This past week Small Business BC hosted INSPIRE, and annual event to celebrate entrepreneurship, and a kick off to Small Business Month in British Columbia during October.
Moderated by Judy Brooks, a serial entrepreneur in her own right, having launched built and sold three successful businesses, guests were treated to a panel discussion and insights from some of BC’s emerging and successful business leaders. Here’s a run down on the panelists and some insights from the evening that might benefit your business.
Kyle Vucko, Co-Founder, Indochino
As a University of Victoria student struggling to find a well made and good fitting suit at a reasonable price, Kyle recognized the potential to shake up the men’s online fashion world. He saw a missed opportunity in the space – delivering men’s custom apparel cost-effectively. So he dropped out of university, and spent three years in Shanghai, building a vertically integrated company that has done for the suit category what Zara did for fast fashion – deliver the goods quickly and inexpensively, and in Indochino’s case, custom fitted. While it initially was an exclusively online offering, he experimented with pop-up retail locations and today he has over 120,000 customers in 130 countries, and showrooms in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. Not bad for a guy who gave up on business school. http://www.indochino.com/
Brian Scudamore, Found 1-800-got-junk, WOW 1 Day Painting, and You Move me
Inspired to launch 1-800-got-junk in the late 1980s while sitting behind “Mark’s Hauling” truck in a Kerridale McDonalds drive through, Brian realized there was an opportunity to apply good branding and a strong customer focus to traditional service-based offerings such as junk removal. The rest as they say is history. Today, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has more than 850 trucks on the road throughout 170 locations in Canada, the US and Australia. In 2012 he met the founder of a unique, one-day painting company and together they created the WOW 1 DAY Painting franchise. Brian launched his third brand, You Move Me, a different kind of franchised moving company in 2013 in response to his own bad experience. I would venture a guess that this high school and university drop out knows more about business than many of his previous teachers.
Jim Wyse, Founder & proprietor, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
For 25 years, Jim was a property developer in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and Oklahoma City. In 1993, serendipity led him to purchase relatively inexpensive and abandoned vineyard land south of Oliver that has since become Burrowing Owl Vineyards, specializing in award winning wine, a fine dining restaurant and guest house.
Ravy Mehroke, CEO & Co-Founder, Bombay Brow Bar
Who knew there was business opportunity in convincing women (and maybe a few men) that monthly maintenance of their eyebrows, just like their hair, was a necessity? In 2010, sisters and founders Ravy Mehroke and Amy Minhas opened their first brow bar in Yaletown. In just five years, Bombay has grown to a highly coveted beauty brand with additional locations in Kitsilano and the Shangri-la Hotel downtown.
Although there were many great insights from these panelists, three themes really emerged as things to note for your own business growth.
- Great brands are wrapped in a story. Each of these entrepreneurs saw a problem or opportunity and solved it in some unique way that was hard for others to copy. And in doing so, they created an endearing story that has become the heart and sole of their branding and identity. Does your business have a story? And can you tell it in a compelling way?
- Mentorship matters. Without exception, all panelists credited strong mentors with helping them achieve success. Brian Scudamore spoke of his self made MBA – as his “Mentor Board of Advisors”. One of his notable mentors, Fred DeLuca, the founder of Subway, became a fast friend after Brian read his book and simply called him to talk. When is the last time you read an inspirational business book cover to cover and then contacted the author?
- A founder first inspires but ultimately must lead. It was very evident that all of these company founders were inspired to grow something unique and had no problem catching others up in that enthusiasm. But shifting to the leadership role had been a hurdle for some as the company grew.
I shared these highlights with subscribers of my weekly enewsletter last week, and then asked my readers to tell me their own small business story. In the spirit of highlighting small business in BC, I’m sharing their additional two stories below. Because not every business necessarily gets the recognition it deserves, and maybe this blog can help spread their stories.
Rowena List, CEO & Founder, Getting it Together After a successful career in sales and a move into management as a trainer, Rowena saw a need for self employed women to be more organized. At the time she started helping them organize their home office and clothes closet. Word quickly spread about her ability to simplify life and her clients expanded to corporate women in business and stay at home moms. They all shared one thing in common: overwhelm. Rowena helps clients keep it simple, live with less, live with purpose and get rid of overwhelm. http://gettingittogether.ca/
Natacha Beim, CEO & Founder, CEFA (Core Education & Fine Arts) Seeing herself as a teacher first and an entrepreneur second, Natasha established CEFA, Canada’s first private junior kindergarten school in 1998, for infants and children up to five years old. As a passionate and trained teacher, she was frustrated with what she saw as a gap in the market: preschools and daycare’s offering care and play based settings, but nowhere was there a place offering pre-learning in reading, writing and math, and exploring the arts. She saw an opportunity for creating an enriched curriculum combining core subjects such as reading and math with fine arts, including drama and yoga, to provide children with the freedom to learn and grow through play. Following the successful launch of her first school, she is now franchising the program across North America. Link here for her full story interview video.
As you can see, these additional two featured entrepreneurs have similar themes to their success as the SBBC INSPIRE recipients: their business and brand is wrapped in a story inspired by personal passion and they are leaders with a vision to help others.