It was 3am and I was standing up to my thighs in swamp water trying to balance a ladder against a post.
I was putting up a sign with my business logo on it where I hoped that in the morning everyone driving into Tim Hortens to grab their coffee would see it.
The next morning Tim Hortens removed it right away. And all my hard work dissapeared.
When I went back to work I met my business mentor Claude who was a home builder. He said “Why don’t you build a billboard on March road where all the traffic is? We do it, when we’re developing a neighborhood.”
Very weiry of the idea I asked him who I would have to ask permission to and if I would need a permit.
He shrugged at me with a look on his face as if to say “just do it.”
So Claude sketched me up a rough plan on a piece of paper and I was off to Home Depot with my friend Chris Chenier to pick up some wood.
We got to March road and started building it. Cars passed by curious to know what what was going up but after half a days work it was up.
It read “Free Form Fitness” with a giant arrow pointing towards my location off to the side street.
Understand that I had no money for marketing so I had no choice but to do guerilla marketing. I had 250k on the line that wasn’t mine. I was risking losing my mother-in-laws house who had co-signed for me. I couldn’t have lived with that guilt. Failure was not an option.
The next day a by law officer showed up at my business and said I needed to take down the billboard. I told him I would do it but it would take me a few days.
They didn’t want to take it down because it was a big job.
Of course I just wanted to leave it there as long as I could. So I was hoping they just wouldn’t come back for a while.
But at the end of the week he came back and I told I hadn’t had time to take it down and he said that he would fine me if it wasn’t down by the following week.
The following week he came in again. He decided to fine me $100, yet the cost of a billboard was $2500 so I just told him I would take it down by the following week.
Months went by and my billboard was still up. The guy kept coming in and the fines kept getting bigger until one day it didn’t make sense and I took it down.
In the end, I got a bunch of clients through the door with that sign. I’m not proud that I had to bend the rules but sometimes you have to take a risk and do what it takes.
I realize now that you have to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur.
Also published on Medium.