Entrepreneur combines ‘work and play’

Entrepreneur combines 'work and play'

By SHAWN PIATEK
The Tribune-Democrat

EBENSBURGBecoming an entrepreneur was a matter of weighing risk for Mike Oyaski.

At age 30, the Ebensburg man was laid off after 10 years on the only job he had held as an adult. Oyaski and his wife, Gemma, had three children at the time and had to decide whether he should wait to be called back by his company or go into business on his own.

Oyaski, now 62, admits that waiting to be called back was probably less risky at that time. He also was aware that the majority of new businesses fail.

But having experienced how he could so quickly become disposable made him wonder about the future.

He decided, against seemingly reasonable persuasion to the contrary, that going into business for himself was the best path.

"When I started with that company, I thought I was in the greatest situation possible," said Oyaski, who said he has turned down three opportunities to return to his former job.

"I figured I would spend the rest of my life working there because they never had layoffs – not even during the Great Depression.

"I thought it was a good job. But when they laid me off at 30, I figured they could do it again when I was 50. I didn't want to be in that position."

Oyaski started with an appliance-repair business.

What it meant for him was a $10,000 investment, and many nights sleeping in his work van during the winter while traveling for business reasons. He often made less money than he was paying his employees.

During those cold nights, his wife's pleas for him to go back to work for someone else seemed even more reasonable.

"Her father was in business for himself, so she knew what that life was like," Oyaski said. "She knew we would be going without vacations for years.

"But through it all, she has been my biggest supporter and has really been the backbone to everything I have done."

The 1977 Flood brought extra work for Oyaski, but it also brought about the demise of that business.

Oyaski was so busy repairing damaged appliances that he became weakened and contracted a severe sinus infection that rendered him too weak to work more than a couple hours at a time.

That change led Oyaski to go into the Laundromat business. That eventually led to him to constructing and developing the West Side Plaza in Ebensburg in 1984.

"So many people throughout my life told me I was never going to make it," Oyaski said. "But it all comes back to the difference between work and play.

"It's not work if you enjoy what you're doing. And if you enjoy what you're doing, you're more likely to succeed."

His latest venture, MIDEA Inc., is like a day at a playground for Oyaski.

The venture centers on Oyaski's inventive mind and his love of tinkering. He has applied for 20 patents – and so far has received seven.

He is now working to test and market those new products, which is just like starting over again in the business world, Oyaski said.

His "inventions" include items to assist wound treatment, a process for treating cracked skin, and even a car seat-belt lock mechanism that ensures that all car passengers are belted in before a car is put in gear.

Oyaski likes to say business and product development come down to what is defined as work and what is defined as play.

"The most important thing is you have to enjoy what you do because you will be immersed in the process," Oyaski said.

"You should also not go into it feeling like you're going to make a ton of money right away. It's going to take a lot of hard work, patience and stamina."

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