By Ashley Spegel
If it came down to it, which would you choose: your favourite professor or $200,000 to jump start your dream job?
For five seconds, Chris Nguyen held a cheque for $200,000 between his finger tips before it was torn to shreds by one of the investors who was insulted by Nguyen’s business professor and mentor, James Norrie.
“Appearing on (the CBC’s reality entrepreneurship show) Dragon’s Den put a sour taste in my mouth,” said the 24-year-old Ryerson graduate, and CEO of online job hub JobLoft.com. “In the end, it wasn’t about the money. It was more about the mentorship and guidance we were hoping (to get from the investors that) would help us start up the company, but it wasn’t there.”
Nguyen spoke at the Entrepreneurship Expo in Oakham House Thursday about his company JobLoft.com, which he conceptualized in his final year of the information technology management program, along with his peers — and now coworkers — Andy Lai, Lee Liu and Sundeep Mokha.
The website, which gets 5,000 to 10,000 hits a week, was inspired by job-hungry students scouring the mall looking for employment. “I thought that there had to be a better way for young people to find jobs,” Nguyen said. “I started looking online and I couldn’t find any employment websites that made it easy for both the job-seeker and employer, specifically for youth job-seekers.”
The men at JobLoft.com were granted the business opportunity of a lifetime when they appeared on Dragon’s Den last fall. The team pitched its idea on national television to five multi-millionaire Canadian business moguls, or “Dragons.”
The four entrepreneurs were eager to find investors for JobLoft.com and they negotiated a deal with the Dragons, who agreed to shell out $200,000 in exchange for 50 per cent ownership of the company.
But before anything could be finalized, Norrie encouraged his former students to rethink their decision during a meeting with the investors because the deal would mean a loss of control.
Words were exchanged between Norrie and the investors, including Norrie asking them if they’ve ever been to business school, resulting in the cheque being ripped into pieces. “Things happen for a reason,” said Nguyen, who praises Norrie for his dedication to his students and his utmost support of JobLoft.com. Despite the outcome of the show, JobLoft.com continues to find employment for the retail, hospitality and food service markets across Canada.
The company is also working alongside industry big shots like H&M, Wal-Mart Canada, Swiss Chalet and Blockbuster, and it’s still in its first year. Turning down the Dragons’ offer of $200,000 has worked in favour of Jobloft.com because they maintained complete ownership and got some media exposure as well. Nguyen’s next goal for his company is to expand into American market.
“Once we hit the states and expand our clientele in Canada, we’re going to be the ‘go-to’ place for employment opportunity.”