My commanding factor was that I was a parent of 4 children. My ex-husband and I had made a move back from the west to the east and his employment situation dramatically changed. I did not have a maternity leave for our last child and I had to figure out a means to make income for the family. I could attain employment based on my credentials but it continued to be difficult to arrange viable work around the children. There was always an issue, illness or activity. I was always looking for permission to leave or a babysitter. I had one great boss who let me bring the children into the office when necessary but besides all of this I wasn’t even working in positions that served my full potential or life energy. Then when I went through a divorce I had to really find a way to support myself and be there for the children. This is when I was studying women around the world and I noticed a very different trend in making money and other countries. Families worked together and went to market together. Children learned the art of selling very early on. And I thought there has to be a way that I can create a venture that I can bring my children with me when necessary and still make an income. At this point, I was able to merge these coinciding themes in my life into one idea which became my current company BEE23 Natural Beauty.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about? I have been actively supporting myself and activities with entrepreneurial ventures since childhood. I was an equine competitor which is a very expensive sport to say the least. At age 12 I had an odd jobs business which covered everything from landscaping to horse grooming, tack and horse stall cleaning, equestrian lessons, training and summer camps. I was always doing something to make an extra dollar to support my activity. These types of activities continued through young motherhood and university as a secondary salary. My choice to start my current venture BEE23 Natural Beauty was again out of necessity. There were several factors that contributed to the launch of my all natural eco beauty brand including the outright rage I felt with highly toxic products on the market, the need for my own products due to my skin sensitivities and the need to support myself. I did presentations and projects on environmental issues in university involving both our human view on what our actual connection to our physical planet is to the immense damage we were creating as a species and what that meant for future generations based on science from the 70s and prior. I have followed environmental trends, politics and news for decades. I took my children in marches for social justice and environmental issues but I felt unsatisfied in my efforts and ranting to others about these issues absolutely did not get the response I was hoping for. I needed to put this energy somewhere positive, productive and inviting.
I still had not truly connected this acquired knowledge about nasty ingredients to the beauty products industry, until I was in my 30s and starting to see the wear and tear of life on my own face, plus I wanted a product for protection in the elements because I was living off-the-grid at the time and continued to participate in a lot of outdoor sports like snowboarding. When I went to purchase my ‘anti-aging cream’ I couldn’t believe all of the toxins. Early on I was very sensitive to fragrance and commonly used ingredients, so I didn’t use or think to use anything in my 20s. I had not really thought of what was in those products, I just didn’t use them. I couldn’t find anything with the properties of a product I wanted for myself in the market, so I thought back to the healing ointments my Grandmother would make for the horses and invariably use for herself. An idea started to form wherein I could create a suitable product for my own use and wrap it up with an important environmental message that my audience may be more interested in if it was first presented in the form of wrinkles or acne, little did I realize my idea would bloom into a product that is much more superior to toxic water based products anyhow. I worked with an essential oils practitioner and began to gain the knowledge I needed to create the product I was looking for.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them? When I went to get a business loan I was pretty much laughed at. When I think back the business plan was well thought out in all areas but deeply required support with the numbers. I also realize now that being a single female parent of 4 children with a health and beauty product probably was not doing me any favours. I still think all of those individuals must be surprised I made it as far as I have. I eventually had to get a very bad high interest loan which took me awhile to pay off but I did it and it did ultimately launch me.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read? This is an area that is so important and that I have been neglecting in my weekly ‘get my business done’ schedule. Personal and business development is very necessary and will always add to your bottom line. I know this but have not made it a priority this last year and I can see it represented in my efforts. I was recently given ‘The Boss of You,’ and I am working on that right now.
I recommend to everyone to read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. I realize most have probably heard of it but it is a necessity in your bookshelf repertoire and to revisit. As a female I found it patriarchal driven without doubt but if you can receive the subtext under societal overarching business views, it is a very important read. One example of this is the ‘No Plan B.’ Learning that my success goes hand in hand with the health of my family, I honour where I am able to put my efforts always knowing that I am attempting to do what is best for my family and my business in the moment. I will be victorious but my timing may be on a more organic timeline.
When I first came to Toronto I had no following, no customer base and a very limited network. I worked nights as a Registered Support Care Worker to support our family while I built up my brand recognition. When I came back from bringing my Hotty Balm products to the Oscar gifting suites in LA, I was supposed to go in for a shift the next day and I realized it was time to take the leap and leave that employment position. It was too much for me. I already with my business was making more income than my fellow employees that were working 3 jobs to support their families. Although I was scared to leave a dependable wage, my sales went up in all areas of my business because I was fully present for my own endeavours.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
There was no contention, as I come from a family of entrepreneurs. I also found that when you first start something people are excited with what you are doing but when it doesn’t develop into something that they feel is successful by status quo in the first year or two, they lose interest. This is why above all else you need to believe in what you are doing and you cannot depend on others to be there for you. You need to know why you are doing what you are doing, your own timeline and numbers.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Showing up! No matter what show up to meetings, introductions, events and obligations. It sounds like common sense but there are times that I have felt self-conscious or fearful because I know I have to try something new or have signed up for something that I don’t know if I can actually pull off but it always goes alright or better than expected and I realize when I am there how important it was that I just showed up.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I personally can get weighed down with angst in regards to my next move or why I am not already doing it or why don’t I already have that particular knowledge? I fully believe you get out what you are willing to put in. However, I have begun to see that I need to celebrate my current position and know from my own personal history I get this restless worry angst just before I am already moving in the direction that I want or need to. There is definite physical effort that is required to support the mental and emotional vision of where you are going but I need to remind myself that having faith that your efforts are contributing to that immaterial vision lightens the load and allows for circumstances to happen easier. Celebrating your successes gives positive energy to spur you on to the next level. Things will flow if you allow them too and you can conserve some energy in the process if you let go of the worry or fear. Even on a basic level this allows you to have the energy to perhaps get the education you need to help yourself move forward, instead of feeling heavy with stress and not able to see through the fog to the clearing. There is always a solution and you can find it easier when you release negative thinking.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Firstly, know your numbers!
Secondly, customer service is essential to building a brand. Making your customer feel like they are valued and respected goes a long way to building your brand. Be kind. Thirdly, even when things seem like an absolute overwhelming mess, you can only put one foot in front of the other. Write down what needs to be done and start on one task until it is complete and then move onto the next. Once you finish a few tasks successfully you will get back into your flow and realize you do have the energy and ability to ‘keep on keeping on!’