Red life-ring with splash

Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

  • May. 15, 2021 10:30 a.m.

By Carina Moran

We started our business in the basement of our home. Two little ovens, a large prep table, one double sink, and a few children running circles around our ankles as we attempted to bake.

We baked. We baked. Oh man, did we bake. We baked throughout the night into the wee morning hours – only to collapse into bed for a few hours of sleep. The alarm clock would ring two hours later, signaling that it was time to pack up and head in to our tiny little store on main street. We’d stay until we sold out. Pack it in then do it all over again.

We did this daily. Over and over. Bake. Sell. Repeat. It was exhausting. But we did it because we had a dream. A dream to change our lives and those of our kids. And when you believe in that dream with all your heart, giving up is simply not an option.

That was over five years ago. But truly, I tell you, not much has changed. We have since moved out of that little room in the basement – it has now become my son’s bedroom – a dismantled wall oven still in place where he hides his treasures and valued possessions. Yet many things remain the same. The passion. The dream. The blood, sweat and tears. These all continue to be the driving force behind our little family business.

Our story is similar to those of many other small business owners. What starts as a dream, takes flight with a bit of hard work. A small business is much like raising a child – and a colicky one at that. It requires patience. Nurturing. Disclipine. A level head amidst the greatest of pressure. It will inevitably test you and push you to your limits. It will often times make you question why you got yourself into this position in the first place.

As your business grows, it will inevitably be exposed to things that you never saw coming. Things that are completely out of your control. Much like watching your teenager test the waters for the very first time, all you can hope is that you have equipped it to navigate tough seas without capsizing. Like a loving parent, you will always be there to help guide it, but it needs to be able to adapt and ride out the big waves in order to survive.

And the waters being what they may, are so incredibly choppy right now. In fact, the winds have also picked up and the growing hurricane is hitting us on all sides.

How do we keep our boats – the ones that we built with our own two hands, from sinking deep into the murky abyss?

You do what any experienced sea faring captain would do. Line your boat with ballast stones.

It’s the only way to stay balanced and evenly keeled when the waves are heaving and threatening to pull you under.

These past two weeks, we had to close our doors. We needed to quarantine as it was required of us. However, for any business owner in such a situation, closing one’s doors for a period of time can be devastating.

This week, we undoubtedly felt the wind pick up. And as a result, the sea began to stir. Giant, tumultuous waves thrashed against our boat. Unrelentelessly. Threatening to toss us over. As we held on, and prepared for the inevitable, something miraculous happened.

Someone tossed us a ballast stone.

And then another.

And from far across the ocean, another boat cut through the waves to reach us, and gave us a few more.

The stones they offered up, came from the hull of their own ships. They sacrificed a few so that we might have a fighting chance to stay afloat.

Their stones? They came in many forms.

Words of encouragement. Offers to help. They did this for one reason, and one reason alone. Because they knew that in order for all of us to stay afloat we need to keep each other balanced. And the only way to do that is to share our stones.

Although it might feel like you, little boat, are alone in this storm, I assure you, you are not. The visibility is poor out there right now and it is surely hard to see your hand in front of your face. But I tell you this. If you step out with your binoculars and peer into the darkness, you will see something of hope. A sea faring vessel – cutting through the waves, on it’s way to share its stones with you.

Are you willing to offer up yours? Would you share your stones to keep another vessel afloat? Because your willingness to do so determines the survival of the entire fleet over that of just a single boat.

On these choppy waters, we need each other. We are a rare breed, us sea faring captains, business owners, and those crazy enough to leave the safety of a port to venture out into inevitable storms. Ships weren’t meant to stay in port. They were meant to forge ahead. And remember this little boat: a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

This article was published in the summer 2021 edition of Prairie Living.

Prairie Living