You can either follow your dream or work for someone else’s

Kush Mendiratta
By Kush Mendiratta April 26, 2018 20:21

You can either follow your dream or work for someone else’s

By Kush Mendiratta

For some, it is easy to dream, to visualize an idea.

But it can be a lot harder to hard to implement the idea.

Erin Zonta dropped out of the University Of Windsor with a dream of expanding into business and partnered with a pre-existing company based in Toronto.

Little did he know that the road ahead would be rough. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, Zonta realized his partnership in that company was not working. His work included event and stage lighting.

“I was pretty alone. I was a minion working for free. It cost me money to go to work.”

Erin Zonta on his daily commute to work. (Photo by Kush Mendiratta)

But that wasn’t the worst part — his image in the production industry was tarnished after a dispute with his former partner and his employees.

After two and a half years of hard work, Zonta says he had lost more than a quarter of million dollars worth of assets and had no financial gain from the company he had always considered as his own.

He says he felt disappointed and betrayed by his partner, but he stayed strong. He remembered back to his youth and some wise words from his family doctor, who was his inspiration.

“He said to me, ‘Erin, it didn’t matter what I do in life. I knew I am going to be best at it. If I was going to be a street sweeper. I would have been the best street sweeper. Now I am a doctor. I am going to be best doctor around,’” Zonta recalls smiling.

Despite an early setback, Zonta was not going to give up on his dream to build up something of his own.

“You never think that such a thing is ever going to happen. You don’t go to bed thinking you are going to lose everything by tomorrow morning that I worked for two and a half years for,” he says. “But when it happens, you have two options: Stop and give up, and find a job working 9-5 for someone; or tell yourself, ‘I am not going to let these circumstances put me down. I am going to learn from my downfall. I will keep pushing. I will learn from my mistakes.’”

After suffering with depression from losing everything, he got up one morning ready to start all over again. The days of criticism were over. He borrowed some money from his grandmother and decided to start a new company.

Finding a name was the next step.

“I was looking for a brand name that can grow into a larger entity later, which will not be specific to Windsor or just an industry. It had to be unique. I always liked the combination of numbers and words. I was in the shower, one morning and I came up with the name – Elev8 Productions. Everything changed that day.”

He immediately started to find work for his company. But his name was tarnished by rumours in the industry, and people hesitated to offer him any gigs.

“They told me, ‘How do we trust you with our money being used to finish our projects?’ I told them, ‘I will put up my hard-earned family money to finish the project. You can pay me when it is finished,’” Zonta says.

Then as soon as he finished the project, he says the client declined to pay him.

Zonta was shattered, his trust was broken again. He didn’t understand what went wrong or what he should do.

“The only people who believed me were the ones who saw me go through it. They knew that my side of story was correct and my partner was trying to bury me. I went to see a lawyer, she got all my problems solved.”

Erin Zonta explaining his daily work and struggles. (Photo by Kush Mendiratta)

“I worked hardest during that phase of time. I did not make much money, but I worked up for my reputation. I want to get to a point where I don’t have to answer the call, but I will. Because that’s who I am.”

After launching the official website for his company, Zonta got an anonymous message calling him a fraud and saying he does not belong to this industry. He felt proud that someone took out time off their schedule to write something like that to him.

“I could smell fear. When people kick you down, nothing makes them more upset than you continuing to push. Love me or hate me I am still here.”

Zonta says his success would not have been possible without the setbacks.

“My success or my failure is based on how hard or how little I work. If I want to fail, I won’t go to work tomorrow. But if I do you will be surprised with what I can do. That’s best part of being an entrepreneur.”

ELEV8 Production’s regular lighting work. Photo by Kush Mendiratta)

He and his partner have a bunch of legal battles still ongoing. Yet, he feels blessed that his clients gave him a second chance to prove his worth in the industry.

He believes future entrepreneurs should not think too much before starting something of their own but make sure to consult lawyers for any legalities.

He also believes following your dreams — if you don’t follow, you will be working to fulfil someone else’s.

Cathy Mombourquette is the program manager at St. Clair Genesis Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre. They try to help people with dreams to be realistic and to teach them about the possible pitfalls in business.

Cathy Mombourquette in her office at St. Clair Genesis Centre. (Photo by Kush Mendiratta)

“We work one on one with young entrepreneurs, and it is not an easy job to do. They are enthusiastic and have many great ideas. We have to shift our focus to one creative idea to make it successful.”

She also helps them to understand the market and the competition, and moreover, how to sell a product or service by determining the necessity of it by a business canvas model.

Cathy Mombourquette talking about Business Model Canvas. (Photo by Kush Mendiratta)

“Some of our clients do get excited and skip few steps. And, it’s alright. We talk about a prototype method to test before they invest a lot of capital. So, even if they fail, which most young entrepreneurs do, they fail fast and don’t lose too much money. Then, we can help our clients to refine their product before launching it in the market.”

There are many community partners who provide such consultation services to prepare young entrepreneurs for a long run.

But, even if you fail, it is necessary not to give up or lose the vision you once had.

Erin Zonta’s ELEV8 Productions worked with TEDx and has even bigger plans for future.

“If I can do this, anyone can,” Zonta says.

“Be honest and spontaneous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let anyone say you can’t.”


St. Clair College’s international students at the Mediaplex (most of whom do not speak English as a first language) took on the enormous task of researching and writing feature-length stories. For their final projects ─ we call them capstones ─ they explored topics that intrigued them. They all brought unique perspectives to their stories. We hope you enjoy reading their work and seeing Windsor-Essex through their eyes.

Kush Mendiratta
By Kush Mendiratta April 26, 2018 20:21

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