a man and woman sitting at a table in a tattoo shop

They Said ‘No’, Now What?

Episode 3

August 21, 2023

Getting over rejection isn’t easy, especially when it’s personal. Many of us have heard the word “no.” Sometimes from family, sometimes from friends, a bank, a landlord – or even ourselves.
We hear from entrepreneurs who pushed through that wall to succeed. Frank Porco is a tattoo artist and owner of Against the Grain Tattoo Collective, a tattoo parlour in Whitby, Ont., who received more “no’s” than imaginable. But he now runs one of the most successful shops in Durham Region. Naa-Adei Laura Marmon is a fashion designer who creates meaningful articles that pay tribute to her heritage and faced her fair share of barriers stopping her from getting started. Mary Jubran is a digital editor who just can’t get enough of side hustles under her belt, who has struggled with rejection from herself and others, including her parents at one point.
View Transcript
The word ‘no’

[Audio from the Sesame Street song “No”: “And the word is no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And the word is no, no, no, no, no.”] [music fades]


[Founders Drive theme music]


Katie Sampson: Welcome to Founder's Drive. Do you guys have any idea what we're talking about today?


Founders Drive Team: No!


Tammy Raycraft: That's right. We're talking about the word no. Every one of us has heard the word no. Sometimes from family, sometimes from friends.


Andrew Neary: Sometimes from a bank. Sometimes from a landlord. And sometimes from ourselves.


Deidra Clarke: When you're chasing your dreams, sometimes no can feel like a brick wall. Some entrepreneurs have to push through it, around it, or over it to reach their goals.


Tammy: Our first story on this episode is about someone who's experienced a lot of different layers of ‘no’s’. Frank Porco is a tattoo artist in Whitby, Ontario. I've been going to him for years and I've had a front row seat to his journey to entrepreneurship.



Everyone has something to say when you want to start your own business. And unfortunately, a lot of the time they say, no. No, that's not a good idea or no, choose a more stable career. And sometimes that no comes from within. No, I can't do it or no, I don't belong in this industry.


[Sound of tattoo gun]


Tammy: Frank Porco heard a lot of these notes when he decided to open his own tattoo shop in the middle of a global pandemic, starting with no, you can't open. We're going into a lockdown.


Frank Porco: It's very strange. It was actually, the whole world was shut down, so it was like impossible to build anything. And then when the actual business opened up, I think they closed us down - they opened up for a little bit, and then they're like, “Nah, we're not ready.” And just we closed down and like, oh my God, we literally just spent all this money building this place, and then they just like, shut it down. And yeah, it was really hard. It was really, really hard. But we were smart enough with our money where we weren't affected that much because we knew that this might not open up right away. It was going to be a month or two and then shut down. And we don't know how long that's going to shut down. So, um, we were smart. But it was, it was tough. I'm not going to lie to you, but, you know. It was a good lesson to be learned.


Tammy: Even before he got to this point, he faced the word ‘no’ – starting with himself.


Frank Porco: When I thought of it like people would recommend, like, oh, maybe one day you can do your own thing. And to be honest, I didn't want the stress of it. I didn't want - I was scared that the passion that I had for the art would turn into a business and then I would just not like it anymore. So I was a little hesitant when I got the offer to do it because I didn't want to lose what I enjoyed. I felt like I've not cheated, but like I figured out the secret to the system. I was like, oh, I got this job where I don't have to go 9 to 5 and I don't have to, you know, do what everyone else does. I won.


Tammy: When the opportunity to open Against the Grain Tattoo Collective in Whitby, Ontario, came about, Frank still didn't think he could do it, and tried to talk himself out of it again.


Frank Porco: I had that doubt again where I was like, “No, this is too much. I can't do it.” So I was applying to other shops instead, thinking that a change would be probably better than starting my own business. And when I went there, I felt that same feeling of like, I don't know, there's shops that just, there's some that want you to sign, like contracts on like what you're going to do for them. It was to like - like, a boss would show up. I didn't like that. So I was like, the only way I'm going to be happy and actually do what we love to do and work with people we like to work with is if we control that. And the only way to control that is for someone to run it. And so, me and my friend thought we had the same goal, so we're like, let's just do it together.


[Sound of tattoo gun]


Katie: So Frank and his friend and now business partner, Josh Wilson, decided they were going to go for it. Even after warnings from others.


Frank Porco: A lot of people were like, business with your friend. No, don't do that. Don't do that. But I think when people say don't do something, I think everyone should do it.


[Sound of tattoo gun]


Frank Porco: Worst case that could have happened is it didn't work out, and then I go work at another shop. Like really? Really. That was the only. Like, it wasn't going to affect anything. We tried. It didn't work out. Now I'm just going to work for someone else and I could. I had the connections where I could. So I didn't listen to that. And and to be honest, it taught me because when I wanted to start tattooing as a whole, I just in general, I um, people didn't believe in me for that as well.


[Sound of tattoo gun]


Frank Porco: I remember my mom saying like, “Oh, tattoos are just a phase.” I remember her saying that to me, and I was like, okay, but it's the oldest profession, so I don't think it's going anywhere. So anyway, yeah, you do get - I think the doubts were the biggest challenge for sure.


Tammy: Frank put all that aside and in 2020 opened up his shop with Josh Wilson. They have since moved into a new, bigger location, and the tattoo collective now has five people working together, and they live up to being a true collective with everyone's ideas being heard.


Deidra: Every time I hear more of his story, I feel more inspired. Tammy, you once built a business selling makeup through an MLM or multi-level marketing company, which doesn't get a good rep.


Tammy: No, they don't. No's from every level: family wondering if we could live off of it because I have a son and a husband, my parents, the work that would go into making it stable, friends who saw me try this with another makeup company and not succeed, to social media judgment about MLM companies.


Deidra: Yet you did it anyway. Why?


Tammy: It was almost because of the no’s. I don't like being told I couldn't do it, so I felt like I had something to prove.


Deidra: You're back at school now, so what happened to the business?


Tammy: I was hugely successful, but ultimately it came down to my son, Ronan, and what example did I want for him? So I chose school because I couldn't do both. That business required a lot of time, consistency being live. I couldn't handle both.




Deidra: Hey, Andrew, Welcome back. You're here because we discovered two people we've interviewed had similar journeys with the word no. No's come from many different places and many different people. For Naa-Adei, her no came from her dad. Her vision and her success were hard for him to see, and it took a little bit of time before he could appreciate her work.


Naa-Adei Laura Marmon: Uh, well, in the beginning, no, I did not, I did not have very much support from my father. But, you know, I'm a big believer in, “If you really want to do something, just do it. If you build it, they will come.” And I think what really impressed my father especially was my tenacity and my determination, my willingness that in the pandemic, in such an uncertain time, that this is a time that I would choose to do this.


Andrew: Mary also had family no’s. Her parents pushed her away from entrepreneurship, worried about her chances of success and status.


Mary Jubran: No matter what I was doing, because I wasn't like a doctor or I wasn't a lawyer or like an engineer, they thought that I was just going to kind of amount to nothing and like it was worry - and I do understand that it's worry - but it's also like, anybody with immigrant parents can know, can like, already know. It's like, “But what what other people think? What do you think your relatives are going to think like, oh, what do we tell them?”


Deidra: One area where I can relate to Naa-Adei is the personal no’s. Those can be really challenging to get past because your biggest enemy is yourself. I know Mary also talked about that, Andrew. For Naa-Adei, her personal no took years to overcome.


Naa-Adei Laura Marmon: All right. So yeah, I said no to myself for many years. I mean, I'm 30 years old. I'm pursuing my degree now. I worked in restaurants as a waitress for almost ten years because I was saying no to my calling for a long time. And it wasn't until I finally said yes is when I'm no longer working in those restaurants.


Deidra: Before Naa-Adei could get a yes from anybody else, she had to say yes to herself.


Naa-Adei Laura Marmon: I said yes, I went to college. I got my diploma. I'm now in university going for my degree and, like, the world is my oyster. But, I said yes – I was only able to say yes to my myself when I started to believe in myself.


Andrew: Mary felt like she had to do it all to achieve her dreams. She saw entrepreneurship as a stepping stone to break into an industry she couldn't access otherwise.


Mary Jubran: There was nobody there for me to like, get help from. I had to pave my own way. So it was like, okay, the only way that I could do that is by freelancing, because I could go and I could knock on as many virtual doors as I can - and I did, and I did - saying, I'm here to do work. I could like, I could do camera operating, I could do editing, I could do like director of photography work. I could do anything. It didn't matter. I had to build it up myself. And so I started to work on it myself because that was the best way that I could make sure I could get clients and I could make sure I get work and experience, too.


Deidra: When I got to interview Naa-Adei, I was happy to hear that her dad did eventually come around. It's incredibly comforting to hear and to know that your family supports you and will build you up.


Naa-Adei Laura Marmon: And him seeing how much effort that I put towards everything that I was doing - even before the pandemic in 2019, I had done a fashion show at the Thompson Hotel. They had like a fashion show thing, and I presented a collection there that I made every piece myself by hand and cutting and sewing and designing and finding the models and finding the photographers and putting it all together and paying this, you know, you have to pay for these things as well. I think he was very impressed by, “Oh, she's got a really good work ethic.” So, he's very much so supportive now but at that time, no, he wasn't very much. And it was, you know, a little bit of trying to, I guess, work for parental approval, especially being of West African and West Indian background.


Andrew: And Mary's family came around to her work, too. She was earning good money freelancing and landed her dream job.


Mary Jubran: It wasn't until my first red carpet that my mom finally was like, “Oh, this is something.” But now that I've pivoted careers, too, and I've found something that really works for me and I really, really love, and I do think I'm excelling in, there's like, no question anymore.


Deidra: It's kind of crazy to think that Naa-Adei was nowhere near the fashion industry. She’d taken all these other paths, and yet she did a complete 180 and turned things around. Like, you came out on top.


Andrew: I'm constantly impressed by how much Mary gets done, how she fits everything into the same 24-hour day the rest of us have. Being around her inspires me to do more and push myself.




Tammy: ‘No’ when you live in Canada can be a lot different from the no you hear when you live in Las Arrugas, Guatemala, which is where Katie was in February.


Katie: As you may recall, we're supporting three young women there to start a French fry stand. Glenda, Gladys and Heidy are the first young women in their community to go to post-secondary, so they need to make money. I was fortunate enough to meet them and talk to them about their path to self-determination.


Tammy: Katie, can you remind everyone about the importance of these laptops to these girls and the community?


Katie: In Guatemala as a whole, especially in remote indigenous communities, it's extremely uncommon for children to continue their education and for women to even go past Grade 6. When Founders Drive was introduced to Glenda, Gladys and Heidy we felt so connected to their story. Although it sounded great that they were going to school, university is expensive and the young women had no means to pay for it. I can't tell you how rare it is for young Mayan women to go to post-secondary. In fact, they're the first women in their community to ever go to university. The 30-year Guatemalan civil war that ended in the mid-1990s prevented the generation before, including their mothers, from doing anything other than being a housewife and a mother. Young Mayans also still face a lot of discrimination in Guatemala, so starting a business is almost unheard of. So, when they explained their idea to start a business, to raise the funds, we knew we wanted to tell their story and to help them in their journey. Our partner, VDI, provided the refurbished laptops that I got to hand deliver to them on my trip in February. The laptops not only give the young women a computer to complete their schoolwork on, but they also grant them internet access at home so they don't have to walk over an hour to the closest community computer. The laptops have also helped them plan and start their business so it can be run professionally, and so they can also access social media and stay organized. I didn't just hand them the laptops. There was an entire ceremony in Las Arrugas.


[Katie – speaking at the Guatemala ceremony: And I know that you have put in a lot of work to be where you are today and go to university, even though it is far away, as Noé mentioned, are really honoured to be able to raise the money and find the people to donate these laptops to make your lives easier and have a successful education.] [Audio fades]


Tammy: Oh, tell me about that.


Katie: Most of the community was there, including their parents, community leaders and our team from Durham College. Our project coordinator there, Noé Caal, asked me to explain how we got involved, which he translated to Glenda, Gladys and Heidy, as well as the rest of the community. And that's where the tears came. I can't even express to you how emotional it got. The second I handed over the last laptop, all three girls started crying. I couldn't help but get emotional myself, and I think that that rubbed off on the rest of the community. Everyone started to cry. They were extremely emotional and grateful.


[Sound of clapping]


[Katie: Congratulations. Awe.] [Audio fades]


Tammy: Just hearing about it makes me feel like I could cry. What is Founders Drive doing to help these young women in their business?


Katie: In addition to the laptops, Jay Fisher, a business professor here at Durham College, has been working virtually with Glenda, Gladys and Heidy to help them build a business plan. For months now, they've been working with this plan to create a brand, including a logo as well as promotions and have a budget for equipment and supplies to get them started. Here's a look at one of their many conversations.


[Jay Fisher – Zoom call: French fries. I want to know about French fries. So, who buys French fries?]


[Noé translates to Spanish]


[Glenda, Gladys and Heidy answer in Spanish]


[Noé Caal: They said, like in my community, almost all the people love to eat French fries.]


[Jay Fisher: And is this something that people eat for a meal? Is this something that people eat as a treat? When do people eat French fries?]


[Noé translates to Spanish]


[Glenda, Gladys and Heidy reply in Spanish]


[Noé Caal: They say, like in the evenings, but more people eat French fries on the weekend.]


[Jay Fisher: Okay. So not really a meal, but more for I don't know, social...]


[Noé Caal: It's like a snack, you know, something like after you've finished working and you are going back to home, you can make a stop and buy French fries, you know.]


[Jay Fisher: Okay. Where do people buy French fries now? How can you - how do you get French fries?]


[Noé translates to Spanish]


[Glenda, Gladys and Heidy reply in Spanish]


[Noé Caal: Gladys said sometimes a person has to travel to the town to buy French fries, or sometimes people try to make at home, but they are different because they don't have, like how you say, like the special machine to do French fries.]


[Jay Fisher: So, if I want French fries, I either have to go to the town or I have to have a machine at home to make them, right?]


[Noé Caal: Exactly.]


[Noé translates to Spanish]


[Jay Fisher: How far is the town?]


[Noé translates to Spanish]


[Glenda, Gladys and Heidy reply in Spanish]


[Noé Caal: Okay. Heidy said like if she would like to eat French fries, she has to walk for one hour and 20 minutes, by walk, and if she can get the bus, she can spend like 25-30 minutes in bus.]


[Jay Fisher: So too far to go just for French fries?]


[Noé Caal: Yes, yes!]


[Noé translates to Spanish]


[Glenda, Gladys and Heidy laugh and reply in Spanish]




Katie: They're not the only people Jay has been mentoring. I've also been working alongside Deidra while she's been getting her business up and running. She's back with us now. What has the process been like so far?


Deidra: The process has actually been a lot of fun. It started with Jay and I just having a conversation, and you were there as well, and he was just asking me questions about my story, getting to know me better so that we could really work to getting to know what impacts I want to have in my business and what this product is that I'm making.


Katie: And what was that meeting like for you?


Deidra: Jay asked me a lot of questions, things I had never thought about. He had questions about my diabetes and what it was like for me. And it was actually very nice to share because it's not often people will ask me questions about it or it's not often people even know that I have it, so getting to open up and really tell my story from the beginning and having someone to listen and not be sympathetic but empathetic was really nice. I had this sense of being seen and I realized how little other people know because I'm so used to it. So, breaking it down was very different. And at the end of the meeting, I actually felt for the first time that I was on my way to starting a business and it was incredibly uplifting.


Katie: So, so far, what has Jay helped you with specifically?


Deidra: Jay has really helped me map out the milestones that I need to hit. Milestones I, as a 16 year old, didn't really think of. It was just an idea. Sitting down with Jay, he gave me the business model canvas from our entrepreneurship program here at Durham College, and I had to fill out each section and it helped me to question, “Okay, what is the problem that I'm actually trying to solve and who am I trying to impact? What does this look like long term? Is this money to go into my own pockets or is this something I want to outsource and give back to other people?” He's also the one helping me find manufacturers to bring the prototype to life. And his guidance also led me to Melissa, who is the graphic designer, and she's helped me create a brand book filled with my logos and the color scheme of my business.


Katie: Can you tell me a little bit about your brand and your logo?


Deidra: So my company is called The D.I.A. Tribe. So D.I.A., the ‘D’ standing for determined, the ‘I’ for independent and the ‘A’ for adaptable, and my sister actually helped me come up with that. And then we have the word ‘tribe’ at the end. So all together it's the diatribe. And the tribe is really just to signify that sense of community and coming together because diabetes isn't just a one person individual thing. It's a collective community of us. And then, it's also the community of our supporters and our family and friends. And the colours that I went with were blue and gold, mainly. Blue because blue is the diabetic colour and then gold just kind of accent it.


Katie: So, now that you're a couple months in, have you had any a-ha moments along the way?


Deidra: Definitely. In high school, I feel like I just needed to do something. And with Jay it was more of, “What is the problem that I'm trying to solve?” It made me question my goals and not just solving a problem, but what is the problem?


Katie: What no’s have you faced so far since you started?


Deidra: I am my biggest no, and I started all this back in the first semester, and it's been a little challenging to do school, home life, work and the business. So, for a while, I push it to the side until I thought I could get back into it, and I knew was going to come back to it because unlike high school me, I actually worked very hard on this and I've put a lot of my effort and time and energy, and I'm very excited for it.


Katie: It sounds exciting. What can people look forward to with your business?


Deidra: Although my mission is to help make things more accessible for diabetics, I also want to cater to diabetics who don't wear a pump, and also for the family and friends who want to wear it and show support.


Katie: That's really exciting and I know that I would love to support and I can't wait to get one in every colour.


Deidra: I can't wait to get it out.




Katie: Now that we've heard all these stories, what did we learn about the word no?


Tammy: I think the biggest takeaway for me was the personal no's and how hard they can be to overcome - just doubting yourself or thinking that maybe you can't do it.


Andrew: I think I learned that no's can mean different things for different people.


Deidra: For me, it's the family no’s, those can really hold you back because you're looking to your family to support you.


Katie: I think it's really inspiring that everyone we have heard from today in this episode, they have all overcome these no's, and they are making a name for themselves with their business.


Andrew: It really shows it's still possible.


Katie: Absolutely.




Deidra: Now that we know no’s, we're taking a look at yes's. Wins. What does it mean to be a successful entrepreneur?


Tammy: What even is success? Money? Fame? Social impact? A new Tesla? Getting paid to do your hobby?


Kevin Shaw: Well, I started my first company out of place of frustration. I think that's where a lot of people start their companies. It's, you know, find yourself a problem that's so big that you can’t help but solve it yourself.


Ashley Moore: I know personally, like, I'm someone that puts in 125 per cent, and I'm going to, you know, give that to whomever I'm working for. So, why would I put all my time and my energy into building someone else's business?


Tia Grossett: Dancing was really where my whole entire life was.


Andrew: Thanks for listening to Founder's Drive. My name is Andrew Neary.


Katie: I'm Katie Sampson.


Tammy: I'm Tammy Raycraft.


Deidra: And I'm Deidra Clarke.


Andrew: And we'll see you in the next one.


[Music fades out]

Guest Speakers

a woman wearing a black turtle neck and gold hoop earrings
Naa-Adei Laura Marmon
a man in a pink sweatshirt standing in front of a graffiti wall
Frank Porco
Against the Grain Tattoo Collective
a woman with curly hair standing in front of a wooden wall
Mary Jubran