Dennis Gorya | [EMP Series] Entrepreneurship and Strategies for Working With Your Mentor and College Professors

Dennis Gorya is the Co-founder, CEO, and Partner at Tidal Commerce, an elite Shopify Plus partner and expert in managed commerce services. Based in Toronto, Canada, the company helps businesses build and manage their digital store infrastructure, optimize customer experience, and convert traffic into sales more efficiently. Dennis is an accomplished entrepreneur and leader who thrives in sharing his knowledge, experience, and resources to help companies succeed in e-commerce.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Dennis Gorya, the Co-founder, CEO, and Partner of Tidal Commerce, to talk about entrepreneurship and building a Shopify Plus partner agency. Dennis shares the strategies he used to build a clothing brand, the lessons he learned working on a big project early in his agency, and how he got to work with his mentor and college professors.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [02:17] Dennis Gorya’s entrepreneurial ventures as a kid
  • [04:36] The lessons Dennis learned about entrepreneurship while in college
  • [06:57] How Dennis started and built a clothing company
  • [12:20] Dennis talks about working with his mentor and college professors 
  • [20:30] How being an immigrant has influenced Dennis’ life
  • [22:33] The challenges Dennis faced working on a big project early in his agency
  • [26:45] Dennis explains what Umbrella Inc. does

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. My guest today is Dennis Gorya. And I’ll tell you a little bit more about him in a second, but he is the co founder and partner behind Tidal Commerce. It is an elite Shopify Plus partner and expert in manage commerce services. And we’ll talk all about that fast growing company that he’s been piloting heading out of Toronto, Canada. But first, before we get to that, This episode brought to you by my company, Rhys 25, where we help b2b companies. He had clients referrals and strategic partnerships. We’ve done few podcasts and content marketing, you can learn all about it at Rice 20 And also, this was part of our EMP series, the entrepreneurial master’s program. Dennis and I are both attending it this year. So we’re both excited about that. It’s a three year long, highly specialized training program for members of Entrepreneurs Organization, it takes a diverse group of about 70 eo members in a three year learning journey, learning from thought leaders, experts, and peers and personal professional growth around a number of different pillars. And so you can learn more about that just Google it. EO EMP is the name of the program. 

All right. My guest here today is Dennis Gorya. He is an accomplished entrepreneur, and leader. He’s the CEO, as I said, CEO and founder and partner behind Tidal Commerce and also another company called Umbrella which we’ll be talking about in a moment. They help other companies with various different ecommerce strategies, and also digital transformation, which is a popular topic these days. And, Dennis, I’m excited to have you here today. First of all, I love asking people about entrepreneurial endeavors as a kid, what sorts of things they did, and I’ve never had an answered quite like this before. But you had some kids that unfortunately, in your school had leukemia, and you went out and out of the country on hardware selling, making and selling bracelets, and the like the principal or something cracked down on you guys. So that is I believe what the heck is going on? Like talking about a good deed going unrewarded? Like why did they crack down on you guys, when you’re trying to go to doing a good deed?

Dennis Gorya 2:51

I think it was probably a misunderstanding, a grand understanding, usually things of that nature are. But yeah, they for some reason just saw us, you know, trading bracelets for money on the schoolyard. They probably made the wrong assumption. These are no good kids. So you know, through that, obviously, they quickly found out the truth of why these kids are giving us money. And we were obviously in the same same grades right. So through that experienced and they decided to donate the money finally to Sick Kids Hospital. But

John Corcoran 3:23

I think he got to the right place. I

Dennis Gorya 3:25

don’t really remember. Yeah, exactly. Right. And I don’t really remember what the motivation behind it was. But it’s like there was just like a somber mood, you know, it’s like, yeah.

John Corcoran 3:35

And you also got into magic as a kid. And that kind of became a side hustle for you tell him Tell me about that.

Dennis Gorya 3:42

Yeah, it was a side hustle. And then became basically a full time thing for a little while. So started at age 12, or 13, worked at a magic shop and basically worked there for about three or four years, kind of went behind the counter and just decided to start selling stuff. My grandma, my basically either my grandfather, or my mother would just drop me off on the weekend. And I would just kind of stick behind the counter as it was a busy day and start selling stuff. And all of a sudden the owner would realize, oh, you know, why my sales double. So eventually, you know, he kind of added it up, and then offered me I think 50 bucks a weekend or something like that, which was just just enough for my bus fare, you know, some lunch or something like that, and a little bit of pocket change. So it gave me an opportunity just to save up a little bit. You know, buy my first piece of technology, like my first phone, I think it was and some stuff like that.

John Corcoran 4:37

And so in college, and you’re still a young guy, but in college, you actually studied business, you studied entrepreneurship. So you knew you’re interested in being an entrepreneur. Was there a moment or something that inspired you to go into entrepreneurship or is it just kind of

Dennis Gorya 4:53

who you were? Yeah, I actually wanted to go to design schools. So I was kind of got accepted to that and you know, had full scholarships and stuff like that had really good marks getting out of high school. So it was kind of a little bit attempting to go there because everything was gonna get paid for, for at a design school, they were kind of just luring in students. So this particular one was called OCAD. Here in Ontario, it’s just kind of more in Toronto core, which is a little further from me. So that’s one part of the decision. And the other part was just very controlling parents, Russian Ukrainian parents go figure. Conflict, Obi Wan is very interesting. Especially. Yeah, exactly right. And then on top of that, you know, they’re just like, Are you crazy, you’re gonna, you know, so at times, I sort of take on my mother to say, you know, what, I’m just going to drop out of business schooling and become a hairdresser. So I have that, right. And she just got a heart attack, things like that. But I stuck into business school, it was a great decision. Overall, I had a blast. And this particular school was a very, very difficult one in Canada to get into. So it was definitely had a little bit of kind of the prestige behind it. But I quickly learned into being an entrepreneur number, and that gives a shit where you went to school. You know, I’ve hired plenty of MBAs from my school that ended up being no good, I just had to get going, I had to cut that fairly quickly. And then I’ve also hired professors from our school who are of course, fantastic, right? Because I would not hire them, I’ve kind of been through their classes. So that was just a different introspective moment to see sort of, on the other side of the table, you know, working with your prof literally them as a consultant or as a staff. It’s very interesting. And

John Corcoran 6:42

that’s an interesting changing, turning the tables, I want to get back to that. And you also got your mentor involved and became business partners with your mentor, which is also something I’m fascinated with when people you know, have a mentor, and then they go into business together with them. But first, how did you get into you started an agency during your end of your first year and in college, in addition to studying at the same time? Had you done e commerce before? Or how did you end up in starting an agency like that? Or is it just kind of a situation of I’m gonna figure this out as I go along? A little bit of

Dennis Gorya 7:20

both. So prior to starting an agency getting into, I would say first year, like, maybe last year in high school, I started a clothing company, which is sort of what what I used to be able to pay my way through school. So I scaled that to a certain degree. And it was, the business model was simple, I didn’t have any capital to really put into creating samples or blanks, or whatever. So I decided the only way I could really make money was through volume sales. And the niche I found was like, not for profits, school clubs, you know, things like that they would order, say, you know, longer pieces, yeah, that’s something like that. I just offered them I would design for free, so it cost me nothing to design, it’s just my time. And then I would just make the margin off those sales. And that’s usually recurring customer, right. So that’s, you know, for whatever events they’re gonna put on during the year. Through that, like, I was able to make enough money to pay my way through school. But it gave me the skill of like, creating my website, I had to do a Kickstarter which flopped, you know, there’s a lot of mistakes, and it just gave me a really safe opportunity to fail fast and a lot. Before that it came from working at, you know, two other kinds of opportunities. One was through development, like working on Super custom big applications, enterprise applications for like Samsung and Rogers, which is like the big telco who we have here in Canada. Then I worked in sales working on like enterprise sales for cybersecurity appliances and Wi Fi, right? This was at a very early age to getting into the entrepreneurship, running my own shop, and then making those mistakes, kind of taking all those learnings along with me, was effectively like my poor man’s MBA before even getting into university. So getting into uni felt like a little bit more of a breeze until I got into like, hardcore stats and accounting. You know, then I felt like a complete dumbass. I felt like, you know, they’re like debit credit. My first question is like, excuse me who’s doctor, like, Who’s the doctor? And the kids who like, the fuck is let this idiot and you know, like, was this kid. So through that experience, you know, basically kind of taught me a lot more about how to study smart instead of hard. So I had to kind of let a few classes go macroeconomics, microeconomics was never a thing for me, somehow, like, you know, blindfolded on like, got an ad on one of the tests. I thought I got cocky. I’m like, I’m gonna do this again. The next one was like a 30. Right? So like, eventually kind of got through so it got still on a roll somehow still got on a roll through the school, which was a difficult accomplishment in itself because it’s a pretty pretty well known school. Hardcore profs, but through that, and second year of uni, that’s where I felt like I’m bored. Like, I think just as entrepreneurs, and I think I have a certain level of ADHD not diagnosed, but just,

John Corcoran 10:11

yeah, interested in different things. Well, let me ask you about the clothing company. Interesting. Because when you said you started a clothing company, I was, I was starting to think, Well, man, that is hard, because it tends to be very capital intensive. You got to manufacture, design, create, ship, all this product before you make any sales. And a lot of times the cash cycles slow because it comes on the back end. But you figured out a way to invert all that, which is really interesting. I’m wondering if that was, you know, how you came up with that solution? Or if it was just kind of a product of figuring things out, because a lot of people struggle with that, or they build a business. And then they only later realized cheese. The problem here is that we get paid way on the back end. So we have to have a lot of money on the front end.