Month: May 2019

XO Chats with Jessica McEwen

Mother to Patrick // Owner of Periwinkle Flowers

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

If you ever want to be transported to a floral dreamland in the middle of the city, visit Jess at Periwinkle. We’ve known Jess since our days at ReBash, and she’s been a literal ray of sunshine ever since our first meeting. With her bright and positive attitude, being a florist is the absolute perfect fit. We covered some interesting topics during our discussion, like a partnership break-up, the ever-changing landscape of retail, and the strategies she uses to balance life as a business-owner. 

What did you do before you had your business?

Flowers have always been part of my life and when I was 19 years old I went to college to study floristry before working for various downtown floral studios. My whole family has the entrepreneurial bug so I guess it isn’t surprising that I decided to open my own business doing what I love, and that I didn’t wait very long to do it! I opened a shop (also called Periwinkle Flowers) with a business partner and had that company for 13 years before closing in 2013 when she left. I couldn’t leave flowers though, they have my heart for sure, so I opened up my current shop by myself, moved to a different part of the city and changed just about everything to make it exactly how I wanted.

Wow, a family of entrepreneurs!

Yes – both my brothers opened a cabinetry business together, my mom ran a daycare and my dad had a bookstore. My sister is an artist. From a young age I was encouraged to be creative and remember typing out my own gardening magazines!

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

Working with such gorgeous flowers is, of course, the best thing ever. You just can’t be sad when you are surrounded by such amazing beauty. But other than the obvious lovely flowers, I’m somewhat obsessed with the puzzle of retail. It truly fascinates me. I love having to constantly be thinking of new ways to get possible customers attention- dreaming up our monthly DIY bar activities or brainstorming collaborations with other businesses. We theme each season at the shop with new displays outside and in to keep people’s attention and show our creativity so I get to dream up things like a massive installation of colourful streamers under our shop awning that we did last summer, and then make it a reality with little to no budget and never enough time! So many florists either never go into retail or start that way but transition to being event studios, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to do that.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

If I’m honest, I wasn’t very good at doing this for the first few years, which I think is important to acknowledge. Very often it was just not possible to fit anything else into my schedule and I was somewhat overwhelmed with juggling parenthood with business life. One thing I do have is a really amazing group of women friends, and in the past five or so years I’ve worked hard at strengthening those relationships and making time with them more of a priority, even if that means just checking in with each other via a quick text. We are all busy and all have very full plates but I’m trying hard to not give in to the urge to say I’m too tired or too busy and instead meet up for a quick coffee or short breakfast date to connect. I always feel better. I also organize a monthly craft night with my amazing staff and a few friends here at the shop, and again want to acknowledge that I have to work hard not to blow it off times that I’m having a busy week or feeling too scheduled. Spending a couple of hours just chatting and doing something creative that isn’t work has brought such joy to my life and strengthened the friendships I have with these wonderful ladies. My work schedule isn’t very regular, sometimes I can go several weeks without a day off, but I try to take at least one day off a week when I can that my kid is home for too and we get out for a bike ride to the island or hike through the Don Valley Trail. Being out surrounded by trees is very calming.

Does the nature of your work, being bricks and mortar, plays a part in how you organize your time?

Definitely having a physical location helps – I don’t know how people who work from home do it, since it would be hard to split between regular home responsibilities and work since it’s all in one place. There are things I literally cannot do at home for Periwinkle (create arrangements, sell to customers) so I cherish the time I make at home. 

When you’re home, do you have a go-to dinner recipe that makes life easier?

Full disclosure here – I very rarely do the dinner cooking! I’m usually the last one in the door so my husband has dinner ready and waiting when I get in, which is incredibly, amazingly wonderful. He is a very good cook, certainly far better than I am. On the rare days I do make the dinner it’s usually one of my three standby recipes such as spicy sausage with lentil and kale soup (I’m good with the soups!). I do make a mean poached egg on toast for Sunday breakfast though.

How do you stay organized at work?

I’m a list addict! I carry my notebook everywhere and have finally managed to be disciplined at keeping everything in the one book – ideas, to do lists, project notes etc. I also use a paper planner to write down appointments. I do use Google docs and Google Keep to hold things that I want to be able to access from anywhere. Running a small team I still find challenging. My staff all work part-time with me so I try to be good about keeping them up to date on the constant flow of ideas and projects happening in my brain.  

What about at home?

At home we have a wall calendar in the kitchen that I try to keep updated with my work days and our personal appointments etc. so my husband and son can see if I’m available for family things or not. It’s a daily challenge to keep it all organized, I often feel that there must be a simpler way to streamline it all but I haven’t found a system that works perfectly for me yet. The reality of being the owner of this type of business and wearing all the hats is that I’m constantly interrupted, there’s never a full day working on one project. I sometimes find I feel scattered and a bit too reactive, and those are the times I have to carve out space in my day to write things down and make a plan.

Tell us about your team.

My team is amazing – they each have other jobs that they are involved in since their work here is part-time- which include photography, textile design and social work. So I have a great group of people that I admire and respect who each bring a unique perspective to the business and are bringing their amazing talents to the table each and every day.

People, especially in the creative industries, often talk about ‘Community over Competition’ – what are your thoughts on that?

I like to support local businesses and creatives and have close industry friends, so I do believe in community over competition. There’s room for all of us doing what we love to do. I’m a member of a local flower collective where it’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas and communicate with others in the industry, meet new people and keep current with trends. It’s a great movement for the floral industry and supports a lot of micro-growers. 

Can you describe what it was like having your son and starting your business? 

My son is 13 now, but when he was born I had a business partner so luckily I was able to take 6 months “off” to be with him and we hired a freelancer designer to cover for me at the shop if needed. I still did paperwork and the bookkeeping at home and went into the shop with him once a week as well as covering weekends when my business partner wanted to be off and when we had events. My husband also took 9 months of parental leave that saw my son through to one year old which was amazing to have. From there we couldn’t find any daycare spaces close enough to us so my husband worked a night shift and I worked days, and we took opposite days off. It was hard. In the mornings I’d wake up super early to take my son outside and tire him out then put him down for a nap while my husband finished getting some sleep so I could head to work. At the end of the day I’d come home and meet my husband at the door as he handed our baby off to me on his way out. We didn’t get to spend much time together as a couple or as a family. We did that for 4 years until my son went to all day kindergarten at which point my husband switched to a shift that starts super early. I am home with Patrick in the morning before school and Tony is there for him after school, and I arrive home for a late supper. We don’t have any relatives in the city for emergency babysitting which has made it hard to juggle sick days. Basically, if my son can’t be at school he’s with me at work. We really relish our family time together after not having it for so long, so we’ve never even left Patrick with a babysitter for an evening out, we just all go out together! Now that he’s older it’s so much easier, but ever since he was a baby he’s been hanging out at the shop with me for weekends if my husband is working or summer “vacation” (we call it Camp Periwinkle).

Periwinkle started off as a partnership. What was that experience like?

To be honest it felt like a bad divorce getting out of the partnership. I was left in the old shop space and it just didn’t fit who I was at that point. I realized I didn’t have to stay there and when the opportunity arose to move, it reinvigorated how I thought about the business and it occurred to me I could rethink everything about the business and make decisions on my own. The possibilities really opened up, I didn’t have as much trepidation as I did before. 

Those first few years sound really challenging. What have you found to be the biggest struggles since then?

For a long time I really struggled with guilt. I felt like I was never able to give my best to both the business and my child, so often I felt I was only managing to do a mediocre job at both. The first 6 years were the hardest. Patrick still has to come with me to the flower market sometimes, or set up an event with me, which is great because I’m getting to hang out with him (he’s really good company!) but I struggled for years with feeling unprofessional because I’d have my 5 year old sitting in the corner of the hall while I was setting the tables up for a wedding. Funny thing is, no one ever commented negatively on it, in fact everyone has always been lovely and gracious about it and offered him food & drink while he waited. So I think that I was creating a problem where it didn’t exist. Truth is, being a working parent is hard, adding in the fact that you are working for yourself just makes it harder in some ways and easier in others. It took me a while to realize that being a good mother isn’t about whether I’m there at the end of the school day or not, nor is it about giving him the idyllic childhood I had. We’re writing our own story and I’m doing just fine.

What is your daily uniform?

In my head I wear floral dresses with pretty sandals, but in reality it’s handmade cotton tops with my jeans and converse sneakers. My day-to-day is diverse, sometimes I’m sitting in a client meeting in the morning but then loading up the truck with heavy arrangements, or hauling branches into an event setup so I need to be able to get a bit dirty or wet without worrying. I’m also on my feet a lot of the time so the sneakers are a necessity.

Being so visual, do you have any Instagram accounts that you’re loving?

Instagram has been eye-opening for me. We all fall into the curation trap but it’s been so game-changing for my business since everything we do is visual. I’m so inspired by seeing people’s ideas and concepts and sharing what we’re doing also. But it’s important to be aware that everything we see is controlled and a version of what the author wants us to see, and not to get sucked into the idea of perfection.

On the business side I adore @electricdaisyflowerfarm, a U.K. based small flower farm and florist. The feed is inspiring and the florist behind it is incredibly talented. This is a second career for her at a later point in her life and she doesn’t have formal training so I love that she does things in different ways because she didn’t learn the standard method, it helps keep me thinking out of the box. And frankly it’s good to see a florist closer to my age having some instafame. On my personal account I’m obsessed with @aestheticsofjoy which is a colour-filled feed focusing on how we actually find joy through everyday moments in life.

Do you have any books you’d recommend?

Business-wise, the two books by Fiona Humberstone Brand Brilliance and How to Style Your Brand – on finding brand clarity have been amazingly helpful in the past couple of years as I’ve honed in on what I want my business to truly feel like. It was enormously helpful as we worked through a rebrand for the shop, which we’re in the middle of launching now. I’ve also just finished How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop. I listen to her podcast and have found that and the book very helpful in getting to grips with being more authoritative in meetings with clients as well as feeling more assertive and speaking up when meeting with some business committees I’m part of.

Has parenting changed the way you run your business, or vice versa?

Yes, absolutely! Being a mom means that I have someone relying on me to show up outside of the business. Before Patrick I would go in early, stay late and happily work everyday. Now I am far more organized and far more disciplined about scheduling days off, vacation time and will schedule extra staff in rather than stay late myself to get projects done. I’ve not had to turn down any business yet but have had to ask clients to make changes to expectations – for example the shop doesn’t open before 10am because I’m the parent at home getting my kid up and ready for school. If someone needs a breakfast event delivered it can’t often happen at 6am so I negotiate delivery the day before. I do think it is important that my son sees his mother having priorities and a life outside of being a mother, and that he understands that being an adult with a business and a parent is a balance and that sometimes you have to make concessions to one or the other without that meaning you value either less. I am very aware of making sure Patrick gets to see the fails as well as the wins. I don’t think we do kids any favours in hiding the realities of the world from them, they need to see that you can try something, not be able to make it work and then see you still be ok. And I have to say, my kiddo is actually really good to talk to about the business now! He’s only 13 but for the past couple of years I’ll chat him about ideas I have or issues I’m facing while we’re out riding our bikes or hiking together and he has really great ideas, things that wouldn’t occur to me. I guess because he’s young so limitations that I see, he doesn’t. I know that sounds a little crazy, but he’s a smart guy and has helped me come up with some very creative solutions to things.

We learned so much from Jess and, like many of our chats with inspiring founders, could have spent so much more time with her. What especially struck a chord with us was her positive attitude and the balance she has developed between being creative and business-savvy. For more about Jess (and to check out her brand new signage and branding!) visit her website and Instagram.

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XO Chats with Emily Chung

Mom of two boys // Owner of AutoNiche

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

When your interviewee has a tool that’s a hammer named “Thor”, you know it’s going to be a good time. Emily Chung not only owns an auto repair shop, AutoNiche, and works as a licensed auto technician, she also writes for Canadian Reviewer and Autosphere and teaches in the Automotive Business School at Georgian College. Emily is also a media veteran so you’ve likely seen her on Breakfast Television, Cityline, or the Marilyn Denis Show. Meeting Emily, it’s clear from the start that she’s passionate about her work and her mission to bring better communication and client service to the auto tech industry. We sat down with this #boss at her shop to learn more about what drove her (pun intended;) to start this business. 

What did you do before you had your business and how did you decide to start this venture?

I was in corporate before. I was a Psychometrist, Human Resources Associate, then Project Manager. Right before I launched my business, I was working for my father’s business which sells auto parts wholesale. I now buy from those who buy from him, as part of the supply chain. At the time, I knew the manufacturing process for the product, how long it took to ship over, how much to price it at, how to market it, etc. though I didn’t know the technical aspect. While I was on maternity leave with my second son, I enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program at Centennial College. I figured I was off work and I could learn more about my car since I didn’t enjoy the auto repair experience. I also thought it would help me in my father’s company. I didn’t think I’d have my own business. 

It was a hectic time. I had my son and was still nursing him while I was in school, so I remember waking up at 5am to nurse him, go to trade school, and in between shop class I’d run to the other side of Centennial to pump milk. I’d store the milk and head back to class, back and forth, head home, nurse, study, etc. My eldest son was about 2.5 years old at the time so things were busy. 

It sounds really rewarding get a deep understanding of something you didn’t have a background in previously. How did you make the jump from learning the trade to launching AutoNiche?

Around that time, I became a Christian and I really felt like God was calling me to open up an auto repair shop. I decided to step in faith, and started AutoNiche while going to trade school. I eventually got my license as an automotive service technician and built the business to what it is today. 

Can you share some advice that you really value?

Last year, I completed a leadership training program and out of that, I learned “choose and move”. Sometimes what I’m doing isn’t working or I’m spending too much time and effort on something that isn’t worth it. Choose and move is a reminder for me to choose something else, anything, and quickly before I have too much time to overthink or doubt myself, and move on that new path. If that doesn’t work, I get to choose and move again. Sometimes I get hung up on the past, why things didn’t work out, or my own perceived shortcomings in the situation. That rarely helps me move forward and keep going. Choose and move – keep pressing on.

Do you have a mentor? And do you mentor any startup founders?

I’m part of a Mastermind group with 8 other auto repair shops. We meet once per month and discuss important issues in our business and industry. It’s something I really value. I’ve always had business coaches. Having a coach also holds me accountable and helps me move forward. I’ve had many coaches over the course of my business and the most important thing is finding one who will encourage me to the next level. I do a few informal mentoring/coaching to startups, females entering the skilled trades, etc.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

I don’t have much time for myself though I will do a quarterly prayer retreat. I usually go away, at least 2 hours from the GTA, on my own for at least one or two nights. I’m naturally introverted so this time really helps me recharge. I pray and plan for the next quarter. Before I leave, I’ll book the next retreat so that way it’s in my calendar. I do a lot of driving so I think of time in my car as my alone time too. Being an introvert, this time is nice to just be left to my thoughts, music, sermon, etc. It’s literally like I’m in my own bubble. 

Something that’s really important to entrepreneurs is accountability. How do you stay motivated and accountable?

The business coaches play a big part in this, and I’m a big list person; it’s a part of how I stay motivated. I’m extremely goal-oriented and structured. From the leadership program I mentioned earlier, I learned a way to track goals. I have 4 goals every 2 months tracked using a spreadsheet. They’re professional, personal and overarching goals. I then have 3 action items to support each goal. It all rolls up into a Goal Summary. Every 2 months, I reset. This method keeps me accountable AND motivated. 

This sounds awesome and we want to incorporate some of those tips into our own lives. But do the lists ever seem never-ending?

The lists ARE never-ending. It took me a while to actually understand and be okay with the fact that the lists would never end. 

We notice you sometimes offer keynote/speaking engagements. What is your favourite topic to speak on?

One of my favourite topics to speak on is working in a non-traditional career and my main point has always been that gender isn’t an issue until we make it an issue. My gender has nothing to do with how successful I am, and if I believe that I’m receiving a bias due to my gender there is not much I can do to move forward. 

Do you think that some of the times you get approached to speak is because you are a female in a male-dominated industry?

Yes and I always use this as an opportunity to speak about my experience focusing on the skills that I have and the work that I put into building up this business. Raising two boys has made me more conscious of not emphasizing gender and this goes back to my point that it shouldn’t be an issue, and usually only is if we make it an issue. I treat everyone in my shop the same regardless of their gender, age or circumstance – it’s based on skill and willingness to work together as a team. This is something I really strive to teach my sons.

What’s your management style?

Even though we are often each working on separate things, we have team meetings each week which is an opportunity to update one another. We also communicate a lot with each other constantly as we work. In the beginning when I first started, managing people was a struggle, though with the help of some of my mentors and through experience and practice it has become easier.

Do you have any favourite tools of the trade that help make your life easier?

My newly discovered favourite is the Turban Hair Towel! It’s a small thing, I know. It works great and I always bring it with me when I travel. I know I can use a regular towel, this isn’t the same. I can put my hair up while it dries and get everything else ready. Saves me time!

My favourite tool in the shop is my beloved hammer named “Thor”. Every now and again we need to hit parts to separate and replace them (e.g. brake rotors, etc). There’s nothing like hitting something hard with Thor, it’s just really satisfying hearing the pitch change when you know the part you’re hitting is released. And I mean…it’s Thor!

What really resonated with us after speaking with Emily was that she seems to have struck a great balance between being structured and methodical AND being adaptable and quick to pivot. Her faith led her down the path of entrepreneurship, and it’s been her tenacity and determination that have helped her persevere and run a successful business. If you want to learn more about AutoNiche, check here, follow on Twitter here and Facebook here.

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xo Chats with Dwayn Ramadhin

Father to Ave // Owner of Dream Factory

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

What we loved about interviewing Dwayn was his complete honesty and unwillingness to sugarcoat his experiences with parenting and business ownership. We visited him at his print shop, Dream Factory, where he had recently expanded to a larger space in order to accommodate his growing clientele. He gave us the scoop on his entrepreneurial journey and we got to hang with his 10 year old daughter, Ave, who has been a mainstay in his shop (outside of school, of course!) since she was young.

What is Dream Factory?

We do large format printing and promotional materials that cater to small and large businesses. Anything from brochures, stickers, banners, store signage, apparel and commercial vehicle graphics.

How did you start your business?

Due to previous job roles, I saw an opportunity in the industry and decided one day to give it my best shot. I used to work for a digital merchandising company and saw an opportunity to fill gaps where I had expertise. I decided to go for it and within a few days had my first client and had to scramble to install signage on a main street shop. That’s still a client to this day.

You’ve recently moved your shop to a larger space, purchased more equipment, and are running business around the clock! To what do you attribute your success to date?

Drive and Determination. I am always willing to be the first one here and last to leave.

That must give a clear example to your staff of your dedication.

I don’t expect my staff to pull the hours that I do, but when you run a business like this where I need to keep my clients happy – I want to make sure I have an eye on everything that needs to get done and make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Since the business has grown, how have you managed hiring?

The business has grown very rapidly. We get all work strictly through word-of-mouth and referrals. I have hired and have various full time and part time employees. To determine a fit, I look for people that would mesh well together and usually get them to come in and shadow and see how things work. I make sure they are a good fit with the team and bring a positive energy.

Positive vibes are so important especially when you’re working together for long hours! Do you have a mentor or someone you admire and look up to?

I have a few friends in the same industry with more experience, that I think very highly of and know I can call on at anytime for mentorship. I would say these are informal conversations, not really structured, but it feels good to know I have people I trust who have gone through similar challenges and that I can bounce ideas off.

What is your favorite part of your work and why?

Independence. Setting your own destiny. Because every time I create a product, I take pride in our customers satisfaction and find it rewarding.

What does a typical day look like?

I usually wake up at about 7 am. First thing after getting ready is dropping my wife to the Go Train. Then I get back home and get my daughter up, after much persuading. Get her lunch packed and ready for school. After the bus stop it is straight to Timmies for my mandatory tea before heading to the shop. I get to the shop at about 8:30am to prep for the day. Employees arrive at 9:30 to 10. Then the day is in full swing.

I leave around 5pm to pick my wife up from the GO and head to my mom’s house for a quick dinner and pick up my daughter before dropping my wife and daughter home. I then head back to the shop and usually set a deadline of midnight to stop. Then home for the night and repeat the next day.

When you said you were running business around the clock you weren’t kidding! That’s a demanding schedule.

I’ve worked 48 hours straight a couple of times and to be honest I usually burn out every couple of weeks.

Ah burnout…every entrepreneur and parent’s reality at one point or another. Do you do much in the realm of self-care?

No! I probably should but I don’t. I pretty much go through my days without eating breakfast and sometimes even lunch. I’ll grab a snack of peanut butter that’s in a jar on my desk. Dinner is usually my main meal and the lack of sleep gets to me once in awhile.

It goes without saying that business owners hustle hard to make things work. Do you try to carve out time for yourself?

I find time for myself very challenging. Extra time I find for myself usually means less sleep. When I get home at midnight I watch some TV before falling asleep or on the weekends, if I am not working, I spend the time with my wife and daughter walking around the mall or working on my cars.

Related to that – have you ever had to turn down a client or make a difficult business decision?

Yes, I occasionally turn down some clients because one of the most difficult decisions I have to make is being realistic in what can be done in a day and within a specific timeline.

I never want to fall short of a client’s expectations – customer service is the most important and that’s why all our business comes through strong referrals. And overcommitting usually means no sleep, so I guess in a way turning down business is a version of self-care.

With all of the busy-ness of the shop, how do you balance work with parenting?

My wife and I both work full time. My mom is a big part of childcare. She helps out by picking my daughter up from the bus stop and feeding her after school and keeping her entertained when my wife and I work late. My wife also plays a big part when I have to work late. She makes sure Ave is in bed as early as possible and makes sure her clothes are set out, lunches  and snacks are put aside and ready for me to pack in the morning.

What are the challenges you face as a parent and entrepreneur?

TIME. I feel that being a entrepreneur is very demanding. So it usually leads to homework help sometimes being done late at night. And having to make an asserted effort to have quality family time.

What are your favourite tunes to listen to, to get motivated?

90’s hip hop and R&B is usually my early morning music before employees arrive to get me in the groove.

If you could share one piece of advice with someone starting out in this business what would it be?

Make sure you have a good plan and supportive network. Concentrate on the positive. Avoid the negative energy that can appear at times. Stay determined and keep moving forward.

I subscribe to our slogan of “Dreams are a reality to be achieved” and remind myself of it everyday.

This was an eye-opener for us, though it shouldn’t have been. In an age where there is a lot of rhetoric in the online space (and in real life, tbh) about self-care and balance, here is a business-owner not afraid to admit he literally grinds it out to the point of burning out every couple of weeks. A part of our mission with the XO Project is to show the gloss AND the grit, and Dwayn clearly exemplifies the grit of running a successful business. We talked offline about some strategies to help curb that burnout (from hiring, to eating habits, to taking vacation time) and it kind of just reinforced to us that opening up these conversations and being REAL is important – for our businesses, our families and for ourselves. To hit up Dwayn for your print needs, you can reach him here (but you better hurry if you wanna get on that client roster! 😉


xo chats with Mindy Applebaum

Mom to Annie, Marlie and Joey // Founder of Luxury Move Management

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

When we think of entrepreneurs, we often have a romanticized image of someone who has a deep passion that they feel compelled to follow. This was not the case for Mindy. After being let go from her full-time position while 5 months pregnant with her second child, this powerhouse female figured she had to do something to set herself up for success after her baby was born. She sat down and literally documented in a spreadsheet all of her skills and strengths, spoke to everybody she could within her extensive network about all of her ideas, and decided to start Luxury Move Management. Luxury Move Management provides solutions for your move from start to finish. Whether you are downsizing, undergoing a renovation, estate clearing, moving into a condo, a new home or retirement residence, Mindy’s business streamlines your tasks and makes the entire experience more enjoyable. We chatted with Mindy during one of her moves at a client’s house, catching her right in the midst of all the action.

What did you do before you had your business?

After I completed my MBA degree at Schulich, and before I started my company, I worked in the admissions and marketing department at a private school. Before that I worked in inventory management for a clothing retailer. I never quite felt well suited for my previous roles and had imposter syndrome thinking I was ill qualified. 

We really admire the fact that you literally sat down and documented all of your skills to figure out what business would make the most sense.

I’ve always known I would be a ‘working’ mom and I’ve always been a bit of an anarchist, in that I have a hard time not being my own boss. I had never dreamed of being an entrepreneur and it was a very calculated decision that involved a lot of research and talking to a ton of people before I decided to go for it.

How did you go from idea to actualization?

My business is a result of the circumstances that I suddenly found myself in. I was downsized out of my job when I was pregnant and could not job hunt in that condition. So over the course of that pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave, I had nothing but time (and pressure!) to brainstorm and research and figure out my next career move. My move management business idea hit me like a ton of bricks during my endless hours of watching HGTV. And once I had the idea, I was so excited that my mind raced with ideas nonstop until everything was up and running! I’m not a ‘to-do list’ person because I feel like that just opens you up to excuses for not doing something – instead of putting it on a list, I literally just do it or put the ball in motion to get whatever it is done – if I realize the kids are growing out of a particular size of clothing, for example, I don’t put it on a to-do list, I whip out my phone and order whatever they need. If the laundry needs to get done, I fit it into my day. If I need to get back to a client I either do it then and there or I write a draft and save it in my emails so that I can just hit ‘send’ when the timing is right!

What advice have you received (either in parenting or business) that really resonated with you?

Not everyone is going to hire you and that’s ok. It’s easy to take things personally when you put so much work into what you do, but at the end of the day “it’s just business” and this perspective saves me a lot of stress about things that are beyond my control.

Customer service can make or break your business. I’ve always believed that exceptional customer service is key and I do whatever it takes to make sure that our clients are happy. Most of the work we get is through word-of-mouth and referrals so this is really important to me and to the organization.

Do you have a mentor?

My brother is a successful entrepreneur and I seek his advice regularly. His perspective is great because he’s a real people person and he’s business savvy. His work schedule allows for him to be available to me throughout the day and late into the evening which is when I do a lot of my work, so I really appreciate his accessibility, which is something not all mentors and mentees can enjoy. He also manages a number of employees, as do I, so he advises me on inter-client and inter-employee relations.  

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

I am an independent person who has always marched to the beat of my own drum. So having the flexibility to make my own schedule is the best! I also love that there is no company politics or management or bureaucracy that limits my decisions, my risks or my successes, which is what I often faced in the corporate and non-profit worlds. In this company I am in charge of budgets and spending and all creative decisions, and I find that to be very rewarding.

What does a typical morning routine look like? After school routine?

My husband is in charge of getting our older two kids to school. I hang back and have a slower start to the day with our baby. I have full-time help (a caregiver) in the house since I elected not to take a maternity leave. I try and go to the gym after the kids leave for school but sometimes I dive straight into my work.

Can you elaborate on not taking a maternity leave with Joey?

Yes, I was literally getting client calls while I was about to have my c-section. That was on a Friday and I was calling those clients back on Monday when I was back home from the hospital. I’m in a position where I can continue the business because it is growing so rapidly, and still be there for my kids and have the support I need to make everything work. Sometimes this means I’m scheduling my meetings around times that I can either drop back home to feed the baby or make sure I have a place I can pump. 

And what are the afternoons like?

After school is busy in our house. Our kids are in aftercare so I take a break from my work at 4:45pm to pick them up and hang with them until their 8:30pm bedtime. Then back to work!  

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

I just read my first book in about 6 years. It was Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I found it truly inspiring and I think she’s a great role model. I’d love to have a cup of tea with her!

How do you carve out time for yourself?

There’s a sacred hour in the late afternoon before I pick up the kids, usually around 3:30pm. If I happen to be home I will try and relax. It doesn’t usually happen!! I also make time to take a hot bath and read a magazine each night before bed. I do that once all my work is complete so that my mind can truly unwind. Magazines are relaxing for me as they are short and light and don’t require too much focus.

How do you stay organized?

I use Google calendar and color coordinate my work related bookings. I also add my husband to relevant calendar entries so it pops up on his phone as well. I use spreadsheets and track all my conversations with industry people so I can refer back to it when needed. 

What is your childcare situation?

We have a 5 year old in full day kindergarten and a 3 year old in full day daycare. We actually decided to hire a nanny 2 days before I gave birth to our third child. Originally, I intended to run my business while taking care of our newborn baby. But the week before I gave birth I panicked and realized I am NOT SUPER WOMAN! Luckily we found a gem of a lady who was looking for work and she’s been the best addition to our family!

It’s amazing that you were able to realize you needed help and that you reached out to get that support. Do you feel like you have a good work/life balance? If so, how do you maintain that?

Yes! I make time for everything I want to do. I plan my day meticulously and make good use of every hour. I put calendar entries into my phone for everything (for example 8:45am drive to the gym) which my family and friends make fun of me for but it works! If it means I only get to Walmart at 9:00pm then so be it. But I’m making sure I get to go! I will also randomly book a babysitter weeks in advance and make a dinner reservation far in advance because then my husband and I will have that date night to look forward to and don’t have to scramble for childcare when the time comes. I’m a big fan of the Sunday night date night. Babysitters are more readily available to us on Sunday nights and it’s easier to get a dinner reservation. And let’s be honest here…. what parent doesn’t need a night out after a busy weekend with 3 young kids!

Being a manager of staff, has being a parent changed the way you manage people?

In the past 5 years I have learned how to manage children and staff. The key is to understand their perspectives and take the time to listen to their ideas and feelings. Then I can make an informed decision. One of the biggest challenges of running my own business is staffing, but keeping the lines of communication open has been huge for making sure that this runs smoothly. I take all the feedback my staff has into consideration so I’m constantly updating processes and procedures based on their input since they’re boots on the ground at the client’s homes. 

What is it about your business that makes you stand out?

One thing that really stuck with me that I learned during my MBA was the importance of branding. We are Luxury Move Management which means our staff wear the shirts with the logo, our labels on all the boxes are branded, we take care to have premium quality services and really live up to that name and high standard because that is what our clients expect. I make sure everything reflects that brand, from the initial consultation, to making sure we only use clean moving boxes, to a meticulous operational process with my staff, and working with reputable third party companies. I think this really makes this business stand out and is part of the reason why so much of our business comes through referrals. 

Some Fun Tidbits from Mindy:

What are your favourite – skincare, makeup, office tools, software?

Skincare and makeup:  I keep it very simple. I’ve watched dozens of YouTube videos about makeup application and developed a routine that is fast and easy to do with budget makeup. 

Software:  I rely on cloud computing. All of my work files are saved on the cloud which allows me to access them for virtually anywhere. It allows me to be efficient. It’s great!

What is your daily uniform?

Post-baby mom jeans, semi-stylish shoes and a casual top that feels comfortable and not restrictive.

What’s in your purse right now?

In my purse is a ziplock bag of Cheerios (ew!), gum, lipstick and wallet. I’m sure there’s chocolate somewhere in there too!

We learned a TON from spending time with Mindy. What we found particularly interesting is the entrepreneur who is thrown into the position through circumstance – she definitely worked hard to swim and not sink and her business is truly thriving because of the thoughtful way she decided to go for it. Taking her natural skills and abilities, pairing them with her background and figuring out where the gaps were in an industry that she had no prior experience in – this woman exemplifies resourcefulness! Also, we are definitely implementing Sunday Night Dates in our household…#genius! Learn more about Luxury Move Management here, follow them on Facebook and Instagram here

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