A taxidermist who also owns and operates a ladies’ fitness club?
No, it’s not a B-movie plot. It’s how Dauphin entrepreneur Patrick Furkalo makes his living.
“It’s a natural fit,” said Furkalo, who spoke in a panel discussion at the recent Take the Leap entrepreneurship conference organized by the provincial government.
“I’m passionate about taxidermy and fitness, and I wanted to make both of them a career.”
Furkalo, who grew up in Snow Lake, caught the taxidermy bug as a kid trapper and hunter.
All that outdoor activity got him interested in fitness, so when he moved to Dauphin in 1990, he became certified with the Manitoba Fitness Council and opened up a women’s fitness centre.
He also co-owns a company called Formula 3 Fitness, and recently released a workout DVD. A fitness book explaining his strategies is due in the coming weeks.
Furkalo said he saw an opportunity to bring the latest fitness equipment and technology to rural areas, which have traditionally lagged behind urban centres. Like many business owners who opted to strike out on their own after working for other people, the key to success is to focus on passion and “not necessarily dollars,” he said.
He operates both businesses out of a rented building on Dauphin’s Main Street, which allows him to be in both places at the same time. The gym is open 24 hours with a key lock entry system.
“With taxidermy, if you’re not using both hands, you’re not making any money,” said Furkalo. “With the gym, if you weren’t there, you weren’t making any money and you’d have to hire staff.”
Multipreneurs should “make their own rules,” he added, noting that while most people wouldn’t see a common thread between the two operations, it works well for him.
Often, when business is slow at one venture, the other is booming. In summer, attendance at his fitness classes dips, so he lines up taxidermy work to fill the gap.
Kim Shukla, an admitted “serial entrepreneur,” operates an agriculture consultancy business and a nursery and market garden near Steinbach.
After dropping out of pre-vet studies because she was “horribly allergic to every single animal on the planet,” she struggled with life in the corporate world before putting out her shingle.
She later realized that to be credible as a farm business consultant, she had to have a farm, too.
After buying an acreage and planting 12,000 trees on it, Shukla and her husband realized that it would be at least five years before cash flow started to arrive.
“So we decided to grow vegetables,” said Shukla.
Unlike her consultancy business, she developed the farm business plan “on the fly.” Because she always wears a green apron and a hat while working on the farm and at the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, she used the image to brand the operation named Stonelane Orchard.
Furkalo has seen his share of setbacks, including the loss of the lucrative American trade.
One morning, he opened up a letter that said, “You are being sued by the government of the United States.”
“Apparently, I sent in a wolf with the wrong papers,” said Furkalo, who specializes in birds and charges $385 for a full whitetail buck head mount.
Shukla said time management is her biggest headache. At first, she hoped to concentrate on farm work in the summer, but it hasn’t happened that way.
But by hiring farm staff and creating partnerships with other consultants she can call in to assist in the summer, she has been able to successfully juggle the demands of both enterprises.
It’s still hard, she said, because customers at the market want to see her in person at her stall to “match the face with the food.”