Innovative thinkers see challenges as if through a kaleidoscope. We absorb the interaction of colours, shapes and sounds and learn to understand their patterns. We twirl the polygons of endless possibilities, until we capture a tiny speck of white light, the precise millimetre where corresponding angles collapse, where scope meets circumstance. There we see our solution. And it all makes perfect sense.

Donny Mills has always had an entrepreneurial scope, but it was when his circumstances changed that he actualized his business idea. He has been working in plumbing for 10 years, and when he moved from outside the GTA to Liberty Village about two years ago, he noticed that his new area was in need of a plumber. There were neighbours willing to help out when someone had a problem, but there was no licensed plumber in the immediate vicinity. So Donny saw an opportunity: “I can be the neighbour, and do it legitimately and professionally,” he decided. He started to pick up clients on the side, and put up a Facebook post saying, “I’m a plumber, I live in the area, I can come and help out.” Word-of-mouth sent so many calls his way that eventually Donny was working two sets of full-time hours weekly. “I’m going to break as a human, if I don’t make a decision,” he thought. Already a celebrity plumber in Liberty Village, this past January he branched off on his own completely, rebranded with a sleek logo and a cool truck, and launched Liberty Village Plumbing.

“I have a lot of neighbours that always want little favours and I want to make them all happy.”

Photo by Trevor Harris

Although the business is named after his neighbourhood, he does not exclusively service Liberty Village. Customers from across the GTA can message Donny on Facebook or Instagram when they have a problem. Even when it’s 10 p.m. and he’s already tired from working all day, he won’t charge an extra service fee for after-hours calls. The quality service Donny provides practically advertises itself – people are already writing excellent reviews about Donny. He is the friendly plumber, always willing to help a neighbour out. “It just so happens that my neighbourhood is expanding. It’s no longer Liberty Village the neighbourhood, it’s City Place, and now I was out in almost Scarborough today, and Oakville yesterday, so I have a really big neighbourhood now. I have a lot of neighbours that always want little favours and I want to make them all happy,” he smiles.

Donny is the neighbour you can count on for trustworthy service. It’s hard to invite a stranger into your home, even though they are there to fix something, to help you. “[In] skilled trades, it’s so easy to take advantage of people, and that’s why…everyone’s always hesitant if you don’t know anything about whatever trades task you’re doing, (you have an electrical problem in your home, or a plumbing problem), you’re just daunted by the task if you don’t know somebody. You say, now what do I do? There’s no shortage of these tradespeople. You can find any of them, any time. Someone will [always be] willing to come to your place and look at something, but how do you know that that person’s [not gonna] take advantage of you?” While most tradespeople bill by the hour, Donny knows that customers get frustrated with the dreadful hourly charge, especially when services take a long time. He doesn’t believe such a pricing model is right for him, nor fair to his clientele. “I don’t have an hourly rate,” he declares. Liberty Village Plumbing pricing is based on the service that is required. The price will depend on what the solution entails, not the time it takes him to fix the problem. When a customer describes what happened and how, Donny is able to diagnose over the phone and can project a price range of possible solutions. Once he takes a look at the problem he can set price and starts working. He does his best to keep costs low for his neighbours too; “…just because they agreed to a price of $200 doesn’t mean I want them to pay $200. That means if I can make it $100 by all means I’m happy to do that, I’m happy to pass up the $100 that I didn’t make: I will make 10 times that, sooner than later from that person [whom] I’ve made happy,” he shares.

“It’s not necessarily about the plumbing, it’s about the person that’s coming to your door and saying I’m gonna fix this for you and I’m gonna try’n save you money…I will help you out.”

Photo by Alex Banman

Trades have a bad reputation for tricking customers into paying more by hiding how their pricing works or moving slowly while they bill by the hour. Knowing this, Donny runs against the current and builds his business on transparency. “It’s not necessarily about the plumbing, it’s about the person that’s coming to your door and saying I’m gonna fix this for you and I’m gonna try’n save you money…I will help you out. Even when I’m not here, feel free to call me, after the fact, and we can go over it again.” He is not concerned with his competition as well because he believes there’s enough work for all plumbers to stay busy. “I didn’t look at anyone else’s plan when I established my plan…I’m just doing my own thing.” His plan is definitely working, and it’s moving fast! Donny’s inbox is flooding with messages and he cannot complete all the jobs alone anymore so the next step is to hire a small team. Scaling up will bring on a new set of responsibilities. One challenge will be finding the right people who will provide the same quality of care and service, and keep the same honest and friendly approach. Another challenge is his own transition from performing fewer tasks himself to becoming a manager. There’s a lot to do, but Donny is looking forward to adjusting to the rapid growth. “I just kinda wing it every day, which sounds really unprofessional, but then you step back at the end of the day and…[think] hm I just accomplished that, I don’t know how I did that, but I figured it out,” he laughs, stunned by his immediate success.

Photo by Alex Banman

Although the speed of his progress is unexpected, Donny always had “that little knack of just seeing an opportunity.” When he was growing up in Belleville he ran a car detailing side hustle, and had an idea for a shuttle service that would take partygoers to and from the nightclubs via rickshaw. From a young age Donny saw how he could use circumstances to his advantage.

Entrepreneurship requires an open and positive mindset. Donny’s circumstances created the perfect environment to start his business, but his attitude is what made it take hold. He explains, “…most plans can be achieved through the correct attitude. It’s not necessarily your skill set. The attitude will get you to the skill set [you need for your dream job].” This attitude keeps us motivated when things are going our way, and patient when they are not.

Innovation takes time. Ideas tumble around in our minds like infinite confetti. We can adjust our scope, or play with our circumstances, until we find the optimal place where the two intersect. When our minds are open, the opportunities are visible, and always within our reach.

Photo by Alex Banman

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