Today I got to know two local entrepreneurs, Aaron Reed and Joseph Skouris, who share a pretty unique business set-up.
Walking into the sleek and brightly coloured storefront at 331 Wellington St. W., I marveled immediately at how modern and innovative the space was.
A welcoming front reception area with pub style black leather chairs, creative back-lit displays of apparel options and a unique cube wall of hat options. Looking around some more I notice a stone faux fireplace with a handmade mantle and a child’s wooden rocking chair displayed in the front window.
A space shared by a construction contractor and a graphic designer, two very different vocations…who also happen to be brothers.
How could this possibly work out?
Skouris, owner of Premier Works since 2015, and Reed, owner of Precision Design and Apparel since 2017, were raised together by their Mom.
Despite taking completely different paths in life, the two have now come full circle, sharing the same work space.
Skouris, the younger of the two, spent eight years as a Bombardier in the 49th field regiment starting when he was sixteen before pursuing his career in construction and renovation, while Reed took the three year Graphic Design program at Sault College while raising his son as a single father.
They found themselves in similar situations once they began to pursue their dreams in their respective careers, working for someone else and living pay cheque to pay cheque.
It is the same situation that so many of us painstakingly face once settled into the field of choice. They just didn’t feel as happy, fulfilled, or as financially stable as they had hoped.
During his time with the army, Skouris developed the qualities of a leader; discipline, respectfulness, and determination, all traits that served him well in taking this massive leap of faith and starting his own construction business. A line of work that he grew up watching his own father, uncle, and grandfather do. “It just runs in my blood,” he described calmly and confidently of his passion.
He was inspired to take his experience as a contractor to the next level. When asked about the driving force behind the creation of Premier Works, Skouris said “I wanted to be my own boss, make good money, help the community, and get my hands dirty building things.”
Sounds simple enough, right?
Likewise, his older brother, Reed, had utmost confidence in the profession that he chose. “After the first year of college I wanted to stay active in the design field throughout the summer, and that’s when I bought a few pieces of equipment for screen printing. That is when my love for screen printing came in,” Reed explained to me. “I did make my money back, from what I invested, I made it back by summer’s end, so I saw the profit and potential right then. It inspired me to keep going.”
The entrepreneurial seed was planted.
Upon entering the working world, he came to the harsh realization that there are limited places to pursue graphic design where you could do what you are passionate about and actually get paid well, at least enough to support his family.
Reed was inspired to create something lucrative, where he could feel valued, be creative, and work hours where he could still spend precious time with his family.
He knew from dipping his toe in the waters of self-employment that first summer between college semesters that he was capable of taking the plunge and building a company that could stand out in Sault Ste. Marie.
These two tenacious go-getters shared one common goal – building a business from the ground up where they could be their own bosses, and build meaningful relationships with the Sault community by providing creative and customized products.
And that is exactly what they have done.
While those products take different forms – one being graphic design on clothing apparel, sign boards, decal/stickers, and many more surfaces, the other being basement reno’s, bathrooms, and outdoor living home additions, their interests couldn’t be more diverse. Two very different canvases – Joe Skouris and Aaron Reed are truly artists in their own right.
“Despite the contrast in businesses it actually flows really well,” said Reed, of working alongside his brother.
And I couldn’t agree more. Reed runs a polished storefront to take walk-in clients who only need show up with a seed of an idea and he will make it a reality for them.
He can design logos and suggest ideas and concepts that have worked for him or other clients in the past. He does a lot of communicating with clients online and he has his production equipment ready to go downstairs.
He can complete all of the work – from concept to finished product – hand-in-hand with the client.
Meanwhile, Skouris uses the back area of the store as his official office space to meet with clients, complete contracts and estimates and delegate jobs to specialists for projects. Of course, Skouris built his own unique desk from live cut wood that is an eye-catcher the minute you walk in.
They share the overhead costs, and the best part, Reed shared with me, “when we close the doors, we jam downstairs.” I toured downstairs and alongside the T-shirt press machine there is a drum kit and electric guitar with an amp set up for jamming away the days frustrations.
Not to mention, Skouris and Reed continually learn from each other and assist one another’s business initiatives. Reed designed and branded Skouris’ Premier Works logo and signs from the bottom-up, and Skouris has utilized his relationships with other businesses and contractors in town to pitch his brother’s business for their graphic design needs.
A win-win scenario. Two up and comers, banded together by blood, in music, and in business.
Both brothers respectively started their operations out of their basements, slowly saving money, accumulating the tools and equipment that they needed, and networking with clients to build a base.
Now, these savvy siblings have full-time businesses that continue to grow, with loyal and repeat customers and partnerships with other companies, charitable organizations, and individuals in town.
Skouris’s hard work has led to a pretty useful business connection. “About two years ago, Home Depot contacted me. They saw my work on my website, they liked what they saw, and they gave me a call. I was contacted by the general manager of Home Depot for Ontario and they said they were wondering if I wanted to be their partner.” Of course he did his research and agreed to partner with Home Depot.
Skouris is in his slower season for winter yet still fields inquiries daily from potential and current clients.
While some of his success can be attributed to good advertising and a strong online presence, the root of his business triumphs result from being dynamic. “We do a lot of different types of installation and construction and I focus on building personal relationships with customers to meet their specific needs,” Skouris summated.
He has adapted the age-old method of success, “doing a good job the first time and then word of mouth spreads.”
Similarly, Reed is devoted to creating personal relationships with individuals and businesses in the Sault. The versatile nature of the work he does – suiting both custom apparel and personalized gifts for individual needs as well as company materials such as signs, hats, shirts and business cards – gives him an advantage that truly sets him apart from the competition.
Reed opened up about his goals for the future, “I want to continue to grow this business and create jobs for people. I also want to be really involved with the community in terms of fundraising and raising awareness for charities that deserve the recognition.”
Needless to say, their enormous financial and emotional investments – their massive leaps of faith – in their corresponding endeavors have paid off.
I encourage you to get inspired and check these two out.
Aaron Reed can be found from 9am-3pm Monday to Friday at the shop, and Joseph Skouris, along with shop pup Brutus, are there from 9am-5pm.
Both are very active on social media, and Reed even hosts monthly draws on Facebook for a custom design t-shirt or gift card for apparel.
I had the pleasure of drawing this month’s winner, Heather Marie!
To see Skouris’s portfolio of construction and renovation, check out www.premier-works.com.
Give him a shout for a free estimate!
To take a look at Reed’s extensive graphic design work, visit www.precision-da.com.