Editor’s Note: Enter Morgan Abraham, Co-Founder and Product Developer of UGo Smoothies, a 2016 McGill Dobson Cup alumni and a 2016 McGill X-1 Accelerator program graduate that has brought healthy living to a new level.
When I graduated from McGill as an electrical engineer in 2012, I did the same that many did – I joined the work force as an engineer. I was involved in projects in industrial automation and power systems. My startup career began in Boston where one of my classmates invited me to a startup event in Boston my first year out of McGill. I never knew such a community existed – that entrepreneurs actually talked about their experiences and helped each other. I was immediately hooked. I began going to more and more events. I knew I wanted to start my own company – I just had no idea of what it would be or how to make it happen.
It was over three years ago when I found the spark that ignited into the idea that changed my life and career. It was at Startup Weekend in Boston that I joined a team to create a trail mix vending machine. It would allow customers to see different ingredients and choose the trail mix they wanted. Over the weekend I developed the initial concept of the machine. We ended up pitching in front of a panel of angel investors and VC’s. In the end, we won the competition – my first taste of success as an entrepreneur.
Over the years, the idea has changed to a smoothie vending machine. I partnered with a co-founder, built a team, incorporated in the US and then decided to incorporate in Canada, and then wrote and filed my first patent. The journey has taught me many things I never thought I’d learn and offered experiences I never though I ever would go through. It has pushed and challenged me. It’s made me question my core values, overcome insurmountable doubt from others, and, even more importantly, from within.
Starting your own company is the toughest thing you’ll ever do . I have heard it from everyone else who has done it, and I can agree based on my first-hand experience. While every company has its own nuances and challenges, I’m happy to share what was most difficult for me. First was knowing what path to take when I had such little experience, resources and vast topics to cover including finance, design, manufacturing, retail, legal, marketing and corporate structure. The other part that’s challenging about starting your own company is overcoming adversity – building a product from scratch, convincing customers to buy your product and proving you have an idea worth people investing their time or money into.
This summer I joined the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship for its McGill X-1 Accelerator after participating in the McGill Dobson Cup this spring. I found through my experience that there were a few aspects I needed which allowed me to overcome these challenges, and as I got better at them, I was able to be more successful as a leader and at generating results for my company. I call them the 5 P’s – Passion, Perception, People, Planning, and Persistence.
Passion – Every entrepreneur needs it in order to sell his or her vision to others – teammates, investors and customers.
Perception – One of the most important aspects of an entrepreneur; to see opportunity and to realize one’s own shortcomings in order to grow and move forward.
People – It takes a team to build a company, and as an entrepreneur, you need people who compliment your skill sets.
Planning – This is probably the most important aspect. One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was to change direction whenever I was met with resistance. Have a direction, and stick to it until you have data and evidence to prove you should do otherwise, at which point you should pivot.
Persistence – Startups aren’t easy. If your idea is an easy one, someone already came up with it. People will doubt you, and you won’t have enough resources. Your first prototype will be limited and riddled with flaws, but stick with it and keep going. Get scrappy and find opportunities by going after the low hanging fruit. With some elbow grease and a good amount of luck, one day you may be reaching the stars.
My journey is far from over, and it is probably one of many, but coming back to McGill by entering the McGill Dobson Cup and spending my summer at the McGill X-1 Accelerator has helped me develop my company. More importantly, it helped me grow as an entrepreneur and a leader. I learned the most important aspect that helped my company move forward was my growth as an individual during the program. McGill is building an entrepreneur community. Many of its talented and successful entrepreneurs and business people have given back to the program, and they have given me invaluable advice. I will say without a doubt it was the most valuable educational experiences I have ever had, and I am glad it is available to anyone at McGill who has a dream and the drive to be an entrepreneur.