Featured Founder: Khaled Iwamura
Some people are simply awesome to be around and Khaled Iwamura – founder of insauga – is one of them. A Sheridan alumnus, Khaled has grown his business into one of Mississauga’s biggest media companies since insauga was conceived six years ago. With only growth in sight, Khaled continues to expand the insauga empire to other regions with inbrampton and inhalton. As one of Mississauga’s more accessible entrepreneurs, you can catch Khaled at the Unlock Your Big Idea Pitch Finale on March 22nd where he’ll be one of the judges.
As a Mississauga-bred entrepreneur, Khaled is on a journey towards redefining local media and we got the chance to sit and jam.
What’s your story?
I’ve always loved Mississauga. I always said to myself that I was going to do something for Mississauga. I was born in Montreal and I’ve been here since I was nine. Even after coming to Sheridan, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do for Mississauga. I graduated from Marketing but couldn’t find a job, so I went back to school to become a web designer. I got a job as a marketing manager, became a partner in a marketing company, and then in 2011 had an idea. I went on Google to search for things to do in Mississauga and couldn’t find anything for the sixth biggest city in Canada. That’s when I had my lightbulb moment. I said “Hey, this is what I can do for Mississauga,” so I bought the insauga domain name. I resigned everywhere to start insauga and grabbed a programmer – my business partner, who I couldn’t have done this without. We basically said f— everything else, since there was nothing like this available. We went all in.
What’s your passion?
For a life passion, it’s family. I prioritize three things: Love, happiness and experiences. Everything in life should be one of those three. When I look at my business, it’s given me experiences and I’m very happy and I love it. Family, friends– with the business, you’re doing it for them. I love seeing the business grow. I love thinking of new ideas and seeing them flourish. After insauga, we created inbrampton and inhalton, essentially rebranding and providing the same news outlet. I have an incredible team and they give me the power to explore new avenues to expand.
What got you into entrepreneurship?
I never went into this thinking “Hey, I want to be an entrepreneur.” It was more about the idea than the thought of being an entrepreneur. Both me and my partner just see it as doing our shit. I’m doing talks at high schools and TEDx about my product and what I’ve done, which is crazy. If you’re going into business for money, it will be hard for you to get far. You have to get over the massive hump of no money initially and you have to keep going. How much are you willing to sacrifice because you believe in your idea? I had to give up everything to get this going. It’s not a luxurious lifestyle. Nobody can teach you the bad side, you have to live it yourself.
What sparked the idea of insauga?
Pretty much went on to Google in 2011 to find something to do in Mississauga and couldn’t.
What do you wish you would’ve known when you started insauga?
Could you imagine your future self coming through the door and saying “Hey, you’re gonna do okay but here’s what’s going to happen. It’s going to be the roughest ride of your life and you’re going to have to sacrifice everything?”
I would just say “You’re gonna rock, you’re gonna kick ass and it’ll be smooth sailing” and let (your current self) deal with the reality.
There no was one vital mistake that I made that I’d try to warn about, I would just let you live through it. Enjoy the journey.
How did you react to your first failure and how did you bounce back?
I don’t know if I’d count anything as a failure at insauga. We tried initiatives that didn’t work but our motto is to keep on trying and see what sticks. We try to figure out different ways to get information out and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. If you dwell on it you won’t move on. I’m six years in and learning every day still. Our youngest team member is 22 and I’m learning from her. I just want to keep evolving and learning and I never want to stop. I want to keep innovating and be changing constantly. Facebook’s been around for 10 years and because they keep changing they stay relevant. That’s what we want to do.
How do you balance working on insauga vs working in insauga?
When you start your own business you gotta do everything. It took me four years to stop working in insauga and it took me five years to get a team together. With the website, it’s one of those things where you can’t sell traffic until you hit a certain threshold of page views. It took insauga about four years to hit half a million and then we could start selling advertising. When you start selling advertising you can start hiring journalists. Now I have a team in place so I can purely work on expanding the business. I was doing so much of the content before, but now I have a core team of eight full time people and I can do things and not worry because my team rocks it.
What do you do for fun outside of insauga?
I have a 12-year-old boy and he’s a huge source of my fun. We do everything together. I love being a parent and I am happily married so it’s awesome spending time with family. I like my alone time too – I’ll grab my whiskey and watch Netflix. I don’t go crazy but I also play hockey in a beer league every Sunday. I train about 5-6 times a week, my boys at Habitual Fitness help. I go to the gym more than ever and am the healthiest I’ve ever been. I think my health is a huge reason why I’ve been successful. I have more energy and positivity. You definitely can’t ignore your health when working on your business or you’ll burn out fast. You need to have a good balance, almost like having a form of meditation. When I say meditation, I’m talking about purely focusing on what I’m doing in the moment outside of work.
How do you start your day?
I drink a litre of water and a cup of coffee and then check my emails and the stats of the website. Then I go to the gym. I need to get my energy going.
If a Zombie Apocalypse starts right now, what’s your survival strategy?
I go on my website and say it’s a false alarm like they did in Hawaii and that’s it, it’s over.