Ask any small business owner, and they’ll tell you that running a small business is incredibly difficult; it takes hard work, passion and determination. To celebrate Small Business Week, Love Local, PEI travelled across the Island to meet with small business owners to hear their business stories, what makes them successful and what others can learn from them.
1. At Your Service Creations and Fat Cat Bakery – Charlottetown
This fall, Kimberly Davey from At Your Service Creations and Shana Thornhill from Fat Cat Bakery joined forces to open a new retail location in Charlottetown, At Your Service Creations and Fat Cat Bakery. They specialize in cookies that not only look amazing but taste great too and quality homestyle baking. For Kimberly and Shana, supporting local is key, and they only use locally sourced ingredients and as a result, they’ve developed a very loyal and repeat customer following in a short period of time.
As small business owners, they’ve discovered that they are stronger together than on their own. By coming together, Kimberly and Shauna were able to open a storefront, employ more staff, and connect with new customers.
2. Beyond the Bridge Therapy Center – Summerside
Close friends Stephanie Dawson and Katie Murray own and operate Beyond the Bridge Therapy Centre. Stephanie provides individual therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapies, solution-focused therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy. Katie is an art therapist who conducts both one-on-one and group art therapy.
Since the Center opened in November 2019, Stephanie and Katie have been navigating COVID-19. They have implemented new service offerings by trying new online and phone therapy methods. Having to navigate challenging times has made Stephanie and Katie thrive, and being business owners has been a fantastic experience so far.
When faced with challenges or adversity, stay flexible and keep going. It can create new possibilities and opportunities.
3. Navigate Food Safety Solutions – Montague
Maureen Hanley, a born entrepreneur, is one of the founders of Navigate Food Safety Solutions, located in Montague. The company provides coaching, online training and on-site training to food manufacturing companies primarily in global food safety certification and standards. “Standards are generic, situations are specific,” Maureen remarks, “There is a lot of complexity, and our special sauce is bringing simplicity to that.”
Although Navigate Food Safety Solutions works with companies throughout North America, Maureen still loves it when they get a referral from or work with a local company because she truly believes we should support local when and wherever we can. She added, “I love it when we get a strong recommendation from someone local. I know that a good recommendation from a similar company is a game-changer in terms of making a purchase or choosing a supplier.”
Recommendations are powerful. When you take the time to recommend a business to a friend or colleague it can have a dramatic impact on small business.
4. Craig Wood Products – Tyne Valley
Craig Wood Products is a family business with a rich history in Tyne Valley. Owned by three Craig brothers, Bruce, Venom, and William, Craig Wood Products has operated for over 30 years. Craig Wood Products is committed to sustainable forestry and construction – they provide Geothermal services, practice renewable harvesting, maintain Island woodlots, and more. Every scrap in the production goes unwasted, including the sawdust.
Being a business owner hasn’t always been easy. There were times when the brothers worked seven days a week and only took 40-hour pay, and one winter during a recession, Venom and Bruce worked all winter to keep the business going and never took a pay cheque. They are proud to have grown their business into a successful one that provides for their family and their communities members’ families. “Because we’re a small rural community, we employ ten people, and ten people’s wages in this community in western PEI are pretty important to us,” Bruce said.
Craig Wood Products’ story is a clear example of what perseverance and determination looks like. Although their road hasn’t always been easy, they put their head down and did the work to ensure that their business survived, thrived, and has continued to contribute to their community.
5. Fromagerie PEI – Mount Carmel
Owner Mathieu Gallant grew up in a family dairy farm of generations in Mount Carmel. Fromagerie PEI specializes in cheese curd manufacturing, and you can find their products in many retail outlets and restaurants across the Island. It was important for Mathieu to operate his business where he grew up. “You have to create something in your community that the kids will want to come and work and be proud of because if there’s nothing there for them, they will leave.”
Last year Mathieu started a program called “Plant Trees with Cheese,” where Mathieu will plant trees in low-lying areas in return for buying local. “It’s not much,” Mathieu says, “but for me, it’s physical proof for investing here in your community, and you want to make sure there’s stuff for the next generations.”
Mathieu’s commitment to his community and how his commitment benefits not only his business but those around him is admirable. When you invest in your community and its people, it not only lifts others up, it also lifts you.
6. The Willow Bakery and Cafe – Kensington
Jocelyn Thorwaldson is a baker who moved to PEI four years ago from Manitoba. After months of preparations, Jocelyn and her partner Jared Tobias opened The Willow Bakery and Cafe beside the Kensington train station on March 18, 2020, a date they had circled on their calendar for months. What they didn’t expect was it was also the date that COVID-9 hit PEI. Since they poured everything into their business, Jocelyn and Jared pushed ahead and proceeded to open their Cafe. Their community showed up and supported their new business venture by ordering take-out. “I can’t speak it enough,” says Jocelyn, “because I feel like if we were at a different location, we wouldn’t have been as successful.”
Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean everything is going to go as planned. When faced with challenges, adjust your plan and push ahead. By preserving and staying flexible, your changes can pay off.
It’s hard not to be moved by each business owners’ dedication and enthusiasm to their products and services, genuine care for their employees and customers, and optimistic perseverance for the ups and downs in the future.