I think most of us know pretty early on what we like, and what we don’t.
My mother told me that when I was about two or three, I had a “hissy fit” when my socks didn’t match. Thus, my interest in fashion and, more importantly, style, was born.
I was blessed with musical ability and when I was 18, became a professional singer/songwriter (style and fashion were always important as a performer).
I was lucky enough to be accepted on a national musical TV show, Singalong Jubilee – the show that launched Anne Murray, Gene MacLellan, Edith Butler, Ken Tobias and others. That show was my full-time work for five years.
The cancellation of Singalong clipped my wings, in a big way.
After a lot of slips and slides, (limo driver, mature student, waitress for a day!) I did settle down. I practised to make my piano and guitar accompaniment completely professional, so I could perform in clubs (bread and butter work) as a single, duo and in groups.
My 30s arrived and I was at a crossroads, again. Taking stock, I decide to move from performer to “behind the scenes” in television. This is really where I started to learn that talent is great, but hard work is absolutely necessary in order to develop and achieve a game plan, whatever the field.
Working my way up from junior commercial producer to director/producer of musical and art shows, I spent the next 18 years loving what I did but when “reality TV” came to town, I left.
So, in my 50s, I was not ready to retire. So what next? A friend offered me a part-time job in a home décor store. The path from boutique sales clerk to the vision of owning my own business wasn’t a straight one. Every time someone would say, “Penny, you should have your own shop,” I would say, "No, no, I don’t have the “goods”,“expertise” or “confidence."
Then, I started a new job in a lovely shop; I was excited. I loved the style and merchandise that was sold there. After two hours the owner said, “Penny, this was a mistake. You are too old. The young customers don’t relate to you.”
I was devastated. I felt rejected, confused and uncertain about my worth, from a professional and personal point of view.
After picking myself up, I consulted with Women’s Employment Outreach. They put me in touch with CEED - Centre for Entrepreneurs, Educators & Development, and the Centre for Women in Business.
I was on my way to being my own boss.
Six years later, my shop is thriving, my demographic covers 18-80, and the young folk like me just fine. I think they see me like an older aunt that can do all the things their mother might not be able to “pull off.” The mature clients know I will be honest, supportive, and everybody likes the atmosphere of “no pressure.”
My tips on the first few years:
- Be patient. I was a short distance runner most of my life. I expected immediate results from my efforts. (Ex: Applause at the end of a song when you are on stage. They don’t wait 3 weeks to cheer your performance, or a TV production that takes 5 or 6 months and then its done!) But in the business world, results can take a longer time.
- Find a business mentor. You really needs one person with expertise and advice that’s there just for you. Workshops & networking are fine but a group has only so much time for each business and its specific needs. A mentor focuses on you and you only!
- Be constantly open to learning...however it presents itself! View your business as a growing entity that needs to be nurtured. It will shift, expand, and retract, just as the moon, sun & stars wax and wane. One of my favourite avenues is the programs and events the Centre for Women in Business provide.
- Be flexible and kind. Many changes that will occur naturally as you venture forward. Keep your Business Plan the here and now. Don’t file it away in a drawer!
- Be prepared for pitfalls, roadblocks etc. For me, a REAL roadblock was when they built the Rotary at the North Commons. The street was closed off for 3-4 months, I had no sidewalk and it looked like W.W. 3 outside my door. Many a day I cried at the disaster outside but it passed, the rotary is better for business and most people don’t even remember the mess! You will survive and gain experience.
Finally, when you open your eyes in the morning are you excited to face the challenges of the day? Do you believe in your vision? Do you believe in yourself? If so, venture forward and be proud of what you do - you should be!!!!!
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