As any business owner knows, growing a business isn’t a smooth and linear process so much as a succession of turning-points, decisions, and smart bets. Perhaps no one knows this better than Marindo Kuy, a Montreal-based jewelry store owner who got his start in 2012 by betting on himself when his boss wouldn’t.
“I was a junior salesman at a jewelry store and was studying gemology on the side,” he tells us. “Three years into the job, I asked my boss for a raise. I would have liked a career in his business.”
The store owner wasn’t so forthcoming – he said he was too young. Offended and let down, Marindo couldn’t help but notice that the shop next door was open for lease. So he quit, maxed out his credit card by withdrawing all he could in cash, and used that to secure himself three months in the space.
“I said to the landlord, ‘Look, I don't know how it works, but I can give you $3,000, how many months can you give me in my shop?’ I took everything that was already there: the counter, the light fixtures, even the old displays from the previous business. In fact those displays have lasted to this day.”
Using those displays to announce that he was open for repairs, Marindo was in business, with something to prove.
More turning-points were to come: along the way, repairing jewelry turned into selling jewelry, then selling jewelry turned into designing it.
“I needed a special 3D printer to design the kind of jewelry I had in mind, and those machines can be really expensive. But when I asked the banks for a loan, they all said no. I used my credit card to make the purchase, but it’s since proven to be one of the biggest revenue providers in my business.”
As with the lease, Marindo was willing to make a financial investment to take the next step, even if it meant assuming debt in the short-term. And with each successful turning point, his confidence grew.
“That decision made us who we are today.”
It wasn’t always easy. But the hustle that saw Marindo start this journey kept him going through the dark patches.
“There were some really low times, I don't want to lie about it. I had no girlfriend and my parents lived far away. Every decision was tough in the head. In the morning, I worked in my jewelry store, at night I worked in a factory that makes plastic. I had a really small budget to eat, like $40 per week. So I ate only broccoli and eggs. I was so in shape that year! When we had our first contract and I didn't want to lose the customer, I needed to lower my price and I would work until 2am to just polish the piece.”
Eventually, Marindo hired his first couple of employees. Then came an even bigger step.
“It was time to move to a better location. But I needed money to fund the transition because the rent was a lot higher.”
This time, to establish himself in the new space in the higher-end surrounds of the Quartier DIX30 in the Montreal suburb of Brossard, where he could compete directly with high-end international jewelers, Marindo needed more than his credit cards could support, so he decided to try a small business loan from Driven.
“I said to myself, ‘you’ve been managing this business for seven years and you managed to make it this far rolling with the credit card, so let’s take the chance.’ And because of Driven we’ve been at the new place for almost two years now.”
Today, Marindo’s business Dovania Design employs a team of seven, including a publicist, an accountant, and a store manager. And he still returns to Driven for flexible funds to help scale his business, improve operations, and deal with setbacks as they arise.
“Sometimes you need a small amount of money and sometimes you need a big amount, but Driven has always been a good, fast, and simple solution. For one thing or another, we need money right away, and the banks simply take too long to do that, and they need all kinds of guarantees. Driven is a more straightforward solution.”
If Marindo’s story proves anything, it’s that growing a business is less like watering a plant—slow and steady, with even amounts of water—and more like stoking a fire: sometimes you need lots of wood, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re busy making it bigger, other times you’re happy with where it’s at.
Lately, Marindo has been less interested in stoking the business than in letting it keep him and his family warm, as well as focusing on the part of the work he really loves: the design.
“The way I think about my business is changing. I have kids now, right? So when I take out a loan today, it’s actually to buy time for myself. That’s why five months ago I hired somebody who does maybe 70% of my job. Now I get more time with my family. I don't have to work weekends anymore—at least not many of them, haha. It’s been a worthwhile investment for sure.”
But even in the quieter times, Marindo knows that it’s always about what’s next.
“I’m also taking the time right now to learn more about business through coursework, and I’m thinking about making improvements to the business when the time is right.”
That would only be the latest in a long line of decisions, turning points, and investments. Looking back on the ones he’s made to date, Marindo said that “If you compare year one to year nine, every year we adapted. Maybe that’s the reason we’re still standing.”
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