We’re thrilled that you’ve been enjoying our Women of Manitoba series so much! Our fourth piece features Majda Ficko, owner of Olen Cosmetics. She maintains that from the beginning, she needed to be an entrepreneur. Learn more about her path to success in this interview. Enjoy!
Tell us about your business, what do you do?
Majda: Hair Do Zoo is a specialty children’s hair styling salon that I started after I opened an adult hair styling salon “Majda & Company” in Osborne Village at the age of 21. The reason I opened Hair Do Zoo was because I was losing clients when my customers started bringing in their kids for haircuts. Kids and adults don’t mix in a hair salon so I opened a “kids only” hair styling salon to take the pressure off and save my adult salon.
I started Olen Cosmetics Corporation after I committed to selling to the general public a product (Baby Butz cream) I had made for my son.
Why are you in business? What led you to do what you now do?
Majda: Need. A need to guarantee myself a job at first without reporting to someone else (self-employed hairstylist at Majda & Company), then to save my hairstyling salon from losing professional customers to the many children that were coming in. I started Olen after I made Baby Butz cream for my disabled son to help heal his horrific skin rashes. He was reacting to everything on the market so I worked with a research chemist for two years to make something that could help him. I never intended to sell the product but his doctors kept insisting/encouraging me to sell to the public and help other children. I have decided to continue down the path of making safe natural and effective products. After researching the many different types of products and finding that most contain harmful chemicals, I realized there really is a genuine need for a brand that people can really trust. That’s going to be OLEN.
I just received a Patent Pending for my Sunblocz formulation which is an all-natural sunscreen that’s safer and protects better than any of the chemical sunscreens available.
Did you always want to go into business/be your own boss?
Majda: Yes, when I was younger and started working I kept getting fired (for many different reasons) so in order to have a job, I had to create it myself. It was self-preservation. I also found out early in life I don’t work well with having a boss.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Majda: There have been many but winning the WEYA (Woman Entrepreneuer of the Year Award) twice, once for each of my businesses, ranks close to the top. Really, I don’t think there will be just one or I am hoping that’s not the case.
What has been the most challenging part of owning and running a business so far?
Majda: For myself and many business owners I know personally, it’s finances. Juggling finances and obtaining enough for your business to see you through the first few years and then adding in the personal life, kids, family, etc. and making sure everything gets a piece of you.
What is something you wish you knew before going into business that you’ve since learned from experience?
Majda: Be careful where you spend your money and who you spend it on. Marketing will take half your budget. Be careful of people/companies in general who make promises that can’t deliver.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Majda: I don’t think people have just one source of inspiration. I believe we all take a little from every person we connect with, but I do love Oprah Winfrey! She’s a woman who came from nothing, never took ‘no’ for an answer and became successful without losing her ground..
To what do you most attribute your success?
Majda: Stubbornness, tenaciousness and never giving up. In both businesses I filled a need and they just happened to be my own so I worked a lot harder trying to find solutions to my own problems.
What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Majda: 1) Don’t have any self-doubt. If you question yourself or have to ask yourself why you should start a business then you shouldn’t be running a business because business people just do things that are needed to get one.
2) Purpose: Does your product or service fill a need either yours or someone else’s?
3) Money: Make sure you have enough financing. Many companies fail, not because their service or product wasn’t good enough but because they were under-financed to start.
4) Connections: In business it’s all about connections. Yes it’s really about who you know that can help makes things easier for you and your business.
5) Try: If you really want to start and run your own business, no one will stop you. You never want to look back on your life and say “what if” or “I wish I did that.”
What was the best piece of business advice you ever received?
Majda: I have two pieces of advice, one that was given to me that I now use in daily life and one that I would give to someone who’s thinking about opening a business of their own.
‘Never take a NO from someone who could not give you a YES in the first place’ and ‘Find something that you enjoy so much you would do it for free, that’s the business you need to be in.’
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.