In next week's No Fear Hiring session, our guest Katherine Englander of HRP4B will speak about the technical elements of being ready to hire - the necessary paperwork, forms, payroll, and various government departments you must navigate. You must learn #allthethings when you find yourself prepared for your first employee. It can be overwhelming, and we want you to feel prepared well before you need to post that figurative "Help Wanted" sign.
Let's touch on a few best practices to consider when hiring.
While downtown construction holds the promise of great things ahead, Mugford’s has taken the opportunity to revisit its past with a temporary pop-up location at Elgin Centre.
Mugford’s Shoes has called Talbot street home since opening in 1965. The store first gained popularity in the 1960s for their high-quality products, professionalism regarding their merchandise, as well as a clean, friendly and comfortable atmosphere, with high standards of customer service to each client and their needs. In 1975, just in time for the Holiday Season, the original owners Don and Merle Mugford expanded their horizons, unveiling two new locations in London, with a fourth added to the Elgin Mall (now Elgin Centre) in 1975.
For nearly 55 years, the family business has thrived, with a second location in London’s Westmount Mall continuing to operate today. St Thomas remains the headquarters of the company, offering a wide selection of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, carrying household brands from Saxx to Tommy Bahama.
To make access for their clientele easier during Talbot Street’s reconstruction the boutique has opted to temporarily move their main location to the Elgin Centre, inviting their valuable customers to continue their support during the move. They continue to attract attention with giveaways, promotional events and new merchandise. Those interested in updating their wardrobe for the coming summer months are recommended to check out their great seasonal selections. All the reasons folks shopped Mugford’s in the ‘60’s are reasons to revisit the boutique today.
While we look forward to welcoming the store back to Talbot St. soon, this temporary change is indeed a fun look back over the store’s history as well. While trends and fashion fads have changed through the years, the store continues to remain within the original founder’s family.
If you’re looking to upgrade your summer wardrobe with the latest styles, trends and brands, Mugford’s is a hot spot for some new threads! Enjoy a large selection of merchandise from sandals to scarves, purses to pullovers, all with great customer service.
Stop by this new ray of sunshine for the summer season located in the Elgin Centre for essentials, accessories and more. For window-shopping during after-hours, check out their Facebook page showcasing their newest arrivals and events. Mugford’s has it all to stay cool and chic in the Railway City!
I am sure you, like most people, have had an idea, interest, or passion that you thought would be a good business but have been baffled about what to do next.
First, know that the team at the Elgin/St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre is here to help you in your early exploration of entrepreneurship or at any point along the journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
While no two businesses are the same, here are a few general steps to help you get started.
Be willing to put in the work to get there.
Many local businesses, including Purely Wicked and Abby Mae's Gluten Free Bakery, have launched their business first as a vendor at the Horton Farmers' Market before hiring staff and opening storefront locations.
Ask yourself the following questions; how can you start this business with $5? What is the minimum viable business you can create? Can you start selling to family and friends from your home? Can you try selling through Instagram or Facebook?
Reducing the risk, and investment, by starting from where you (and with what you already have) is vital. It will allow you to test out the market, see if you enjoy doing it, and learn about your customers and the local market in which you operate.
There are better long-term strategies than being the cheapest. Set a price based on one or more of the following factors: (1) what it is worth, (2) what it costs to make, or (3) what your competition charges.
Ask someone to buy it. Make a sale. Repeat.
So many people are passionate about what they do, and they get all choked up about charging money for it. Money is not bad, and money is what makes the thing you create sustainable. Plus, making money feels good!
Guess what? You are not special. Everyone has these thoughts.
To be an entrepreneur means taking a (social) risk and putting yourself out there before you have everything figured out. Talking to people about what you do is the only way to learn more, build a group of people invested in supporting your business, and connect to the resources you don't currently have.
Saying out loud what you want to create is the first step to bringing it to life. You must talk to people about it and get their ideas, knowledge, connections, and excitement.
And it's something you can do today.
Post it on Facebook. Send your Superfans an email update of what you have in the works. Reach out to someone with whom you'd like to collaborate. Build a prototype.
Telling people about what you are doing in any way is marketing because people can only buy from you if they know your business exists.
Be wary of time wasters such as perfecting a logo or a website or feeling like you need more tools to start. You will only learn what you need by working with engaged or potential customers.
There are many right ways to run a business, don't cling to what you or others think you should do. Build the company that works for you and is possible from where you are.
This journey is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to put in the work and be consistent. Money doesn't grow on trees; it takes time to build a business.
Professional Business advisors are available for free through the Elgin/ St. Thomas Small Business Centre. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a call about your business.
This article was originally published in Hometown St. Thomas, March 2023 - Click here for the full issue
What is SBEC anyway?
What is SBEC anyway?
Acronyms, am I right? We all use them when we are on the inside like it's no big deal - but when you are unfamiliar with an industry or organization, and they come up, it is easy to become overwhelmed or tune things out and miss out on valuable support.
So let's bring you into the conversation about who we are and what we do at your local Small Business Enterprise Centre or SBEC. Our team of Small Business Advisors serves the small business curious of St. Thomas and Elgin County throughout all phases of business, from discovery and planning to launch and growth.
Operating as part of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation, our services are available at no cost through the added support of Elgin County and the Province of Ontario. Our organization is part of a Province-wide network of small business centres allowing us to connect you with more resources and learning opportunities to grow your business.
In addition to one-on-one or group consultations, our team offers business plan guidance, training sessions and seminars, access to local connections, grant programs for young entrepreneurs and those starting out, and community events to support building strong network connections.
The Horton Farmers' Market operation is also a part of how we support the local community of small business owners. While the market is essential to our greater community for many reasons, to our small business owners, the market can act as a great launching point. Several local small businesses have taken off from there and now have storefronts. The Horton Farmers' Market is a producer-based Farmers' Market that draws vendors from a maximum distance of 60km from its location at 10 Manitoba St.
Another unique way we support the community is through GROW, an accelerator program offering no-cost space to small businesses considering expansion into a physical location. The Caboose at Jumbo is an option to be a three-month stepping stone between home-based and storefront. Or the opportunity to give it a try at a low-risk point.
If you are in business or looking to get in business and located in St. Thomas or Elgin County, contact our team of passionate small business advisors. They are always excited to meet new folks, celebrate your wins and assist with navigating the inevitable tough spots. Reach out before you need a listening ear or practical advice. Connect with us on social media and stay tuned for exciting announcements, celebrations of local businesses, and the incredible events ahead.
This article was originally featured in Hometown St. Thomas - March 2023 - enjoy the full edition here
Can you dig it?
Talbot St. has worn a lot of styles - from dirt to brick, to pavement featuring streetcar tracks to ultimately what we have now! The time has come for the work to continue improving both the street and what lies beneath. As our City continues to grow and evolve so must the infrastructure!
Phase three of the Talbot St. Reconstruction continues the work that was completed in the West End in 2018 and will bring the section of Downtown from Mary St. to Ross Street up to the standard set in the west end with incredible railway-themed touches, increased parking, and upgraded light standards - in addition to the necessary work to the replacement of Sewers, Watermain, Utilities below.
During construction, sections of the road will need to be closed to vehicular traffic from March to October to complete the work safely and in a timely manner. Construction will be phased and include tight schedule deadlines and financial penalties to ensure it is completed quickly. Pedestrian access will generally be maintained with minor disruptions. The construction will be completed in two stages beginning in March with an expected completion in October.
For more information regarding this project, full details and plans are available on the City of St. Thomas Website.
For our small business community that calls Talbot St. home, this project is, on the one hand, very welcome. There is an excellent understanding that this is essential work that needs to happen, and better if it is planned than an infrastructure failure. The finished streetscape will also be an incredible upgrade with a fresh look to accent the historic downtown area. However, there is also some genuine and reasonable concern that the construction will impact visitation to their businesses. And that's valid too.
The great words of a classic film, "If you build it, they will come," raises a great argument with the caveat that folks need to KNOW that something has been built so they CAN come. And this is the principle we are going to touch on here. Because yes - your foot traffic is likely to be impacted. So what can you do about it?
Keep your customers in the loop about what to expect.
Stay Positive with your customers, but also be authentic.
Give your customers a reason to visit.
Keep communication up
Make new friends
Don't ignore your financials.
This is an incomplete list - there will be more ideas that surface over the coming months - the key is to remember that you aren't alone, and your neighbours will be experiencing at least one of the same external factors that you are - lean on one another and lean on us too.
Marketing Plan Must Haves
When we are reviewing business plans, next to financials the marketing plan is generally the next most common element that has us asking for more details and clarification. Whether you are submitting for a grant or loan funding or just creating a plan to help guide the growth of your business; a Times Square billboard isn't required for success but a comprehensive marking plan is key.
Simply stating "will use social media" isn't an adequate plan - which platforms, how often, what type of content, budget allocated are all elements to consider and include in your plan.
We've outlined a few places to start building the framework for your plan below:
We all like making that sweet, sweet cheddar, and many people think of revenue as the life blood of their business. But it’s not the full story of having a successful business.
No matter what size or stage your business is in here are 3 things you need to focus on:
You can have lots of revenue and still not have any money left in the bank at the end of the day. There are so many businesses that do this to gain market traction, including Amazon and Facebook. I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t Amazon. Nor do you want to be! They aren’t profitable.
Get your business expenses under control so that after all the dust settles you have some profit that you can take home. The key to actually making a profit is…
Set good prices
Do you honestly know how much it costs you to deliver your goods or services? Including your labour? Or are you just basing your prices off what your competition charges? Are you really going to that they did the math?
Get your calculators out and add up every penny that goes into your offerings. Know how much it costs and make sure you are actually turning a profit on each product.
I don’t have to tell you how hard you need to hustle to sell a product. It’s hard to land a customer, so it is important to think about additional revenue streams, complimentary products, or a slick way of getting your customers back for more of the same thing.
Bonus: How to reign in your expenses and actually make a profit
Most people make purchase decisions by looking at their bank account balance and businesses are money eating monsters.
Every month, look at how much money came into your business bank account, and how much went out. Make it a habit to pay yourself something every month. Even if it is just a small amount. Transfer that money out of your business bank account and you will spend less money on the business AND start paying yourself. Twofer!
Stop running your business blind to the numbers and start making a PROFIT today.
Need specific advice about your business? Book a free meeting with a local business advisor.
As a small business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities. You wear a lot of hats and have multiple tasks in the air on a daily basis, so it can be challenging to focus on the bigger picture. But January is a great time to widen the lens and examine what your bigger picture for the year ahead looks like. To work towards business growth in 2023 and beyond, setting SMART goals is essential.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting goals that meet these criteria will ensure that you’re taking meaningful steps towards achieving success for your business this year. Let’s dive into what each of these elements mean for goal setting.
Specific and Measurable
Specific goals are more likely to get accomplished because they provide direction and clear objectives that you can work towards achieving. They should also be measurable so that you can track your progress throughout the year. For example, if one of your goals is to increase website traffic by 10%, then you will be able to track how close you are to reaching this goal at any given point in time by tracking website visitors or other key performance indicators (KPIs). This will help keep you motivated as you move closer towards achieving your goal!
Attainable and Relevant
Your goals should be attainable but also challenging enough to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s wise to set realistic expectations to avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged when something doesn't go as planned. Additionally, make sure the goals are relevant to where your business currently stands and where it could potentially go in the future. For example, if your current customer base is primarily local customers, then setting a goal of increasing international customer numbers might not be feasible or relevant right now.
Lastly, all goals should have an end date attached so that there is an element of urgency and motivation behind achieving them by a set time frame. Without a deadline in place it can be easy to procrastinate, leading to decreased productivity levels over time. So make sure all of your goals have an end date attached!
When setting goals for your small business this year, remember to keep them SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound—so that they are achievable yet still challenging enough for growth! Doing so will help ensure that 2023 is a successful year full of progress towards achieving bigger and better things!
Every year, millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions with the intention of improving their lives. However, more often than not, these resolutions fail to become a reality. Why is that? The answer lies in the fact that many New Year’s resolutions are vague and lack structure—two elements essential for achieving success. Instead of relying on New Year’s resolutions, it is much more effective to set goals for yourself instead. Let’s explore how goal setting is a smarter way to achieve success in your business and life.
What Is Goal Setting?
Goal setting is an organized process by which you identify what you want to accomplish and then break it down into achievable milestones. By breaking down a goal into smaller tasks or steps, you can track your progress and stay motivated as you work towards achieving your desired outcome.
Why Is Goal Setting Better Than Making Resolutions?
The problem with most New Year’s resolutions is that they are usually too vague or too lofty. For instance, “quit smoking” or “get healthy” are admirable ideals but lack specificity and tangible steps required to achieve them. On the other hand, when you set goals for yourself instead of making resolutions, you can more easily create an action plan for attaining them since each step along the way will be clear and measurable.
How Can I Start Setting Goals?
The first step in goal setting is to identify what it is that you actually want to achieve; this could be anything from launching a new product line to increasing customer engagement on social media platforms. Once you have identified what it is that you want to accomplish, break it down into smaller milestones that are easier to tackle one at a time (e.g., if launching a new product line was your goal then developing a pricing structure might be one of your initial milestones). Finally, create an action plan with deadlines so that each task can be completed within a certain timeframe—this will help keep you motivated and on track towards achieving your ultimate goal.
So, while making New Year’s resolutions may seem like an easy way to improve aspects of your personal or professional life—it rarely works out that way in reality due to the lack of structure associated with them. However, by utilizing goal setting instead of making resolutions, small business owners can more accurately identify their objectives as well as create actionable plans for attaining them over time! With this approach not only will owners be better equipped for success but they will likely find themselves more motivated and inspired along their journey!
As a small business owner, it’s important to set achievable goals. The end of the year is an opportune time to review your accomplishments and create new objectives for next year. While these goals should be realistic, they should also challenge you and inspire you to do more. Here are three steps to creating meaningful goals to support success in the New Year.
Step One: Evaluate Your Past Year Performance
Before moving forward, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how your business has performed this past year. Make a list of all your successes and any areas where improvement is needed. Consider any trends from the past year, such as increased website traffic or decreased customer satisfaction ratings. This information will be helpful when creating your New Year’s resolutions since you already have a strong foundation of where your business stands today.
Step Two: Set Specific Goals
Once you’ve evaluated your current performance, it’s time to start setting specific goals that will help push your business forward in the New Year. These goals should be ambitious yet attainable so you can measure progress with each passing month or quarter. For example, if one of last year’s accomplishments was increased website traffic, an appropriate goal for this upcoming year might be increasing web conversions by 10%. By making these SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals part of your plan, you can ensure each goal is both meaningful and realistic.
Step Three: Break Each Goal into Actionable Steps
The final step is breaking down each goal into manageable action items so you can easily track progress over time. For example, if one of your goals is to increase web conversion rates by 10%, an actionable step could include optimizing images on landing pages. Once all the individual tasks are identified and prioritized within an action plan timeline, it will be much easier to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments along the way towards achieving each goal by the end of the year.
As a small business owner, the best time is always now to start thinking about which objectives need to be met in order for success in the upcoming year. Following these steps—evaluating past performance, setting specific goals, and breaking down those goals into actionable steps—will help develop an achievable plan to keep momentum going all year. With proper planning and consistency over time, small business owners can rest assured knowing they are taking their businesses in the right direction no matter what challenges may come their way this upcoming year!
But you don't have to wait for December to set new goals! If you feel you need to sit down and reevaluate, reach out to one of our advisors for support!