Problem-solving is one of Mark Ostapyk’s strongest qualities. He learned this working as a labourer on construction sites in Vancouver for many years. Whenever he ran into a problem, his mentors would always respond with the same question: “Okay, so what’s the solution to this problem?”
Now, as the owner of Remarkable Construction, he makes his workers think the same way whenever he’s approached with a problem. Mark was born and raised in Ottawa but moved to B.C. for college following high school. He wasn’t sold on the idea of working in construction for the rest of his life, but after completing a four-year apprenticeship to become a fully licensed carpenter, he discovered his dream job.
Mark discusses building his construction company in the capital.
You were born and raised in Ottawa. How was your childhood?
I grew up in Kanata, and my childhood was great. I was raised in a hardworking family; my mom and dad were in real estate. We were heavily into hockey and other sports as kids; There’s just me and my brother, John. It was a happy childhood; we spent our days playing road hockey and just being kids.
When did you know you wanted to work in construction?
I moved out to Vancouver in my early 20s, and from there, I got into some low-level positions as a labourer on a construction site. At that point, I wasn’t convinced I wanted to do construction. I already had a diploma in marketing and advertising from a college out west. As I was working as a labourer, one of my bosses offered to sponsor me as a red seal carpenter; It was a four-year apprenticeship.
From that point, I started to get excited because I wasn’t just digging holes and moving plywood around, working in the cold rain every day. I was doing fun stuff, like learning how to hang doors and finer carpentry stuff. I worked for a high-end company out in Vancouver on multimillion-dollar houses, doing work that you would never really get an opportunity to do other than in a city like Vancouver or Toronto.
It was amazing because I didn’t even consider it a job; I just loved the environment. We were able to listen to music; I was hanging out with some good friends, we were laughing and doing good work. I was getting paid to do something that I love to do. So for me, the win wasn’t even the pay; it was just doing something that didn’t even really feel like a job to me. I was very interested and passionate about it.
What made you move to B.C.?
I was in Prince George at the College of New Caledonia; when I graduated, I moved to Vancouver because it was a bigger city; there’s more fun there. I liked mountain biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and when I went there, I did all these things. There could be days where I could go snowboarding and wakeboarding on the same day. I never intended to stay until I went down for a visit with some friends, and I really loved it. At the time, I worked at the Holiday Inn here in Ottawa as a Bartender. I sent my letter of resignation and stayed out there to work as a labourer in construction.
Why did you come back to Ottawa?
I got married, and we wanted to start a family. I’d been in Vancouver for eight or nine years, and the cost of living was expensive. We couldn’t afford a house because the prices were crazy.
I also missed Ottawa; that was home. That’s where all my friends and family were. We could afford a house here, so the decision was to move to Ottawa to be closer to family and friends.
When did you get the idea for Remarkable Construction?
When I came back here, I decided to start my own business because I didn’t want to work for another company. I wanted to be my own boss, have my own vision and everything else.
What services do you offer with Remarkable Construction?
When I first moved to Ottawa, I had the opportunity to build new semi-detached houses in the Westboro area under my company. I think they sold for over a million dollars each and that was 11 or 12 years ago.
I built a project on Hilton and Carleton Avenue. Those were my first two big projects where we tore the house down, excavated, built everything from start to finish. We were there for eight or nine months.
From there, we’ve been doing primarily renovations like custom kitchens, bathrooms, basements, editions and pretty much anything that revolves around residential. We also do some commercial setups. Ale Restaurant in Stittsville; we renovated that when they first opened at the golf course and a few other places.
How much did you learn in Vancouver, and did it inspire your work when you started Remarkable Construction?
It inspired my work a lot because the types of work I was doing out there were so specialized and so custom that I was never really doing the same thing. It was constantly changing, always something new, and I was always learning. My mentors in B.C. were always giving me good advice like if there were ever a problem, one of my lead guides would always say, ‘Okay, so what’s the solution to this problem?’
Whenever my workers come to me, and there’s a problem, I now ask the same question that my mentors asked me. I try to get them to think the same way these guys made me think, and if they need some help, I’ll guide them a little, but try to let them come up with it on their own because I love the whole problem-solving aspect of construction.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from running your own business?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that there’s always a solution to any problem and always to do good quality work. Never rush anything and make sure it’s done the first time correctly.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be in construction or wanting to start their own business?
Always work at it even when you get frustrated or impatient. Never sacrifice your integrity towards the client. If somebody wants you to do something and it’s not the proper way, you have to steer them into doing it properly and not take any shortcuts.