How a home based kitchen table start-up built a multi-million dollar brand
When my husband Peter and I moved to a rural Ontario farm, I dreamed of creating an income from home, so I did not have to commute to the city for work. We also wanted to find another source of income to help restore our circa 1850s barns, as our farm operation would never produce enough cash to take on the large project and protecting our country’s agricultural history is important to us.
I began making bath and beauty products in my Kitchen-Aid mixer in my laundry room. I decided to target the wholesale gift market as the personal care space was so crowded.
While other brands were going high-tech, we founded Walton Wood Farm the old-fashioned way. I filled up my pickup truck and drove up and down main streets, cold-calling gift shops.
Within two years I was making 85 personal care products for men and women and selling them in over 2500 stores throughout North America. We recently launched a natural pet care line, as well. We are now selling over 2 million per year and still operate out of our farmhouse.
It hasn't been easy building a million-dollar brand. Some days I felt like all forces were against me and I was pushing boulders uphill. The tape in my head played, 'Your job is just to survive today. That's easy. You can get through one day."
The single biggest challenge has been hiring. If I had known then what I know now, I could have prevented a lot of pain and anguish.
As an entrepreneur with no background in business, I decided books and podcasts would be my education. I devoted no less than an hour a day to my learnings and my first order of business was to develop a rock-solid hiring plan that only yields A-players.
With a concrete hiring practice in place, I needed to make sure we had the right balance of loans, credit cards, and lines-of-credit to scale our business. Cash is the oxygen in business, and you can’t afford to run out.
Our bank did not seem to understand the unique needs of a start-up. It felt like dealing with them was another uphill battle I had to fight. Not only were they slow to respond to requests, but they were also inflexible and did not understand our business needs.
We made the decision to move our banking to RBC. The team at RBC immediately felt like partners, not bankers. They understood the nuances of running a high-growth, international brand. Not only did they set up our accounts to optimize for growth they aligned us with the right people at the Economic Development Corporation so we may take advantage of services that would support international purchase orders, insuring accounts payable, and other important functions. RBC and EDC truly worked in concert to help our ever-growing needs.
RBC also recently launched a comprehensive digital platform called Global Connect, dedicated to helping businesses trade internationally. Part of this platform is the RBC Trade Club which we are using to find international distributors.
Today, taking the first step is even easier with Ownr.co to register your business and develop your branding, and the ability to open an RBC business account online in a fraction of the time. RBC also offers a number of services that go beyond traditional banking. This has put us in a better position to spend less time on administration and more time on building a solid company with many rewards for us, our community, our team, and our customers.
One of my favorite things to do is share the valuable learnings I’ve had with other people who want to build their dream of freedom and fulfillment through starting their own business.
1. Right Timing is Everything – When my kids were young and I was a solo parent, I could not have taken the risks necessary to start a business. My job was to make sure food was on the table. At 49 years-old and an empty-nester, I was able to take the risks and had the full support of my husband, Peter. Take-away - If you can’t build your dream into a million-dollar business today, start learning the skills now and bank them for the right time in your life. Be sure to protect your credit rating. This will go a long way to starting off on the right foot.
2. Be Honest with Yourself – Are you a life-long learner? In my opinion, it is not possible to succeed unless you are constantly taking opportunities to learn. There are millions of people out there who have done it before, take advantage of their mistakes and successes.
3. Are You a Salesperson? – I am a total introvert, but I had to learn the art of the sale when the only job I could find was selling used cars. Those skills translated well to my business. If you can’t learn to sell yourself and your products, find a trusted partner that can. You may create the best product or service in the world, but if you don’t have these qualities, you are bound for failure.
Owning a business can be richly rewarding on many different levels. It's a marathon, though. Prepare for the race and hold steady in your conviction to build something that adds value to peoples' lives. For me, it's hearing people giggle at our labels then discover they've just found the best hand cream they've ever had. A balance of joy and utility. What more could a farmgirl want?
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