Donnell Enns: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Toronto-based Donnell Enns, who’s currently the Owner and Operator of one of Canada’s pioneering contemporary men’s boutiques, Uncle Otis. Here’s what inspired his career path and where he sees himself in five years…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Owner/operator of one of Canada’s pioneering men’s contemporary niche clothing/lifestyle boutiques.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I was working here previous to year 2000. The opportunity to take over came about and I nabbed it. I wanted to see Uncle Otis continue its trail-blazing in Toronto and North America.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Seeing things come to fruition; collaboration projects like the Canada Goose parka we just launched, as well as keeping people interested in Uncle Otis and in what we sell season after season, and year after year after year. With all of the new competition it’s not easy to keep customers coming back when there are so many options out there.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I see that I’m not travelling enough and therefore not able to reset my mind, which is so important every season.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a tough one. Markets and commerce are changing so quickly these days. Business wise, I see Uncle Otis stronger than ever, especially after our 25th anniversary coming up in 2016. Personally, I see myself more versed in my travel expeditions.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Most definitely the so-called recession of 2008. There actually wasn’t one in Toronto, but the media hyped it up. We order six months ahead of time for every season, and when it hit it was very difficult getting people through the doors and spending. Patience and true perseverance guided me through those times, as well as sharp cutbacks with staff and business spending.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Money can equal happiness but not in the long term. It’s very important to scale the difference between needs versus wants. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy nice things like my motorcycles. I just try to balance my life accordingly with true personal happiness and “possessions.”  

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I have a few – arriving to the 20th anniversary in 2011, which in retail is not an easy feat. Plus, having the opportunity to work with Canada Goose on both the 2011 edition “Uncle Otis Constable” parka, as well as the latest “Otis Parka” that is now available.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Be patient. Always. Good things come to those who are patient. Be steadfast in your long-term objective.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Bar Isabel. The food is simple but extremely good. The service is absolutely exceptional. The atmosphere has great energy and you don’t necessarily feel that you’re in a Toronto joint.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Riding my motorcycle.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
California. It’s very motorcycle-friendly everywhere. The weather is eerily good so you can ride all year round. You can hit the coast or the mountains, or the forests – there are so many options.

Plus there’s an abundance of Mexican food, which I love.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
I love music and have many favourites, but not sure I have a theme song. I do however always come back to the U2 song “Running to Stand Still” from the Joshua Tree album. Apart from the beautiful piano melody, it reminds me that we are not perfect, and many times we can get ahead of ourselves and lose focus on the more important things in life. Although it’s written about a drug addict caught in a rut, we can all relate to it in some way. It’s very sincere. 

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Hmm, if I wasn’t as busy as I am maintaining my dear Uncle Otis? I would certainly be making people satisfied, whether it is in retail or a resto perhaps.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support the MCC Canada, which provides disaster relief, food, education and empowerment to people in need globally. Giving back is the sign of a noble soul – I try to exercise that notion.

What to you is notable?
Being grateful and showing it in a big or small way.

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