Since this is my first blog for FEA I thought to introduce how I grew my business from a team of three (me, myself and I) to a group of 10.
In 1998 I moved back to my home town of Kingston Ontario with my fiancé as we wanted to start a family to be surrounded by family and friends. I left my web design position in Toronto with a multi-media agency and went on Employment Insurance to take a course on ‘How to Start Your Own Business’. This worked out beautifully as it gave me the tools I needed to start my own business, but in no way prepared me for the sacrifices I needed to make to grow it successfully – that I learned on my own.
My independent entrepreneurial spirit satisfied me quite nicely until I had my son Quaid in 2003, when it dawned on me that trying to balance clients, struggling to make a marriage work and looking after a new born proved to be a much greater challenge emotionally, mentally and physically. My very pragmatic Italian mother, when I voiced my concerns about working vs being a stay at home mother put it quite plainly – ‘Vanessa, never rely on a man and your baby will grow up one day and leave you!’ She was speaking from personal experience and was trying to prevent me from diverting down the same path. It made me see the potential outcome of the future: Be a housewife (not a financial option) and work part-time for someone else or work harder to grow my business and alleviate some of the responsibility by partnering with someone.
Quaid was around 4 months old when I found my British counterpart Tracy John, who was going through a separation and was between contracts. When I contacted her about forming a new agency her response was quick and concise ‘Why not, I’ve got nothing else to lose’ …and thus was the birth of SmallWorld Marketing Group Inc.! Our very own baby that allowed us to do what we love, where the ceiling was based on our own determination and an opportunity to provide for our families rather then supporting those of our bosses.
It wasn’t easy, both of us took other jobs to make ends meet. Tracy cleaned houses and delivered pizza’s, I taught at the local college and launched an online business. In a period of 14 months we quit our moonlighting, focused 100% on the company and managed to turn a profit. Every client we had was a woman, each understanding what it took for us to make our dream come true, and each quietly ignored our crappy warehouse office with the toilet in the kitchen. They believed in us and we in them.
In the 4 years that followed I left my husband and was financially able to support myself and my son. I walked away with nothing but my jeep, clothes and a few kitchen items (As an Italian I love to cook!). Tracy married a wonderful and supportive husband who works with us as our Print Manager. My separation was a blessing in disguise as my ex and I realized that neither one of us are bad people, it just did not work together. He is more supportive now then ever during our time together.
Although we have had many ups and downs, we live and thrive and are determined to embrace our own tag line and truly see that this is the place ‘Where Concepts Become Reality’