How to build a successful business in Canada and feel fulfilled
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
"Over-delivery our promises, deliver on time, within their budget, and be 100% honest in everything we do." - Mark Wu
Luis Barrionuevo, CEO of Ideality, interviewed Mark Wu to talk about the challenges and victories of immigrant entrepreneur life in Canada.
Who is Mark Wu?
My name is Mark Wu. I am the Founder, President, and Digital Marketing Director of 2Gen.Net - a full-service digital media company with international experience developing and designing sophisticated mobile and web applications; we are experts in building digital marketing strategies.
What do you do after 5 pm?
I am passionate about sports and supporting kids and helping in the community. After work, I go to the gym or a community committee meeting.
Who inspired you?
There are so many… I think for me growing up who helped me..., and you have to understand, I grew up in Brazil, and there were not a lot of people that look like me in my neighbourhood (Mark has an oriental descent). Bruce Lee was my hero back there. He was the first one I connected with, and he inspired me to start. I was very keen on his ideology and his stand on social causes..
How was your landing in Canada?
I came with my family. I was a teenager at that time. My parents came to Canada because they were looking to start a business and new opportunities.
Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
I think it was because of my family's entrepreneurial nature. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my father were merchants, who dedicated their lives to small businesses and people relations thought it was always interesting and challenging.
What inspires you to choose the kind of business that you run today?
I always liked innovation and technology, the internet and high-tech were always intriguing. I was good with computers in university, and my first job was at a big advertising agency in Toronto. Because I was the only one that could operate computers, they put me to work on a digital role and developing a digital ads website. I quickly realizes the demand for digital and decided to pursue it and start my own business.
How is your day as an entrepreneur?
So first of all, I see if everybody is working and happy in doing their job and I oversee 20+ employees and many projects. At the same time, I work to create and manage projects and new business opportunities. So, I do a lot of networking and brainstorm new ideas with clients. But, I can say that my main focus right now is to oversee people and new business development.
"Most of our clients have been with us many years. Our client retention is key to our success."
What is the mission of your company?
The mission is always to keep our clients, in the loop and turn make them happy. Over-delivery our promises, deliver on time, within their budget, and be 100% honest in everything we do.
We always work hard to deliver the best project possible on a budget and on time.
What do you believe is your differentiation in the market?
We have excellent programmers and developers, I have a background in marketing. So we can understand the marketplace and the products as a whole. We are very “unique” in our industry. We offer the creation, innovation, and all the technology within our company.
"...finances are always a challenge for beginners. I remember at the time that I didn't get paid, so make sure that people are paid first."
What was the first challenge that you faced in your company?
I have been an entrepreneur for over 20 years. And the answer is financing. I remember at the beginning, we needed to decide if we should buy more computers, more software, rent a bigger space or hire employees. So finances were always a challenge for me in the beginning. I remember that sometimes I didn’t get paid, so make sure that people on your team are paid first. Those are the challenges that I had.
If you think about the barriers you faced when you moved to Canada as a teenager what was the hardest part?
Like a lot of immigrants, I had a hard time speaking English. The language was a big problem for me. My English was terrible when I arrived. Also, in Brazil I was popular, I had a lot of friends and always had people around me. And when you go to a new country, you do know anybody, so I have made new friends, but I didn’t speak with them. But Luis, do you know what helped me? Sports. (happy face)
"My English was terrible when I arrived. Not being able to communicate was a big problem for me being an outgoing person."
Is there a "dead valley" for entrepreneurs?
When you are growing your company, the decision for growth is always a challenge for entrepreneurs.
I remember thinking, we need a bigger space, do I spend money, but if you lose the client? What do you do with people working with you? And sometimes you have to decide what you do when you face changes in the market, like the large retraction in the pandemic in 2020. Do you downsize the infrastructure to adapt to the new reality?
You do have to be the leader and have to make those thought decisions. Should I lay off everybody and close the business (work from home)? I couldn't sleep at that time. And, after three months, I started getting those calls back, and the government stepped up and gave me an option to keep going and keep the team on the payroll. And, gradually, we were back on business. I learned a lot from making mistakes.
Is Canada a good place to be an entrepreneur?
Absolutely. 100%. This is a great place to be an entrepreneur. Because I know the situation in Brazil and Canada. It Doesn't matter what happens here in Canada the government will try to help you as much as it can. The government gave us a big incentive for us. And I have friends in Brazil, who didn't have this support, and it was not even close to what we had in Canada.
I got tremendous support as an entrepreneur in Canada facing pandemic retraction in 2020. If I had this company in Brazil I probably would not have survived as a company?
I just would add that, when my kids graduate from school they will have an excellent chance for a good job, they will find something as long you try! This is good peace of mind for me as a father and entrepreneur in Canada.
"I do everything I can to have my clients happy, if they are happy, I am happy."
What drives your entrepreneurial spirit? What makes you get up every day and feel fulfilled?
Every day I wake up thinking about my family first and then my day at work, but I already have a schedule prepared for what I need to do. Customer service is a very important thing. I don't let my clients down. I will never let them down - I do everything I can to have my clients happy, if they are happy, I am happy.
Is there something that you don’t want to do in your schedule?
Sometimes things happen, you know you are late because of different external/internal issues, and telling a customer that we're having problems with a project and that the project's delivery is going to be delayed is not a good thing to do. We try our best to not get into this situation.
Even in coaching, you know that you are prepared to win a match, and you lose. It happens, it's like a bad day in the office, there are days when things happen, and this is part of the journey. You have to be prepared to lead in this situation and be an example to your team.
What are the next steps for 2Gen?
Especially in business, you have to keep going, no matter what happens the entrepreneurial spirit will always be with me. Personally, always look for challenges.
I describe myself as having a Chinese mind, Brazilian soul, and Canadian heart. I am focused on discipline, my career, reading, and learning, while also nurturing my free spirit and fun creativity, showing care for others, seeking a balanced life, and acting as a peace-maker.
My most recent volunteer efforts over the past three years have included forming the initial executive team to bring the Commonwealth Games back to Hamilton Canada for the Centennial Games in 2030. I believe Games in Hamilton can provide the local region and community with an immediate path to an economic revival. This will leave a lasting legacy for many generations and, most importantly, the social impact that the event can bring. I am also involved in the upcoming launch of Digital Magazine - a new publication and website that will showcase and celebrate so many great people and things about our region.
The agency creates interactive digital experiences. 2Gen has been developing digital campaigns since 1996. Its services include web development, mobile applications, digital design, and marketing strategies.
About Mark Wu
Founder, President, and Digital Marketing Director. He arrived in Canada as a teenager, and after he graduated from University, he pursued an entrepreneurial life building 2Gen.net in Canada.
Mark is a skateboarder and has a passion for sports. He has been doing volunteer volleyball and soccer coaching and playing different sports. He also likes to volunteer for the community - charity helper - anything to do with society, either for social causes, diversity, or inclusivity.
About the author
Luis Barrionuevo, Business Consultant, Founder & CEO of Ideality, and Co-founder of the Canada StartHub. Luis is a consultant specialist in digital business, new ventures mentoring, and education for entrepreneurship in the Brazilian-Canadian market.