Last March I was fortunate to join the team at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba. Earlier in my life I worked for 20 years in our family business and then had my own store for almost six years. Retail is definitely in my blood and I have seen all sides of it. I will emphasize at this point that all this took place in a town of less than 20,000 people (including surrounding communities).
I was so excited to have my own business. From the business plan to financing, purchasing, bookkeeping and marketing – I walked through all the steps. The vision had always been there and in 1996 it happened. It was like a dream come true – especially when I saw the people lined up to get in to the store for my grand opening.
Everything was going smoothly; I wasn’t making tons of money but my head was above water.
Then, at the end of the fourth year, I could feel a change. Since our community was a one-industry town and that industry was slowly downsizing, I should not have expected anything else. My instincts were telling me that I was going to have to make some serious changes. On top of that, the bank had advised nine women business owners that we would no longer be eligible for credit lines. Cash flow was tight which restricted buying power and that in turn gave my customers less incentive to “come in and see what’s new” – and of course, buy.
By this point it was all about survival. For the next two years I struggled through before finally admitting to myself that it was time to shut the doors. I was not making any money and paying the bills was getting more difficult as time went on.
In retrospect, closing the business when I did, was the right thing to do. It was however, heartbreaking and emotionally difficult to accept. The upside is that I learned many lessons in the process. I’d like to share with you my top three:
First and foremost: Always trust your instincts; when that inner voice speaks, listen.
Second: Always be mindful of your economics and equally mindful of the market place around you.
Third: Make sure you understand completely your financials and don’t wait until you are in crisis mode to ask for help.
At the Women’s Enterprise Centre, we have wonderful, knowledgeable advisors who can help you at any given point in your business. Never hesitate to ask for assistance.
Have a wonderful year and STAY SMART!
– Janis Lesko