In a world where successful entrepreneurs become household names, and their products can change the world, Nevin Buconjic can trace his entrepreneurial roots back to age 12. Having started eight companies in his lifetime, Buconjic is no stranger to risk-taking, failure, and success.
Buconjic earned his Bachelor of Computer Science (BCOSC) from Algoma University in 2001 through the University’s accelerated degree program. However, information technology wasn’t always his calling. Buconjic first earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Masters of Business Administration from Lake Superior State University (LSSU). These degrees led him to Phoenix, Arizona and later Toronto, Ontario for a career in finance and banking. Not interested in this trajectory, Buconjic enrolled at Algoma. “After spending some time working in banking and finance, I realized this wasn’t for me. I had an interest in technology and wanted to do something in business with tech.”
Upon earning his computer science degree, Buconjic teamed up with a couple of other graduates to launch a local web development company. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and Buconjic left the business to venture out on his own.
Not deterred, Buconjic pursued another venture on his own, and expanded his Adventures in Computing Camps. The program ran successfully for 10 years, at which point, he sold the enterprise. “During my degree, I was actually tutoring some students from my old elementary school and that’s where I came up with the concept of this business. These kids had access to computers everyday but were only allowed to play educational games. They really had no interest in computers. So I asked if I could teach them how to build webpages. They became really interested, and had so much fun after that. So that’s where my business developed from. The camps taught kids computing skills, web page design (HTML) and basic video game design. There was nothing else like it in the Sault at the time.”
Adventures in Computing Camps quickly evolved. Within a couple of years, elementary school children were coming in with web design skills already, so the camps pivoted more and more to video game design – including 3D game design.
From there, Buconjic continued to pursue small business ventures in the tech industry, on the side, while working full-time with Enterprise Centre Sault Ste. Marie and the provincial government. Today, he is back with the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as the Manager of Trade, Investment and Community Marketing. Here, he’s responsible for the Invest Sault Ste. Marie program, which targets and attracts new companies to the Sault.
In 2014, Buconjic launched his biggest enterprise to date, and the one he’s most proud of. Buconjic founded StartUP Sault, a grassroots, volunteer organization, committed to supporting entrepreneurs in Sault Ste. Marie by connecting them to resources, and to each other. He first heard about Startup Canada online, during its infancy. At the time, the national organization consisted of 15 regional test communities, which promoted the entrepreneurial culture. From there, Startup Canada looked to expand, to more communities across the country, with the help of local entrepreneurs. Startup Sault became the 16th member of the Startup Canada communities program. “Launching Startup Sault wasn’t easy. They had firm guidelines. Communities must be run by entrepreneurs, for example, not government entities. I built a team of entrepreneurs and volunteers, as well as community partners, and Sault Ste. Marie was accepted into the program.”
In 2017, Buconjic was awarded the Ontario Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award for advancing the environment and culture of entrepreneurship in Canada. Startup Sault was also nominated for the Community of the Year award at Startup Day on Parliament Hill. Today, the program continues to help hundreds of entrepreneurs within the Sault.
But Buconjic is more than just a serial entrepreneur and full-time employee. He’s also a best-selling author. “I’ve always wanted to be a published author, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I always thought I’d be writing fiction, however, I could never seem to find the time to focus on writing a novel. After years of false starts, I decided to go in a different direction, and write about something I know and am passionate about – entrepreneurship.”
Buconjic’s self-help book 25 Money-Making Businesses you can Start in your Spare Time has sold over 7,000 copies worldwide, had 35,000 downloads, and is considered an Amazon best-seller. And that’s just the start of his writing career. Buconjic has other titles on Amazon, and his tech blog caught the attention of Blackberry. For almost five years, Buconjic was a brand advocate for the large corporation, and was even flown to New York City to attend the launch of their new smartphone operating system in 2013.
An avid supporter of start-up companies and entrepreneurship, Buconjic is hopeful that more local graduates will pursue the entrepreneurial path. His best advice for those interested in breaking into the field is to seek advice. “There are so many free resources available in Sault Ste. Marie and online. Ask for help. Get advice. It’s the best thing I can tell people who want to become entrepreneurs. Here in Sault Ste. Marie, we have StartUP Sault, YouLaunch, the Chamber of Commerce, the EDC, Millworks, and more to help support small business owners and help you get your business up and running. Besides seeking advice, don’t be afraid to take chances.”
Written by: Meaghan Kent