Get to know commUNITY founder: Colin Final
What does the word community mean to you?
The word community essentially means a group of people. But to me, it’s more of an analogy representing the coming together of ideas to further a co-operative action. Normally I don’t like using this kind of ‘buzzword’ word soup but in this case, it actually works!
What has been the hardest part about the pandemic for you personally? There are two parts to the pandemic that have affected me the most. The first is seeing my kids suffer. The total disruption to their lives is brutal. My daughter is in her first year of high school and she is getting robbed of that experience. My son is in Grade 6 and he is being robbed of that final year experience. Both of them are involved in sports and all of their programs have been cancelled. Online learning is not the same and it’s extremely hard to manage as a kid. I’m an adult, I can adapt, I have spent a lifetime dealing with change. It’s not easy, but you learn. My kids having to go through this is easily the worst part of this pandemic. But there is a second part too. The existential dread that accompanies so much time spent locked down. Unable to go out. Unable to function like the social animals that we all are. It takes a mental toll that needs to be actively managed every week. But let’s take a moment to remark on some bright spots. Re-connecting with family and friends in vastly different ways. We bought a dog (so original I know). We go on walks. It’s something!
What is your role in commUNITY?
I am one of the Co-Founders. My day-to-day role is making sure when you order through the website, your package gets sent out to you. I also deal with the custom orders that we receive. I create the mock-ups and order the graphics. And in most cases I physically press the masks with the graphics. I share customer service with Deanna in responding to any issues we receive. And finally, I share website maintenance with Darby. As a team, we work on strategic planning and brainstorming ideas to move the company forward.
What is the biggest strength you bring to the team?
My biggest strength is experience. Both in business and high-pressure environments. I helped found a Proprietary Trading business in 2006 with two other founders. I was the Head of Derivatives Trading in Canada for 13 years when I left in June 2019. I also launched an athletic apparel brand in 2019 focusing on performance wear for tennis athletes. I have been through the ups and downs of running a small business (more than once!) and understand the joys and anxiety that come from both. But as a corollary to that experience is adaptability. When the market changes you have to change with it. The real lesson from Darwin is not survival of the fittest. It’s survival of those that are best able to adapt.
What does the day-to-day working on the business look like for you?
Every day I check what orders have come in and go through the process of fulfilling them and sending them to the post office. I also deal with customer service issue as they arise so Deanna and I talk about that most days. I try and spend some part of some days thinking about the future of the company too and reflecting on our wins and losses.
What has been your favourite part about building a business?
It is always exciting bringing an idea from the drawing board to reality. So many people have great ideas. Very few can bring them to fruition as a viable business. The success that we have had has been amazing. I guess my favourite part is seeing how our customers really like our product and connect to our company ethos. But also, building something with family has been rewarding.
What has been the biggest challenge about building commUNITY?
As with any small business, the biggest challenges have been largely interpersonal. Our closeness as family has certainly helped…. but also hurt in a way only family closeness can! Communication between founders, management, and employees is key to a successful business. Of course, operational issues can hurt, but communication problems can kill. Making sure the three of us are on the same page and on the same path has been the hardest part of steering commUNITY. But it has also been an area where we have shown the biggest growth. After that, the single biggest challenge has been Inventory management. And trial by fire during a pandemic didn’t help!
Did you have any hesitation starting a business during a pandemic?
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I have always gravitated towards positions that give me the most freedom. I started in the back office of the trading operations at CIBC. Cubicles are not my thing. But it was a stepping stone. I quickly progressed on to the trading floor and found that environment fit me like a glove. My progression to become a Proprietary Trader at a proprietary trading firm in London (UK) was a dream. Prop traders trade for themselves. They eat what they kill. Entrepreneurs are the same. Have an idea. Find a way to execute that idea. Get rewarded. Or don’t and start again.
Have you been able to find a good work-life balance?
Yes. Although during the early days of the company we were certainly overwhelmed as we grew so quickly. Time spent away from work greatly increases my happiness, efficiency, and inclination when I am at work.
What does the future look like for commUNITY – what happens next?
Short answer is I don’t know. Our products aren’t normal goods, and we aren’t operating in a normal business framework or a normal business cycle. With the emergence of the vaccine our products have a definite best before date looming. Of course, mask wearing will continue for a time after mass vaccinations begin. We are so grateful for our loyal community of customers. So, the future could be bright if we adapt. The question is how to adapt. I look forward to finding out.