My passion for food began at a young age baking along side my aunt in her country kitchen. But my journey really began when I was out of high school for 2 years, feeling lost and indecisive about my future. I didn’t want to go to college but I knew I had a passion for cooking and enjoyed feeding people. I worked at Vinni’s Pizza since I was 15. After 24 years in business my wonderful boss was ready to retire. I couldn’t fathom leaving the job I loved or working for someone else. After working there for many years I had plenty of ideas on how I could improve the business. I decided in November 2015 I was going to take this opportunity and 3 months later I was officially the new owner. My first day of ownership was February 1st 2016, I was 20 years old. I celebrate every year by handing out free cupcakes to my customers as a gratitude of my appreciation. Especially because a local independent business serving Stratford for over 27 years is something to celebrate! Since then my entire life changed drastically and I’ve never looked back. Taking on this business venture and being my own boss has a given me the greatest sense of pride and accomplishment.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Once I decided I was going to acquire ownership of the business, my biggest hurdle was initial capital. At the time of inquiring for my business loan, every bank I went to denied me since I didn’t make enough money on my minimum wage job to pay back the loan. After explaining to my Aunt and Grandpa my business venture they eventually agreed to be my co-signers. Approximately a week later I got a phone call that I had finally been approved. Tears of happiness ran down my cheeks, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Everything was coming together and suddenly my pursuit wasn’t so distant. I’m very thankful for my family in helping me get approved for my loan.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
Currently I’m reading Farm To Table by Andrew Coppolino. It’s filled with inspiring stories and delicious recipes from local Stratford chefs. It’s very encouraging reading about people I recognize around my community. I also read the Food Service & Hospitality and Canadian Pizza magazine every month to keep up with the latest trends in the food industry. But for any new entrepreneur I recommend reading Avoid Small Business Hell by Jack Borden. It guides you through challenges you may encounter and helps you properly start and operate a small business. It actually includes a helpful download kit with cash flow statements, balance sheets, job cost estimates and statement of earnings.
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?
I didn’t have contention from family and friends concerning buying the business because I didn’t tell many people. I kept it very quiet for months before I had officially taken over. The only people that knew were my immediate family and one of my friends. I didn’t want people to know until everything was officially signed. But I wasn’t concerned about their opinions, I knew I would prove anyone wrong if they doubted me. I knew the business was what I wanted and I wasn’t going to let anymore tell me differently. When I want something I go for it. I can be very stubborn at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The most influential factor in my business success I believe is having the ability to over come barriers and having courage to keep evolving and growing as an entrepreneur. Determination and passion are huge factors as well. I was 20 when I bought the business and I’m sure a lot of people underestimated me because of my age. But I’ve always been determined to prove people wrong while doing what I’m passionate about. You have to have passion for what you do, without it you will never be successful. Without being passionate you will never have the fuel to succeed within your business.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I would’ve known when I first got started that being too patient is not always a good thing. People will start to take advantage of you when you become too patient. Don’t waste your time waiting for people to change. You can train someone to be a good employee but if they weren’t raised to be a good person then all the training in the world won’t help them. Also, the beginning is always the hardest but trust the process, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
My advice to an upcoming entrepreneur is never underestimate yourself. Believe in yourself first and everyone else will follow. Always be prepared for sacrifice, the hardest part is the beginning. If you dive in expecting to make lots of money right away you’re going to get a rude awakening. Be ready to sacrifice not having a pay check in the beginning, as when you risk everything sometimes you are the last one to get paid. There will always be hiccups along the way. Sometimes things will happen that we won’t understand at the time, but everything happens for a reason. Often times we have problems that arise and we look at them in a negative way, but most times it’s a blessing in disguise leading us to better things. Also, there is never a perfect time for anything. If you keep waiting for the perfect time to take the leap, or follow your dreams you’ll be waiting forever and all of a sudden it will be too late. You will always stay in the same place if you don’t take chances leading you to new opportunities.