Are you looking to start your own business and in need of some guidance or motivation? We’ve got you covered. We asked this year’s AIR MILES For Business Small Business Achievement Awards winners to reveal the one thing they wish they knew before embarking on their entrepreneurial journey. The annual awards honour and celebrate exceptional Canadian entrepreneurs and small business owners and so, who better to give advice than those who have done it before and succeeded.
These individuals know the value of experience, taking risks and community. They also know that a good idea is only part of the equation and that you must have the guts to go after what you want and the faith to think that you can succeed.
Ben Hogervorst started out in the fabric building business over 15 years ago with his wife Jenny. In 2010, Ben, Jenny and Rob Stute started Britespan
, a company that manufactures portable steel-framed fabric structures. A wide range of industries use these buildings for either permanent or temporary use. For example, some agriculture clients use the structure to store bales of hay.
“When starting a business of any kind, if you don’t love what you’re doing, and aren’t dedicated to its success, it won’t succeed,” he says. “Britespan continues to grow and [gain accolades] and I truly believe that is because we are dedicated to the company and love what we do.”
Basma Hameed turned tragedy into triumph. Badly burned in a kitchen accident at age two, she endured countless surgeries, only to be told by doctors that she “would have to live with” permanent discolouration on her face. Her refusal to accept that led her to research techniques to repair blemishes, and invent a new technique — Para-Medical Micro-Pigmentation — largely by testing it on herself. Today, the Basma Hameed Clinic
is world-renowned and Hameed herself has been interviewed by CNN, CBC, and Vogue. “I wish I had known the importance of branding early on,” she says. “When I first started out, I wanted to use catchy phrases and names...later on I understood the power of branding [and that] I had to build my own.” She adds that the idea behind her brand is as simple as her story: relating to the clients she treats.
Betty DeKraker founded the Boreal Hearing Centre
in Thunder Bay, Ont. just two years ago. Prior to Boreal, she spent 20 years as a doctor of audiology. It was by doing that job that she realized how much more she could do to serve people, even though she was hesitant at the outset.
“I wish I would have known more about trusting myself and believing that what I was doing was the right thing,” she says. “I spent many anxious hours and sleepless nights [doubting myself, in] fear that the business would not succeed.”
Diana Livshits tried a product and had an idea. Within days of installing see-through solartech blinds within her home, she recognized the genius of it, bought the Canadian rights to the 30-year-old technology and started making her own models under the Krumpers name
. The company’s growth was slow at first, but skyrocketed to success after garnering media coverage three years in.
“I wish I had known to take more risks,” says Livshits. “I think that the biggest obstacle is the one we create ourselves by not having the belief that we can and will succeed.”
There’s a certain infectious enthusiasm about Andrew Hall, who created Social Venture winner Mealshare, along with his cousin and best friend, Jeremy Bryant. Mealshare
partners with restaurants across Canada and aims to combat hunger by donating meals to those in need both locally and internationally, by partnering with organizations like Save the Children and the Breakfast Club of Canada.
For prospective business owners wondering if now is the time, Hall wholeheartedly suggests a go-for-it approach. “You don’t have to get it perfect — you just have to get it going. “There's never a good time to start,” he continues. “When we did go for it, it felt risky. It didn't feel quite right. We needed to know that that was okay, and [that] it was never going to be ‘the right time.’”
AIR MILES For Business (AMFB) is a program that rewards small business owners and AIR MILES Collectors by giving them access to exclusive business content, great AIR MILES Rewards and the chance to win an AMFB Small Business Achievement Award.
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