Andrew started with a B-to-C idea but has built a business that is primarily B-to-B from a revenue standpoint. Learn more about the nuances.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Andrew Witkin: I was born in Toronto, Canada. My mom was a German immigrant and my dad was a Canadian citizen who happens to be Jewish. I grew up in a pretty loving family. I went through school and then decided to enter into an undergraduate business program because I was most intrigued with business. I went out to a school in eastern Canada.
In my final year, I actually went to the US and attended a US school. I was in Providence, Rhode Island in my final year. I found the pulse of entrepreneurship in America quite exhilarating. I worked for an ad agency over the summer. I’d also done a lot of traveling when I was younger. I had enough of a global footprint and curiosity that when I finally graduated, I came back to Toronto and worked for an international toy company. What was intriguing was, I actually went to a toy fair during my final year at college.
I got my first job at a toy company. I started in brand management there. After six months, I ended up leaving. I got an interesting job with an entertainment company called Nelvana. They were one of the leading children’s entertainment companies in the world. I wasn’t still 100% sure. I was doing licensing, home entertainment management, sales, and business development. I was doing it mostly because I just love the kids’ industry. I was learning from a bunch of different business units.
Lo and behold, I grew a division to about $10 million. That was after seven years of working with some pretty interesting people and helpful people along the way. Then I got headhunted to work for a company called Mega Brand in Montreal. It was a company that I had done a licensing deal with. They’d just gone public and were looking for somebody to head their in-house licensing and some of their brand management. I was married at that time. I moved with my wife over there.
My wife had been wanting to leave Toronto and discover the world. I didn’t give her the world, but I gave her Montreal. I worked for six years at Mega Brand in a few capacities in product management and licensing. We actually grew the licensing division from about $2 million to about a $100 million portfolio. We’ve done license deals with Disney and Nickelodeon. I also spent half my years there in marketing and digital marketing. Near the end of my stay, I got home sick. I wanted to see more of my parents, my sisters, and friends.
We moved back to Toronto. I still stayed with Mega Brands. That was short-lived. Once I agreed to move back to Toronto, they wanted me to come back to Montreal and I didn’t want to. We just agree to let me have some time away. They paid me for a while. By then, I was 36.