Young Entrepreneur of the Year Jeff Greco

After leaving Sault Ste. Marie to get his postsecondary education, Jeff Greco was on track to become a software engineer in a larger centre outside the North.

But the course of his career was altered when the reality of the job — sitting in a cubicle at a computer day after day — hit him.

“That was the changing moment,” he said. “I’m a busy body — I’m moving around, I’m talking to people — and I realized quickly that day in, day out I’d be stuck in front of that screen, so that kind of reality said, let’s see if I can take this in a different direction.”

Greco returned to his hometown and launched Cavera Inc., a boutique digital marketing agency, and suddenly, he was thrust into the world of entrepreneurship, a career move he hadn’t considered seriously until that point.

“When I jumped into it, I had no idea what I was getting into,” he laughed. He now employs six full-time staff, and Cavera will mark its fifth anniversary in January.

The firm specializes in design, user experience, content marketing, pay-perclick advertising, email, social media, search engine optimization and professional web development.

Despite lots of players in the industry, Cavera has found its niche serving small and mediumsized businesses, which are often working with limited budgets.

“There’s a huge gap in Northern Ontario for that small to mediumsized business that is looking to have a digital marketing strategy,” Greco said.

“There are larger agencies now who serve a larger clientele, but when you have that small to medium-sized business that really doesn’t have the time to jump in to learn digital marketing, who do they go to?”

About 85 per cent of Cavera’s clientele is situated right in Sault Ste. Marie, but the young firm is looking to slowly expand its horizons, dabbling in expanded markets in Calgary, southern Ontario, and the GTA.

“There’s lots of competition, but there’s a large opportunity as well, because we’re able to provide these services for a lower fee, essentially due to our location,” Greco said.

He’s had success drawing young ex-pats back to the Sault, those who, like him, have started their careers in larger urban centres, but want to return to the North. Cavera offers its staff competitive salaries, benefits, and professional development opportunities. Greco also pulls talent from Sault College, whose students come for a one-year internship at Cavera from the school’s design, computer programming, and public relations and events management programs.

“After that one-year internship, they’re usually trained on all of our systems and we end up being able to take them on if the fit’s right,” Greco said.

The young entrepreneur said some of the best opportunities he received while forming Cavera were through local economic development programs, and he advises other burgeoning business owners to avail themselves of the resources offered to them — even if they are still tentative about starting a business.

“The opportunities afforded to me through some of these EDC programs helped me get here and made it worth it to start up a business and really give this a good shot.”