We asked four remarkable women — all of whom are finalists in our Deloitte Start-up category at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards — for their best advice for entrepreneurs looking to make their big idea a reality. From “take it slow” to “don’t work so hard!” you may be surprised by how they were each able to cultivate success in their respective ventures.
Meet the Experts:
Marlo Brausse, Barre Body Studio
Melanie Caines, Nova Yoga
Angela Marotta & Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards
Q: What is the one piece of advice — either discovered on your own or received from someone else — that you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Marlo Brausse, Barre Body Studio: Being an entrepreneur takes self-discipline, sacrifice and a lot of passion. Nurture your employees, your brand and your business community; learn what you don’t know and ask for help — you will be surprised by how far these practices will take you.
Melanie Caines, Nova Yoga: Don’t try to do it all: do what keeps you motivated and inspired and delegate what you can to someone you trust and respect. When you are inspired, you are at your best.
Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards: Regardless if the market sways due to various economic factors, never sacrifice the quality or the standards of your product. Evaluate other areas of the operation before you cut costs on production standards.
Angela Marotta, Two Sisters Vineyards: Take it slow. As women and mothers, we cannot do everything well all of the time. You are a better decision maker when working from a clear, focused mind than a foggy confused mind.
Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?
MB: I wish I knew that by hiring someone to help me with payroll, bookkeeping and accounting I would save time and money versus trying to learn and do most of it myself.
MC: Work smarter, not harder! It’s a great reminder and crucial in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and burnt out.
MM: I wish someone told me not to be so hard on myself when a strategy or decision did not go as well as I had hoped.
AM: Sometimes employees and managers are not as loyal to you as you had thought or anticipated, so always have a backup plan.
Q: How has your business model or perspective evolved from the point of inception, and how have these changes contributed to your overall success?
MB: My initial business plan was to own and operate one Barre Fitness Studio in Calgary, Alberta and to seek outside assistance to train instructors. I realized early on that I would need an in-house training program to support my studio, so I invested a ton of time and energy developing a well-rounded program. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this training program soon became the basis for our growth as a company—we have grown to four studios in four years.
MC: In the beginning Nova Yoga was one teacher (me) with one offering (vinyasa/flow yoga). I’ve since hired multiple teachers with different skills sets so we can increase the number of classes and offerings, therefore attracting more a larger and more diverse set of customers. Also, hiring staff and a General Manager means I have more time to cultivate and expand the Yoga Retreat and Online Yoga Video parts of my business.
MM: As this was a journey of discovery for both my sister and I, I was able to expand my knowledge in marketing and advertising and gain a better understanding of the market and its wants and needs. As a result, I decided the investment in changing and revolutionizing our website was necessary. I also came to realize how important and effective social media is, as well as overall packaging—it’s always about positioning ourselves as a producer of ultra-premium wine. Through social media we are able to express the level of service that can heighten a customer’s experience at the winery. The attention to detail and overall packaging of the product reaffirms the high standard we hold for the product we produce, one that has continued to gain accolades and respect from visitors and tastemakers in the industry, locally and nationally.
AM: At inception I was focused on not only selling our wine onsite, but through exporting channels, whether in the UK or Asia. As I explored the various business models, I came to realize that although it sounds great to position yourself as an exporter of goods, it does not equate to healthy margins, which is what will ultimately bring about success and longevity. The tax implications and overall costs for shipping and storage reduce margins substantially. As a result we have focused our energy on finding ways to optimize our sales within our retail store, online, in restaurant, at corporate events and through gifting and tour experiences. It has also resulted in solidifying our position as producing an ultra-premium wine from the Niagara region that is being recognized throughout Ontario and across Canada. We are proud to be Canadian and that holds a great value for us, as well as the industry we are in.