By Glenn Rubuliak
When I became a franchise owner for Aussie Pet Mobile, which brings pet-grooming services right to clients’ homes, I had more than 30 years’ experience as an entrepreneur and was ready to purchase a multiple-unit franchise. Not much later, I purchased the Victoria territory. Now, as president and CEO of Aussie Pet Mobile The Island, I get to run all of Vancouver Island.
I was born in 1958 and raised in Smokey Lakes, Alta., a small farming community just east of Edmonton. In October 1967, when I was nine years old, my father decided to work in Fort McMurray for the municipal government. So, we moved out there and that’s where I lived until five years ago.
You could say I grew up just as Fort McMurray grew up from a town to become a city. The population there was 3,000 when we arrived and 85,000 when I left!
Growing up, I was always interested in business. I took accounting classes at Peter Pond High School—named after the European explorer who discovered the region in 1778—and four of us students ran a confectionery business during lunch hours. The industrial shop class built a concession stand that we would roll out each day. We learned about financing, costs and markups.
Later in life, my accounting teacher from high school became my golfing buddy and investment broker. I asked him a lot of business-related questions that arose over time. He passed away about 15 years ago now.
When I was 18, I worked as a mobile disc jockey (DJ), playing music at various functions. Also, after I was a curling champion in high school, I became an ice rink technician for curling arenas, starting when I was 21 and working evening shifts on and off over the years.
At 25, I opened Ye Olde Shirt Shoppe, using heat transfer equipment for embroidery of customized shirts. I ran the store for eight years. It became a family affair, after my dad retired from working for the city.
Agent for Alberta
In 1993, the provincial government privatized Alberta Registries, a division that handled information on motor vehicles, corporations, land titles, private property and vital statistics. My brother-in-law had gotten the details on the project in Edmonton and recommended I become one of the privatized agents. I was on my way at the time to manage a curling club in Nelson, B.C., but we put together the numbers with an accountant, prepared an application package, sent it away and heard three weeks later there was interest from the government.
A meeting was held with six final applicants. The government wanted a combination of insurance companies and stand-alone agents.
A week later, I was selected as the only stand-alone agent for the region. We opened for business in December 1993. My brother-in-law and my sister, meanwhile, got into the same business in Sherwood Park, near Edmonton.
It was really tough. There was a lot more to learn and the government set a lot of rules for the registry. Previously, I had always been in business for the good of the customer, but this time I was in-between; I had to stand up for the government, too.
And I was still working as an arena attendant in the mornings for the city of Fort McMurray. I woke up every day at 3 a.m., started my rink shift at 5 a.m., then went to run my business at 2 p.m.