Every year, as the holiday season rolls in, we launch the annual Futurpreneur Holiday Shopping Guide, reminding Canadians to shop local and support small business amid the gift-giving frenzy. To shed light on the value and importance of small businesses for communities across the country, we caught up with Bailey Puddister of Futurpreneur-supported Elliot + Olivia Bridal Boutique.
Based in North Bay, Ontario, Bailey talks about recognizing a gap in her community as a business opportunity, overcoming hurdles and learning from mistakes as a business owner, and how instrumental her mentoring relationship has been to her entrepreneurial journey.
Read on and hear more from Bailey in a special Shop Local video series below!
Elliot + Olivia, named after my brother Joey Elliot and sister Charley Olivia, is a fresh and intimate bridal boutique located in a gorgeous loft space.
The bridal industry in North Bay (and surrounding areas) is flourishing, from venues and photographers to caterers, event planners and wedding shows. I felt that what was lacking was a modern boutique in the North that offered brides the experience, selection and quality of dress shopping that is prevalent in more metropolitan cities such as Toronto and Ottawa.
I have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and owning my own business. While accompanying friends dress shopping at boutiques both in North Bay and larger cities, I realized that it was a dream of mine to own my own boutique and that it was needed in North Bay and surrounding areas.
From the moment I got serious about writing my business plan it has evolved and grown in many ways. At first I had envisioned being a ground level storefront. When I was looking for locations I immediately fell in love with the space that is now the home of Elliot + Olivia. I think there is something cozy, unique and special about having a loft space, above ground level. It gives brides the feeling of privacy and provides brides and their guests with a unique view of the city during their appointment.
Recently we celebrated a major milestone where we doubled the forecasted sales in the first month of business!
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and am a trained Family Mediator, so basically I help people navigate separations. As funny and opposite as this job is to owning a bridal boutique, the more you think about it, they are also very much alike. At the core of each job is helping people during a very important time in their life.
My job as a mediator required me to commute 3 hours per day, 3 days per week and the commute was starting to wear on me. I think I always knew I would own my own business and it is when I realized that I needed to make a change with my career that I realized now was the time to take the risk.
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I get bored if I am not constantly learning and growing in a career and I enjoy “outside of the box” thinking.
I struggled big time with the fear of failure and thoughts of “What will people think of me?” and “What if I fail?”, and then of course the financial risk of opening a business. What it boiled down to and what I gained from these insecurities and taking the leap was confidence in myself. I would look at successful entrepreneurs in my city or on social media and think, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”.
Ultimately I realized that all of those quotes about fear and failure are true – you can only grow and chase your dreams if you face your fears and take risks.
The biggest hurdle I faced was writing a business plan with absolutely no experience and finding ways to receive a business loan. After visiting the Business Centre in North Bay, the manager told me about Futurpreneur, and I can’t say enough about this amazing organization. From the moment I connected with Futurpreneur I was supported and updated during the entire application process.
Angele from Futurpreneur, who was assigned to my business, helped me every step of the way, from revising my business plan and cash flow statement to giving me advice and ensuring I had all of the tools I needed to successfully submit my application for a business loan. The manager at the Business Centre, Jen Nickerson, then became my mentor through Futurpreneur.
I am so so grateful for my mentor, Jen. I really value her honest, objective advice, and I go to her with almost every question I have. She ensures that if she doesn’t have an answer for me she helps me find it through various resources. She is also very supportive and helps me have the confidence to make necessary decisions.
The best advice Jen has given me so far is to “listen to my gut instinct”. As simple as this advice may seem, it has helped me immensely when making certain decisions about partnerships and other important business decisions. Jen balances her job as mentor with also asking me what I think, which in turn enables me to have confidence in my decisions. She has been instrumental in the success of Elliot + Olivia.
The most rewarding aspect of having my own business is that I don’t feel like I have to work within a structured 9-5 regime. I work at all hours and much harder than my 9-5 job as there are so many different aspects of the job, from customer service to marketing and accounting. It is just somehow much more rewarding because I can be in charge of the flow of work and not feel trapped by an hourly wage. I also love being able to decide the level of customer service and quality that my customers are receiving.
If you’re planning to start your own business, listen to any and all advice you can, do lots of research and sign up for business classes. And keep your dream to yourself for the first little bit until you are too far into the planning stages to go back. Sometimes the opinions of those closest to us (though they only want the best for you) may cause you to question yourself. Trust your instincts and take the leap.
Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx (shapewear). I love her outlook on life and her determination and attitude. She lives by the notion that life is short and you can’t let fear hold you back from living your most fulfilled life.
Even though she is worth billions, you can tell by listening to her speak that she is a humble as they come.
I think I would like to be able to teleport. That way I could travel more often to different countries. It would also be nice to visit the beach during cold northern winters!
I am really drawn to memoirs. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed are a few of my favourites.
The holiday season in December. I love the coziness of the season, the lights, and the many opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.”