as a kid.)
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I would say when my partner, in business and in life, quit to go back to her native country. Our relationship wasn’t the greatest but I wasn’t expecting her to leave as we were both stubborn, success driven people. When she made her decision it was very sudden and no closure was provided. I remember coming into the office, desperately trying not to show the team how much I was hurting and how scared I was for Epicater’s future. It felt like a big component of the company had been removed and it was up to me to fix it. Problem was that this is my first rodeo, I’ve never been the CEO of a company before, let alone in charge of a high growth startup.
I made a decision long ago that if I was to ever ‘go-down’ in life, it would be with my (proverbial) guns blazing. I feel that there is tremendous honour in fighting to the very end. It’s been said that the REAL development of one’s character happens in life’s dire moments. With that in mind, I took all those counterproductive thoughts/emotions and made them work for me, like a river turning a turbine: 365 days later the team and I more than quadrupled Epicater’s revenue.
What does the word notable mean to you?
Notable: to do something or be someone worthy of taking notes from.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
That’s a tough one and I hope my vendor partners aren’t reading this, but I’d have to say any good greasy spoon that serves all-day breakfast with great coffee.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Based solely on my browser’s history, I’d have to say Google Drive because of work. Though every morning I wake up to watch reuters.tv so I’d like to think that comes in second. Come to think of it, it probably doesn’t, as I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn more often. The most played song on my phone is currently “Life Magazine” by Cold Cave.
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Donald Trump! What’s he going to say/do next?
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
I would have to say Cuba. Cuba has taught me that there is more to life than just capitalism as the people there have much less material goods yet seem to live happier lives.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Is it sad that I had to google FOMO? I don’t often suffer from FOMO but if I did it would probably be for missing out on a major life event of a friend or family member.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Playing five solid hours of video games with no breaks.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I wish I spent less money on eating out. Now that Epicater provides a free staff lunch it has helped me curb this expense but I still find myself ordering dinner rather than making it. What do I wish I spent more money on? If time wasn’t an issue, I’d have to say travelling as each trip leads to a positive paradigm shift.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Success is all about raising up the people around me. I look at life as a team sport and get a certain pleasure from operating behind the scenes to help others achieve their goals. When it comes to play, I always like a good adventure, the more unexpected the better.