Over the course of this Member Highlight Series, a couple themes have been recurring again and again as we feature various Chamber volunteers. Chasing a career, for instance, is a big one. We’ve certainly heard some amazing stories on that front.
Giving back to the community is another one. Straight across the Board, this has proven to be a common priority amongst our volunteers.
But today I’d like to focus on a different trait that is shared by almost all our volunteers. It ties in to chasing one’s career, but in the natural order of things, this one comes first.
And what is it? Well, it’s simple, but this is what defines lives: Discovering what you’re passionate about and then doing it.
We’ve seen this in every story. It’s passion that drives one to go to med school, or enroll in college for a marketing and advertising diploma, or maybe for computer programming.
But let’s face it: How many teens or people in their 20s really know – and I mean actually know for sure – what they want to do with their lives when they enroll in college or university? They might have an idea of the “perfect career,” but, chances are, that changes from year to year as you gain experience. Discovering your true passion takes time and energy
And I can think of no better example to show this than Chamber volunteer and Co-Founder of TALIS Creative, Anthony De Gasperis.
Anthony grew up in Barrie, Ontario. Being the hockey-crazed town it is, it’s really no surprise that Anthony grew up a hockey fanatic himself. Ever since he can remember, Anthony has been lacing up the skates and hitting the ice. Whether that was in a rink or on a pond, Anthony loved the game. He watched the pros and admired as various legends lifted the Stanley Cup year after year.
And as most “rink-rat” kids do, he aspired to be one of them when he grew up.
Going through childhood and into his teen years, Anthony played competitively and constantly strove to work his way up. After starting out playing minor hockey in Barrie, he upgraded to AAA in Orillia.
This lasted for two years before Anthony came to a realization. At this point, Anthony started to realize that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t going to play professional hockey as a career. The early-teenage dreams of scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal were beginning to fade, and other, more realistic ones were taking their place.
“After I finished playing AAA, I took a year off playing hockey,” he said. “And if I’m being completely honest, during my last year of AAA, I became that hockey stereotype – which happens with a lot of kids that play AAA or even higher level hockey – where I was the kid who hates the game, but still plays it.”
For those of you unfamiliar with this strange phenomena, let me explain. Sadly, it’s more common than you might think.
As you all know, hockey is the most played sport in Canada. Canadians take great pride in our international image as hockey champions. And at international sporting events like the annual World Juniors, we expect nothing less than a gold medal. In fact, most Canadians see a silver medal in hockey as an insult and would rather nothing at all.
Needless to say, this places a ridiculous amount of pressure on Canada’s hockey athletes. And it’s not just the pros who suffer from it. For many kids who play competitive hockey in Canada, the sport can quickly turn from being a fun activity to a source of resentment for the kids. This is usually a result of parents or coaches who get caught up in the game and emphasize performance results over the simple pleasure of “just having fun.”
So, because of an acute case of these “hockey blues” when he was 16, Anthony decided to take a year off playing competitive hockey. This year-long sabbatical from the game turned out to be one of the most eye-opening decisions of Anthony’s life.
During the course of these 12 months, Anthony stayed away from competitive hockey games. Instead, he played games of shinny on frozen ponds with his friends. He played in a casual, intramural league at Georgian College. And, best of all, he started volunteering as an assistant coach in a local minor hockey league. During this coaching experience, Anthony started to realize that he almost had more fun coaching other players than playing the game himself. At the time, he didn’t quite understand why… but later, he would find out.
After this year off, he returned to the sport by playing Junior C in Midland, but he came back with a new attitude: he was going to genuinely enjoy it. He played there for two years and he always made sure to put fun first.
“And it was because of those two years that I rekindled my love for the game,” he said. After that, he left competitive hockey for good, turning his focus towards his career.
Anthony had a tough time narrowing down his career options. “In high school, I was always interested in web design and photography. I was also very good at math, so I always contemplated whether I should go into the accounting field or something like that. But then another passion of mine was geography, so I thought of careers in that field. But then again, I was very athletic, so I can remember considering kinesiology.”
Wow. How’s that for career-confusion? But, as mentioned earlier, young minds have so many ideas and so many hard decisions when it comes to choosing only one career.
In the end, however, Anthony decided to pursue web design. He went to Georgian College for Web Programming, obtained his diploma, and then, in 2011, he broke into the Barrie workforce. After working at a firm for five years, Anthony and his brother-in-law took on a three-month freelance contract with the organization, SickNotWeak.
“That contract turned from three months into six months,” said Anthony. “And then through that connection, we got in contact with people from Dell [the computer company] asking us to take on a new contract.”
After this, Anthony and his brother-in-law did some work in Dell’s mid-market to develop a customer management system, during which they built a CRM for the company.
Overall, things went great for Anthony during a year and a half with Dell. He got a taste of the corporate world and was able to build his experience significantly.
But, as things go in the corporate world, it all came to an end very quickly. Dell decided to drop the project that Anthony and his brother-in-law were working on, thus putting the two of them out of work. Instead of hanging their heads, however, they saw this bad break as the perfect opportunity to start their own business.
But before they did, Anthony got to thinking about what his true passion might be. He liked web design; that much was obvious for him. But he knew that web design wasn’t his true passion. So what was it? Well, strangely enough, it all came full circle. Hockey wasn’t his passion, but it showed him what was.
“When we were in the process of developing our business, I was still a volunteer coach in minor hockey,” he said. “And I started learning that I really enjoyed the coaching and consulting side of things, including business. I started putting the pieces together, and I saw that that was always my thing. Even while I was working with my former employer, I enjoyed helping my colleagues and the other programmers with their work more than doing my own.”
At first, Anthony didn’t understand why he liked helping them more than himself. “But as I started growing and getting older,” he said, “I realized my passion was understanding complex problems, helping people solve those problems, listening to what’s going on, trying to determine what it is, and then developing a solution for that.”
Thus, with this new, fresh understanding of what his real passion was, Anthony and his brother-in-law dove head first into starting their company, TALIS Creative. TALIS is a unique company. By utilizing their skills in web design and marketing, added to Anthony’s passion for helping others solve their problems, Anthony and his brother-in-law formed a company that seeks to design a company’s entire image to match their goal.
After helping companies discover their mission and purpose, TALIS then assists them with strategic branding, marketing, and web design that sends them in their desired direction. It’s exactly what Anthony’s always loved doing, except now he’s using all his other skills at the same time. Anthony describes it as a constant effort to “educate himself” about the companies TALIS is helping. Judging by its success, I’d say TALIS has got a pretty good thing going right now.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Anthony De Gasperis’ life and career story thus far. I say “thus far” because, at a mere 30 years old, Anthony still has the majority of his life ahead of him. Who knows? Maybe in twenty years the Barrie Chamber will be writing a new highlight about him, updating the world on the business leaps and bounds that he made from 2021 to 2041. Stay tuned!
Written by: Peter Wilson