“Would you rather be pushed out of a plane or jump?”
My close friend Lorraine Sommerfeld recently asked me as we were discussing entrepreneurship. How you answer is as good a definition as any.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners are an interesting type. They have a different way of seeing the world, often wanting to break new ground and write their own rules. It doesn’t always work, but true entrepreneurs see failures merely as steps on the way to success. Hence Lorraine and her plane. She’s a jumper, as am I.
October is Small Business Month in Canada and as Mayor Bonnie Crombie so accurately stated, “small businesses are the backbone of our economy.” With Mississauga home to approximately 88,600 businesses, about 97% of those are small to medium sized businesses and chances are you’ve wandered into one of them at some point over the past few months.
I worked for a couple of larger companies early in my career (Bell Mobility, FedEx) and the further I progressed, the stronger my desire to become involved with a small, local business. Through a well-timed Tweet in early 2011, I landed a sales position at Spirit of the City Mississauga Life magazine, where I was led and mentored by a seasoned and intelligent serial entrepreneur, Don McVie. The most impactful lesson he taught me was to treat the company as if it were my own; the customer service to sales to writing to distribution and every single other facet. There was certainly no “dialing it in” at any point.
Yes, in all aspects of business and professional life there are peaks and valleys. However, they’re far more magnified on the small business side because it can be the difference between success and failure.
Through my nearly five years with Don, my industry knowledge and my understanding of the complex movements of a small business increased daily. Armed with a plethora of business and life lessons, it was an easy and clear choice for me to launch Modern Mississauga in the winter of 2015.
It’s been a wonderful past nearly two years but they’ve presented a share of struggles and opportunities, of which all small business owners share, regardless of their longevity.
With the failure rate of small businesses being quite high in the first two years, these owners rely on the support of the community, a strong business plan and the ability to pivot when necessary to increase their chances of success.
Owning a business is much more than simply having an idea; there are so many other moving parts that it can be overwhelming. Several small business owners have multiple responsibilities, from sales, service, follow ups, accounting, inventory, etc. and it can be stifling if not managed properly.
The city of Mississauga can offer a helping hand via the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre, also knowns as MBEC.
As a great resource, they’re here to assist you as much as possible and offer courses that cover websites, financing, HST, social media and others. There are also several seminars that are offered that are here to support our local, budding and even established small business owners. They even have a “Starter Company Plus” program that will assist people 18 years and over interested in starting, growing or purchasing a business in Mississauga.
Once you have the training and tools and are ready to open your proverbial doors, there won’t be “9 – 5” work days. There won’t be weekends off. There’ll be nights where you’re analyzing figures for hours on end. And if you do it smartly, strategically and studiously, it’ll all be worth it.
Tommy Donnelly, who’s owned the Brogue Irish Pub for 20 years attributes his success to consistency and as one of the most successful restaurants in the city, it’s a sound strategy that has him thriving.
Jessica Spiteri, owner of another very popular restaurant, Mondello Ristorante, lives by "treat others as you would like to be treated. “And it’s worked incredibly well for her.
Lina Brocklehurst, owner of the successful Lina Brocklehurst Design has the mantra of “it’s a lifelong commitment to constantly learn and improve.”
National celebrity, author and well-known media personality (and, in fact, a small business owner) Kathy Buckworth’s words of wisdom are “if you really want to do it, go do it.”
The owner of The Guitar World, Jim Toris, believes in visualizing success. “See what you want things to be.”
And my approach? “It’s a marathon opposed to a sprint so plan carefully, learn from every single experience, acknowledge those beside you and be humble” mixed in with the aforementioned.
There have been plenty of posts on social media about how money spent at a small, local business helps support families and entrepreneurs and that’s certainly the case in Mississauga.
We’re a community that thrives on supporting each other, on encouraging our colleagues and friends, regardless if we’re in the same industry. We’re generally happy to spend a few extra dollars at a non-chain restaurant knowing that it’s all about the experience and increasing the success of other residents and of course, supporting local business people.
With the upcoming increase to minimum wage and the changes to small business tax, it’s important that we do as much as possible to support our small businesses. It’s certainly not an easy route and these hard working folks don’t have the massive resources that large businesses have. However, with hard work, dedication and a sound strategy, coupled with community support, all of us can help make small business in Mississauga thrive.
Also, if you're a small business owner, you should really attend this event.