Bob Gerrie
 
Entrepreneur on Wheels

Active Living Magazine

In August 1995, Bob Gerrie dreamt that he was in the penthouse of Toronto City Hall. He was so affected by the dream that he woke his wife in the middle of the night to tell her about it. In his dream, he started a company "designed to help the small business person," says Gerrie. In his dream, he sold advertising space on the back of his wheelchair, and operated from an office in the penthouse of Toronto City Hall. One month later, Billboard Bob's was born.

Billboard - Bob Gerrie, 37, is himself, an entrepreneur at heart. Whether he's selling advertising space on the back of his wheelchair, performing in dance shows, selling wellness products, or inventing new gadgets, Gerrie is constantly dreaming up new ideas that could improve his life, and help others.

Gerrie began his entrepreneurial career with a trucking company called R.W.G. Management. In January 1986, when he was 21 years old, Gerrie's car collided head-on with a truck skidding on black ice. Gerrie suffered head and spinal injuries, was in a coma for nine months and spent approximately 27 months in the hospital "always needing somebody's help to do something," he explains.

Fast forward to September 11, 1992, at 5:35 pm. A Big Mac attack landed Gerrie at McDonald's where he met his future wife Becky Cornwell. Cornwell offered to share her table with Gerrie, and walked home with him after dinner. Nine years later, they are still completely in love. "Bob has taught me a lot about life and what's important," Cornwell says. "He's got quite an inventive mind, an entrepreneurial mind."

Billboard Bob has had varied clientele, among them a Druxy's sandwich franchise and a Popeye impersonator for children's birthday parties. Gerrie used to charge $420 per week for the 2-foot by 3-foot (19-1/2 inch x 36-1/2 inch) billboard, but now, he says, all prices are negotiable. "He's trustworthy, honest and dedicated," says Dave Johansen, a former client, who purchased advertising space from Gerrie for his painting and decorating company, Protect-it Painting and Decorating.

Savoy Howe hired Billboard Bob's to promote a play. "It's a great idea for a business," she says. It's really effective because it travels." Gerrie went to three different locations in Toronto for Howe. "He'd spend eight hours hitting all the hot spots. A lot of people see that board...I think we got a lot of exposure that way," Howe enthuses.

As Gerrie explains, "It's like having a mobile, talking billboard. It's not an advertisement that you see on the back of a bus going 60 miles per hour. It's a billboard right down at your eye level, walking down the sidewalk." Gerrie will place himself in key locations across Toronto for his clients, and he hands out flyers for free.

When Gerrie is not working on Billboard Bob's, he is busy on other projects. He sells wellness products for Nikken, and is currently selling a magnetic massage tool called Magboy. Gerrie also invented a computer tool that allows a person with one hand to do double keystrokes, but couldn't financially afford to patent the idea.

From entrepreneur to thespian, this past summer, Gerrie performed in The Dusk Dances, a show that took place in Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto. He and other artists in wheelchairs performed to instrumental piano music. Howe recommended Gerrie to the choreographer. "When she told me about what she was doing, Bobs name instantly came to mind. He is an amazing, really positive, really smiley kind of guy," Howe admires. The group continued to perform at other events such as the Toronto Word on the Street Festival last September. "We're really hoping it will be ongoing," Gerrie says.

Bob Gerrie lives by the motto "Don't give up." He says, "I never say I can't do it until I've tried and failed. That's what it takes for me to say I can't do something." With his positive attitude and determination to succeed, Gerrie might just realize his dream of making it to the penthouse of Toronto City Hall. In the meantime, hes an entrepreneur on the move.

To contact Billboard Bobs, call (416) 484-0203 or (416) 831-020, or email BBBobs@netcom.ca

 
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