by Leah Eyles March 16, 2023
Feature image by Emily Doliner
When I first started my business in 2011 I was feeling ALL the insecurities. Even though I took business courses, did the research, and even worked in a small retail environment for over 10 years unknowingly learning the ropes, the self-doubt always crept in! I felt so unsure of myself. I’ll never forget the incredibly intense vulnerability I felt the first day I opened my doors to the public. The truth is, when I look back, I knew I had a good idea. My intuition was telling me one thing and my busy insecure brain another.
I often think back to that first year and wonder what advice I would give to myself. First I would give myself a big hug, then I would say trust your instincts and lean into those scary, unknown places. I know it’s a process to gain confidence as an entrepreneur (heck I still struggle with imposter syndrome), but if you’ve done the research and feel confident in your idea, tune into that inner wisdom, because deep down you know what to do next. Take risks, be vulnerable, listen to, and believe in your own ideas…and maybe take out a bigger loan so your vision is truly represented and not just a little smidge of what you’re dreaming up (pictures of my practically empty store that first year in business still haunt me).
In honour of Women’s History Month, I thought it would be fun to reach out to some other female entrepreneurs who have been in business for 4+ years. I wanted to hear their perspectives in celebration of where we started and how far we‘ve come.
Each entrepreneur was asked to answer one question: with the perspective you have now, what would you go back and tell yourself in your first year of business?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, I hope you find their advice as informative and inspiring as I did!
"I would tell young Stephanie to keep trusting herself and don’t be afraid to take more risks."
Stephanie is a Toronto-based freelance designer, illustrator and screen printer. Her in-house line of artprints, greeting cards and kitchen linens can be found online, in 10+ shops across North America and in person at craft shows.
Over the years she's worked on band posters for Goldenvoice and Live Nation illustrating, hand printing her original artworks for bands such as Radiohead, Lizzo and Childish Gambino to name a few. Most recently working with wine company Stel+Mar to create their bottle labels. She has been in business for 10 years.
Paulina is the owner and founder of AGENCY, a marketing and business consultancy that helps women find agency in their businesses. Her mission is to carve out a space in a male-dominated industry where women can share, thrive, and succeed - together.
"I would go back and tell myself that the people will come, they can see your passion and you are your superpower! I would also tell myself that this road is going to have so many ups and downs, but in the end it’s all me. This is my baby, this is my brand - stick to your instinct and one day you won’t be saying yes to every job and everyone if you work hard enough to get there."
Becky De Oliveira is the owner of Blush and Bloom, and the lead instructor at Bloom School in Toronto. She has been in business for 10 years.
Denise is the the founder of Matter Company, a natural skincare line focused on the healing power of herbs.
"I’ve been working away on the Goods for over twelve years now, I’m a very passionate person, and the Goods has been laser-focused on our purpose of making delicious functional and healing food, offering an accessible and inclusive space, and building a sustainable and environmentally conscious business. But I often didn’t pay attention to the financial aspect.
I see this trend among many purpose-driven female business owners. We don’t understand our own finances and often feel uncomfortable talking about money or valuing our own products and services. It’s something I’ve had to come back to time and time again. I would definitely tell myself it’s okay to charge appropriately, it’s okay to not give discounts and it’s okay to profit from my hard work and good intentions. And most importantly it’s necessary to understand the business’ finances as well as I understand my product and my customers."
Lisa is the owner of The Goods, a plant-based, organic restaurant with a location in Roncesvalles that also offers takeout options. Food that is vegan, organic, and made with healing ingredients.
"I think what I would tell myself then is similar to what I would tell myself now, which is that it's normal to feel scared and inadequate and like you're an impostor when you're doing something you've never done before. And that this feeling is actually a good signpost that I'm stretching myself in some way, and will lead to growth. Seeking comfort is a normal and natural thing, but growing involves discomfort. So it's about getting ok with being uncomfortable. And then also making sure that there is room to step back and put my feet up for a while, whenever possible.
The other thing I would say to myself is - do market research before starting a business! I wish I had done more of this instead of just doggedly pursuing whatever inspired me. I don't have any regrets, and maybe this is just 20/20 hindsight, but I feel like I could have saved myself some heartache and money if I had done some better homework. But then, maybe not, so it's all good.
I'm glad about where I am at and who I have become today as a result."
Catherine is the founder of SoYoung, a heart centred lifestyle brand which offers beautiful and functional bags for life on the go.
What Catherine believes is unique about SoYoung is that in the 18 years since she first imagined her business, it has become a voice for healing and transformation where she shares pain to purpose stories, starting with her recovery from drug addiction over 25 years ago.
Their brand message is about having the courage to continuously hold a higher vision for ourselves and then every day taking small steps in that direction. When we do this for long enough, and consistently enough, transformation happens - and the story of SoYoung is truly a testament of this.
SoYoung's Instagram: @soyounginc
"Know your worth! Charge based on your experience, not solely on other businesses in the area. Be ok with losing clients that don't align with your energy and mission. Not every client is for you, keep working on building your expertise and offering value to every client knowing that the right people will stick with your business. You are right for the right client."
Sarah Watson is the Founder and Owner of Aligned One Wellness, a massage studio located in Danforth village. After practicing for over 15 years, she wanted to create a space where she could create an experience for her clients, not just give them a massage. Aligned One Wellness is a healing space that focuses on assisting its clients in improving their well-being holistically through Registered Massage Therapy and alternative medicine modalities while reinforcing the importance of daily self-care.
Which piece of advice resonated with you the most? What would you add? Tell us below in the comments!
Leah (she/her) is a lover of all things handmade, especially that perfectly imperfect ceramic mug for her daily cup of tea. Scout gives her a place to house the objects and cards she loves and wants to share with others. She does her best keeping her work life balance in check with regular yoga and at least two trips a year, she is a Libra after all!
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405 Roncesvalles Ave
Toronto ON M6R 2N1
416 546 6922
1140 Queen St E
Toronto ON M4M 1L1
647 748 1140