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The art of the side hustle

Sault Ste. Marie author dispenses advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

Nevin Buconjic has never lacked for full-time employment but he always likes to have something going on the side.

The Sault Ste. Marie entrepreneur, who’s launched eight businesses, has spun out his expertise and experience of the art of the side hustle into a paperback book.

“Starting Your Own Business: An Entrepreneur’s Guide,” is a revision of an earlier e-book of the same title he released on Amazon five years ago.

“I’ve been interacting with a lot of entrepreneurs, so I have a lot more to share.”  

With an extra 50 pages, he wanted to incorporate more of his life and learning experiences into a more comprehensive how-to guide.

“When I went to update it, I realized I could expand on what I previously wrote, plus add a chapter on harnessing social media, and I got more into business planning alternatives.”

His passion for entrepreneurship dates back to his youth.

“It’s just something inside me that gets me excited about creating my own opportunity to build wealth.”

Buconjic, who works in investment attraction and marketing for the city’s economic development corporation, launched the book at the Northern Ontario Book Fair in the Sault in early August. 

His other e-book, “25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time,” published in 2014, sold almost 8,000 copies on Amazon.

This latest book begins by outlining the common traits of true entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, and what makes them successful.

He delves into how to come up with a great business idea by assessing your inherent talent and skills, using market research to test your idea and assess the competition, and look at potential sources of funding from family, friends, banks, credit unions, crowdfunding and other opportunities.

“There’s still that myth that I need a $5,000 grant from the government to start a business. No, you don’t. You probably need a few hundred dollars to get things going and a plan. It’s really not hard to start a business. 

“You just have to be smart about it. Go through steps I talk about in the book. I give lot of ideas for doing things low cost.”

Buconjic said there’s also a misconception that you need an extensive business plan to appeal to the banks.

Sometimes that’s not always necessary. He devotes a chapter to one-page business plans and other alternatives in order to get your business up and running quickly, without spending months writing a document.

He also touches on ideas for marketing on a budget and the use of social media to build your brand.

“I don’t want the high risk, I don’t want to invest a lot, I just want to start a business that I’m passionate about and grow it slowly or as quickly as I can, without putting a lot of resources into it besides my own time.

“So many people can do it. There’s not a lot of risk to it and if you look at what your skills are, your education and talent, almost everybody can find something that they’d enjoy doing and make money on the side without risking everything.” 

His current role with the City of Sault Ste. Marie has him strictly dealing with established companies looking to export or finding ways to attract outside companies to the community.

But he still mingles with, and mentors, local entrepreneurs.

Previously, Buconjic spent 11 years in the provincial government which kept him out of the loop. It spurred him to launch StartUP Sault Ste. Marie, a support network for the entrepreneurial community.

“When I look back on my career, I’ve done eight businesses and seven of them have been side hustles. I’ve always had a full-time job but I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of being an entrepreneur on the side.” 

With the city’s largest private employer, Essar Steel Algoma, being under creditor protection for almost three years, it’s portrayed the Sault as a one-mill industrial town with a declining and aging population, and not much else going on economically.

Buconjic wants to change that perception. The path to economic diversification can be home-grown and it starts with the mindset of young people.

“I’m a big proponent of youth entrepreneurship. I think we need to change the culture here, and it goes back to where our parents said, move out of town because the only job is at the plant. Not true. We need parents to be encouraging the students to take risks and give entrepreneurship a shot.”

He’d like to see local post-secondary institutions, like Sault College and Algoma University, integrate entrepreneurship programming into the curriculum.

“(Students) need to experience that maybe this is an option for me.”