Denis Loboda, co-founder of Air Xposure, an aerial filming start-up based in Toronto, Ontario, had most of the necessary ingredients to build a thriving business. At only 24 years old, he had a strong vision, extensive knowledge about his product and market, and an entrepreneurial spirit. But he was missing one key component: A qualified business mentor who could offer the expertise and guidance to help him take the business to the next level.
Futurpreneur Canada matched Denis with an experienced and knowledgeable mentor based on his business needs. Gulam Juma, a volunteer mentor with Futurpreneur Canada and highly qualified senior executive, helped Denis push his business forward. In a candid interview, Denis described his experiences working with a mentor and running his own business.
How have you benefitted from working with a mentor?
Denis: I had a very helpful mentor who was interested in my business and its successes. I learned to think on a broader scale for generating revenue from the business and realized that aerial drone filming can be used for a large variety of applications worldwide.
Describe your mentoring relationship.
Denis: From day one, our relationship was friendly and relaxed. Although I had a lot of questions for Gulam, I was also interested in hearing about his business affairs, as he is also an entrepreneur and involved in several start-ups and businesses worldwide. Gulam helped guide me in the decision making for the business. I knew I could call or text him with questions and get a response back quickly.
How has your mentor helped you improve your business?
Denis: Because of Gulam’s entrepreneurial background, he had knowledge and experience in many of the common issues that impact start-ups such as cash flow, business direction, finances, and accounting. I was able to learn a lot from the business experience he had. For example, before I started working with Gulam, Air Xposure’s finances and accounting were lacking and unorganized. With his help, I was able to dramatically expand my knowledge of running a small business from an accounting perspective.
What are some of the challenges you faced with your business, and how did your mentor help?
Denis: At one point, the business faced permit issues for flying the drone in Canadian airspace. Attaining permits for legally providing the service took longer than expected, so Gulam was very helpful in opening my mind to new opportunities and thinking outside of the box for potential cash flow.
Is being an entrepreneur what you thought it would be?
Denis: My initial expectation about entrepreneurship was pretty accurate; it involves a lot of risk and a lot of work. However, I have learned a lot of things about myself and the business world along the way.
What advice would you share with an aspiring entrepreneur?
Denis: If you put in a lot of work, you will be rewarded, but the payoff may not come in the ways you expect. It is good to have high ambitions, but also to be able to accept failures, learn from them quickly, and move on.
About Denis Loboda
Co-Founder, Air Xposure
After completing his Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto, Denis joined the Hatchery, a start-up incubator at university, to begin working on Air Xposure. He later received mentorship, funding, and support through a partnership between Futurpreneur Canada and the Ontario Center of Excellence.
About Denis’ mentor: Gulam Juma, CPA, CGA
Chief Operating Officer, World Academy & World Trade Advisors Group
Gulam Juma is a highly qualified senior executive with extensive international experience in the private and non-profit sectors. His areas of expertise include leadership and management, finance and the non-profit sector.
“My time spent mentoring Denis in his business was enjoyable and productive. I stressed to him the importance of ensuring he had a robust business process in place with ethical underpinnings to encompass care, compassion and inclusivity. I encouraged him to always have an alternative plan in place in case the original plan ran into trouble!” – Galum Juma
Febbie Shikongo, Client Relationship Associate, Futurpreneur
Futurpreneur Canada is a national, non-proﬁt organization that provides ﬁnancing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39. Our internationally recognized mentoring program hand matches young entrepreneurs with a business expert from a network of more than 2,800 volunteer mentors. See more at futurpreneur.ca.