We’re having so much fun shining light on women entrepreneurs of Manitoba. In our third interview, we’re featuring Tara Torchia-Wells, owner of The Unexpected Gift. Tara provides a unique and highly needed service for individuals living with cancer. We hope you enjoy her story in this inspiring interview!
Tell us about your business, what do you do?
Tara: The Unexpected Gift is a one-stop location for women who are going through a cancer diagnosis. We provide everything from breast prosthesis and bras, wigs and safe skin care. We also provide services that concentrate on hygienic and therapeutic practices.
Why are you in business? What led you to do what you now do?
Tara: After I had cancer, I went back to work. My perspective on life had dramatically changed and a corporate environment was no longer the right place to be. I needed to change my career and do something that I felt good about. I remember thinking how overwhelmed I was after being diagnosed, so many appointments, lots to prepare for, and many items that I required to get through treatment. I thought, ‘why not put all the items that someone might need in the same location and provide services such as manicures, pedicures, facials and massage that were focused on the cancer patient as well as the general public?’ The Unexpected Gift provides safe, hygienic services that only use natural products and do not contain toxins or carcinogens.
Did you always want to go into business/be your own boss?
Tara: No, being my own boss was never in my thoughts. Now I would not change it!
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Tara: I am very lucky and I have rewarding and satisfying moments daily. When women come in, they are either in a state of shock, angry or vulnerable. Because of my own experience I understand what they are feeling. I think that compassion comes through in how I treat people. I have had many women leave the store feeling that they can beat this and that makes my heart happy.
What has been the most challenging part of owning and running a business so far?
Tara: Learning what works and what does not. In the first year, almost all of the products I thought would really take off did not. I also needed to find the right people to work here. I need to have caring and compassionate service providers that understand what people may be dealing with or experiencing.
What is something you wish you knew before going into business that you’ve since learned from experience?
Tara: What the best advertising is for the demographic you are targeting. Advertising can be costly and one mistake can really affect your bottom line.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Tara: My husband, because he supported me. Starting your own business is a huge risk and at the age of forty-five, I was starting from scratch. I left behind a job with a salary, benefits and a pension. When we discussed opening my store, we decided that it was worth it and if it did not work, we would figure it out. Without his support, I would not have had the confidence to take this on. He is my inspiration!
To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Tara: The willingness to take a chance and run with it. For me, the key elements are maintaining a culture of respect and gratitude for the people that work here and those that frequent the store. Compassion for others is huge – being open and honest and not just looking to make a sale. Some days I talk people out of buying things because I really don’t think they will need it. I believe that shows people I am open to provide an honest service and it makes them want to come back. Integrity, I believe in the products I sell and the services we provide. Lastly, the willingness to keep learning. Mistakes are great, they provide knowledge in what not to do next time and provides the opportunity to do better.
What was the best piece of business advice you ever received?
Tara: To have faith in myself and believe that the concept of The Unexpected Gift is an enterprise that is needed.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.