Kelowna is a city bustling with passionate young entrepreneurs, pouring the full weight of their education and angel investors into their budding businesses.
They have clever solutions to many of life’s annoyances, and have created beautiful apps and websites to help bring those solutions to the people.
Brandon Storozak doesn’t have an app, a business degree, or big-time investors—but he does have a yearning to make the world a better place, and he’s trying to accomplish that in an unexpected way.
The 23-year-old runs Paratus General Contracting and Project Management, which he started this April.
Paratus takes on contracts for demolition projects, junk removal, clean-up efforts (it just helped remove the sandbags from around the city) and other general duties.
Picking up short-term projects is a niche in the trades that can be quite profitable, but Storozak says that’s not really what he’s interested in.
“It’s not about profit, really, for me. I need to keep my bills paid, but I’m 22, I don’t need to get rich,” he says.
Instead, he sees those short contracts as an opportunity to hire folks who might be struggling with addiction, homelessness, or unemployment.
He’s able to give them a couple of days or weeks of work, put a few paychecks in their pockets, and hopefully, he says, help them take the first steps to getting their lives on track.
“Basically, I hire people that I know need the opportunity, and I try to groom them up and mentor them to be proper workers, make them more employable, and then try to get them proper education if I can,” he explained.
The quest is a personal one for Storozak, who struggled with addiction and mental health issues when he was younger.
He says he didn’t have the best upbringing, and turned to drugs and alcohol to escape the resentment and loneliness he felt because of it.
But a trades exploration program he went through when he was 17 got him a job working with heavy machinery, and through that he says he realized the value of work.
“I might be a weird person, but I like getting up every day and going to work, and having something to do. I don’t mind working hard, because usually with hard work there is a dramatic before and after,” he says. “That’s where I get a lot of satisfaction in my life from, so I think there are other people who that would be true [for] too.”
Of course, hiring people struggling with addictions and homelessness means he sometimes gets burned, and Storozak says he often works gruelling hours or loses money if new hires don’t work out.
He says it’s hard to stay profitable when he’s not really approaching his company from a business mindset, but that he’s willing to take the losses if he can help a few more folks.
“I’ve been homeless and I’ve starved for years. It’s not something that I’m really afraid of,” he says.
Storozak says he already has a core group of competent employees at the centre of the operation, and his tireless work ethic and commitment to the quality of his work have so far kept him in businesses.
He admits it’s been a struggle at times, but the people he has been able to help—even if it was only in some small way—keep him on the path.
“If I can change their mindset, or keep a couple dollars in their pocket during a hard time, that’s good. But if I can actually inspire somebody to actually try and help themselves and help the people around them… eventually there could be a remarkable change in the community,” he says.
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