This story was first published in the Merritt Herald on September 7, 2023 in my "Life North of 50" column.
On September 1, I celebrated my 10-year self-employment anniversary. I started my business at the beginning of 2011, two years and eight months later I quit my day job and have been working full-time for myself since. Business and what it takes to start and run one successfully is one of my favourite things to talk about; I chatted with a friend last week and she asked me about my take on small business in Merritt, so here’s my opinion on that.
My answer to my friend’s question was that most people don’t know what they are getting into and just how much it actually takes to start and run a business that generates a full-time income and has a chance of contributing to the growth of the community. And while there are several non-profit organizations available to support budding entrepreneurs in Merritt, they lack one thing - someone who is actually an entrepreneur and who can speak from experience rather than just recommend grants and loans and free webinars. Because starting a business is not the hardest part; to keep it going and make it profitable is.
So what does it take? Apart from the legal and licensing requirements, you need to know what you want to do, who you’re doing it for, and what problem you’re solving for them. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product or a service, those questions are at the core. Drill down deep, especially the part about who your market is (and if it exists to the extend you need in Merritt) and how what you offer will make their life easier. Once you’re clear on that you have to be prepared to either spend a significant amount of time or money. It can be both, but has to be at least one. Either you do the groundwork or you pay someone to do it. If you think you don’t need marketing - you do. As freelancer Peter Bowerman said: “Other people spend amazingly little time thinking about you.”
Once you’re up and running - or, even better, as soon as you’re thinking about starting a business - connect with other entrepreneurs. Think about how you can collaborate with other businesses for a win-win for your and their customers. Collaborations and exchange of ideas are a vital part of a thriving business community, and in my opinion that’s what’s missing in the Nicola Valley.