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Confessions of an Entrepreneur | How to Support Small Business

Confessions, Entrepreneur, Small BusinessLesley Pocklington2 Comments
  Confessions of an Entrepreneur | How to Support Small Business + Why It’s SO Important

Confessions of an Entrepreneur | How to Support Small Business + Why It’s SO Important

With the busy retail season fast approaching, it’s a good time to stress and confess why it’s SO important to support small business while sharing easy ways we can all become advocates. I confess, I am a small business advocate (and owner) and proud of it.

Small business helps local communities and families thrive. Money spent within our own neighbourhoods and cities impacts local economies, giving more people the opportunity to succeed over a few at the top. I don’t want to sound naive, big business has its place in our communities as well. I’ve worked for some in my past life and my husband works for one too. They too, provide local jobs and impact communities in positive ways by giving back. When it comes to buying from big companies; we as consumers need to seek (if not, demand) those that offer sustainable practices and equitable working conditions. In 2018, it’s expected.

Back to small business. Small businesses allow people to follow their dreams while creating choice and diversity for their customers. Small businesses thrive on offering niche products in small batches, and taking risks that big companies just can’t. You could say, growth and innovation is their jam. Small businesses provide their communities with unique local identities and character, and often establish these communities as destinations. This social impact is invaluable as businesses operate as partners and collaborators to support success and positive change. Small businesses are often the first to step up and give back or provide mentorship in their communities.

Most importantly, you know who you’re buying from when you support a small business. That personal touch probably keeps you coming back, right? It’s a better customer experience overall. Small businesses truly value every single customer. You can provide instant feedback and they can adapt to your needs. Plus, it feels good to know a small business owner is able to continue their dream, provide for their families and give back to their communities. Thanks to your support. Here are some ways you can support small business too. The fact that you’re here reading this, already says a lot about you.


1. When Shopping, Think Small First

When you’re in need of something (pretty much anything), think small first. Of course, we all need to shop at big stores too; but before you head out the door (or online) to check items off your list, think about where you can find those items from a small business. For instance, if I need new shoes, I head to my local (and awesome) shoe shop first. I know the shop owner has badass style, is a local change-maker and has a young family at home. It’s a no brainer. I get a fabulous pair of shoes, she gets a sale and a loyal customer. Win, win.

The same goes for gifts, flowers, stationery, baked goods, wellness goods, jewelry, books, home decor, furniture, clothing. Really, I could go on and on. You get the picture. All of these types of business (whether brick and mortar or online) proudly offer you one of a kind products and work hard to to operate sustainable practices.

Are in you in the market for a service? Same thing goes. Service based small businesses thrive on local support too. Experts in their fields, they’re going to give you the one on one service you deserve.

2. Head to Your Local Cafes

I’m feeling pretty great about those new shoes (as mentioned above). I am going to celebrate with a coffee. A simple pleasure. I’ll skip a trip to the large coffee chain and walk around the corner to my local coffee shop. Coffee shops, cafes and restaurants are wonderful places to support local, meet your neighbours (including the owners) and enjoy goods that are lovingly made by hand. Plus, you can soak up the ambiance and unique personality that each coffee shop offers. These are our community gathering places. Support them and meet a friend face to face. It feels good.

3. Support Your Local Markets

One of the most grassroots ways to support small business, is by visiting your local markets. Fresh products are abundant and diverse, it’s a nice way to spend your day, and it’s easy to work into your regular routine. You always need fresh food and goodies, and local always tastes better (and it’s better for you). That goes for wine too.

4. Spread the Word

If you love a small business or brand, spread the word. A lot of small businesses and services rely on word of mouth. So, tell everyone you know or write a glowing review. As a small business owner myself, hearing your feedback still makes my heart skip a beat.

If you get social online, snap a photo on Instagram or Facebook and tag your favourite businesses. Spreading the love is one of the best ways to support your local businesses. Even if you can’t buy from a local business, supporting them through your comments, likes and shares is encouraging. For small businesses, it’s the little things that have a big impact.

5. Be a Small Business Advocate

Did you learn something by reading this post today? Or, maybe you have some ideas to share too. Please do! Share everything you know about supporting small business with your friends, family and community. Encourage people to become small business advocates, just like you. We are better together when it comes to creating change in our communities.

Thanks for reading and for supporting small businesses, like Swell Made Co. Your support of businesses like my own, is truly life-changing and for that I am forever grateful. As Swell Made Co. approaches its 4th year in business, I am so happy to continue living this dream come true (with hard work, of course). This comes direct from my entrepreneurial heart, but also from our suppliers, shop owners (stockists) and collaborators as well. We take so much pride in working with and being inspired by this community of small business.

The future is local. Thank YOU for being a part of it!


THESE ARE SWELL TOO:

Confessions of an Entrepreneur | Taxes

Small Business, Confessions, TipsLesley Pocklington2 Comments
  Confessions of an Entrepreneur by Swell Made Co. | Taxes

Confessions of an Entrepreneur by Swell Made Co. | Taxes

It's that time of year. Dreaded, dreaded tax time. I'll confess, as a small business owner this is one of my biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to running a business day-to-day. Bookkeeping, accounting, finances -- they all just make me want to curl up on the couch and take a nap. To be even more honest, for the first year of business; I had NO IDEA what I was doing when it came to filing taxes because it turns out running retail business versus (and in addition to) a freelance, low overhead, service-based business is a lot more complicated. So, any flow I had when it came to tax time needed an overhaul and a reality check. 

It turns out, it's not all so bad. Once you have some systems in place, it's not only easier; but crucial for keeping track of the financial health of your business. Staying on top of bookkeeping every month (I personally can't get more frequent than that) will not only help you see trends and help you create goals for your business; but it will make tax time a breeze (sort of) because you're already organized. That's key.

Here are some incredibly useful tips from my friend, Julie Middleton. Julie provides small business support with bookkeeping that helps you set informed goals and focus on your customers (what you do best). From working with Target (remember Target Canada? Sniffle.) to TD Bank, Julie knows a thing or two to keep your small business on track.  

  Tips for getting you and your small business through tax time. By Swell Made Co. and Julie Middleton, Bookkeeper.

Tips for getting you and your small business through tax time. By Swell Made Co. and Julie Middleton, Bookkeeper.

Julie is going to take it from here. I suggest you pay attention, kids. If you still have questions and are operating a small business in Canada, you can get in touch with Julie

How to Make Tax Time Less Painful

As a small business owner, you can file your own taxes; but it often saves money to use a professional accountant. An accountant has the expertise to maximize your deductions and minimize your taxes. Here are some bookkeeping tips to reduce the cost for an accountant to file your taxes and make tax season less painful:

  1. Find out what your accountant needs – Talk to your accountant to get a clear understanding of what they need from you. Do they want the physical receipts, or a summary? Do they have forms for you to complete in advance? What is their turnaround time? Setting up expectations early on will save time for both of you. 
     
  2. Be as organized as possible – Group expenses together and label them with categories (home office, inventory purchases, travel, etc.). The less time the accountant spends figuring this out, the better. It's wise to figure out a system and find tools that work for you early on so it becomes habit. That way, you can track expenses/sales on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis -- giving you a snapshot of your business throughout the year. Not just at tax time, but it will certainly make tax time less painful. You can go the DIY route and use tools like QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Wave Accounting or even a good old fashioned spreadsheet. If you have the option of outsourcing your bookkeeping, even better. 
     
  3. Take advantage of tax deductions – As a small business owner, you can write off a huge variety of expenses to claim tax deductions. Track business expenses such as inventory purchases, insurance, travel, media/advertising costs, meals, capital property, etc. Don't forget about home office expenses (if your home is your principal place of business or if you meet with clients in your home) such as internet, heat, power, water, and mortgage interest. You can also expense vehicle usage including gas, parking, and maintenance. Here is a great infographic with the top tax deductions for small business owners in Canada. 
     
  4. Summarize your expenses – Add up each expense and double check your results. Keep a spreadsheet with the totals and include this in the file you are sending to the accountant. If you use accounting software like Wave Accounting, FreshBooks or QuickBooks, print a profit and loss statement for the year.
     
  5. Don't forget your personal tax receipts - You need all your personal stuff too! Gather all of your personal receipts for childcare, RRSP contributions, medical/dental, T4s, etc. 
     
  6. Know your business and the deadlines  - Sole proprietors and incorporated businesses will need to provide the accountant with different information (and may have different tax filing deadlines). Know what kind of business you have, and when your deadlines are. Not only does this include the annual income tax deadline, but keep track of dates for HST remittance, instalments (if you utilize them) and RRSP contributions. 

If you are filing your own income tax return, TurboTax is a great tool that will walk you through the process for free (up until you file the claim). So, if you're comfortable with DIY, the tips above still apply to keep you organized and in the know when it comes to your small business. Finally, grab some wine and snacks to get you through the process. It helps!


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Confessions of an Entrepreneur - Loneliness

Confessions, Entrepreneur, Small BusinessLesley PocklingtonComment
swell-made-co-confessions-entrepreneur.jpg

When you're an entrepreneur, working on your own can get lonely. It’s true. Especially if you work from home. It doesn't have to be! Here are some tips to combating the entrepreneurial blues and places where you can cowork with real-live people in Toronto (and beyond).


Cultivate an Entrepreneurial Community

Whether you join an existing group, or surround yourself with a select group of fellow entrepreneurs; they're the ones who will understand the feeling of loneliness. They'll also appreciate and respect the challenges and dedication it takes to run a business on your own. Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs is a positive way to feel like you're in it together, and you'll be able to support and learn from each other as well.

That said, it's important to prioritize those relationships. You can't be friends with everyone, so don't try. Invest in good relationships and friendships. You only have so much time. Make it count. How does the quote go? “Leave the table if love (or respect) isn’t being served”. Doesn’t that go for a lot of things in life? Edit.

Take a Break

While your hustle is not in vain, don't forget to take a break every once in a while. Entrepreneurs are busy people, but remember to do other things you love too. Yoga, getting outside, traveling, reading, hanging out with friends. Whatever it is you need to decompress, is important for your mental and physical health. Recharge and come back feeling less lonely after connecting with your world again.

Work with Others

Finally, a lot of entrepreneurs that work solo, also work from home. Get out of your physical comfort zone and work in a coworking space. You'll connect with other entrepreneurs (socially and professionally) as mentioned above. Below are some of the best places to set up a workspace for a day, or on a regular basis in Toronto. They all offer flexible types of memberships, plus events to help you get out there and crush those goals.

Make Lemonade

326 Adelaide Street West - 6th Floor

New to Toronto is Make Lemonade. A workspace dedicated to women. The design-forward coworking environment is tropical and bright. It's a space meant to inspire and support, with strong coffee at the ready and spaces that include board rooms, phone booths and even an outdoor patio. They encourage a community of women to make some magic and get sh*t done! Make Lemonade also offers events for female entrepreneurs from goal smashing to self-care for startups. Photos from Make Lemonade.

Breather

Multiple Locations / Multiple Cities

Need a space to breathe between meetings? Or, maybe you need a space to host a meeting (small or large group). Breather has various locations around Toronto and in other cities like New York, Boston, Ottawa and Montreal where you can set up shop for a few hours, or a whole day. The spaces are beautiful and welcoming. Just think of it as an Airbnb for office spaces. Photos by Breather.

Love Child Social House

69 Bathurst Street

Love Child is a coworking and social space for entrepreneurs, creatives, events, workshops, and nightlife. They believe collaboration is the real mother of invention, so they created a workspace designed for connection. With memberships that include social events, you'll never feel alone in this fun space. Photos by Love Child Social House.

We Work

Richmond Street and Bloor Street

The global coworking chain has cropped up in Toronto with locations on Richmond and Bloor. Featuring a cafe, group and individual work areas, this dynamic space is well-known around the world for being a comfortable place to set up shop. With a focus on humanizing work and helping you grow, they've thought of everything. By grabbing a membership you'll be able to set up in a familiar space no matter where you are (almost, there are 59 cities). Photos by Toronto Life.

The East Room

50 Carrol Avenue

Located in Toronto's East End, the East Room offers a stunning coworking space with services catering to freelance creatives and small businesses. Packed with curated antiques, this space is perfect for photo shoots (or just feeling inspired), individual and group spaces, mail services, etc. Membership applications vary offering a more casual workspace to something more permanent. Photos by The East Room.

Confessions of a Entrepreneur

Confessions, EntrepreneurLesley PocklingtonComment
  Confessions of a Entrepreneur by Swell Made Co.

Confessions of a Entrepreneur by Swell Made Co.

We all have pivotal moments in our lives. Ones that set you on a trajectory without intention, but force you (or at least encourage you) to take action. While it was a gradual process, it started in my early twenties. I was fresh out of University and employed at my first corporate job. I was a graphic designer at a marketing company in western Canada. I'll admit, I was hugely naive. Who isn't at 22? I still had a LOT to learn, but I was "good" at my job.

I cringe when I remember sitting in a lunchroom with my boss and co-workers. We were tossing around casual jokes and conversation. I don't even remember what the topic was, or what I said. Then it blindsided me. My boss, in a deadpan tone, called me stupid. Not once, but twice. This person was going through a rough time personally, so I'll give them that; but from that moment forward I vowed to never work in that type of environment again. The corporate world had revealed its true face and it wouldn't be the last time (because, that's reality).

I've endured far more devastating comments and events in my life. Being called stupid is rather petty. I get that. However, that comment from the mouth of a respected mentor/leader haunted me for years. It directed me on a course that has simply allowed me to "do good work, with good people" on my own for the past decade. For that, I am very grateful.

Not all workplaces are toxic. I have had hugely enriching experiences from being employed accross Canada; but if you've experienced one or a few of these environments, you've probably thought about going out on your own too. Thankfully, the definition of work has changed drastically and there are countless opportunities to define and create what work looks like. The majority of my daily interactions are with people who are living a entrepreneur life, or making the leap and it's truly inspiring.

I'm no expert. Truthfully, I'm always learning and figuring things out. Aren't we all? Here are a few lessons I've learned (sometimes the hard way) from being a entrepreneur I'm sparing you with the logistics of making the transition. There are loads of articles and books out there to help you out. Plus, it really comes down to you, and how you design that transition. Gradual or quick, there's no right way.


DON'T TAKE SH*T
 

Life is short. It really is. Taking any type of shit from anyone is NOT worth your valuable time (more about time coming up). Sh*t pay, sh*t work, sh*t attitudes, sh*t offers, sh*t hours. If you smell sh*t, walk away. You are so much better than a pile of sh*t. That goes for anything in life. Phew! Got that one? I'm trying to be as clear as sh*t. I promise, I'm moving on to more enlightening and serious content.

NURTURE GOOD RELATIONSHIPS

You will meet a plethora of wonderful people throughout your career. You were brought together for a reason. Nurture those relationships well beyond your given time together. It will serve you well. As a entrepreneur, the majority of your work and inspiration will come through connections you make throughout your career (employed or solo). Thriving and respectful relationships will open you up to collaborating with talented and smart people, just like you. If a relationship feels sh*tty, refer to the tip above.

BE KIND. BE GRATEFUL.

Kindness matters and goes a long way. It doesn't cost a thing to be kind. Don't take shit, but be kind even when it's hard. When good (and bad) things come your way, be grateful for them. See the value in experiences big and small and express gratitude. It helps the world make sense.

DON'T STOP CREATING

Don't stop creating. Whatever creating means to you, (writing, beer making, cooking, photography, painting, designing, etc.) just keep doing it. In your career, you'll go through a body of work and some of it will be sh*t, trust me. Keep working HARD. The more time you invest, the better you'll become and one day you'll find your way. You'll find yourself. You have talent. Don't give up. This quote by Ira Glass helped me through the creative process years ago. I still repeat it when I hit a rut, as you do. Grit and hustle really do go far.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it's like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.


Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you're going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you're going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions.

I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.


- Ira Glass

GUARD YOUR TIME

Time is your most valuable commodity. Guard it fiercely. You will always find ways to make money. After all, you're smart and full of ideas. You CAN'T get time back. Spend your time wisely. Personally and professionally. Edit, edit, edit.

DEFINE YOUR OWN SUCCESS

Success is a subjective and nuanced thing. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Just focus on what success means to YOU. You have an opportunity to create your OWN reality. Define what that means and take the steps to make it happen.

For me, success means doing good work, with good people. I do what I love with equal amounts of discipline and flexibility. I make time for my career/personal passions and for my family. I learn something new every day. Over time, that definition will change and I will continue to adapt. So will you. It's part of the process and life of a entrepreneur, but worth every enriching moment.

That's all I got! Keep it real and work hard. If you're a entrepreneur, does this resonate with you? What else have you got to tell me? I'd love to hear what you've learned.