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In 2015, two friends sat down and joked about becoming small business owners over a bottle of vino. One year multiple conversations and nearly ten business plan drafts later, that light conversation became a reality. The reality of that reality? Running a small business is one of the best adventures you’ll ever go on, but it’s also damn hard work.

One of the biggest hurdles of opening your own shop or consultancy is realizing that after all the excitement of initial planning fades, you’ve got a lot to do to really get going.

But once all of your processes are in place and you have a plan mapped out, it’s pretty amazing to get the opportunity to hit the pavement and market your product or service. That said, here are the top ten things I have learned about building a business. From me to you, some serious tips to consider:


We know this sounds obvious, but it can be very easy to sidestep this crucial piece. Your business plan will set the stage for the first month, the next six months and the next ten years. This document will be ever-evolving but it will serve as a foundation for planning and growth. ATB Financial is a great resource for planning as well as taking the next step in financing your business, they have a great template HERE to get you started.


As you are writing out your plan, try to determine what you want to offer your consumers. Although this sounds easy, it can change from day-to-day as you are moving through your planning stage. Before you launch, try to have a good idea of what you want to offer but also be flexible in knowing that your service offerings could evolve with market need.

That brings me to my next point:


Make sure you research your area of expertise. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Who else is out there doing the same thing? You will want to ensure you are offering a product or service that your consumers need and that you have the ability to fill a gap.


You are a first-time business owner. Use your community to your advantage and go for as many coffees and have as many conversations as possible. Those around you with years, or even months of experience will prove to be invaluable. On that note, if you are a first-time business owner and you are getting started a little sooner than you thought, consider forming a board of advisers. These advisers can range from family to past colleagues or supervisors and will be there for you in times of doubt.


We won’t sugar coat it, opening a business is like taking a dive out of a plane – exciting, terrifying and soul-changing all at once! This is why it’s crucial to find that group, person or support system that will ground you. One great thing about Calgary is the community we all get to work and live in, I have always felt supported and when I got my start, I leaned on my community during all stages of growth.


One of the biggest essentials in running a small business is goal-setting. Sit down monthly and make a list of potential clients. No matter how big or small these clients may be (or the size of the list), you never know what may come if you put it out there.


Competition is a thing of the past. Grab a coffee with anyone who you think is killing it and hit up as many networking groups and events as possible. Make it a goal to attend at least six networking events per year. You never know who you might meet and what you might accomplish together.


Our wonderful friend over at Melanie Lynn Communications taught us that setting a routine is paramount. Plan your week like you would have at any other job. Set aside time to walk your dog, go to the gym and practice self-care and then plan time to really bring it for your clients. If you work from home, this will be your advantage in time management and avoiding distraction. Secondly, try to lay out processes for your practice as much as possible. They may evolve over time but having a simple process for something as small as expenses to something as large as client on-boarding will save you tons of time.

LEAVE FEAR AT THE DOOR. You are taking a risk, but with risks come rewards and if you work hard, own your craft, and flaunt your strengths, success will come. But also, be patient, it doesn’t happen overnight.

CELEBRATE YOUR WINS. Make sure you celebrate your success. Whether it be getting your first set of business cards in the mail or winning your 50th client, honour your commitment to yourself and your business by enjoying the journey.

Cheers to the adventure that is running a small business!

Yours truly,



Dakota is a local social media marketing and branding consultant with more than six years' experience in traditional public relations, photography and marketing. Following an education from the University of Calgary and Grant MacEwan University, Dakota went on to work for two large non-profit organizations, with the Hyatt Hotel Chain and for a local boutique public relations firm. Dakota is a native Calgarian and is an avid volunteer in her city.

Currently we are volunteering with Doors Open YYC:

Doors Open is a well-established and highly successful international concept that allows people free access to buildings in order to create enthusiasm for heritage and contemporary architecture, and increase the appreciation of historic and culturally significant places and spaces.

Check them out and book your #yyc tour at www.doorsopenyyc,org

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