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From passion to career

Mike George was 16 when he joined the Canadian Reserves in 2000. In 2002, he was deployed to Bosnia, and in 2007 he joined the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and began his full time career with the Canadian Armed Forces. His tours of service included Afghanistan, Mali, Jamaica and Iraq.

Mike transitioned out of the Canadian Armed Forces with the rank of Master Corporal in June 2018 and moved into the world of business. He started Aurelius Food Co., which supplies fine olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Italy. What started as a passion project quickly became a full time career.

“My family lives in Italy, so we would visit every second summer,” says Mike. “In 2016, I was visiting my family and had a conversation with my uncle. He asked if I could sell his olive oil in Canada. That lit a massive fire inside of me. I told myself it was something I was going to make happen.”

Now, Mike’s uncle acts as quality control in Italy when buying the product from the mill in his village. He also oversees shipment of the products to Ottawa.

Mike’s products are used by professional chefs at high end restaurants across Ottawa. Not only does he have a small series of artisanal items that are unique to his business, he also has a new store front location in Ottawa’s Wellington West. Patrons are able to sample and purchase his high quality products.

Transferable skills

Mike says his training, exposure to good work habits and attention to detail throughout his service with the Canadian Armed Forces has a positive impact on his ability to own and operate a business.

“The biggest thing is to have that resiliency and to not succumb to the craziness of things, but to take a step back, make a plan and to execute that plan,” says Mike. “I think a lot of people have those skills because of the military when they transition. It doesn’t always equate to a university course or credit. I never did any business training, but you learn how to talk to people, you learn how to make decisions. I just applied that to my every day operations and activities here.”

From making sure his military boots were tied a certain way to making sure his product labels are on straight, attention to detail is just another example Mike offers of the transferable skills from the Armed Forces to daily business.

Let your idea consume you

While Mike may not see himself as a business expert, he does have advice for transitioning members of the Canadian Armed Forces looking to pursue new interests.

“Be true with yourself, do a serious self-assessment and make sure it’s something you’re passionate about,” says Mike. “It’s not something that I forced, the idea just came out of nowhere, it consumed me and I was going to make it happen. There are tons of resources for military transitioning members, like Princes Operation Entrepreneur and Treble Victor Military Networking group that I’m part of here in Ottawa that has been very beneficial. I would encourage those from the military to learn about the available programs and start learning about how others transitioned as well.”

He also says that the Earnings Loss Benefit* provided by Veterans Affairs Canada has been helpful during the transition process.

For more information on Aurelius Food Co., visit their website.

*The Earnings Loss Benefit has been consolidated into the Income Replacement Benefit.

Date published: 2020-01-10

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