When people think about entrepreneurs, they often assume that these enterprising people set out to start their own businesses from day one. In reality, many entrepreneurs are born, starting with a great idea that becomes a career path, then a lifestyle, and for some, an identity.
This was how it was for Winnipeg-based entrepreneurs Danielle and Corey King. They are the married co-founders of ZenFri, a creative company that tells stories through interactive media, film and fine art. The name ZenFri has been around for nearly ten years, as Danielle and Corey had long used it as the label on the films they produced. But they didn’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs back then – they were just artists sharing stories through their favourite medium. They only became entrepreneurs because doing so made it possible for them to follow their dreams.
Corey and Danielle both studied art and film in university, and the two eventually realized that they were going to graduate as two ambitious and creative people with degrees that would not guarantee them stable employment. “We never had any allusions about what our job prospects were, but we were very clear what we wanted to do with our lives,” Corey explained. Halfway through school, the pair realized that if they were going to survive making a living on their own, they were going to need to know something about business, leading Danielle to enroll in a small business program at a local college.
These two entrepreneurs continued to do what they loved most – finding new ways to tell stories. They got excited by the idea of creating experiences through technology, and eventually developed a location-based augmented reality game called Clandestine: Anomaly that allows users to transform the environment around them into an interactive experience. They knew this game had the potential to take off, but they also realized they couldn’t access the kind of funding they needed unless they incorporated ZenFri and officially became business owners.
Even with minimal experience in the interactive space, Danielle and Corey set out to make this idea come to life. “We believed that with the right vision, we could build a team that had the skills and experience we didn’t,” Corey explained. Together, the ZenFri team turned that idea into reality, and they were internationally recognized for that first video game. In fact, they were recently nominated for Best Innovation and Best Technology at the Canadian Game Awards for Cladestine: Anomaly.
The pair takes a different approach to business than many other creative companies. They primarily focus on making projects for an end consumer, as opposed to taking on client projects to drive income. By shaping their business around this model, they’ve allowed themselves to continue focusing on what makes them happy. “The heart and soul of ZenFri has always been as simple as the creative projects we choose to undertake together,” Corey shares.
Corey explained to us that he didn’t feel that the most amazing products out there came from market research and focus tests. Even though those tools are part of development, a great product has to have an additional edge that only comes from focus and dedication to a vision. “Simply put, it’s Mom’s homemade soup versus canned—you can taste the love in Mom’s soup,” Corey says. “That’s the kind of soup we make, and being passionate and focused ensures that. It’s about what kind of life you want to live in, a world with Mom’s homemade soup, or something machine-made and data-designed.”
Not all entrepreneurs are so lucky as to be able to let their ideas fully drive their businesses, but entrepreneurship is fundamentally about taking calculated risks and with a clear vision and passion. Corey and Danielle are proof that if you love what you do, great things can happen.
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada