Monday's Featured Businesses

Meet Successful Local Entrepreneurs from the Ontario Works Self Employment Program

The City of London Ontario Works office, in conjunction with the London Small Business Centre offers a program that assists participants in becoming self-employed.

Watch the Panel!

Introduction

David Proudfoot, Business Advisor


What is the Ontario Works Self Employment Program?

The Ontario Works Self Employment Program is designed to help clients start and operate their businesses by providing business planning workshops and advisory support.

In the program, we assist the clients to create a successful plan to start/grow their business, enhance their business skills, gain access to helpful resources,
develop business contacts, and offer support for up to 60 weeks.


How would you describe the entrepreneurs you work with?

The entrepreneurs are all on OW or ODSP wanting to leave assistance through running their own business. We are often deal with people who are working at overcoming barriers in the job market. These barriers range from being recent immigrants lacking Canadian experience, to people who have difficulty working a typical 9-5 job due to issues such as from mental or other health challenges or family commitments. For many of the clients, creating their own job is a good choice. 


Why are small businesses so important to our community?

Small business is the life blood of our community. It is where creativity and choice come into the marketplace. It is also very important to the economy with the number of people employed by small businesses.


What lessons have you learned working with small businesses?
I have learned about the great diversity of talents that exist in London and the passion that people have for their businesses.

Riley Counselling & Therapy

Adam Riley


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Half & Half Social

Paula Vergara

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Tiny Feet Fertility

Hannah Crawford

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​Adam Riley

Riley Counselling & Therapy 

Tell us a bit about yourself and about your business, 
I graduated from school with a Master of Social Work. I discovered I had a passion for counselling while in university. I am a person with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to help people.  In November 2019, I decided to open a private practice.


What are the hurdles you addressed, when launching your business?
One of my first hurdles was trying to brand myself and marketing to my target audience. 

We sometimes hear people saying, “I am tired of working for someone else and for so many hours. I 
want to open my own business so I can spend time with

my family.” Do you agree with this statement? And how are you able to maintain a healthy work / life balance?

The idea that you will have free time in the early stages is very unlikely in my experience. It takes determination and hard work to establish a business. In the beginning, you need to take the time to think about your decisions and the direction needed to make your business viable. I agree that it is nice to have some flexibility with my schedule. Maintaining a healthy work life balance is essential to not burnout. I make sure I block out time to do the things I enjoy.

Can you tell us about a major obstacle you faced and how you overcame it?

I found branding and marketing to be the hardest thing for me at first. The best way to overcome this obstacle is to create a solid business plan. Take the time to write your business plan out, and remember, it is a living breathing document that can change as the business needs to change.


What keeps you up at night?

Administrative tasks have been kept up at night (bookkeeping). If you are able, hire someone.

How has COVID affected your business and what have you done to overcome or address it?

My business was in my office, face to face with people. Since COVID, I have adapted to the virtual world. It was a challenge at first.


Who has been your greatest inspiration in the business and why?

Having a mentor was a great way to help guide me though the first year of my business.


What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

Delivering quality service to people and learning to trust myself when it comes to my business decisions.


As you forge ahead, what is it that excites you?

My business has continued to grow into a career opportunity.  My passion has grown into a viable career.

Don't forget to attend the Q&A with Adam!  Register here!

Check Out Their Website!
Paula Vergara

Half & Half Social

Tell us about yourself and your business

We started as freelancers in 2010 developing a full set of services and skills while working full time for different agencies in London, Toronto, and Latin America. The company was founded in 2017 dedicated to developing key strategies from design processes to measurable results to help clients achieve their goals and brand objectives. In 2021, we became an award-winning videography and cinematography company. 

 

The idea of the name Half and Half social came up because we did this together, husband and wife, so we are each other’s half plus. We always tell our clients that we do our half, but they have to do theirs in order to accomplish the results. 

I have an ability to imagine a concept and make it a reality. My process involves everything from generating ideas and assembling the right team to seeing the project through to the final stages of production. My experience as creative director and managing projects for national and international companies, gives me the knowledge about each aspect of the production and creative process and how to make things happen.
Federico Pereanez's skills set is expansive, from concept to completion, ranging from Motion Graphics, Video Editing, Visual FX, and Colour Grading. His artistry and passion help deliver innovative, cutting-edge solutions to every project he’s involved in. His leadership and creativity are highly valued by clients and colleagues alike. He has been involved in projects for Canadian and International TV Advertising, TV Shows, Corporate Identity and Documentaries.

What are the hurdles you addressed, when launching your business?

Not having a full network and not having enough savings and equipment to start. 
 

What are some things you learned about yourselves in the early stages of your operation?

We learned that we are capable of facing big challenges; that we are more capable than we thought we were regarding business development and management. 

 

We sometimes hear people saying, “I am tired of working for someone else and for so many hours, I want to spend time with my family so I will open my own business” Do you agree with this statement? And how are you able to maintain a healthy work / life balance? 

We agree half and half hahaha.

Although having your own business is very challenging time wise, working for someone else doing something you don’t love is not healthy at all. Yes, you do work more hours when you own a business but you are doing it because you love it and you manage your hours like you want. We have been able to manage our busy work schedule with having two girls at home, exercising, family time, beach time, party time. It is definitely worth it but ONLY if you love what you do.

 

Can you tell us about a major obstacle you faced and how you overcame it? 

Not knowing how much to charge. That have been one of the most challenging obstacles we’ve had. How much is too much or too cheap. We’ve lost clients because we were charging too cheap and others because it was too much. This is something that we were able to fully understand after around the third year. We used to under rate ourselves. At the beginning, I think we were not trusting ourselves enough and we were doing a lot of stuff for free just to build portfolio and get potential clients. But that is a BIG MISTAKE! NEVER work for free unless is a non profit or if you are sponsoring events but think twice and the ROI has to be worth it. 

 

What keeps you up at night? 

When we have too many ideas and plans in our heads and we don’t know where to begin. But never let money keep you up at night.  

 

How has COVID affected your business and what have you done to overcome or address it? 

COVID has been the best that have happened to our company. The first few months were challenging because we had no idea what to do. But thanks to that we were able to understand the market and the new “reality” became a great opportunity for us because everything is online.

 

What is your biggest accomplishment to date? 

Being able to land the two clients we wanted since the start of the company and being able to keep them for the last two years. 

 

As you forge ahead what is it that excites you? 

That we are working hard to become a cinematography company now that we have been awarded for two projects we have produced for artists.  

 

Don't forget to attend the Q&A with Paula!  

Check Out Their Website!
Hannah Crawford

Tiny Feet Fertility

Tell us about yourself and about your business, when you launched and where the business idea came from. 

My name is Hannah, and I am the owner and operator of Tiny feet Fertility. We are an egg donation agency where we link egg donors with intended parents who suffer from infertility. 

When I was 24, I became an egg donor and did six donor cycles of my own for anonymous intended parents. Working with other Canadian agencies made me aware that there we a lot of issues in the industry when it came to the focus on donors, and I felt I had the knowledge and drive to improve that. 


What are the hurdles you addressed, when launching your business?

Our biggest challenge is and has always been finding donors. We initially thought that finding clients would be hard, but they come to us in dozens. We struggled a lot with building our database and maintaining it. I think if you boil it down to the root of the issue, I will say we have yet to stumble upon the proper marketing for this as its such a niche market. 


What are some things you learned about yourselves in the early stages of your operation?

I learnt very quickly that I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for. My business started in a craft closet and now I am known around the country (and several others). We are highly recommended and known by most high-ranking fertility doctors, lawyers, and psychologist in our field.


 We sometimes hear people saying, “I am tired of working for someone else and for so many hours, I want to spend time with my family so I will open my own business” Do you agree with this statement? And how are you able to maintain a healthy work / life balance?

I grew up with both parents working for themselves, so I was always taught to be your own boss. In my lifetime I had three small summer job as a teen, and I knew right away I couldn’t work for others. I was a born leader. My days are now exactly how I always envisioned my life. I do about 2-hours of office work each day and spend the rest of the time with my three kids. Because I am self employed and was not entitled to maternity leave, my husband was able to take off the first year with our twins and we spent so much time together as a family. This career has given me all the freedom I need. It also allows me to take on projects on the side. I flipped three houses in 2021 and balanced this around my small work schedule with ease.


Can you tell us about a major obstacle you faced and how you overcame it?

We didn’t run into many obstacles in the beginning to be honest. However, when Covid hit and the international travel stopped and donors and clients couldn’t make it to the clinics, we faced a huge issue. A lot of cycles got cancelled and donors flunked out. More than we had ever experienced before. As mandated in our refund policy, we were at risk of owing a lot of people refunds. We calmly approached everyone and reminded them why they chose our agency and what we could do for them if they would only stick with us through this hard time. One by one we rematched all our couples. We worked harder at recruiting donors and vetting them for their commitment to the cycle.


What keeps you up at night?

I suffer from anxiety and sometimes I let the little things really eat away at me. Because of our position in the fertility journey with couples, sometimes an issue will arise that will upset them, like their donor cancelling the cycle. This is not our fault as we cannot force a woman to donate. Although we make this clear to them in the beginning, clients are often angry with us when this happens because there’s no one else to be angry at. So, I have to admit there are certain days where the stress gets to me, but it is still always worth the good that we do. We help make babies!


How did Small Business assist you?

There is absolutely not a single way I could have started my business without the help of this program. I owe a lot of where I am and what I have today to them. Every time I had an issue, someone had a solution for me. They provided me with the time and support to start Tiny Feet. They have endless resources and I recommend them to anyone looking to start a business.


Who has been your greatest inspiration in the business and why?

Believe it or not, I consider myself to be my greatest inspiration. When I started Tiny Feet, I was a single mom with a new baby, no money and little prospects. I had nothing but a hair brained idea. Because of the nature of this business, not a lot of people knew about it or where to even start. I had a dream that I could be better, I could live a better life and give my son a better life. I knew I could do hard things and face challenges if it was for the opportunity of an easier life. I continue to inspire myself because I know the Hannah in 10 years from now will be even better and I do this for her.


 What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

Second to having three beautiful children, my biggest accomplishment is starting this business. It began with a singly solitary thought. “I think I could do that” fast forward six years later and I have grown something truly beautiful and successful. Not only have I changed my life, but we’ve brought hundreds of babies to this world because of our company. I’m pretty proud of that.


As you forge ahead what is it that excites you?

I am excited about how my business will grow but almost more excited about how my life will develop because I have so much time to be around my family, take on other projects and work on myself. The sky is the limit, and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon.


Don't forget to attend the Q&A with Hannah! 

Check Out Their Website!

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