Jonathan Sparrow is the owner and founder of Go Oil, Canada’s largest mobile oil change company servicing fleet from coast to coast. Based in Manitoba, the company came into fruition over a 55-hour Ramp Up Weekend in 2017 and launched in April the following year. Just one year later the company has grown to 12 franchises nationwide.

 

We spoke to Jonathan about building a strong start-up culture amid Go Oil’s rapid growth, focusing on team fit, and how his learning challenges propelled him into entrepreneurial success.

 


 

Entrepreneurship as a pathway to purpose and meaning

 

Jonathan is only 24 years old but already has more than seven years of experience in starting and running a business. A self-starter in every sense of the word, Jonathan’s entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 16 after making the decision to leave school in search of a more meaningful path.

 

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but I was just so far behind and realized the school system wasn’t really meant for me and how I learn. So I thought about how I was going to make money for myself, and that’s when I decided to start my first company,” says Jonathan.

 

“I learned a lot. I started my second company and made some bigger mistakes. Now I’m at company number five and it just feels like second nature.”

 

Founder and owner of Go Oil in Manitoba, Jonathan Sparrow

 

With years of business experience under his belt, Jonathan saw an opportunity and set out on a mission to be an industry leader in the mobile oil change industry.

 

After building a solid vision for Go Oil and applying for start-up support through Futurpreneur, Jonathan fit out the first Go Oil service van and worked with students from Red River College in their ACE Project Space to develop the website technology that would drive the service.

 

“Really finding those resources and co-op programs to help position your company to be at the level you want it to be is key,” says Jonathan.

 

“If we didn’t have that I don’t think we’d be sitting here talking about the same thing.”

 

Think outside the box

 

For anyone who meets Jonathan, it’s easy to see how his resourcefulness and ability to think through creative solutions has landed him in the position he is today.

 

“We looked at Futurpreneur’s system and asked ourselves how we could make this work for both of us, and how we could continue to be involved with the organization. That’s when I thought about having all our franchisees go through the Program. It’s a really great resource, they get the mentorship that’s going to be local to them, and it was kind of a no-brainer,” says Jonathan.

 

Jonathan Sparrow created a franchise model that maintains an ongoing relationship with Futurpreneur

 

Go Oil sets their franchise fee at $15,000, the same loan amount offered by Futurpreneur (plus an additional $30,000 our partner the Business Development Bank of Canada can offer). The Go Oil franchising model means franchisees can launch their local Go Oil businesses with support from Futurpreneur’s Start-Up Program. The added value, says Jonathan, is the mentorship included.

 

“For me it’s not about making money now; it’s about making money in the future, and really investing in those franchisees. A lot of people might think it’s only a $15,000 loan, but it’s not the money that people need to look at for value; they need to know the value in a mentor.

 

Our mentor saved us $40,000 in legal work, and they shared everything that they did wrong when they franchised their business, what they’re doing right today, and they have 24 years of experience. That’s not something you can pay for.”

 

This cycle also provides a continuous feedback loop for Jonathan and Go Oil, with each franchisee’s mentoring relationship offering regional insights that drive constant learning and improvement.

 

“Futurpreneur is going to be a big part of our future and a big part of our franchisees’ future, and that’s kind of the way we position everything.”

 

Find fit for sustainability

 

For Jonathan, finding the right fit is critical to the strength, sustainability and service quality at Go Oil. From his franchisees to his staff, his focus is on the individual.

 

“We want the people who want to be here. Finding talent has been a challenge, but eventually I’ve been able to say to people that they’re investing in a really cool story, and they can choose to be a part of the story and adventure or not,” says Jonathan.

 

“Sometimes there’s more value in the experience and the opportunity to go out and build something that’s really cool than to just collect a paycheque.”

 

In fact, the company is moving away from the traditional applications and asks candidates instead to spend a few days in the office.

 

“We just have people come in, try it out for a couple of days, see if they even like working with us, and see where they fit in. I care more about if they can do the job and work with our team well, so we take risks on people all the time, and I think that’s what’s really made our team unique. It’s about that unique environment, that unique opportunity, and you’re building something that nobody’s ever built before and that’s exciting. It can be frustrating and stressful but I love building things and it’s just what I’m really good at it.”

 

Go Oil owner and founder Jonathan Sparrow stresses the importance of fit and finding the right people for your team over instant and immediate growth

 

Pave your own path

 

Jonathan turned his early challenges into opportunities for self-discovery and overcoming the barriers and limitations of perhaps more conventional structures of society.

 

“I had a fear in the beginning that I wasn’t going to be anything. But then I realized very quickly that people’s opinions don’t really matter. I’m in this for me, and me alone, and my team.”

 

When asked about his biggest piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to do the same and pave their own paths through unique and innovative businesses, it sounds simple: why not start tomorrow?

 

“It’s never the right time to start a business. You’re never financially ready. You’re never going to have all the pieces together, but what’s your MVP? What can you offer today to get money in your account next week? What can fuel your creativity?” asks Jonathan.

 

“Maybe you need to learn quick that your idea is one of the worst ideas in the history of Canada, and that’s fine, but fail quickly and get back up. Take what you learn from it and do something else. I value people that have failed, and I would say they have more experience than anyone else. It’s about growing, and you can’t get mad when you’re a start-up; you can only move forward.”

 


 

Thinking about franchising? Here are two things Jonathan recommends you consider before you do.

 

Make sure you have a solid business concept

 

“You have to make sure you franchise right and franchise within the laws. Franchising can go very wrong very quickly, so make sure you’re well prepared, have good legal advice, and mentors that will set you up for success.

 

Franchising is not an easy route, and it’s an expensive route, but it’s really rewarding if you can do it correctly.”

 

Prove your model

“The proof is in the pudding. If we didn’t do oil changes and just sold franchises, it wouldn’t be the same. We did this business, we’ve been there, we’ve experienced the issues that some of our franchisees may encounter, and so we understand where they’re coming from.

 

When we wrote the franchise agreements it was with a solid understanding of the business. A lot of people think they can just franchise something and then they run into issues because they didn’t know the business and don’t really understand. You really have to run the business first before you franchise.”

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