MOVING TO CANADA
For the second time in my life, I had decided to move to a new country. However, this time it was different as I didn't make the move on my own. At that time, in the summer of 2013, I lived together with my Canadian girlfriend, her teenage daughter and our dog, so it was a household of four that was packing up everything in Switzerland and making the move across the Atlantic to settle down in Ottawa.
As a Danish citizen, I was welcome to stay in Canada as a visitor, but I had to apply for a permanent residence permit if I wanted to work, receive healthcare, and not have to leave Canada every six months. The application process was extensive and the processing time seemed to go on forever. In the meantime, I couldn't apply for jobs so I kept myself busy doing some renovation on the house, maintaining a good fitness routine, and checking out the National Capital Region on my bicycles.
Time went by fast and we all went into a daily routine of doing things all meanwhile I tried to figure out what to do with myself in regards to work. when I finally would receive my permit to stay and work.
At this point in my life, I had finally come to the conclusion, that being employed as a conventional engineer was not for me anymore. I felt I need to do some sort of business on my own but I really didn't know what.
ON MY OWN AGAIN
In the spring of 2015, I finally became a landed immigrant when I received my permit to stay as a resident. It was a big day for me but unfortunately, what was the beginning of a new chapter in my Canadian history also became the end of my relationship with my spouse.
Some difficulties in the "family situation" had unfortunately driven us all apart, and separation was inevitable. For many reasons, I was at a loss of course and especially about what I should do now? Should I call it quits and go back to Denmark or maybe try to find a job in Switzerland again? I really didn't know.
What I did know was, I needed to think everything through so going home to Denmark for a few weeks would be a good idea, so that's what I did.
LET'S DO BUSINESS
After two weeks of thinking everything through while visiting Denmark, I decided to return to Canada to stay. I had spent a lot of energy moving there and I really like Canada and the Canadians so everything would have been for nothing if I packed up and returned to Europe. I was ready to return to Canada with a plan.
First things first so I started by finding a place to live. Within a few days, I signed a lease on a small apartment downtown so I wouldn't need a car. When settled in, I was ready to start my own business, to start building something that eventually would provide me with a sufficient income.
I had secured a deal to import and sell bicycle lights from the Danish company Reelight so I spent a lot of time setting up a webshop. My idea was to sell the bike lights online as a start and then add physical retail stores as time went by.
Getting free or low-cost traffic to a webshop is difficult so I knew it would take a lot of work and a lot of time to get the sale going. That meant, in the meantime, I had to secure some sort of income, but how?
As an engineer, I knew how to assemble stuff so I posted an add on Kijiji (which is like Craigslist). I offered to assemble furniture, garden sheds, and other items that needed assembly and withing long, I was servicing customers around the Ottawa downtown area. The Downtown Handyman was a reality. As I still didn't have a car, I used my bicycle and carried my tools in a backpack. It was summer and the weather was nice, so it wasn't a problem.
Sometimes I caught myself wondering how come I had managed to move from a very well paid job in Switzerland, where I travelled the world, stayed at nice hotels, and experienced exciting places, to be riding around Ottawa on my bike, with a few tools in my backpack, assembling beds and dressers. If it wasn't for the low pay I hadn't been this happy with my work in many years, so maybe I were heading towards something better after all?
As time went by my reputation for doing meticulous work got around and the handyman business grew. I had to buy a car as my backpack had been replaced by several toolbags and I got more and more customers outside the downtown area. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same thing about the bike light shop. Orders came in but not enough. Importing from Denmark was a hassle with high shipping cost and customs, so eventually, I gave up the idea of another online success, for now.
As it often happens when you do a good job, people refer you to friends and family. It started with the installation of one small kitchen, which led to another one, and then one. Suddenly I was hooked up with a contractor for whom I ended up installing 15 kitchens, so far. Installation of Ikea kitchens has now turned into my prime area of focus, and guess what? I really enjoy doing it. The thing is, when you do something you enjoy, something you find great satisfaction in doing, the result often gets really good.
Besides installing kitchens I also work on my own ideas for new products. Being a creative person, ideas come easily and having a background as a mechanical engineer provides me with a perfect skill set for developing new products. I bring my ideas from hand-drawn sketches to real CAD drawings, 3D printed parts, and eventually, I create Provisional Patent Applications, sell sheets, videos, and other documentation necessary for licensing my ideas to interested companies and eventually receiving royalties in return.
To quote Forrest Gump "My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”
Life is indeed full of surprises. When my mom said I could become a marine engineer too, almost 40 years ago, it was unimaginable to predict that my choices over the years would bring me from land to sea, from Denmark to Switzerland and Canada, and from engineering to kitchen installation and development of my own products.
It has been an interesting journey at times, but finally, I feel as I have found my place. I might not continue to do what I work with today but I know for sure, that I will always continue to be an entrepreneur.
Creating and running my own business, converting my dreams into goals, by applying what I have learned over the years, is indeed a privilege I cannot be without.
Today, I finally feel I am "living the dream" as we say in America. I have become a Canadian citizen, I am living together with a beautiful woman, and continue in creating my own destiny. I feel very grateful.
Thanks for reading this far.