Father to Ave // Owner of Dream Factory
Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal
What we loved about interviewing Dwayn was his complete honesty and unwillingness to sugarcoat his experiences with parenting and business ownership. We visited him at his print shop, Dream Factory, where he had recently expanded to a larger space in order to accommodate his growing clientele. He gave us the scoop on his entrepreneurial journey and we got to hang with his 10 year old daughter, Ave, who has been a mainstay in his shop (outside of school, of course!) since she was young.
What is Dream Factory?
We do large format printing and promotional materials that cater to small and large businesses. Anything from brochures, stickers, banners, store signage, apparel and commercial vehicle graphics.
How did you start your business?
Due to previous job roles, I saw an opportunity in the industry and decided one day to give it my best shot. I used to work for a digital merchandising company and saw an opportunity to fill gaps where I had expertise. I decided to go for it and within a few days had my first client and had to scramble to install signage on a main street shop. That’s still a client to this day.
You’ve recently moved your shop to a larger space, purchased more equipment, and are running business around the clock! To what do you attribute your success to date?
Drive and Determination. I am always willing to be the first one here and last to leave.
That must give a clear example to your staff of your dedication.
I don’t expect my staff to pull the hours that I do, but when you run a business like this where I need to keep my clients happy – I want to make sure I have an eye on everything that needs to get done and make sure everything’s running smoothly.
Since the business has grown, how have you managed hiring?
The business has grown very rapidly. We get all work strictly through word-of-mouth and referrals. I have hired and have various full time and part time employees. To determine a fit, I look for people that would mesh well together and usually get them to come in and shadow and see how things work. I make sure they are a good fit with the team and bring a positive energy.
Positive vibes are so important especially when you’re working together for long hours! Do you have a mentor or someone you admire and look up to?
I have a few friends in the same industry with more experience, that I think very highly of and know I can call on at anytime for mentorship. I would say these are informal conversations, not really structured, but it feels good to know I have people I trust who have gone through similar challenges and that I can bounce ideas off.
What is your favorite part of your work and why?
Independence. Setting your own destiny. Because every time I create a product, I take pride in our customers satisfaction and find it rewarding.
What does a typical day look like?
I usually wake up at about 7 am. First thing after getting ready is dropping my wife to the Go Train. Then I get back home and get my daughter up, after much persuading. Get her lunch packed and ready for school. After the bus stop it is straight to Timmies for my mandatory tea before heading to the shop. I get to the shop at about 8:30am to prep for the day. Employees arrive at 9:30 to 10. Then the day is in full swing.
I leave around 5pm to pick my wife up from the GO and head to my mom’s house for a quick dinner and pick up my daughter before dropping my wife and daughter home. I then head back to the shop and usually set a deadline of midnight to stop. Then home for the night and repeat the next day.
When you said you were running business around the clock you weren’t kidding! That’s a demanding schedule.
I’ve worked 48 hours straight a couple of times and to be honest I usually burn out every couple of weeks.
Ah burnout…every entrepreneur and parent’s reality at one point or another. Do you do much in the realm of self-care?
No! I probably should but I don’t. I pretty much go through my days without eating breakfast and sometimes even lunch. I’ll grab a snack of peanut butter that’s in a jar on my desk. Dinner is usually my main meal and the lack of sleep gets to me once in awhile.
It goes without saying that business owners hustle hard to make things work. Do you try to carve out time for yourself?
I find time for myself very challenging. Extra time I find for myself usually means less sleep. When I get home at midnight I watch some TV before falling asleep or on the weekends, if I am not working, I spend the time with my wife and daughter walking around the mall or working on my cars.
Related to that – have you ever had to turn down a client or make a difficult business decision?
Yes, I occasionally turn down some clients because one of the most difficult decisions I have to make is being realistic in what can be done in a day and within a specific timeline.
I never want to fall short of a client’s expectations – customer service is the most important and that’s why all our business comes through strong referrals. And overcommitting usually means no sleep, so I guess in a way turning down business is a version of self-care.
With all of the busy-ness of the shop, how do you balance work with parenting?
My wife and I both work full time. My mom is a big part of childcare. She helps out by picking my daughter up from the bus stop and feeding her after school and keeping her entertained when my wife and I work late. My wife also plays a big part when I have to work late. She makes sure Ave is in bed as early as possible and makes sure her clothes are set out, lunches and snacks are put aside and ready for me to pack in the morning.
What are the challenges you face as a parent and entrepreneur?
TIME. I feel that being a entrepreneur is very demanding. So it usually leads to homework help sometimes being done late at night. And having to make an asserted effort to have quality family time.
What are your favourite tunes to listen to, to get motivated?
90’s hip hop and R&B is usually my early morning music before employees arrive to get me in the groove.
If you could share one piece of advice with someone starting out in this business what would it be?
Make sure you have a good plan and supportive network. Concentrate on the positive. Avoid the negative energy that can appear at times. Stay determined and keep moving forward.
I subscribe to our slogan of “Dreams are a reality to be achieved” and remind myself of it everyday.
This was an eye-opener for us, though it shouldn’t have been. In an age where there is a lot of rhetoric in the online space (and in real life, tbh) about self-care and balance, here is a business-owner not afraid to admit he literally grinds it out to the point of burning out every couple of weeks. A part of our mission with the XO Project is to show the gloss AND the grit, and Dwayn clearly exemplifies the grit of running a successful business. We talked offline about some strategies to help curb that burnout (from hiring, to eating habits, to taking vacation time) and it kind of just reinforced to us that opening up these conversations and being REAL is important – for our businesses, our families and for ourselves. To hit up Dwayn for your print needs, you can reach him here (but you better hurry if you wanna get on that client roster! 😉