“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.” Gary Gruber-Mai talks about this, love or money and immigration challenges.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Gary Gruber-Mai; I am 39 years old and currently live in Calgary, Alberta Canada. I was born in Vereeniging in Gauteng province in South Africa. I had officially immigrated to Canada in November 2012
You left your comfort zone, moved to a different country and started your own business. Tell us more about this experience.
I would refer to comfort zone loosely. My decision to move was because I was uncomfortable in my position in South Africa. I lived in Cape Town and tried to pursue working in oil and gas; the challenges of the economic situation meant I was denied work.
I knew at that point, I had to pave my own way. At first I opened a consultancy called OCSA where I was a consultant for offshore consultants in South Africa. This was a ‘Fast track’ if you like, where clients would get all the correct and necessary information on leading careers in offshore work on platforms. Still with little momentum I had to make a decision that would ultimately lead me to Canada.
The next viable option was indeed moving to Canada. I had lived in Canada as a child and had familiar and fond memories. This was followed by hard work and the red tape of applying to become a Canadian Permanent Resident. It took months of back and forth with immigrations.
By no means do I say do what I did, I boarded a plane and headed to Canada and dealt with immigrations on Canadian soil. This could have gone two ways. However I was able to write a letter of motivation and was accepted for landed immigration status and received my permanent card.
Then it was the hard work to create something from nothing. I had started working for a construction company. Although my back ground was finance. The ultimate freedom to success was to accept that I had to do whatever needed to be done to make money. I pushed a broom and worked my way up to running the residential division of a large spray foam company. I feel as a South African, we know what hard work and diversity looks like.
After some time I realized working relationships and was awarded an opportunity to start my own construction company.
What does your business do?
I am the owner of Prima Foam Corp. We offer spray foam Insulation/ Drywall/fireproofing and coatings for commercial and residential projects.
Did you have a plan B?
No coming to Canada was already Plan B and whatever was to happen from there was just extra.
What has been your lowest point in business?
The growing pains of building a business from literally $1,000.00 were hard. I had to pull a rabbit out of a hat daily to survive and build a reputation whilst making sure I was making money to be able to afford the next project.
I started with a business partner that close to the end of our working relationship became complacent and was becoming a dead weight. I had to make the difficult decision to make a go of it alone; a lot of emotions all round.
My partner cleared out more than $7,500.00 dollars from the bank account. It might not seem like a lot. However as a new start up that might as well have been a million dollars. In hindsight it’s always tricky to go into a partnership without clear legal perimeters.
What is the best business advice you have been given.
Make sure you have a secure accountant with financial advice. Then pursue your dream.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering a big move?
Do it, don’t hesitate, but make sure you compile a realistic pro and cons list. Make sure your ‘WHY’ is greater than your emotions. Moving is hard on yourself and your dependents. You need to make sure the sacrifice is worth the uproot.
If you could own any business apart from your own, which one would it be and why?
I could choose from a lot of high gloss options; but I am happy with what I have achieved. I will continue to do what I can in my present business until the day something else comes my way.
What would you tell your younger self to do differently?
Listen to your elders. The older I get, the more I understand the true value of life experience.
The rhetorical question – Love or Money; what are your thoughts on this?
Love or money!? Wow, Love is important. To love and to feel loved is success on its own. Money does make things easier and assists in making life easier to be open to love. So I would say both with Love as the driver.
Name your favorite influencer/ leader and why.
I don’t have a famous influence or leader I look up to. I have had some great people in my life like my Mother and Grandparents who have always been there to teach me the value of kindness and unconditional love.
When last did you use an ATM?
Good question in this day and age of money less society. It’s hard to remember when I had money on hand before this new Covid-19 Pandemic. I have had to purchase some items for a home gym where the person wanted cash.
Name a pet peeve.
When people don’t use their blinker to indicate their intention, whilst driving.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about watching people becoming authentic and driven to the realization of their dreams.
Any favorite snack/meal that you miss?
I would pay a lot of money for Simba Cheese chips.
Explain the difference between a braai and barbecue.
A BBQ is where we have gas burners and cook hot dogs and hamburgers. A Braai is an open fire with coals to cook boerewors, pork chops and ultimately for me, it is a lot more social.
Name your favorite quote or mantra to live by.
Keep it simple. Put one foot in front of the other.