Entrepreneur 101: Successful Kootenay business owners share their best tips
Thinking of starting your own business? Read on for helpful advice from seasoned business owners
Most people aren’t born to be in business for themselves. Sure—maybe you had a brisk sideline as a kid selling lemonade and freshly-baked cookies to your local neighbourhood crowd, but for most people, learning the ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship doesn’t come naturally.
The journey from a simple spark of inspiration to a successful and viable business requires a steep learning curve, especially for those new to the game. Mastering the intricacies of detailed bookkeeping and inventory, cash flow, marketing and all the other little things that go into running a business can soon feel overwhelming if you’re not prepared.
Thankfully, there are many successful entrepreneurs out there who’ve been in exactly the same position and are happy to offer their knowledge, know-how and expertise. KootenayBiz chatted with a few of these business owners and asked them the question, “What advice would you give yourself in your first year of business?” Here are their answers:
Lin Egan (left) and her sister Anna Steedman are second-generation owners of Winderberry and Edible Acres Farm & Café & Catering. —Kimberley Rae Photo
Winderberry Farms, Windermere
Sisters Lin Egan and Anna Steedman are co-owners of Winderberry Farms:
Lin Egan: “I probably would've taken more business courses at university. I learned a lot from my parents in terms of business and running a business.
“It’s not that I would've taken away what I studied—I loved what I studied—but if I had more time, I would've taken more business courses.”
Anna Steedman: “The balance of life and work is a really hard one to find when you're the owner of a business. Being okay with disappointing people sometimes and saying no has helped me a lot to find that balance.”
Dawn Manning is the owner of kitchen supply store, Bear Country Kitchen, in Rossland. —Photo courtesy Bear Country Kitchen/Facebook
Bear Country Kitchen, Rossland
Dawn Manning, owner: “Carrying debt is okay and normal. Invest in your staff. Build incentives into their wage/salaries and pay good wages—the extra costs will not break you. Follow people in your industry in other communities and make connections with other businesses in your own community. Be open to learning new ideas and always be honest with yourself, your staff and your customers.
Becky McArthur (left) and Robyn Hansen are twin sisters and co-owners of Twisted Peaks Frozen Yogurt. The store is their second business together. —Tim Matwey Photo
Twisted Peaks Frozen Yogurt, Cranbrook
Becky McArthur and Robyn Hansen are sisters and co-owners of Twisted Peaks Frozen Yogurt.
Becky McArthur: “Marketing is key. Your marketing presence—like your graphics, your logo—that has such a huge impact on your first impression and how people see you.
“It's a massive learning curve and you just have to figure it out as you go. So, I guess, be well rested when you get into it, and just be prepared for a bit of a wild ride.”
Robyn Hansen: “It's okay if you don't know how it all is gonna work out. You'll figure it out as you go.”
Investing in leadership training is one of the tips offered by Scott Kells (centre, holding award). He's the owner of Green Leaf Tree Services Ltd. and recent Business of the Year winner at the Golden Chamber of Commerce awards. —Photo courtesy Green Leaf Tree Services Ltd.
Green Leaf Tree Services Ltd., Columbia Valley
Scott Kells, founder and owner: "I would tell myself to focus early on in developing team values and to base all decisions of team growth and development around them. Growing a business will take way more focus on your people rather than just the customers. Invest in leadership training and invest in developing your team's leadership skills. It is an ongoing process of learning leadership and you will never have it mastered . . . just keep learning."
Dave Thomson and Coraley Letcher are the owners of 5 Gen Construction in Fernie. —Photo courtesy Red Flannel Photography
5Gen Construction, Fernie
Coraley Letcher, co-owner of 5Gen Construction: “Your work will speak for itself. You don’t have to be in a hurry to get to the next phase—it’s good to have goals but enjoy where you are at. If you don’t know, ask someone who does.
Mind your budget. Cash flow is important and every business has its own flow pattern—pay attention, learn what helps to mitigate dips and implement what you need to (even if it isn’t what you think other businesses in your sector do!). Credit is a tool, not a liability. Use it. A good bookkeeper is your most valuable investment and will save you money.
If you’re willing to seek opportunities and put in the research, there are a lot of free ways to get exposure and advertising—it's worth the effort.
Don’t ever sell yourself, your product, your time, or your company short—if you undervalue yourself, everyone else will too.”
Michelle Fairbanks is the owner of the Gold Rush Bookstore in downtown Rossland. —Photo courtesy Michelle Fairbanks
Gold Rush Bookstore, Rossland
Michelle Fairbanks, owner: “Keep up the enthusiasm, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. There will be a lot of long hours but you can do this, it will be worth it. All the hard work will pay off, trust your gut instinct."