The parallels seemed more than apt when Chris Biocchi and Paul Bursche graduated — both cum laude — from Algoma University’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program last June.
After all, the very close lifelong friends have been virtually inseparable since they began playing together as children living on the same Sault Ste. Marie street.
They went on to attend Korah Collegiate and then enrolled in Sault College’s Aviation Technology Flight pilot training program. Even before graduating in 2012, they used Algoma’s pathways option to begin university studies in their hometown.
But that was only part of the remarkable journeys shared by the inspiring 25-year-olds.
While going to school, they also worked part-time and started their own business — one that continues to thrive.
“Taking the Algoma program came up along the way,” Biocchi recounted. “I worked in sales [at the former Future Shop outlet] when I was at Sault College. I found more and more as I got to interact with customers and be in the business environment that it would be a better career fit for me than strictly flying.”
“It was sort of a team effort with Paul and I. We had already started in business together renovating houses and what not. The program was out there so we could finish a degree.”
Bursche decided a baccalaureate could make a difference if he remained in the aviation sector. That’s because college diplomas aren’t recognized beyond North America.
“That triggered something in my mind,” he said. “A degree could broaden my horizons. It’s always a good strategy to have a backup plan. Having a degree will always enhance your possibilities. For more management or business roles with an airline, having [flying] experience and education to back it up is a good combination.”
The transition from college to university went smoothly for the duo.
“Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect size and at the same time it’s still pretty small,” Bursche observed. “So a lot of our profs and support staff at the university just happened to be the parents of kids we went to high school with or that we grew up with. It became a very easy transition. It’s like you already know the staff.”
Biocchi appreciated support received along the way. “The University guided us through the whole process, which was really seamless. The transition from college to university was, for me, pretty straightforward. Shelley Mitchell [Assistant Registrar, Admissions] and the Registrar’s Office were great to deal with. Anytime we had questions, we always got answers quickly.”
Besides running their own enterprise, both impressive young men are enjoying further career success as employees with different Sault organizations.
After completing a year-long internship with the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation last spring, Biocchi became the facility’s Security and Business Administration Manager.
“I’m in a great place from a career development standpoint,” he enthused. “I’m responsible for overseeing the airport security program and the security team. I’m also responsible for overseeing our administrative staff.”
And, as a member of the airport’s management team, Biocchi contributes to strategic planning and to monitoring millions of dollars in renovations now underway at the site. As well, he is Recording Secretary for the Corporation’s Board of Directors meetings.
Bursche’s career trajectory has similarly moved steadily upward.
“I started at Sault College in June 2015 as a part-time Flight Instructor on a one-year contract,” he said. “I am currently a full-time support staff employee called an Aviation Flight Technologist. I conduct flight training with students and am on our Internal Safety Committee. I also do a lot of the paperwork end of the business, including documentation we must have for different students.”
Having a BBA has already paid dividends, Bursche believes. “I interviewed for my current position before my degree was done. It was absolutely relevant and I think it helped me. The degree could also help me move into a full-time professor role in the future.”
A university credential might open other doors down the road, too.
“I love the Sault and I just bought a house, so I’d like to stay here. But I’m certainly not putting aside any other opportunities. Some days I wake up and think it’d be really cool working for an airline. But at the same time, working 9 to 5, having weekends off, and still be bringing home a good paycheque definitely has its appeal.”
For now though, the high-flying alums have more than enough to keep them busy.
“We’ve always been entrepreneurial,” Biocchi chuckled when discussing their business achievements. “In Grade 12 we put on a Christmas semi-formal dance. We made a fortune. That’s probably how it started.”
“I’ve always had an interest in real estate” Bursche added. “I was always bugging Chris saying we should get into rental properties and we could make a lot of money. We were still in high school. The hardest part of being a young entrepreneur is getting respect. A lot of people just automatically discount you because you’re young.”
During the early years, Biocchi and Bursche mostly bought, renovated, repaired, and sold houses. Much of the often physically demanding refurbishing work they did themselves.
These days, the Algoma grads have a rental property and are eyeing some commercial possibilities.
Incorporation led to the name of Cavok Holdings. The reference comes from an aviation term used to forecast clear weather ahead.
Written by: Rick McGee