By Alex Hamlyn
A few months ago, Evan Kosiner decided to join his girlfriend in Italy on a whim. “I came up with a list of 107 things I had to do in order to get on that flight. I wrote down that list and I got through those 107 things. “Next thing you know, I was in Italy a day later.”
It’s that kind of single-minded determination that has Kosiner, 21, poised to make millions from his latest business venture — all while completing his radio and television arts degree.
That venture is Traffic On Demand, the fifth company started by the Kosiner Group. TOD is a system designed to offer customers the ability to call a number and hear the latest traffic, weather and business news. After discussing the idea with several big broadcasting companies, Toronto native Kosiner is close to penning a deal in the millions.
“My father retired at 36. The joke for me is ‘Freedom 25,’” he says.
But Kosiner doesn’t see the idea of retirement as a chance to relax.
“Someone of my nature doesn’t really retire at 25,” adding that he wants the financial stability to keep exploring new ideas.
Kosiner caught the business bug at young age. Barely into grade 9, he started his first company, Carabiner Productions, to help high school films get into the International Teen Movie Festival.
“I went into the business registration office after school. I took the TTC with $68 in my hand.”
Needless to say, the staff were a bit puzzled about whether or not a 13-year-old could start a company.
“They said, ‘Let us call a manager.’ Then a few hours later, I had my first company.”
Around the same time Kosiner met a marketing executive in Motorola. The executive was so impressed by Kosiner’s work and attitude that he hired him to produce a promotional video for the company. This raised a few eyebrows.
“I had all these meetings with their PR company, going there in my sweatpants with my knapsack on my back after school,” Kosiner says. “All these executives were like, ‘Are we really trusting a 13 year old kid to pull this off?’”
Kosiner’s next success after Carabiner was Exclusive Entertainment, a DJ company he started at 15 to cater to parties and social events in the Forest Hill area. It didn’t take long before he was turning a tidy profit; the business peaked doing “16 bar mitzvahs in a weekend.”
It took a few more years before Kosiner started his next company, Uplights By Design, in 2007. The same year he started GoCARDS, a printing and business card company. Early 2008 saw Exclusive Entertainment reformed as Public Relations Audio Visual (PR/AV) to deal with the company’s increasingly large and corporate events.
To keep all his companies running smoothly, Kosiner relies on versatile employees, like University of Toronto student Dean Simonsky.
“Evan’s always had such a business mind, an entrepreneurial head-space,” he says.
Simonsky, 22, met Kosiner in high school. Simonsky started out helping to move gear between events and has since worked as a photographer and A/V technician.
“Most people who work for him have quite a range of skills.”
Simonsky also highlights Kosiner’s boundless enthusiasm as a cornerstone of what makes him a good boss and a great businessman.
“He can’t help but make people excited about the things he’s talking about. He’s never too tired to do something.”
Even in the face of countless meetings and daily responsibilities, Kosiner maintains a healthy social life.
“I have a lot of free time. My whole life is created around free time. being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it,” Kosiner says.
The big question remains: why isn’t he a business student?
“I love business, but I hate business. I love entrepreneurship, I hate business,” says Kosiner, adding that part of his success comes from thinking differently than the average businessperson.
Although he’s currently in talks about starring in an Apprentice-style reality show, Kosiner has already been going to Ryerson for RTA for three years.
“I came for an open house when I was eight years old and was impressed that they had teleprompters. And I said, ‘This is a school I want to go to.’”
Kosiner also pursues his undergrad for a social reason.
“On a daily basis I’m around people who are in their forties and fifties, but there’s something I get from being around people my own age.”
But Ryerson’s business school hasn’t impressed Kosiner, and he feels like its courses are focused in the wrong direction, especially for entrepreneurs.
“The business program really streamlines people into statistics and crunching number sort of fields,” he says.
He also thinks that Ryerson should try to make use of the experience of executives to help make the program cutting edge.
A strong head for marketing seems to come naturally to Kosiner. Following closely on the heels of Traffic On Demand, he is developing a new idea for radio marketing that will sell advertising to callers on hold. He hopes to continue to grow the Kosiner Group using the oldest of business assets: perseverance.
“Push aside all that resistance of ‘you’re young and you can’t do it,’ and go out and make it happen.”