By Liam Berti
Jump off the cliff and learn how to fly on the way down.
That was Dan Fallak’s mentality when he quit his comfortable and secure government job one year ago.
His call to adventure: become an entrepreneur and start up his own business.
He and his wife, Kelly, have since transformed a past-time hobby creating coasters for craft fairs into a full-time career and an exciting, unpredictable path.
Now, after committing himself entirely to his ventures, Fallak owns two thriving businesses out of the basement of his home in Almonte, Ont., often dedicating days out of his busy schedule to deliver his customers their finished product himself.
“I’m busier than I’ve ever been and I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” said Fallak. “I don’t have to answer to anybody and I’m just going at it 100 per cent. If I screw up, that’s on me. You just pick up and move on.”
His primary company, VersaTile, was officially launched in November 2012, while his most recent endeavor, WoodPosters, opened for business in July. VersaTile prints Instagram photos and other digital files onto coasters and tile mosaic wall art, while WoodPosters uses those same file formats and prints the images onto a maple veneer panel, creating a very organic, rustic look the home décor.
VersaTile has received attention and demand from as far away as Hong Kong while recent start-up WoodPosters is built to be more of a national company with blanket coverage in Canada.
“They both have really great potential in different ways,” said Fallak. “Everyone has great photos and everyone wants to put those photos on something.”
Fallak studied advertising at Algonquin over a decade ago, which he credits for laying the foundation for the path his life has taken. He also acknowledges his years at the college for teaching him the basics of graphic design software, as well as the fundamentals of consumer behaviour and marketing, limiting the amount of outsourcing he has had to do.
After graduating, Fallak walked right into a job at an advertising agency out of his program’s co-op placement. From there, he would work at the agency for five years before finding an entry-level opportunity with the government, offering security and safety.
“At that point, I figured I don’t need my job to be my passion; I can get my passion from my hobbies, even if I don’t love the government job,” Fallak explained. “It served its purpose, but after six or seven years, I just wasn’t super happy and it was starting to affect my entire life in terms of my mood.”
In the archetypal hero’s journey, the character must pass the threshold of known to unknown territory. For Fallak, that hurdle came when he opted to part ways with his marketing communications position with Statistics Canada to pursue the life of an entrepreneur.
“Ultimately it came down to, am I happy?” said Fallak. “Things like: How am I showing up every day in my family, and if I was unhappy or depressed, it doesn’t matter how much you’re being paid. It’s not worth it.
“Looking back on it I was in a bad place. It just wasn’t a fit for me and I was trying to make it work, which was taking its toll on my mental health and well-being.”
Seven months into his new life as his own boss with a baby on the way, Fallak took a part-time consulting position to offset the inconsistency in VersaTile’s business. Since then though, both companies have presented new, bigger opportunities that allow Fallak to dedicate all of his time to operating both ventures on a larger scale.
“That was a very hard decision, it felt like I had failed,” Fallak said of taking the consulting job. “But there’s been some pretty significant developments with VersaTile lately, so it all kind of fell into place with the busy season coming up.”
One of those recent developments was the welcome arrival of a new specialized printer that allows Fallak to automate his work, permitting him to fulfill orders of up to 6,000 coasters at a time.
On the other side, WoodPosters received a customer order every day for the first two months of its existence, which is as much as Fallak could handle at the time. According to the owner, the company’s early clientele has come completely from word-of-mouth and social media.
And with the busiest time of the year right around the corner for VersaTile and WoodPosters, Fallak is happily living the uncertainty that each day as an entrepreneur brings.
“I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do, it just took me a while to find it,” Fallak said of his new calling. “If I didn’t do it, I would’ve regretted it forever. It’s really about taking the momentum and rolling into the next thing.”