Takin' care of business

[attach]3417[/attach]So you think you have a great idea for a business. Maybe you do, but do you have the guts to get it started?

One midtown resident certainly has both. Matthew Von Teichman is the only person to have made Profit magazine’s Hot 50 list of fastest growing start-up companies with two different businesses.

Both See Thru Window Cleaning and made the list after making major gains in profits in only their first few years. In a recent conversation, Von Teichman spoke on succeeding in these businesses and in his career as an entrepreneur.

He says a lot of would-be business people he speaks with have solid business ideas. The only thing that stops them from executing on those business ideas is that “they’re afraid to take the jump” to become an entrepreneur.

Not only is Von Teichman not afraid to dive right in, he enjoys it.

“I think probably the biggest difference between me and people who aren’t entrepreneurs is just simply, I don’t mind taking the leap,” Von Teichman said. “I like the uncertainty that comes with being an entrepreneur, so for me to start new businesses is fun.”

While he admits studying history at the University of Western Ontario had “absolutely no relevance” to his current line of work, it was where he began his first business.

During his second year of higher learning he opened a restaurant and pub in a hotel owned by a friend. Before the completion of his fourth year, he had already sold the restaurant and opened up his second business: a student window-cleaning franchise.

After selling the window-cleaning business to a family friend, he went on to create the employment website

“I’m good at the start-up phase,” Von Teichman said. “I like that beginning phase where a lot of people hate it.

“I love the uncertainty of a new business and being able to pioneer from nothing to something. I love that.”

In 2001, he sold his stake in JobShark. Despite all the hard work he puts into starting a business and making it successful, he says he doesn’t get too attached and isn’t overly sentimental once it’s sold.

“I don’t have a lot of nostalgia for the different companies,” Von Teichman said. “What I don’t like to see, which happened with the window-cleaning company, is you sell it and then they run it into the ground.

“That, to me, is unfortunate.”

Von Teichman’s now onto his fourth company: Life Choice Natural Foods. He started the business, which sells frozen organic meals, while his wife was pregnant with their first child.

“She wanted to eat healthier now that she was pregnant and so we tried this organic pizza and it happened to be just horrible,” he said. “It was one of those eureka moments thinking, ‘Well surely there’s a lot of people who, like us, want to eat healthier but don’t want to eat crap.’”

He describes his line of products as “healthy convenience food for families” and boasts that Life Choices meals contain whole grain ingredients with no refined sugars or flours. Not only are the Von Teichman children served Life Choices products, they’re also the company’s taste-testers, he says.

“My kids and my kids’ friends are basically our product development group,” Von Teichman said. “Whenever we’re thinking of a product we run it by them, purely by inviting their friends over and letting them eat it and seeing what the reactions are.”

Von Teichman lives with his wife and kids in midtown Toronto, but they also spend a considerable amount of time at their farm in Thornbury where some of the ingredients for Life Choices products are grown.

He enjoys the opportunity for greater family involvement offered by his most recent company. Von Teichman has stayed with Life Choices longer than any of his previous companies and rather than selling the business he has instead led a successful expansion into the U.S. market in recent years.

“I’m just totally engaged in this business. I love it. I usually like to get out of businesses after about five years and this is eight years now and it’s fabulous, it’s so much fun.”

For Von Teichman, the rewards of being an entrepreneur outweigh the risks and he is quick to give advice to those thinking of starting their own business.

“First and foremost, I would say don’t be afraid to fail and as part of that don’t be afraid to jump,” Von Teichman said. “The first step for any entrepreneur is to take that fateful decision to actually go into business for themselves.

“And it’s not easy.”