Learning the biz


So, you want to start a new business

By Terry Fries

Terry Fries is co-owner of Barn Owl Gifts in Summerland.

The following melds real-world experience with practical business advice as the writer takes us through the ups and downs of his own entrepreneurial startup.

  • Rule 1 of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.
  • Rule 2 of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.

Like those men who formed the underground club in the 1999 movie Fight Club, there are a lot of shadowy subjects business owners don’t like to talk about.

There are good reasons for that. Much of the information is personal. It might involve personal finances, relationship skills, leadership abilities, business acumen to name a few.

Yet, the success of a business can depend on these talents. Combined with a well-thought-out business plan and buckets of motivation, a business owner’s personal skill set will set that operation apart. And in this column, we will shed light on some of these vital, yet under-discussed business assets.

Laurie Weir is the brain trust behind Barn Own Gifts.

She has bachelor’s degree in interior design, so the fact she latched onto the concept of a lifestyle accessories store in Summerland is no surprise.

She also has a background as a bookkeeper, human resources professional, and adult educator.

So I was reasonably confident when Laurie, my wife, first began talking about a setting up a store. If I’m about to start up a store that sells home-décor products, jewelry and souvenirs, who better suited to throw in with than somebody with an interior-design degree?

If that person is also skilled at human resources and bookkeeping, then it’s like winning the trifecta.

But there’s one other critical element to starting a business — marketing.

That’s where I come it. Having worked in media for the past 25 years, I’ve seen marketing trends come and go.

We’ve all seen instances of a new business arriving on the scene and, within a short time, positioning itself ahead of its competitors. Proving that you don’t always have to be first in business.

But you do have to be better: Better at developing your vision and staying true to it, better at knowing your market and better at building long-term, trusting relationships with your customers while providing what they want most.

In the months leading up to setting up our business, we struggled mightily to develop a clear, concise mission, and to remain faithful to our vision as we selected our concept, designs and product. We strived to make sure that the right ‘feeling’ was incorporated into everything we did.

And we scoured the province for years (yes, really) choosing the right location. What’s so special about the Okanagan and Summerland? How did this area marry with our concept?

I’ll delve into all this in my next column.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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