Having a part-time business is a smart way to pursue your passions and prepare for the future of work. Grow your business part-time at your own pace with low-interest, unsecured financing of up to $15,000 and the support of a mentor through Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD Bank Group.

We interviewed four entrepreneurs who have taken the plunge and followed their dreams of entrepreneurship through the Side Hustle program. Here are their stories:

Miller Box Co.

When Kathryn Williams’ parents were young, they forged a long-distance relationship through snail mail.

“They started dating, and they’d send each other these love packages in the mail – which I thought was just the cutest thing,”  says.

Williams took their inspiring love story and turned it into her very own side hustle, Miller Box Co., a Hamilton, ON-based company that puts together customizable gift boxes stocked with Canadian-made products.

“Gift giving has always been my family’s love language,” Williams says. “We’ve always just taken pride in what we give to one each other. It was like – ‘Who has the best wrap job at Christmas?’”

But her family also inspired other facets of the business, including her leap into entrepreneurship and her tireless work ethic. “My parents are both self-starters as well,” she says. “My dad opened up his own business, so that really inspired me.”

Before launching Miller Box Co., Williams had built a career in the events industry. Entrepreneurship, she says, wasn’t on her radar until just a few years ago. “Then it was like – ‘I need to start my own business,’” she laughs. “It was definitely not in the plan, but I’m super happy where I am.”

Maria Denomme Photography

After attending a Futurpreneur Rock My Business workshop, she learned about mentorship and funding opportunities through Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD.

“I needed something to sort of push me to get started,” she says. “Having a loan was key so that I could really get the inventory that I needed, get the supplies and really feel confident in what I was selling.”

Miller Box focuses on Canadian-made products – everything from beer-chipotle mustard (from fellow Futurpreneur business Smak Dab) and jars of whiskey salted caramel to eco-friendly soy candles and fun dress socks.

Most importantly to Kathryn, all the products are locally made and environmentally friendly. “That’s really my focus – to help other small businesses as well,” she says. “As an avid foodie and local supporter, I was able to combine everything that I love.”

The convenient, delivery-oriented format ended up more pivotal than Williams could have imagined when she launched in April – right when COVID-related lockdowns were in full swing. Williams’ work hours changed dramatically during the pandemic, so she was “super grateful” to have the time to focus on her business.

“It wasn’t a terrible time for me to launch – especially when trying to keep people connected in Canada and the world by creating this gift box company that really does inspire connection,” she says.

Though she’s only been in business for a brief amount of time, Williams is already smashing goals (like doubling her target for Instagram followers in the first year). Her tips for new entrepreneurs: Ask tons of questions, use all the resources available to you, and above all, “be confident in what you’re selling or providing as a service.

“I feel like the energy you put in, people will feel,” she says. “They’ll want you to thrive.”

To learn more about Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD, click here

Mabee Baby

Dawn Mabee’s business was born, fittingly, in the baby-clothing aisle.

“When I was pregnant, I didn’t find out whether I was having a boy or girl, so I was just looking for neutral things,” explains the Vancouver-based owner of Mabee Baby. “The neutral section at every store, seven years ago, was tiny – it was all white or yellow. I was like, this isn’t really necessary. There are plenty of other colours – not just pink, blue, white and yellow!”

It was then, she realized: “There is this unisex void for kids.”

Eventually, Dawn began converting deadstock fabrics and textiles sourced from thrift stores into robes and rompers for her son. Soon, those products became the basis of her line, Mabee Baby.

A trained fashion designer, Mabee says that entrepreneurship was always presented as a potential option to her fellow fashion students – but Mabee was starting out before the advent of Etsy and Shopify, and at that time, selling your items directly to the consumer wasn’t as easy to do.

Instead, she started out by working for other fashion companies, many led by female entrepreneurs. A stint at a corset company in Scotland taught her about the value of small-batch production: “I can’t make everything in every size, so I do maybe three of one colour or fabric, and if I don’t have the size people want, they can order it. I think that’s a good in-between for sustainability – you don’t have a lot of waste.”

After a few years, Mabee was ready to take Mabee Baby “from a home craft kind of business into something more substantial.” She discovered Futurpreneur’s online Business Plan Writer and ultimately signed up for the Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD.

“It was a fit for me, because I just wanted to do it as a part-time business – even though I’m realizing you have to put full-time hours into a part-time business,” she laughs.

Having the right funding and mentorship in her corner helped lend some “direction” to the overall business. Mabee was able to develop a marketing plan with her mentor and learn to better target her clientele. She was also able to sell at larger in-person shows and took part in the Futurpreneur booth at one of Canada’s biggest craft events, the One Of A Kind Show in Toronto, in spring 2018.

While COVID-19 put a halt on Mabee’s craft show schedule, she’s been working on developing new products, including robes made from Turkish towels sourced through Vancouver-based brand Chic Towels. She’s using the confidence gained though entrepreneurship – and through working with Futurpreneur – to push herself forward.

“When I started, I didn’t for sure know that the things I was designing would be things people wanted,” she says.

“Going through the process of [creating] the business plan and the marketing, I figured out how to find the people that want it. When it’s the right customer, they’re like ‘The price is perfect! This is so affordable!’ Now I know that if I put it in front of the right people, it’ll happen.”

To learn more about Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD, click here

Kisina Deco

Prima Mabonzo is an entrepreneur who appreciates the world’s various cultures and the way they weave together. Born in Congo in Central Africa, she lived in many countries before settling in Quebec nine years ago.

In 2018, feeling an increasing need to get involved in a meaningful project that tells her story, she decided to launch her own side business. The result was Kisina Déco, a company dedicated to bridging Afre criteria for a number of programs,” Mabonzo says. On top of that, prospective funders had a hard time understanding the value of a project that focused on African culture.

With Futurpreneur, she found the support she needed. In 2018, she was one of the first women entrepreneurs to benefit from Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD Bank Group.

A year later, with the help of her sister in Senegal, Mabonzo launched her first collection of decorative cushions online. The covers, handcrafted in Senegal by local artisans, are sent to Prima, who manages the final production stages, as well as the marketing and product delivery.

Since the launch of her company, she has noticed a growing interest in her products – but recently, converting that interest into actual sales has been a challenge. Maintaining her full-time job while running Kisina Déco has proven to be an advantage; she can grow her business at her own pace, but also weather the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, including the recent COVID-19 crisis.

With trade shows and other networking events on hold, COVID-19 has considerably slowed down the development of Kisina Déco. Along with the support of those close to her, Mabonzo was able to keep the business afloat with help from Futurpreneur, which offered clients six months of loan coverage after the pandemic hit this spring.

To adapt to the changing environment, Mabonzo has revised her marketing strategy, recognizing the importance of being more active on social media, and has also increased her collaborations, especially with designers. (Soon, Kisina Déco products will be available on the free PLUMERS 3D application, which helps contractors design plans in virtual reality.)

Ultimately, her goal is to be able to work full time on her side hustle, expand its offerings, and make Kisina Déco a standard-bearer in African-inspired interior decoration.

 – Marine Chanourdie

To learn more about Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD, click here

Fluster

Devon de Balasi Brown always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur – but the inspiration that sparked his first small business venture arrived purely by chance one night in the wilderness.

“Entrepreneurship has been one of the few things in life I’ve been quite clear about since being a teenager,” says the co-founder of FLUSTER.

But while building his career, de Balasi Brown found himself pursuing more traditional routes, practising “intrapreneurship” while carving out new niches for himself within a company; currently, he works full time as a global operations manager for an outdoor apparel brand.

The idea that inspired his own venture finally arrived several years ago while on a trip with friends to a remote spot on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

De Balasi Brown and his friends wound up in a natural hot spring with a few other strangers, One of them, a seasoned world traveller, said he’d been making a point to ask people in every country he visited a set of five different questions. The group bonded over the long, soul-searching conversation that followed, de Balasi Brown says, and the whole gang wound up spending the next few days together.

“Weeks later, I couldn’t shake how memorable it was, what I had learned about some of my closest friends – and (I) also was reflecting on the things that I discovered about myself,” he says.

Once home, he met up with his friend Walker Banerd and shared his story. “We decided to try to create something that would spark these moments any night of the week, and so FLUSTER was born as a passion project.”

The card-based game features a deck of probing questions meant to get players to bare their souls, from “How do you think your exes would describe you?” to “What’s a contradiction in your personality?”

In 2017, the duo decided it was do-or-die time: “We would either put the passion project to bed or try getting it out there beyond our circle of friends.” They launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial production run – which, de Balasi Brown says, ultimately sold out much more quickly than expected.

“We knew we were on to something and wanted to share FLUSTER with more people so started assessing our options for how to come up with the money to produce more,” he said.

Eventually, de Balasi Brown signed up for Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD, which gave them the funding they needed to do a full production run.

“We really feel like Futurpreneur is ‘in our corner,’ wanting us to be a success just as much as we do,” he says.

Brown’s existing operations experience helped insulate him from some of the shocks first-time entrepreneurs experience, from decoding algorithms to putting products in production to dealing with international customs. What was unexpected, he says, is how much the game has resonated with people. “It’s still surprising having people really be moved by the idea, show up to support the project, and want be a part of the growing FLUSTER community.”

The idea behind the game, he says, has increasingly resonated with people during this period of upheaval.

“It seems with people being stuck at home more, spending more time with their housemates and family, and grappling with the big questions around COVID, justice, equity, inclusion and racism, people want something like FLUSTER,” de Balasi Brown says. (The game, he adds, also goes over great on Zoom calls.)

“A Harvard historian talked in an interview about how she thinks for most people, when they look back on this time, the things they’ll remember most are the tender moments they shared with their fellow humans, and how they came together to be strong though this time,” he says.

“We love this – and we think it’s probably the reason we’ve seen an increase in sales since March.”

To learn more about Futurpreneur’s Side Hustle program, sponsored by TD, click here

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