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Head of Danby seeking a few good entrepreneurs

Reverse Collision Day will explore new spin-off business opportunities at company

Jim Estill is a very busy man, running a global refrigeration and specialty appliances manufacturing company from its Guelph headquarters.

The president and chief executive officer of Danby Products Ltd. says there are a number of opportunities for local entrepreneurs to develop their own smaller-scale businesses to fulfill large-scale Danby’s needs.

New product lines and growth present a number of opportunities. The company has, in recent times, returned to manufacturing products on home soil, after making most of its products off-shore.   

Estill wants to meet with local business talents, give them an insider's look at the company’s operations, and share insights on how they could meet the needs of the company through spin-off businesses. The Danby ‘Reverse Collision Day’ happens at Innovation Guelph on May 25. Entrepreneurs are welcome.

In a telephone interview on Friday, Estill said starting a successful business enterprise doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel, or coming up with a brand new product or service.

Often a business can spring up and flourish by addressing the immediate needs of a larger company like Danby, whether by supplying parts on time and for less, providing transportation services, or setting up spin-off manufacturing operations using the company's existing space and infrastructure. 

“Danby spends tens of millions of dollars on buying stuff,” he said. “Anyone could start a business if they were to look through it and say, ‘Look, you’re spending half a million dollars on these brackets, I’ll sell you the brackets for less money.’”

Large companies are usually too focused on the big picture to develop smaller scale business opportunities. But there are many business people around who would welcome a chance to start from that small-scale vantage point, Estill said. They just need to see where the opportunities are.

“We need the entrepreneurs who think differently and could use it as a launch pad for a business,” he said, adding that he will be meeting primarily with young entrepreneurs on Reverse Collision Day.

“What happens in the start-up world is that everyone thinks they need to have the new invention,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the fundamental basis of most business”

Estill used the example of Frank Hasenfratz, founder of Linamar. Hasenfratz was working at a manufacturing company and saw that it was buying a certain part for about $5 each. He offered to make them and sell them to the company for considerably less. He received an order, bought the necessary machines, and was in business.

Innovation Guelph director of operations Kristel Manes said Reverse Collision Day is an exciting approach to business development. Many people come through the doors of Innovation Guelph with good business ideas, but it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be fostered.

“We’re hosting it here at Innovation Guelph,” she said. “We put out a call saying we were looking for entrepreneurs. Jim will talk about his experience as an entrepreneur and what it takes to be a good entrepreneur.”

In the second half of the session participants will get to sit down with Danby’s executive team to talk about the entrepreneurial opportunities at the company and how they might run with them. 

The whole objective is to spark successful spin-off companies by leveraging the infrastructure of the larger company. The event runs from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at 11 Farquhar Street, 3rd floor. The cost is free.

Register here.

Innovation Guelph offers mentorship and business support programs and services that help innovative businesses start, grow and thrive.

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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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