Do you want to be your own boss? Three business owners share their lessons learned

As the new year approaches, it may be a good time to take stock of past career accomplishments and make plans for the future. For many women, the idea of ​​becoming an entrepreneur is at the top of their wish list.

according to 2021 ISU Corp researchthere are 3.5 million entrepreneurs in Canada, and 72.4 percent of Canadians “view entrepreneurship as a desirable career option.”

But in this age of looming recession, it can be scary to make the leap into small business ownership.

Here, entrepreneurs Rumeet Billan, Amanda Schuler, and Sue Henderson share their lessons learned and the secrets to their success:

Rumeet Billan, Owner and CEO, Women of Influence+

Rumeet Billan, who launched his first company at age 21, says it’s important to keep your personal identity separate when you own a business.Della Rollins/The Globe and the Mail

At the age of 21, Rumeet Billan launched his first business, Jobs and Education, a job board for schools and international recruiters. She says that one of the valuable lessons she learned from those early years was how to separate her personal identity from the business when dealing with potential investors, suppliers and customers.

While relationships are important when you’re an entrepreneur, he says, it’s important not to let rejections affect your self-esteem.

“I learned that when they say no, it’s not for me, it’s for my business,” she says.

After earning her Ph.D., Dr. Billan published a book and led several national studies, including a study on the “tall poppy syndrome” – a behavior in the workplace that often affects women in which someone is “put down” or criticized for their achievements. Of the 1,500 respondents (mostly women), 87 percent said their achievements at work were undermined by colleagues or superiors.

This type of jealousy and resentment can create a toxic environment and make women feel self-doubt and isolation, says Dr. Billan. Doubt can also rear its ugly head when business owners see images of other entrepreneurs who seem to have achieved effortless success.

“People see a successful business but not the year after year of dedication and persistence [it took] to get there,” she says. “[Don’t feel the need] to keep up with what we see on social media.”

Dr. Billan sold her original company, Jobs and Education, after 18 years. “[You need to] know when it’s time to move on and let the company grow and change,” he says. On December 1, she became the owner and new CEO of the Toronto-based company. women of influence+, a professional development organization for women.

It’s a big change for Dr. Billan, but she’s taking everything she’s learned over the past two decades and applying it to an organization that has the potential to grow.

“I’m excited to promote the brand and focus on intersectionality,” she says.

One last piece of advice from Dr. Billan? Don’t forget to take some time off.

“In 2019, I only took three days off,” he says. “Since the pandemic, I realized that I also need time to take care of myself.”

Amanda Schuler, Founder, Ember Wellness

Amanda Schuler of Ember Wellness took lessons learned from the furniture business and applied them to a new venture in personal care products.distribute

Amanda Schuler’s entry into the world of entrepreneurship began with a partnership.

She and her then-boyfriend (now husband) David Podsiadlo first launched the lighting company Miter Box, which led to the launch of Stylegarage, a contemporary furniture company, and Gus* Modern, a collection of mid-century-inspired home furnishings. century, both based in Toronto

It’s important to find business partners that complement your skills, he says, so you can learn from each other.

“Coming from an entrepreneurial home, discussions are always positive,” she says. “It’s, ‘Have you thought about this possibility?’ instead of, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ “

Exiting the furniture business in 2020, Ms. Schuler realized her entrepreneurial fire was still burning. She was inspired to create her current company, Ember Wellness, when you couldn’t find simple, sustainable, cruelty-free personal care products from existing health and beauty companies. He launched his vegan skincare business in 2021.

“The wisdom prevails that everything has been done,” said Ms. Schuler, “[but] you need to look for a problem that you want to solve.”

Although furniture and wellness may seem different, Ms. Schuler says she’s realized that the core of any business is problem solving. “A lot can happen during the life of a business: lose a good customer, supply chain problems, inventory problems; it is more about how you handle the problem than the problem itself.”

Years as a business owner have taught Ms. Schuler that boldness often wins.

“Don’t be afraid to request a meeting with a senior decision-maker,” she says. “Even if they say no, it can open a door to another opportunity.”

Sue Henderson, Owner and Designer, Suetables

Suetables’ Sue Henderson went from a career in communications to launching her own jewelry business.distribute

With a love of media and a degree in communications, Sue Henderson’s career began in the world of television, first at CTV and then as director of communications for Alliance Atlantis. She says that in her first career she developed the skills that she would later use to communicate with clients as the owner of her custom jewelry business. Suitable.

“I learned a lot about writing while working on television,” says Ms. Henderson. “It’s all about boiling things down into key messages about what’s important to your brand. I tell a story about each product.”

Suetables started as a hobby in Ms. Henderson’s basement in 2005, where customers would pick up their orders in her backyard. She says it took her a long time to move her business from the basement to a commercial space, thanks to some suggestions from her friends. “Sometimes your friends have to show you what you should be doing,” she says.

In 2016, after a successful six-week start-up, Ms. Henderson opened her first brick-and-mortar store in Toronto. Three more have been added (in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) with another Toronto location in the works for 2023. The company also ships worldwide through its online store.

When it comes to connecting with customers, Ms. Henderson says, “Stay in the moment.” During the pandemic, she told staff to remember that they may be the only person a customer interacts with that day.

She advises any entrepreneur, new or established, to lose fear and take risks. “I wish I had taken more risks from the beginning,” she says. And don’t be afraid to learn the parts of your business that he doesn’t feel confident in, she adds.

“The more I learned about the [financial aspects], the better it was for my business,” she says. “If I could go back, I would tell my younger self to accept it all.”

Ultimately, failure can trigger a major turning point, he says, whether or not you feel ready to deal with it.

“I learned my best lesson when I hit rock bottom. I realized that I was strong and would not break down.

Interested in more perspectives on women in the workplace? Find all the stories in the hub hereand subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Do you have comments about the series? Email us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

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