Richard Zakrzewski wanted to hit the ground running with his new idea.
Zakrzewski’s “grand idea” as he calls it, is to try to change the way we do manufacturing in North America.
“For some reason,” he says, “manufacturing seems to lag behind the rest of the technology sector.” Not so much, he says, in the introduction of new technology but in the way it is used – a factory might have the latest in conveyor systems or automated vehicles to move material around the plant (his areas of specialization) but he says, “they are still tracking everything in a book in someone’s office.” He’s seen manufacturing plants in other parts of the world and knew that they were far ahead of what we had.
Bojak was going to change that. A firm believer in the idea that “At the end of the day we need real things,” and that means manufacturing, Zakrzewski knew that he couldn’t just concentrate on building products. “You have to be able to sell,” he says.
“I wanted to create the sales cycle from the very beginning and then slowly design and build my own products that I could put into the sales channels I had created.” To do that, he began selling other company’s products and then slowly moved into production himself. His previous experience as an entrepreneur (he helped found Kingston’s Transformix, a premier supplier of automated systems back in 1995) had taught him that successful companies have positive cash flows right from the beginning.
He also knew that he didn’t wanted to waste time, hunting for offices and then setting up. “What I needed was space.” Thanks to Queen’s University’s Innovation Park, he was able to set up quickly – and Innovation Park’s director Janice Mady and associate director Rick Boswell were also able to set him up with a grant from the Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program, which helped pay for product development and covered the cost of his rent in Innovation Park.
“I was able to walk right in and start working on my business strategy from day one. I had access to boardrooms, photocopiers, wifi, everything I needed for a company that was trying to grow quickly.”
Now after six short months, the firm has grown from just him to six employees and, he hopes, in the new year, they will begin working on their first product, made possible in part by an Industrial Research Assistance Program grant from the National Research Council. “It is,” says Zakrzewski “a sanitary conveyor system with plug and play technology for the control system, which will allow for product tracking and control.” More, Zakrzewski and Bojak Manufacturing are getting ready to “graduate” from Innovation Park. In September, he purchased a building for Bojak here in Kingston where they can start building their products. That’s the idea behind Innovation Park, of course, but there aren’t too many firms that have graduated as fast as Bojak has.
“Innovation Park, KEDCO, I have nothing but praise for them,” he says. “KEDCO helped us back in 1995 when we set up Transformix. They helped us now and then they get out of the way. Kingston is an ideal place to set up: close to the border and right in between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.”
Everyone has been helpful – I was really surprised they want you to succeed as much as you do.