Success stories

Success Stories

Community Futures is pleased to showcase some of the many good news stories in rural Alberta. Everyday we help people like you start and grow successful small businesses.

Purple Turtle Design

Cindy McKenzie
Cochrane, AB


Cindy McKenzie is a designer specializing in the creation of kitchens and bathrooms.  McKenzie, a long-time Cochrane resident, started her own business in 2010 because she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I wanted to work in the industry I love, plus be a mom as well,” says Cindy, a talented designer and certified member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA.) “I needed to find a way to run my own show so I could have the best of both worlds.”

The result was Purple Turtle Design, a full service interior design business specializing in the creation of wonderful kitchens and bathrooms. Her firm also offers 3D renderings, basement development and space planning, plus assistance with material selection and colour consultations.

“Although many of my clients are in Calgary, we choose to live in Cochrane,” she says. “Our family loves the small town atmosphere and sense of community, and to be just a little closer to the mountains is fantastic. Cindy moved here fourteen years ago, met her husband Jason and they now have a son, Samuel, adored by Cindy’s two older boys, Matthew and Eric.

“Starting my business was not easy,” Cindy admits. “I knew design, but didn’t have a strong knowledge of the other side of running a business – how to handle accounting and legal issues, and market my services.” She turned to Community Futures Centre West for help, and joined their Self Employment Program. “I’m still not an expert in everything, but don’t think I will ever be!” she laughs. “The program gave me the confidence to move forward and the tools to stay on track and grow my business. I also met a network of people to draw from whenever I need support or advice.”

Cindy adds, “Business is great and I’ve gotten what I hoped for – an income earned by doing what I love, well balanced with family time. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful support system here in Cochrane. When anyone asks me for start-up advice, I tell them: don’t hesitate to look for assistance, especially at the beginning. It’s important to admit what you don’t know – help is definitely out there!”

Visit her website at http://www.purpleturtledesign.com/

The Hair Lounge-Relax Your Home

Wendy Bates-Wiebe
Airdrie, Alberta


 

 

“Please make sure you emphasize how important the Airdrie community is to us,” says Wendy Bate-Wiebe, owner of one of the hottest hair salons in Airdrie. “Without their support, my business couldn’t have grown by 40% each year.” This civic-minded Airdrie citizen has nothing but good things to say about her journey from a start-up operation in 2008 to employing 20 people in 2015 at her thriving business, The Hair Lounge. “The business community welcomed me with open arms and since Airdrie itself has an amazing sense of community, I felt at home here from the moment I arrived.”

After graduating top of her class in 2004, Wendy spent three years learning the business aspect of running a salon while working for another establishment. When a small house became available, it was as if her 5 year plan, written while still at school, was destined to become a reality. “I had written that within five years after graduation, I’d have my own salon, operating from a house, and here was the chance to do just that.”

Unfortunately two local banks didn’t agree, so on the recommendation of a friend, Wendy approached Community Futures Centre West for financing help. “Right from the start, they believed in me”, recalls Wendy. Armed with renewed confidence and a loan, she spent several months renovating, then opened her doors in December 2008. A second loan three years later enabled her to expand, and Wendy was able to pay them both in full within five years. She credits hard work, great staff, a sense of purpose and most of all, support from the community, as keys to her business growth and success.

“I was scared when I first started out, but I worked twelve hours a day, interacted with every client and slowly built a loyal group of women. My staff is phenomenal – nobody leaves, so we have a solid group of stylists who are just like me – genuinely interested in providing great experiences. We know hair really matters to people and is a sensitive issue. That’s why walking in to our salon is like walking into our home – we want it to be a fun, relaxing environment.”

The winner or runner-up of Readers’ Choice Awards every year since the salon opened, The Hair Lounge is also an Airdrie Winning Edge award winner, earned the Family Friendly award in 2014 and most recently, received the 2015 Eco Edge Business award.  A strong supporter of the local food bank and meal programs for local school children, the salon holds several events each year to promote awareness and raise money for these causes.

“My advice to any new entrepreneur is to engage yourself in your community. Get out there, make yourself known and become involved. It all comes back to you.” Wendy smiles as she adds, “And be yourself. Come see us at The Hair lounge - we’ll make you feel at home.”

 

Photo by Bruce Tannas

Story by Patricia Alderson

 

The Cake Company

Grant Canning
Canmore , Alberta


When is a cake company not a cake company? When it’s the Cake Company Café in Banff. The history of this spot, popular with local residents, goes back to 1988 when the first bakery/coffeehouse opened in Banff. “It pre-dates all the big chains, so when I bought the business in 2010, it made sense to keep the name – it’s a tradition!” says Grant Canning, owner.   No longer just a bakery, this popular spot now offers sandwiches and wraps, some desserts and a full range of coffee and teas. “It’s the kind of place that tourists stumble across, but all the locals know about,” says Grant. “I like being able to greet people by name and sometimes, we have their favorite beverage ready by the time they reach the counter.”  Grant’s journey in entrepreneurship was a natural progression of his solid education, including an MBA and Bachelor of Commerce degree with specialties in Tourism and Marketing. Fueled by his experience in marketing while in the ski industry, he knew business ownership was in his future. When the Cake Company Café became available, he was confident he knew what it would take to run a successful operation. “When the idea of owning a coffeehouse first started to percolate, I had the desire, but lacked two things – experience and capital.” That didn’t go over well with traditional lenders, he recalls. “I understand why they are governed by numbers, but decisions are often made by people you never get to meet.”

“My experience with Community Futures Centre West was much different. I was actually referred to them by a bank who turned me down. Community Futures was remarkably helpful and I was given a very specific outline of what I need to do to move forward. They worked with me to find solutions, so I didn’t hear the word “no” very often. Instead, I heard alternatives and great suggestions, such as how to mitigate the financial risk. They listened to my ideas, understood my vision and most of all, they took into account who I was as a person.”

“The best advice I’ve received about business ownership is that every decision made should add value to my business and if it doesn’t, then I need to rethink it. I tell aspiring entrepreneurs to always believe in yourself. Owning a business comes with lots of stress, but success or failure is always predicated by you. Have confidence that you’ll do well.”

Now in its sixth year under Grant’s ownership, The Cake Company Café is a haven for locals, many of whom either work in the professional building where it’s located, or walk through to and from appointments in the building. “They are my mainstay, what keeps me going. Sure visitors to the area find their way here, but we really try to be a local oriented place and want to stay that way.”

Story by Patricia Alderson

Photography by Bruce Tannas

 

    

 

White Rose Construction Services Ltd.

Matthew Ashton
Cochrane, AB


White Rose Construction Services provides management for renovations and new construction - residential and commercial.  Matthew Ashton and his wife Emma moved to Cochrane four years ago with their two week old daughter, Sophie. “The small town atmosphere was just what we wanted,” says Matthew. “We love being close to the mountains, like to ski, hike and camp. And the idea of canoeing on the Bow River was especially appealing.”  With their newborn in tow, the Ashtons were quickly welcomed into the community.

After working for a general contractor for 3 years (6 months of which was spent commuting back and forth to Fort McMurray), Matthew was handed a pink slip. The company was cutting back.

Not one to sit still, he decided to act on a plan he had been mulling over for some time – to start his own construction consulting business. Cochrane was the perfect location. He wanted to stay in town and promote local trade in the area. “There’s enough renovation and new building going on here to keep a guy busy,” he remarks. “I started up in February 2010 with a slightly different concept than most renovation businesses.

One of Mathew’s recent projects was the renovation of the Parent Link Centre on behalf of the Town of Cochrane. “It’s a great facility where parents and kids can socialize, play and develop skill sets. We increased the square footage, upgraded the flooring, and installed specialized equipment - including a new climbing wall. This new space will be enjoyed for a long time.”

What was Matthew’s key to success? “I felt confident with my own technical skill sets, but managing a new business seemed daunting and a bit overwhelming. I looked for help and found Community Futures Centre West. I was blown away with the programs and services available – the Self Employment program taught me the basics of new business start up and I was able to confidently move ahead and open White Rose Construction Services Ltd.

“My advice to anyone moving here or already living in Cochrane who wants to start up or grow a business is to not be afraid to ask for help and guidance – it’s out there.”

KCP Energy

Geoff Domenico
Canmore , Alberta


When he started KCP Energy in 2007, three factors motivated Geoff Domenico: to be able to tell his children he was part of the answer to climate change, a desire to start his own business, and support from his wife Kendra. “Without her encouragement and understanding of the effort required, it wouldn’t have happened,” says Geoff. “It’s one of two pieces of advice I share with anyone who asks about starting a business: make sure your life partner is on board 100% and knows they are along for an interesting and sometimes bumpy ride. The second thing I share is that although I knew it would be hard to start up and grow a business, it was even harder than I imagined.”

KCP Energy focusses on renewable energy systems and has witnessed increased awareness and need for their products over the last few years. “Back when we first started, we talked about global warming,” says Geoff. “Now, it’s full-fledged climate change. Starting a new business and introducing a new product at the same time was quite an eye opener. I chose a service the market was not quite ready for, but one I believed in.  You learn how to adapt. We pivoted to different services that still aligned with our goal of helping customers use less and save more.  Residential energy assessments and home heating kept us going, while the idea of renewable solar energy was developing. Now that climate change is more widely acknowledged, the demand is growing for residential and commercial rooftop solar electricity solutions and that’s been our focus over the last 24 months.”

Community Futures Centre West (CFCWest) helped when the banks could not. “The standard retail banks would only lend based on history, not on future potential. CFCWest was willing to look not only at our potential, but at the sales and partnerships we had worked so hard to establish. They considered who we were as individuals and also took into account my engineering and project management background. It was a much different financing experience,” recalls Geoff.” They were also an excellent sounding board on how to optimize our sales process.”

KCP Energy is a Canmore based company, although there are an increasing number of employees serving the Calgary market. “I never felt that moving in order to start my business was necessary. We like the smaller setting and sense of community here in Canmore, so that’s our base.”

“I was once told a story that sums up starting a business:  in year seven you get to go to Hawaii. Now I know what that means. I was sure it wouldn’t take that long before we had a solid business, but there are no overnight successes, it just looks that way sometimes. It takes hard work and motivation to get to where you want to be. And for us, that’s to be part of the climate change solution.”

 

 

Photo by Bruce Tannas

Story by Patricia Alderson

Reliance Telecom Consulting

Cheryle Renwick
Cochrane, AB


Cheryle Renwick is on a mission to save small businesses money through negotiating better cell phone contracts.  Through her company, Reliance Telecom Consulting, she analyzes cell phone invoices, investigates billing errors and renegotiates better rates on behalf of her growing client base.

“People don’t realize there’s a whole world of unadvertised pricing potentially available to them,” says Renwick. “Since opening my business in June of 2009, I’ve saved my clients anywhere from 25 to 67 per cent on their billings.

“I recently worked with a client who didn’t think I could save him any money,” she says. “The business owner had spoken with his service provider on numerous occasions looking for better rates and even threatened to cancel – he was so frustrated. By looking at his total account usage with an objective perspective, I was able to renegotiate his rates with just over 60 per cent in savings,” Renwick glows. “That’s a lot of money for a small business.”

How did this inspiring entrepreneur make the leap from employee to running her own business? “I’ve worked in the telecommunications industry for many years,” she explains. “My customers sometimes joked that I should branch out on my own, but I didn’t have the business skills or faith in myself to pursue the idea. After the company I worked for moved my job east, I joined a small consulting company, but was eventually laid off again.”

“I guess the self employment seed was planted because I realized I had knowledge, skills and expertise in my industry, but just needed some guidance to get started,” Renwick continues. “I was at a Chamber of Commerce lunch and happened to mention my business goal [to] another entrepreneur. He was enrolled in the Self Employment Program offered by Community Futures Centre West and suggested I speak to them.” 

Renwick says the financial and marketing training she received through the Program has been a key to her success. “The necessary evil – writing a business plan – was a challenge, but I learned how to do it properly,” she says. “I’m thankful for the tools I learned as my business plan is now the backbone of my operation – it’s easy to see how people fail without one.”

“I’ve been able to help businesses right here in my own community by doing something I’m passionate about,” says Renwick. “And I get to spend time with my children. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

As published in COCHRANEConnects Spring/Summer 2010

View her website at http://reliancetelecomconsulting.com/index.php

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101 Sunset Drive
Cochrane, AB T4C 0B4

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Communities Served

Airdrie, 
Balzac, 
Banff, 
Bottrel, 
Bragg Creek, 
Canmore, 
Cochrane, 
Crossfield, 
Dead Mans Flats, 
Exshaw, 
Ghost Lake, 
Harvie Heights, 
Madden, 
Morley, 
Poplar Bay, 
Redwood Meadows, 
Seebe, 

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