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Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Joseph Mansourian

"But it's a few champions out there, leaders out there that have invested in us and that saw that vision, so that's what I've been grateful for."

It wasn't until Joseph Mansourian had already graduated with a degree in aviation management that he realized he didn't belong in the air. But in the four years since establishing his own marketing firm, the 30-year-old's success has soared.

As founder and managing director of OvertheAtlantic in Sudbury, Mansourian oversees three employees and a host of freelancers who offer services in communications, branding, public relations, design and marketing.

Clients include the Greater Sudbury Airport, the Salon du livre du Grand Sudbury, the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and Collège Boréal. For the latter's marketing campaign, the firm won a Canadian Marketing Association award, the first Northern Ontario creative firm to do so.

"The fun part about this is it seems like the kind of team and your work environment changes every couple of seasons because you have a different flow of clients coming in," Mansourian said. "It always feels like I'm starting new with another client coming in, so it feels like I'm starting my first day all the time. That's what's cool about this sector."

Following university, when a position at a creative firm didn't work out, Mansourian decided against returning to aviation. With an urge to move back to the North, he opted instead to create his own work, founding OvertheAtlantic, and the firm has since built up an admirable roster of clients.

Today, Mansourian sees a stark contrast from the early 2000s, when outmigration was being blamed for a dearth of young entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario. He counts himself amongst the dozens of young businesspeople who view the North as an ideal region in which to start a new enterprise.

There remain challenges for OvertheAtlantic. A stereotype that small, Northern businesses are less competent persists, but Mansourian said that by continuing to practise patience and professionalism, "they eventually see the light."

Mansourian is equally innovative when it comes to community involvement. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of an established charitable organization, he decided to start his own. He is the founder of Casino Moyale and Carnival Movember, annual charitable events that benefit prostate cancer research.

In 2011, he raised money so students at a local elementary school could afford to have a fun day and pizza lunch. This year, Mansourian extended his reach, engaging clients to raise $1,500 for three schools to participate in the Pizza 4 Playday initiative.

He additionally sits on the Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, and is a committee advisor for strategic planning at Laurentian University and Cambrian College's advertising program.

"I think the onus is on everyone to do something to give back," Mansourian said. "I'm having a good time in this community; it's treating me well, so we have to give back in that regard."

Mansourian, who plans to set up his own creative studio in three years, credits his early clients with getting him to where he is today. Their confidence in his young, nascent marketing firm helped to keep Mansourian and other young creative talent in the North.

"That's the only reason we're here today, because a few clients invested in our junior experience, otherwise I'd probably be working in a cubicle and really, constantly trying to prove myself in this environment," he said. "But it's a few champions out there, leaders out there that have invested in us and that saw that vision, so that's what I've been grateful for."