How Creative Entrepreneurs are Building and Growing Their Businesses

Being an entrepreneur might look cool on Instagram, but what is it really like? Here’s what Millennial entrepreneurs from across Canada had to say about their experience starting and growing their businesses. 

Ben Put, Jeremy Ho & Justin Eyford

Founders, Monogram Coffee
Calgary, Alberta

Monogram strives to positively impact people's lives through coffee. From retail cafes, sourcing, roasting and wholesale operations, we believe that exceptional coffee should inspire wonder and warmth. We source wonderful cafes throughout Canada, the US, and abroad with our coffee. 

What's the biggest financial mistake you made, and the hardest lesson you've learned while running your business?

One lesson that we've learned is how important it is to have up-to-date reporting of cafe performance metrics. And, to be creative in addressing any issues, without compromising our company values, purpose, and our team’s experience. 

There are a lot of financial mistakes that we have made over the years. One is probably not being more strict on controlling our buildout and design costs of our cafes. This can have longer lasting effects than you'd like. 

Where and how do you find support when you're feeling overwhelmed with your business?

We all get a lot of support from our family and close friends. But, at the end of the day, the heartbeat of our business is our team. Any problem, big or small, can always be tackled by the group. 

How do you take your coffee?

If the raw green bean and roast is just right, we like it nice and simple - black. We like to taste the delicious complexities of the coffee that made us fall in love with it in the first place.

Mal Tayag & Sara McCabe

BakitCo, Founders
Vancouver, British Columbia

Bakit is a platform about creating a human-centred business based on your personal values. We explore all the different facets of running a business through sharing lessons on our podcast, Conference Call, and the parts of our business that are currently evolving.

Where do you go, and what do you do to get inspired?

SARA: Good ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. They are a product of your surroundings. The people, the books, the experiences. My crucial step? Time. I make a point to tuck it away, and let my subconscious do it’s thing. Without fail, a few days after a good conversation or documentary, I’m thinking of a new way to solve a problem.

MAL: For me, exploring, reaching out, being the creep in your inbox asking for a coffee date for no other reason than to get to know you, are necessities. If you're not a reachout type of person, then explore. Try shit. Fail at things. Feel the pain, understand it's a part of the process, then move on.

What are your go-to tools to stay organized and focused?

SARA: For me, less is more when it comes to tools. I swear by my calendar, and notes on my phone. If I don't write it down immediately and schedule it chances are it’s forgotten. I like seeing things in writing so I usually have a notebook and a planner on the go.

MAL: Write. Everything. Down. My agenda is my holy grail. Without that, your mind can become so overwhelming. To the point where you're meandering around your thoughts because you can't grasp at a starting point. 

Other than your own, what podcasts do you recommend for fellow entrepreneurs


MAL: Ones that were impactful to me from an operational/structural perspective were Masters of Scale, Radical Candor, and How I Built This. I'd suggest those because they touch on ways to effectively scale your business, and share stories of entrepreneurs who have been able to build large, successful entities. 

Tammy Zdunich

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

The Well Collaborative is an online and membership-based community in Saskatoon for women who desire both connection and growth. We offer mentorship, community events, creative & business workshops, as well as a co-working space. 

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, especially as more businesses operate entirely remote. How do you recommend entrepreneurs foster and engage in community? 

I love this question! It’s one of our main reasons why The Well exists. As a solopreneur for 20 years in the photography industry, I was constantly reaching out to other creatives to collaborate. The Well gives women this opportunity. So, what's my recommendation? Find all your courage within and go ask someone you admire in your field to meet you for a coffee! If they say no, ask the next person. Pursue community.

What do you consider the best and worst part of your job?

The best part is when someone says that they have felt supported by something I said and took a brave step towards their passion. The worst part is disappointing people. I need to extend the same grace and forgiveness to myself that I give to others. 

What's your advice to entrepreneurs looking for a mentor(s), or looking to become a mentor?

I’ve leaned on people daily for help. I have had many unofficial and official mentors over the years, that have allowed me space to grow and make mistakes. Allowing others into my life and business has let me see myself from a different perspective. This feedback is priceless, albeit painful. 

Lezlie Karls-Saltarelli, Nick Saltarelli & Jake Karls

Founders, Mid-Day Squares
Montreal, Quebec

Mid-Day Squares is a Canadian chocolate manufacturer that sources superfoods from around the world to create a tasty, functional chocolate snack that’s gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and made from 100% clean ingredients. 

You sold 500,000 functional chocolate bars in the first 11 months of your business. What's one tip you'd give fellow entrepreneurs during their first year of business?

Be as dynamic as possible. In a start-up environment you face challenges and come up to bottlenecks on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Adaptability allows you to accept, solve and move forward with all challenges that come your way. Get comfortable with the unexpected - that’s when the magic happens.

How do you maintain healthy boundaries when working with family? 

Working with family is amazing, but can also be difficult at times. The one tool that really helps us in our family/business relationship is working regularly with a business coach. He allows us to communicate effectively, put everything in perspective, and helps us to work through anything that may come up in the workplace. 

How many hours a day do you work on Mid-Day Squares?

Mid-Day Squares is a huge part of our lives so we do not really turn it off at any point or really “punch out”. That being said, we begin our days around 7 am and end at 7pm, and sometimes stay at the office past 11 pm when launching a new flavour. It’s all about adaptability, so everyday varies.  

Nitasha Goel

Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Cure Apothecary creates and offers sustainable skin care products, with quality, carefully selected natural ingredients. We also curate brands that work perfectly together to provide you with the best skin care routine as possible. 

In a digitally-driven world, what made you decide to open a studio shop for your retail business?

Our senses drives us. Touch, feel and experience is so important to a lot of our decision making, I didn’t want to take that away from my clients, especially with skin care. The studio allows clients to come in and have their own private skin care consultation. 

What's one thing you wish you had known before you started your entrepreneurial journey?

How do I pick just one thing? Being an entrepreneur is not easy and at times you feel like everyone is against you. But, you have to remind yourself that you are not alone in this journey and you can ask for help. Learning that I can’t do it all was my first lesson and asking for help followed.

What's one wellness habit or practice that's been the most beneficial for you, a busy entrepreneur?

I have a huge love for food. Cooking and enjoying a homemade meal is my wellness practice. And, obviously, taking care of my skin is also part of my wellness routine. My favorite thing to do is washing my face at the end of the day and applying a great serum.

Mike Durst

Co-Founder, Oomph App
Toronto, Ontario

After 11 years of training and fighting in Muay Thai/Kickboxing, I wanted to introduce others to the fun and benefits of kickboxing workouts. So, we created a membership-based mobile app that can be used anywhere, no equipment required. Our goal is to help people around the world get fit and have fun doing it!

How do you manage your time between your freelance projects and building your company?

Becoming a time ninja is so important! One habit that helps me is writing down the five most important tasks for the following day. When I do that, I wake up feeling focused and ready to rock. I’ll also section off blocks of ‘distraction free’ zones where I schedule time for my business and freelance work. It’s amazing how much you can get done without any distractions.

How do you maintain your fitness routine while you're juggling all of your other responsibilities? Asking for a friend.

I hope my answer helps your mysterious friend! Fitness is so important to me because it keeps me feeling energized and productive. If I miss a workout, I feel like I’m off my game, so I prioritize the gym first thing in the morning. When I finish I feel great and I’ve checked the first task of the day off which gives me a sense of momentum. In order to fit it into a busy schedule I start my days at 5am, which is kind of crazy, but it works for me!

What made you decide to take the leap into entrepreneurship?

My dad is an entrepreneur, so I think it was always in the back of my mind. But, the real decision came in 2017 when I did a complete 180 on my career. I was doing quite well in the advertising industry and had what most people would consider the dream job. A friend of mine, a great entrepreneur, recommended that I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. That book changed my perception of what was possible in business and in life. After reading it, I knew that I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and strike out on my own.



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