When Michael Cashin heads for work, he takes a 30-second drive down the road to his office, which overlooks sparkling St. Peter’s Bay.
“I’m literally 300 metres from my office. Try and find that in a big city,” he says. “I don’t have a commute.”
Cashin runs In-Focus Studios, which provides branding, website design, printing and e-commerce services for small businesses. He runs his company from the former St. Peter’s Consolidated school, now a community and business complex. So, when his three children visit the library in the same building, they can pop in on Dad to say hello.
“Just being able to be that close and that connected has been such a wonderful improvement,” Cashin says.
Cashin, the son of a Swedish mom and American dad, had been living in New Jersey with his own family when he became a founding member of a marketing firm there. His work involved a 45-minute commute to the office and little time to spend with the other people in his community.
“With five years in the same spot, I didn’t know my neighbours,” he explains, noting everyone around him also seemed wrapped up in the fast pace of life. “That was something that we found was really attractive when we got to the Island — people cared to know who you were.”
Cashin and his family moved to P.E.I. in 2013 after spending a year-and-a-half in Ontario. They first visited the Island because friends with a home here kept telling stories of Canada’s smallest province and urging them to visit. At the time, the friends happened to live in St. Peters.
“We loved the pace of life,” Cashin explains. “I think what really drew us was the idea that our kids would grow up in this kind of community.”
Cashin, who relishes the pursuit of entrepreneurial ideas, knew he wanted to set up his own business. He had one requirement for the location: high-speed internet.
“You have the same business potential here because we’re connected,” he explains.
Initially, In-Focus Studios served mainly off-Island clients. As Cashin got to know his new community, local clients increased to comprise 90 per cent of his business.
“It was kind of finding a gap in the marketplace,” he says.
Cashin says many businesses in the St. Peter’s area needed some digital and print marketing, but they also needed printing for items like newsletters or restaurant menus for the vital tourism industry.
“Prior to me coming here, everyone had to drive into town to get all of this printing done.”
Living in a small community has also helped him develop other ideas.
From talking to people, he learned about the difficulties some overseas buyers faced trying to access wholesale seafood. In 2016, he started Atlantic East Seafood, a seafood brokering company that exports Atlantic Canadian Seafood to overseas markets. These clients are far from home, as the company started by focussing on the Middle East.
Cashin agrees that living a slower pace and getting to know people have improved his life — and helped him discover opportunities.
“It’s talking to different people. You have to be a good listener too. Where do you see the little pinch points where people want to do business, but they can’t?”