David has a varied background in the world of startups as a sales leader. After high school, David immediately went to work – he started his career in door to door sales as a commission-only sales representative. Over the next number of years, David worked in sales leadership at various startups, building impressive sales teams ranging from one person to groups of 20, with a focus on championing current markets and expanding to others. He also has a knack for recognizing the strengths of team members and placing them in the right positions. During his tenure as an employee, David worked his way up the ranks to Director of Sales and was exposed to all facets of startup life – laying the perfect foundation for his very own startup business, Epicater.
Founded in 2013 by David Ahola, Epicater coordinates and connects offices with local vendors, restaurants and food trucks, managing all catering logistics from planning to delivery.
Whether it’s lunch for 30 people, a small team breakfast meeting or a large scale event, Epicater guarantees great food and service with its three-step program:
- Consulting: Epicater’s “catering concierge” works directly with companies to create the ultimate meal plan, tailoring a program that seamlessly matches the team’s preferences and budget. For events, Epicater will also curate the decor, equipment rentals and entertainment.
- Delivery: Epicater and its vendors handle all logistics and delivery, which includes meals being setup and properly labeled. For events this can include; chef services, plating and bar set-up. Epicater also provides on-site support and works with trained wait staff to ensure each meal is properly executed when needed.
- Reviewing: Epicater distributes employee surveys after each meal and uses the feedback both to understand the employees experience and preferences and to see which new vendors should be sourced and added to their next meal.
Based in Toronto and operating within the GTA and Kitchener/Waterloo, Epicater currently has a network of 80 vendor partners, including grassroots vendors like: Feel Good Guru, Food Appeal, and Mise en Place. Epicater has fed over 600,000 people to date, with clients such as Shopify, Sephora and Wealthsimple.
We sat down to chat about how David created his own dream job here.
What is your official title? Do you have one?
Yes, CEO & Founder. But in the grand scheme of things, a title can often be irrelevant. The question is, can you deliver the goods?
Did you go to school/get training for your dream job?
Yes and no. No, because my highest level of formal education is high school. Yes, because I have always strived to learn from other people as well as books. There is a saying that has really stuck with me: “It is necessary to learn from others’ mistakes. You will not live long enough to make them all yourself.” A good book for me not only enriches my life but also dramatically cuts down my learning curve so that I can get ahead quicker. With that said I believe educating oneself is an ongoing process and shouldn’t just start and end at a formal institution.
What was your first job ever?
Working as a paper boy for the Brampton Guardian and Toronto Sun, followed by serving double doubles at Tim Hortons. Doesn’t get any more Canadian than that ;)
Before you got/created your dream job, what was the best job you had?
It may sound a little odd and unconventional but the best job I had before Epicater was working my way up a direct marketing company as a door to door salesman. Not only did the job generate me good cash for my age (at the time) but it helped me understand the relationship between one’s attitude and their altitude. I also learned how to sell, take rejection (no just means Next Opportunity) and work a set of leads correctly. Later on I learned how to build a team, be an effective leader, and win over the respect of my colleagues through delivering the goods even against all odds. It’s hard to believe but I lucked out when I accepted that commission-only job.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I’d be building a different service-based startup or working for an innovative company while learning on the job and getting ready for my first startup venture. I guess I’m an Entrepreneur, through and through!
What advice do you have for someone who wants to find their dream job but hasn’t yet?
Life is too important of a gift to squander on work you find unfulfilling. Try new things, get out there and spend more time outside of your comfort zone. I remember when I was nervous about rejection and avoided it like the plague. Upon landing a job in direct sales my initial biggest challenge was being able to continue through my day with a positive mental attitude while being told “No” constantly (No, being one of the more polite ways I was rejected). It wasn’t until I treated the endeavour as a learning opportunity that I started getting results. What’s uncomfortable today can very much be a source of fulfilment and wealth tomorrow.