I recently attended the 11th Annual Small Business BC Awards held at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver. As written in their literature, the SBBC Awards recognize and celebrate the important contributions BC’s entrepreneurs make to their local communities and the global economy. Since its inception in 2003, over 2,300 entrepreneurs have participated, vying to be named one of BC’s best.
What I immediately noticed as I arrived at the event, which hosted 500 entrepreneurs and business owners, was the energy in the room – it felt alive! The room was buzzing with like-minded people, who all know what it takes to start and grow a business. Walking the journey of the business owner typically includes working long hours, wearing many hats, paying yourself last, taking risks, overcoming challenges, facing setbacks, and much more. Yet despite the sometimes less than optimal circumstances that these people face, what I felt in the room was inherent camaraderie and a surge of entrepreneurial spirit. It was indeed inspirational and invigorating.
I can definitely relate to the life of the entrepreneur. My entrepreneurial spirit runs deep and can be traced back through previous generations of my family’s history. As far as oral history takes me, the first person in my family to branch out into the world of business was my great-uncle who in the 1940’s owned the first and only hotel located downtown Carlin, Nevada. It served as the only overnight option for stopovers traveling through town by train. The next person to take to the helm of his own enterprise was my grandfather, who assumed an abandoned Shell gas station in the 1950’s in the south of Italy. The town only had 3 motor vehicles at the time. He collected Harley Davidson motorcycle parts which were discarded in the fields by German soldiers when they retreated from the area during WWII. He built the first motorcycle in his town using those scrap parts and when news spread, the town Mayor commissioned my grandfather to build one for him too, with a special side-car for his wife. He was an entrepreneur. My grandfather left the gas station in the capable hands of my grandmother (pictured above) to operate while he immigrated to Canada in search of better opportunities for his family.
More recent evidence of my family’s entrepreneurial spirit brings us to Canada, where my father started his own business as an artisan tile setter in the 1960’s beautifying the homes of Vancouver luminaries like Jimmy Pattison. In the 1980’s my mother joined the ranks of Vancouver’s female business owners by purchasing an independent travel agency with a focus on taking eco tour groups to Italy to nurture and feed their love of art, food and wine.
In my lifetime, I’ve worked for small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups my entire career, only to find myself coming back full circle to venture out on my own to build one, and now my second small business, which is focused on supporting women entrepreneurs to grow a values-based, purpose-driven, service-based business that they not only love, but that is also profitable. Entrepreneurialism is in my bloodline.
It’s important to note that all small businesses make important contributions to our local communities, local and global economies, not only the ones who were recognized at the Small Business BC Awards ceremony. We all play a role in weaving this world’s rich tapestry. In British Columbia, 98% of businesses are considered small business. We should all be proud of what we have accomplished as small business owners and entrepreneurs, and we should all acknowledge ourselves for the work that we do every day that moves the world forward. Being an entrepreneur and small business owner is not for the faint of heart. The road can be long and seldom easy, many times there are multiple failed attempts along the way, but for those with a passion and a purpose for creating something meaningful and fulfilling for themselves, their community, and their families it’s totally worth it. I wouldn’t trade my experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – for anything. Would you?