by Leah Eyles September 03, 2021 1 Comment
10 years, one decade, 3650 days, I really can’t believe it. Taking the time to reflect really allows me the space to step back and have real appreciation for where Scout, and I, are now. Though it feels like time has flown by, when I look back at the beginning, and how far we’ve come, I see so much growth and change. I feel really proud of what we’ve (yes we, this business is nothing without the staff, the customers, the makers and every other person that has offered time or energy to Scout) accomplished and wanted to take a moment to share 10 reflections on 10 years:
Reflections on TRYING TO WEAR ALL THE HATS
It’s hard to hand things off to others when it’s your business, your baby. I mean I know how to do everything, how can anyone else be me?! This was my inner dialogue for the first many years of business. Well I can tell you that I have finally learned I am not a graphic designer, a marketing expert, a writer, or a contractor, and that hiring people that aren’t me is actually a wonderful thing. Turns out I am not the best at every single thing needed to run a business and Scout wouldn’t have experienced the growth it has without all the wonderful people we’ve had working over the years (both behind the counter and behind the scenes). You’ve all brought something to the business, whether to the store or my own growth as a human and employer. I have so much gratitude to each and every one of you, both past and present.
LESSON LEARNED: I truly can’t wear all the hats and allowing others to take on more responsibilities and excel in areas where I don’t is all around positive for everyone!
Leah hanging card shelves in 2011
Reflections on INSTINCTS
I’ve always known I have good instincts, though it doesn’t mean I always listen to that gut feeling (a lesson in itself). Owning a business for me has been way more about instincts over spreadsheets and sales forecasts. My instincts have come to the rescue with hiring, buying, or when it comes to needing to make changes or take on new challenges. I’ve learned how important it is to tap into that inner knowing and to trust it (most of the time..).
LESSON LEARNED: Ignoring that inner knowing never pays off. Even after 10 years I constantly need reminding to TRUST MYSELF.
Scout's first week open in September 2011
Reflections on COMPETITION
When we first opened there wasn’t a ton of retail on Roncesvalles. Most of the retail that did exist prior to us was further south along the strip, and I thought that was an ideal situation. It took awhile to embrace the concept of "healthy competition", but I did finally get there. Wouldn’t we all rather go to a neighbourhood where we can shop around and browse all the different offerings of a few shops instead of banking on just one? Though it took a few painstaking years, I have learned that every business that opens is going to have its own vibe, and the owners own taste, and even if there is some overlap or similarities, we are all doing it differently enough that there is plenty of room for us to co-exist. I'm also so grateful for the relationships I've built with other business owners; those connections are incredibly valuable to me. Who else fully understands the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur than another entrepreneur? Now if only there was more "healthy" competition in Leslieville, we could use some more retail near our second location if you're a budding entrepreneur!!
LESSON LEARNED: Re-framing competition while still respecting fellow businesses around me has me worry less and focus more on the growth of our business.
Scout shelves looking fine in 2021
Reflections on LISTENING TO OUR CUSTOMERS
I was very cautious in my buying when we first opened (as you can see from these embarrassing early days photos), and it's expensive to stock a shop! As I listened to you all and noticed what folks were comfortable spending, and were interested in, I adapted my buying while still sticking to the Scout aesthetic. I wrote down recommendations of brands our customers thought would be a fit (thank you to the customer who recommended Wee Gallery so many years ago) and took note of the brands I was sure would be a hit that ended up on sale. Being open-minded and LISTENING has helped the store grow in ways it wouldn’t have if I wasn’t working the sales floor everyday for the first few years. Feedback is always appreciated!
LESSON LEARNED: Being open to shifting what we offer has allowed the business to change and adapt with our customers needs.
Scout's Grand Opening in 2011
Reflections on PERSONAL CHANGES
If you notice different themes come and go in the shop, you are likely getting some insight into my life or the personalities of my staff. Being the buyer means projecting what I am interested in, onto my buying. Do I love cats, actually no I don’t, but I think every employee I’ve hired has so we started carrying more cat themed items. The most prevalent current mirror into my life is anything self exploration related. I’ve also become more aware of appropriation and being sensitive to other cultures' traditions with my buying. As I learn and grow the items you see in the stores will change with me.
LESSON LEARNED: It’s ok for the business to change as I do, it keeps things interesting and fresh! I’ve learned that it’s actually very natural and important for the business to evolve with me.
Before iPhone cameras were high quality. Photo from 2012
Reflections on SOLO TRIPS TO NYC
My first few buying trips to NYC I always brought my two best friends along. Not only is New York the best place for girlfriends to adventure together, it was also because I was nervous going to a huge city like New York all by myself. Cut to 10 years later and (pre-pandemic) I have done at least a handful of NYC trips solo, and have even stepped outside of my comfort zone. Only minor pep talks are needed before leaving my hotel room. I miss New York and can’t wait to go back!
LESSON LEARNED: I can travel alone! Thank goodness for a good data plan, google maps and my travel battery charger that eases my anxiety of getting lost in a big city.
New York City buying trip 2016
Reflections on INCORPORATING MY VALUES INTO THE BUSINESS
The personal struggle is real when you own a business. How much do you just stick to the service you're providing to others and how much of it can take on more than that? Over the years I’ve realized how important incorporating my values into the business model has become. I feel better about my career path knowing my business is supporting local brands, striving to be more green and giving back to the community. Those values and more have shaped the business, and it all happened in a very natural AND organic way as I took stock of what is most important to myself as a human in the world, and I know the business will continue to change as I do.
LESSON LEARNED: If I want to run a business that matters and makes me proud to own, incorporating the values that matter to me personally are just the way it has to be!
Mural by Philip Cote, a local Indigenous artist and graduate of OCAD University’s Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design
Reflections on VULNERABILITY
The vulnerability is always there, it has just shown up in new forms over the years. I’ll never forget my opening day, I could’ve postponed it over and over. It’s one thing to prepare a store for opening and another thing to actually have people come inside and form opinions and judgements. Opening a new business is extremely vulnerable. More recently, I would say our presence on social media is one of the more vulnerable sides of business. Being a business owner on instagram has changed a lot in the last few years, there’s more of an expectation to share more than just the brands you carry. Some of those posts come easier than others, that being said, we’ll continue to be honest and authentic with our community stepping into that vulnerability.
LESSON LEARNED: Being vulnerable is terrifying but needed to show up honestly.
Banner in Roncesvalles window post first lockdown
Reflections on IMPOSTER SYNDROME
I really don’t allow myself much time for reflecting on my part in the success of the business. It’s a lot easier to recognize how much the other people around me have helped to bring us to this 10 year milestone. Writing this, having people reach out to me to congratulate me and planning this celebration has truly helped me pause and remind myself that I must know what I’m doing, right?! Imposter syndrome is real. No matter what you see from the outside, I can guarantee a lot of entrepreneurs still feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Everyone around me praises the success of the shops but it’s easier to laugh it off and call it luck then say HELL YA I DID THIS! I’m not sure at what point I will be able to call myself a kick ass CEO, maybe never, but I am at least working on acknowledging my own successes.
LESSON LEARNED: Still learning…. Work in progress.
Baby Leah in her first year as an entrepreneur, 2011!
Reflections on A PANDEMIC
My business is surviving a pandemic. That is by no means a reflection on other small businesses that are still struggling to get through this, or had to endure a closure; my heart goes out to each and every one of you.
I’ve been thinking how lucky we were to have had almost 10 years to establish ourselves before having to go into a lockdown. To have had a website up and running, though it took A LOT of work to be lockdown ready. It reminded me that I can hustle my butt off when the business needs me in more ways than ever before. You think the first year of business is tough, no one can prepare you to handle a pandemic, it’s certainly not in any of the small business books I read. I feel it’s safe to say at this point that we are surviving. I could write a whole post on the lessons learned during this pandemic, but I feel this blog post, which was supposed to be 600 words, has taken up enough of your time.
LESSON LEARNED: Hustling pays off. JKJK I don't know if I could work to that extreme again. I know I have to give myself some credit for all the hard work that went into keeping this business going, but the real lesson is our community kicks ass and I love you more than you know!!!
Grateful, humbled, in awe, proud. Those are just a few of the many words that come to mind as I look back at the last 10 years. I know without my hard work we wouldn’t even exist, but I really couldn’t have done it without all the other parts that complete the puzzle. I have so much appreciation for everyone that has walked through the doors, made an online purchase, worked in the shop or offered their time, energy or expertise to the business. You are all a part of the success and growth of Scout. I’m excited to see what the future holds. Though I’m thoughtful in the choices I make with the business, I don’t look too far ahead, I take a lot of it as it comes and tend to trust that process. I appreciate you all so much. Thank you for being part of the Scout community <3
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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by Leah Eyles September 15, 2023
by Paulina Gugala August 22, 2023
405 Roncesvalles Ave
Toronto ON M6R 2N1
416 546 6922
1140 Queen St E
Toronto ON M4M 1L1
647 748 1140