CEO of Soshal Group Inc.
Location: Ottawa, ON
Dave Hale’s decision to go into business was a no-brainer: he had clients even before he had a company. His aptitude at creating hyper-popular Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube videos led several major Canadian companies to hire him as a youth-marketing consultant—while he was still in school himself. His success with these contracts motivated him to create his own digital marketing agency, Soshal Group, in 2010. When Hale is not leading his team’s efforts to meet client demands, he’s doing his utmost to build a community around his company. So far, this has taken the shape of two programs: Soshal University, a free course in which professionals and students spend a month interning at the company’s headquarters to learn about social media, and The Soshal Club, which hosts events in which Ottawa experts share best practices. It’s all part of Hale’s heady ambition for his company: “I’m building an empire, not a business.”
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
I’ve learned what it means to be humble. I found that as an “aspiring” entrepreneur I painted an over-glorified picture of what it means to run your own business. Every day at Soshal Group brings new challenges and failures that keep my attitude in check and my feet on the ground.
What is your best advice for young entrepreneurs?
Just make sales! Young entrepreneurs will often get caught up in the excitement of starting and building a business. But if you have not successfully sold your product or service to a customer who is not part of your existing personal network (e.g., not a close friend or family member), then this must become your sole focus. If you can't make that sale, then securing financing or investment, locating an office or developing an employee benefit package are all futile activities.
What can governments, institutions and other businesses do to better support young entrepreneurs?
I think there needs to be much more publicly available information to educate young people as to what entrepreneurship is. Young people are often exposed to entrepreneurship through the stories of technology tycoons like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. There isn’t a lot of exposure for other opportunities, specifically in non-tech spaces. I find this causes talented young people who are not technically savvy to avoid looking into potential ventures.