Tuesday's Featured Businesses

Meet 
Successful Local 
Main Street Retail Businesses 

Watch the panel

Introduction

Vicky Heredia, Business Advisor


What is the Main Street Retail Program?

The London Small Business Centre in conjunction with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, are offering “Main Street Retail”, a program designed to assist growing businesses and businesses that are ready to pivot and were impacted by COVID-19 in London. Main Street Retail provides training and grants up to $5000 to eligible participants who meet the requirements and successfully complete the program.


How would you describe the entrepreneurs you work with?

The entrepreneurs I have worked with understand that a serious commitment is necessary to become successful.  They dedicate time to plan and research before executing their business idea. During this stage, they realize that they need to be self-motivated, hard-working, and responsible if they want to see their business idea materialize.  As the business begins establishing itself, they become creative and begin problem-solving. Overall, I can proudly say that the entrepreneurs I work with have a passion for what they do, they are persistent, and have the willingness to work hard.


What lessons have you learned working with small businesses?

At times we are faced with situations whereby we must be tough.  We must tell our clients the truth even though it might not be what they want to hear.  I have learned that it is best to give the entrepreneur a clear picture of what exactly he/she may face during the first years in business. 
“Before anything else, preparation is key to success.” (Alexander Graham Bell)                                                                                                                                                                

The Fix Inc. 

Angel Tsiga

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The Tea Lounge

Michelle Pierce Hamilton

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Grow & Bloom Co.

Robin Lavery 

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​Angel Tsiga

The Fix Inc.

Tell us about your business

Our business is all about hair, mental wellness, and beauty. The Fix Inc. is a hair salon and barber shop in London Ontario. It was founded in September of 2019 seeing a need for places for people of color to get their hair care needs met.  We specialize in Afro-Caribbean hair, but we are not exclusive, we love to work with all hair types.

What does being a small business owner mean to you, and why did you become one?

Being a small business owner to me means serving a community with a much-needed service, creating job opportunities, and doing what I love - to perfection. As a single mother, I chose to become a small business owner because it offered me the flexibility to be a professional in my trade, and a mother at the same time. In essence, it gives me flexibility to juggle two jobs without the fear of being let go when my children need me.

How has the last 18 months impacted and disrupted your business/industry, and how have you responded?

The past 18 months have greatly impacted the business in a dire way. Our salon was greatly affected by the lockdowns creating inconsistencies and uncertainty which is never great for any type of service business. We lost some clients to in-home stylists, so we saw an opportunity there to introduce home visits to ensure customer loyalty. Though we were greatly impacted it also opened opportunities for us to venture into online sales. Hence, we became brazen enough to introduce our own products brand to ensure that our clients have a variety of products they can purchase from the comfort of their home to take care of their hair during the unpredictable closures.


What is the most important lesson you have learned in business that has served you well and has helped shape who you are as a person?

Owning a small business has taught me a lot of patience and discipline. It's all about building your clientele, showing up, having a positive mindset, and loving what you do. In my line of business l come across a lot of people from different walks of life and having the ability to treat everyone the same way, each time, goes a long way.  Once you have all that on lock, everything else falls in place. 


Who has been your greatest inspiration in business and why?

Honestly, Madam CJ Walker inspired me. She taught me that you never give up on your dream. You may be knocked down a few times, but you get up and keep going against all odds. There will always be competition, but if you stay in your lane and if you are consistent the results will play in your favor. 


What opportunities do you see ahead?

I see franchising opportunities ahead. We started a product line and that has been going well. I'd like to see other people from different provinces or different parts of the world have "The Fix Inc." experience. It's just a different vibe.


Small Business Week recognizes the importance of people like you. Do you have anything special planned to celebrate?

We would definitely like to give back to the community that has supported us through this trying time. We are planning to have a customer appreciation day within the government regulated guidelines of this current pandemic. I feel that would be a great way to celebrate.

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

Check Out Their Website!
Michelle Pierce Hamilton

The Tea Lounge

Tell us about your business
The Tea Lounge in London Ontario is an old-world tea house serving quality, ethically sourced teas & tisanes from around the world by our own curated brand, "beTeas" (Balanced Energy Teas) - a place to experience and 'just be' with tea. Also serving lunch, scones, and treats. Retail shopping for teas, teaware & gifts available, featuring several artisans of unique, quality items.

What does being a small business owner mean to you, and why did you become one?

I am a small business owner because I had a dream to create something I felt a passion for, and that I thought

others would benefit from. I became one because, to be honest, there came a point where the passion was so strong, I was no longer in control of it. It was something I was meant to do, and I knew if I didn’t go for it when I had the chance, I would regret it later. I didn’t know if I would succeed, and since COVID I’m often still not sure. But there is a saying that the worst kind of failure is from not having even tried. For entrepreneurs, bringing the dream inside you into reality is as important as the business case.


How has the last 18 months impacted and disrupted your business/industry, and how you responded?

It’s been terrible. So many hospitality-based businesses did not survive. Many more, still won’t. My business plan was and experience-based business, relying on in person, high experience service, in person classes and events that relied on maximizing tables/seats in our space. As a café/restaurant we accommodated 25-30 for seated service and dining. Our in-person classes and events made up over 30% of annual total revenue. We had some retail and some online, but very little effort went into online because the events and dining operation took most of my time, and inventory/labour, most of my capital. I can’t think of a worse business plan for a business in a global pandemic.

 

In March 2020, I thought I was done. After I was done feeling sorry for myself, I got mad at the situation, and determined to beat it. First thing I did was take advantage of the lockdown closure to update my website and move it onto the same platform as my POS which was an integration that would save me lots of administration time and was also cheaper as technology had changed/improved so much. In short order I found a grant to help me do this.

 

I changed my merchandise buying to focus on small accessories, at home brewing vessels, mugs, and smaller, practical but high-quality items that would complement tea purchases but also add value to people locked down at home while increasing my average ticket. With one of the grants I received, I was able to hire a social media guy to drive traffic to the website and grow my sales. With another I was able to erect an outdoor dining tent and heater which we decorated with lights etc. to create more physically distanced seating, in a kind of cool space that took advantage of our lawn area.
 

I reached out to several local artists I have relationships with, so my next move was to feature local artist work, including paintings, photography, pottery, etc. transforming that front space into our ‘gallery room’, since reopening still prevented us from any seating inside.

 

I took on extra work outside of my business. That is not an option for every entrepreneur so in that I am lucky. I fell back on my former profession and every chance I got, I took on extra work to earn a paycheck so I could help my business survive. 

What is the most important lesson you have learned in business that has served you well and has helped shape who you are as a person?

The most important thing I did was let go of my business plan and reimagined the space. What I had intended was not relevant and would never survive. I lived by the mantra, ‘don’t let the things you can’t do, stop you from doing what you can’.  I think that’s the reason I’m still here.

 

In my career I was a project management professional, and I still do that work part-time. Project management is all about change management. You must be willing to change in any business. You have to be willing to admit when change is needed because something doesn’t work – and not take too long to do it. The pandemic was changing the rules all the time, and so I did my best to be nimble and respond to whatever new limitation was being thrown at me. Another thing I have learned in business is that customer service is key. I bend sideways and upside down for my customers and make extra effort to thank them for supporting us and for supporting local. Our customers responded to this and really rallied when I needed them to. When you go an extra mile for your customer, you build loyalty and we have relied on that in our survival. 


Who has been your greatest inspiration in business and why?
Years ago when I worked for Canada Trust, our CEO, Ed Clark said something that has always driven the kind of business I want to be. Under Ed’s leadership the customer was always first. I remember him saying one time at a Town Hall meeting that, “nowadays anyone can replicate your product in about 24-48 hours, but what they can’t replicate is your customer experience. That is where we have the power to differentiate ourselves from the competition and win.” I have always believed that principle is true, and that it applies no matter what business you are in. Customer experience matters. And I have to say, nowadays as a consumer, I feel less and less of it. We focus on it, and our customers comment on it all the time. They show up for our product, but most often they come back because of the experience they had with us. Look us up on TripAdvisor and you’ll see we’ve held a solid 5-star rating since we opened. I’m pretty proud of that. I don’t mention any other business as my inspiration because we aren’t trying to be like anyone else. We’re trying to be our unique selves, and just be really great at it.


What opportunities do you see ahead?

We’re not out of the COVID problem yet, so it’s going to be staying the course, working hard, doing what we’ve been doing, remaining nimble, and providing great products and great services while watching the expense line. Expenses are skyrocketing, supply chains are disrupted, and I can’t get some product as easily anymore. This may go on for another year or more. The businesses that survive will be the ones that can keep customers coming back and keep pushing through changing as change is needed. The trick in managing that change is bending in ways you otherwise may not have but remaining true to who you are at the Core. That is the tricky part.

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

Check Out Their Website!
Robin Lavery

Grow & Bloom Co.

Tell us about your business

Grow & Bloom Co. simply is the amalgamation of the love of horticulture and floristry. It is a heart led creative business striving to keep people connected to nature. Reaching beyond retail, we now consist of two design spaces to dream up more nature inspired creations. 

What does being a small business owner mean to you, and why did you become one?

Being a small business owner to me is the ultimate expression of freedom. As a strong and creative woman, I felt the need to create a business and space that allowed me to work within my own limits and capacity while respecting my constant need for growth and challenge.


How has the last 18 months impacted and disrupted your business/industry, and how have you responded?

There has been a very large ripple effect over the last 18  

months with shortages of product and supplies plus we have had to work around government mandates. We shifted our business to have more of an online presence, offered local delivery and curbside pickup, restructured events and how we do business while always keeping our clients’ needs in mind.


What is the most important lesson you have learned in business that has served you well and has helped shape who you are as a person?

No matter how much you would like to be in control of everything, you sometimes have to just follow the current. Swimming upstream takes more energy than going with the flow. Over the last 5 years I have learned to roll with what comes and solve problems more efficiently instead of getting upset. It makes life a lot easier.


Who has been your greatest inspiration in business and why?

I’m always inspired by watching ambitious mothers start and operate a business. It’s hard to find and maintain the work life balance when you are also trying to grow and create something big. There is always a level of guilt that comes in when you feel you are spending too much time working. We always find ways to adapt as parents and it’s amazing to see what can be created.


What opportunities do you see ahead?

Currently working on opening a second location to allow for two creative houses to work with more space and to bring in more team members. Lots of opportunity to continue to grow our customer base across the city and nationally.


Small Business Week recognizes the importance of people like you. Do you have anything special planned to celebrate?

To be honest I don’t but this year it has been brought to my attention how important it is to celebrate all the little triumphs and hard work we put forward. Often, we forget about the journey while we’re so focused on trying to get to the destination. So, I’ll be sure to find a way to celebrate all of our success.

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

Check Out Their Website!

Connect & Inspire During Small Business Week!

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If you have business tips or would like to share your business success story, connect with our entrepreneurial community on social media with the hashtag #SmallBizLdnOnt