It's Small Business Week so I'd like to share with you my journey into small business. It was never my plan. I had no prior business experience, no business plan, no financial backing and I'd never worked in retail. ORESTA organic skin care was created as a result of my acne, a lack of employment opportunity and a passion to skin care.
In my mid 20s, practically overnight, my skin went from clear to angry, inflamed cystic acne. For the next few years, I bought a plethora of harsh acne skin care, endured harsh chemical treatments and antibiotics, only to watch my skin continuously get worse.
Feeling frustrated with the lack of improvement in my skin I embarked on my own strict diet, acne meds and skin care elimination journey. Much to my surprise, this cleared up my skin and led me to return to school to study skin care.
Upon graduation, I was filled with hope and enthusiasm! I applied for an esthetician position at an upscale spa. Two months later, with no call back or other opportunities to pursue, my partner suggested that "If there is no opportunity, create your own opportunity".... and this was the start of my entrepreneurial journey, 25 years ago.
In spite of my lack of business experience, I knew that failure was not an option, so I rolled up my sleeves, shelved my fear and opened a small home spa in Maryhill, Ontario in 1997. I still remember the excitement of my first booking and that someone was going to pay for me $50 for a facial.
I moved to Ottawa and in 2001, I opened ORESTA organic skin care confectionery - Ottawa's first organic spa and clean beauty boutique in the Glebe, long before eco or organic was hip or happening. I was passionate about simplifying skin care and healthy beauty for women in Ottawa. In 2004, I created an e-commerce shop on Shopify - store #39 of now over one million online retailers. Who knew that e-commerce and organic skin care would become so popular?
I was thrilled when in 2010, my sister Laryssa left nursing to join ORESTA to open the second ORESTA location in Hintonburg. There's nothing like working with one of the favourite people in your life. Her support, love, along with all the laughter is such a gift. One year later, when a beautiful space on Beechwood became available, I opened a third ORESTA location. CRAZY? I'd say so.
It takes grit, hard work and resilience to be a small business owner but almost 25 years later, there is still nothing else that I would rather be doing. I feel honoured that women trust me to guide them on their healthy beauty journey. I feel blessed to meet so many incredible women along my small business journey.
So what advice would I offer someone interested in starting a business?
1. Be prepared to work long and hard and get your hands dirty.
2. Trust yourself. Listen to your heart but to learn and grow, be open to accepting advice and constructive criticism.
3. Starting and growing a business can be lonely. Build a supportive network of fellow entrepreneurs.
4. It's easy to succumb to fear and self doubt. Push through it.
5. Be authentic, honest and real. Integrity is a superpower.
6. Remember the people who believed in you before you did.
7. Don't compare yourself with others or be envious of their success. There is plenty for everyone.
8. Don't base your worth or success on the vanity of social media likes.
9. Practice gratitude daily. You're fortunate to be able to do what you love every day!
10. You wouldn't be here without your customers. Treasure them!