Futurpreneur Canada recognizes the hard work, determination and passion it takes to start a business. That is why we teamed up with CIBC for a campaign to recognize the milestones (big or small) that our entrepreneurs reach while starting and growing their businesses.
As a part of the campaign, we’re encouraging our Futurpreneurs to share their start-up successes using the hashtag #FuturHighFive on social media. Laura Hammer of Cortex Management is one of those success stories.
Most businesses have busy periods and slow periods, but for seasonal businesses like Cortex Management, these fluctuations are much more extreme.
Cortex Management is a vegetation management company, which means that business owner and president Laura Hammer spends half the year preparing for the summer months when her business is active.
Laura launched her business with her husband Michael. After working for over 20 years in the industry, Laura wanted to build something of her own that she loved.
Before launching her own business, Laura studied Forest Technology at NAIT and received a B.Sc. Agriculture from University of Alberta. She has worked in forestry, environmental consulting, urban forestry, pesticide application and also in the chemical industry. Her collective experience has given her opportunities to work in government, as well as in the private sector.
“I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Laura, but she was most inspired to start her business when she was working for the government. Although she loved her job, she missed being outdoors.
“One day in August, I was looking down at people enjoying the river valley while I was in my cold, highly air-conditioned office and I just thought, ‘enough!’ I texted Mike, ‘Want to start a spray company?’ He replied, ‘Yup.’ And that was that!”
Cortex and its team serve all types of landowners such as forestry, commercial, industrial and many more.
“We help clients make their properties compliant with environmental legislation relating to invasive species,” she said. “We also help increase yield and capacity on degenerated pastures and help industrial clients keep their properties clean of vegetation for environmental and safety reasons. Our newest service is offering clients chemical control of invasive fish species in water bodies.”
Since the nature of the business requires them to work outdoors, Cortex is most active from April to October. However, the extremely seasonal business model can be challenging.
“Financially, it has been very stressful,” she says. “There were times I thought I would just have to close up and walk away. In our industry, it can take up to 90 days for a customer to pay, which makes things very difficult. Floating a $50,000 job for three months is pretty hard but I have great staff and good relationships with my vendors and lenders who understand the industry.”
Her resilience has paid off because 2017 was her best season yet. Not only did she stay in the green by the end of the season, she also managed to pay back two of her loans. This huge win has allowed Cortex to start off its 2018 season without having to dip into credit.
Cortex is a Futurpreneur Canada supported business. When Laura needed to secure financing, Futurpreneur provided her with start-up capital as well as helpful online resources like the Business Plan Writer, which helped her secure financing at different institutions.
Futurpreneur’s program also matches its entrepreneurs with a two-year volunteer business mentor.
“Mentoring is essential and I would argue that you should not start a business without it,” she says.
“Sandra Spencer has been just awesome,” says Laura about her mentor. Her support has helped Laura step outside of her bubble and become more involved in the greater business community.
“I always thought of myself as a subject matter expert in my field but thanks to her, I now think of myself not only as a business owner, but as an entrepreneur. This is a whole shift in how I look at myself and the business so now I make decisions with a much bigger picture in mind,” says Laura.
Entrepreneurship has been a rewarding path and journey for Laura, but she does urge aspiring entrepreneurs to anticipate the hardships – especially if you’re looking to start a business with your significant other. Here’s what she had to say:
“I am meeting lots of divorced entrepreneurs, much more than the population average of 50%. Business is brutal on relationships so you and your spouse need to be prepared. You both need to understand each other’s tolerance for things like risk, unreliable finances, delegation of tasks at home and parenting.”
Her parting advice?
“Give back however you can to the industry you are in. Do this by being professional, maintaining your education and participating in industry specific events and organizations. See competitors as potential allies and remember, you can’t do it all on your own. An accountant and a trained bookkeeper will pay for themselves in the long run.”
Written by: Sara Pivato, Social Media & Content Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada
Want to be featured in a #FuturHighFive Entrepreneur Spotlight? Share you start-up milestones using #FuturHighFive on Instagram and Twitter!