Episode #125 with Kay Peacy from Slick Business
Episode #124 with Marc Toews from Gateway Web AR
Episode #123 with Sherry Pratt from Sherry Pratt Health Coaching
Episode #122 with Aaron Strauss from Cache Tactical Supply
Episode #121 with Cedric Delavaud from Ludoland Regina
Episode #120 with Jasmine Patterson from BDC
Episode #119 with Jeff Harmel from Realty Executives Diversified Realty
Episode #118 with Shahzad Khoja from IBITS
Episode #117 with Kathy Sabo from QC Gifts
Episode #116 with Andrea Lo from the Toronto Dating Hub
Episode #115 with Karey Kapell from Next Level Coaching
Episode #114 with Joel Sopp from Socially Acceptable Marketing
Episode #113 with Annabel Townsend from The Penny University
Episode #112 with Cathlyn Melvin about her Tedx Coaching
Episode #111 with Corey Liebrecht from Zippity Zip Courier
Episode #110 with Quinn Nikulak from Kustom Kitties Canada
Episode #109 with Tess Boehm from Totally Tess Tradeshows
Episode #80 Your Ultimate Guide to Get Found with Local SEO
Episode #68 with Santa Claus
Episode #42 with Nadene Joy from Nadene Joy
Episode #41 with Richard Arockiasamy and Sanjana Kumta from GreenMache
Episode #33 with Denise Anderson, Author, Divorce in a Small Town
Episode 23 with Gr. 5 & 6 Students from Argyle School
In Episode 7, we chat with Michelle Strawford from Bella Chic Fashion & Decor and the What Women Want events. Starting with a photography business in the early days to an annual women’s event that draws 10’s of thousands of attendees, Michelle’s journey as an entrepreneur is pretty interesting!
Welcome to The Secret Life of entrepreneurs. Stay tuned to meet today’s guest and hear their story of what makes them tick. What drives them to succeed and their role in growing a thriving business community. The Secret Life of entrepreneurs chronicles the success and secrets of locally owned businesses and owners listening live as we discuss their secrets and learn how they are making a positive impact in their community. You’re listening to your host, Barb McGrath, business leader, entrepreneur and founder of the Get found on Google program. Let’s get started. Our guest today is Michelle Strawford from the What Women Want trade show and Facebook group. We joined the episode already in progress.
I needed to find a way to to make money on my own so that’s how it started. And I actually started with a photography company called Photo Bella which was has been in existence actually, it retired let me think three years ago and ended I had five staff at the end of that. Wow. So what happened was I worked at Farm credits while building my photography career in the hopes that that I would make enough money to eventually leave 12 almost 13 years ago started Bella chic. And Bella chic, came because and this is an odd story too. I never had a dream of owning a store Never did I and it actually was a family member was buying jewelry for my family and my sisters and it was all coming out of Manitoba and I could not find it here anywhere. And so I I called the company I completely lied to them. To start a business I own a studio which I didn’t I my photography company was completely outdoors and going into places and weddings and things like that. But I said I own this studio, and I sure would love to sell your your jewelry. And they they sold it to so my girlfriend and I each invested $100 That was it $100 And we made a deal that we’re just going to keep growing Bella chic as the money came in. So we never invested till this day and other dollars that what she wants didn’t revolving as we made more, we able to use them more. So are to buy more to sell and and here we are now with store fronts, my business partner moved away. So I bought her out. And it just kept growing. It started with jewelry, then purses, and now it’s mostly clothing and some shoes and accessories and things like that. But we’re moving to a new location.
I heard that. So can you talk about that?
Yeah, I well. I supposed to sign the lease today actually going to meet him before here. And the building was locked. And so we couldn’t follow through with that. But it’ll happen for sure. And it’s going to be humble, nervous to say without note, yeah, it’s huge. But it’s still staying in our community, just a great, perfect location. And it’s taken so long. It’s actually the third spot that I’ve been come close to in our community. So it’s staying near my home, which was always really important to me, I love my community. And yet, we’re only 10 minutes away from Regina. So like, so I love that and we’ll be in it in January. So very soon. As soon as I sign I’ll I’ll share it with Daniel share the began Smith.
Excellent. So is it the store that led to the what women want? Or Okay, so tell us about that. Because, you know, as a marketing company, I can honestly say I never sat back and went, Hmm, no, I want to do a trade show.
So another ridiculous story. So Bella Sheikh was selling this jewelry, that’s how we started and a few years into it, they found out oh, they don’t actually have a store. But by that time we were the top buyer in Saskatchewan. We were buying large. So they they said no, we’re done. Well, I said are you sure like and I shared pictures of our pop ups. I’m like we’re really doing justice of your product and and we have a great following. We’re sad that you would let us go so keep in mind Bella chic still doesn’t have a store. I have nowhere I’m selling it that we created our own pop ups all over the place and we often collaborate with great businesses so we would go into a business. We cheer our clientele and build each other which is what reminders
Uh, exactly. And that’s what entrepreneurial ism is all about, is growing together.
Absolutely. So they, so they catch one that we don’t have a store, they shut us down a year later they come back. And they say, Okay, we have an idea you can sell the jewelry again. But it has to be had a women’s related event. And so you know, the conversation happens, hang up the phone, I say to my business partner. I say to my business partner, that we need to do something there is no women show anywhere. So she said, Well, why don’t we create one and, and that’s how it started. So from there, it’s just growing to we’re into just our two and a half years into having a storefront. And, and even the storefront itself didn’t start as a storefront, it started as a storage unit, which rapidly turned into more than what we expected. So now we have, we are jam packed in our store, and we need to grow. So that’s why we’re moving. So that what woman wants show started, because there was no women’s show. And we needed to create one to sell the jewelry. So we the first one we had was called Women in Business. Okay, that was the very first one we did. It was 50 businesses at the University of Regina. And we had this huge waiting list. So we knew we needed to grow. And that’s when we started our year one at Connexus Arts Center. What year was that? Well, we’re going into year 11. If that tells you in March, it’ll be year 11. Okay, and in last year, we we outgrew Connexus, our center we had and if you’d been you’ll know what I’m talking about in every nook and cranny. Like every balcony, every the basement rooms, everything was full, couldn’t expand anymore. So we move to the International Trade Center, which is like this monster is blank, beautiful, open canvas. And so we moved there last year. This year, we’ve done this crazy new rebrand just to keep it fresh. Any business like this, especially that’s an event. People feel maybe that they’ve been there done that we needed to make it fresh. So it’s conveniently rebranded it really honestly is a brand new show to Saskatchewan, we expanded to Moose Jaw, so we’ll be in Moose Jaw for the third time also in April. Yeah. And yeah, it’s amazing. We decided that we would bring this year Los Angeles to Saskatchewan. So we have different districts throughout the show, we have the Hollywood Boulevard, we have the Fashion District, Venice Beach for children, Muscle Beach for fitness and nutrition. I’m probably most excited about Grand Central Market, which brings me back to working with entrepreneurs. So we needed to create an area to really bring on new entrepreneurs and a show like what women wants that does the promotion that we do. It’s not cheap. It’s not a typical trade show for a new business. It costs money to be there. That’s right, which pushes the limits and is risky for new business sometimes. So we wanted to make it easier for businesses to come and be a part of the show. So this is where Grand Central Market came from. So the booths are almost half in price. And we’re bringing the feel of an urban outdoor market. And I’m so excited about what it’s going to look like and the businesses that have come on.
Excellent. So good. Excellent. Wow, Michelle, that sounds fantastic. The show is in March and April. Remember the dates Correct?
Yeah, that’s right.
So spring, yeah, spring, spring, when we look outside today, look outside. Honestly, spring welcome again. Okay, so we’ve talked lots about the show. Let’s talk about Michelle a little bit. Okay. That’s much less comfortable. Okay, so let’s talk about PowerShell. And let’s talk about the industry. So this was a big step for you when you got into the show. Was this happening on a larger scale? were you seeing this someplace else? Or was this you know, that pie in the sky kind of dream that you had that you could make this a reality?
I think my background first was project management. So a very natural fit to put things together and make them happen and bring a team together. Okay, that was an obvious fit and also with everything that I’ve done in business both into photography at this point, and Bella chic, had the most success always came with collaborating, whether it be one businesses, business or a few. So Bella, she could always been doing it just not at the what women want level. Okay. And and I just have an inherent love for entrepreneurs and so I work with green all high school. Okay, their entrepreneur class. Yeah, and I just Nothing gets me as excited as suddenly hearing somebody talk about what they’re passionate about and having the guts to actually do it. So many people will talk. And that’s where it stops. I love the people that have the guts to actually go and do something that scares them. Yeah. And getting out of bed some days. Some days.
Yes, yeah, absolutely. Okay. So let’s talk about some of that scares you stuff. What’s What’s the hard part? What are the challenges that you’re having to overcome? What are those obstacles that, you know, all of a sudden there was you didn’t see it coming.
And now, you know, I was talking to a friend, that’s an entrepreneur, we both worked for the government not that long ago. And now we’re both entrepreneurs. And she’s a single mom. And she’s like, you know, I just have this fire, and it’s, you need the fire, if you don’t have it, those are the entrepreneurs that don’t last long. And for me, I’m not a single mom, I am not the main income earner in my home. However, I do have this crazy fear of failure that makes me sometimes wake up at 430 in the morning to work, and oh, I’m awake, I must Oh, and I think that world of entrepreneurism is not for everyone, I’m trying to convince my 16 year old to take the entrepreneur class in his high school, and it isn’t for everybody, it’s not. And God bless the people that can walk out of their office at the end of the day and be 110% until they walk back in. I don’t know that I was ever like that to begin with. But I can tell you that there’s nothing better than loving what you do, and having the passion to just have an endless drive. But the challenge with it is sometimes that overcomes me, and I want to work all the time. So that’s the hard part about being an entrepreneur is maybe knowing even when enough is enough and flipping the coin and being the full time mom.
My challenge, right? Yeah, yeah, you know, and that really brings up an interesting point. Because Absolutely, if I wake up at 430, or five in the morning, if my brain kicks in, like I’m down in the office, and I might as well get something done, because those are sort of the witching hours for me those first couple hours every day, all day long amount of work that I ever get done. It’s incredible. But there comes a point where, you know, to be honest, I expect my husband one day will say to me, like, you kind of stop, I know, because he’ll veg on the couch, and we’ll watch TV, I’ll be on my phone and respond to a couple emails and set up a couple appointments and, you know, maybe get, you know, a couple of tasks done related to a project. And, and you do so then when you want to walk away, it’s that much harder, because you’ve created an expectation that you’re either always available, or projects are always done, you know, way ahead of time. And all of a sudden, that becomes your benchmark. Yes. And wow, that’s a tough expectation to live up to.
It is right it is and it becomes the norm for everyone you’re communicating with. And so I do have so much to learn, when it comes to that, because I’m always on even my family, there was a period of time where our cottage where my family meets my extended family, where there was no Internet, and I missed those days a little bit. And they’ve said to me, you know, you’re getting a lot better. Like you don’t have your phone in your hand all the time. But time and and it’s a very conscious thing. Because I I love my phone. And I love to be connected with all my customers and clients and partners. And friends. It’s just a very natural thing for me. And I feel very complete when I am on at every level. Yes. But you can miss parts of your life when you do that.
That’s right. You know, there’s very few people who do get to whatever kind of finality in their career and go, Oh, I wish I’d worked more. It’s our family. It’s our friends. That’s what brings a richness to Our Lady on your deathbed.
You’re not going to wish you work today. No.
Yeah, exactly. So now is what women want. Is that a store initiative? Or are these really two separate things?
Very much separate thing? They are? Absolutely I mean, no doubt Bella chic is there. But that’s really where it ends and the what women want show. I think the best way to describe it is how I judge my success in the show. And that’s by talking to the vendors and the businesses and I call them my partners. Yeah the show because really, we work together I would say all year long share of our private what business is one page which is now over? Gosh, what is it? It’s a group sorry, not a page with over 600 local business owners. That’s crazy. And that came within the last probably four months. That’s insane. And that just shows this incredible power in our community and hunger for collaboration for collaboration and connection.
Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Well, before we change direction, I just want to have a quick station check here. And I want to thank the listeners who participated in the radio THON last week. So thanks for thanks very much to everyone who supported Regina community radio during radio thon 2018. As a listener, supported nonprofit radio station, CJ ter relies on the listeners to keep the station on air and to bring you the quality programming you’ve come to expect. If you have yet to honor your pledge, please do so before Monday, October 29. To be sure you are eligible for the gifts. It’s not too late to make your pledge and get your entries in for a limited edition gift. Call us at 306-525-7274 or pledge online at CJ ter.ca. Once again, from all of us in the CJ TR community. Thank you for your generous support. So Michelle, I know you already shared with me that you listened to the last episode. And I want to quickly jump into those questions.
I’m not ready.
We’re gonna we’ll segue into those. And then we’ll go back to a little bit more serious conversation. So last week you heard me ask Jordan Yes, sports or culture so I’m not going to start quite there with you. Okay, ready? Ready? No Romeo and Juliet. Which one are you? Oh, have you seen the movie seat?
Here’s the thing you don’t know about me. Okay. I don’t watch TV. I don’t because I’m very impatient. I am. So I have no answer. Because I have not for real my friends are like, what do you think of the voice?
I’m like, I don’t all right. You don’t watch TV? Like we don’t even have a TV upstairs.
And we have a TV downstairs that’s not connected. My kids watch you too. I have nothing. I have nothing.
Okay, that’s awesome.
I love my so
Gnomeo and Juliet is a kids movie animated kids movie and it’s card gnomes that have come to life. And one of the gnomes gets kidnapped and yada, yada.
So normally, I wouldn’t do this. Here happening live. But your question, I don’t have a clue.
That’s you ready? Okay. If money was no object, What business do you think you would start?
Here’s the crazy thing I actually think I would do, because I’ve thought about this because I’m at an age now. My husband retires in less than five years. And I don’t know that. And I actually just talked to my staff about this this morning. And I’m telling you, you know, I’m building these things to sell them. And she gave me this funny look like you’re kidding. Like as if you’re ever going to stop. And i i Actually it is so much my happy that I think maybe I’d be bigger. Maybe I’d be in more places. But I feel like I’m kind of where I want to be. Yeah, I don’t I don’t know that I would change a whole lot. Which is crazy to say. Yeah, but um, but the way I’ve built up it’s been very slow. Money’s never been an object with growing for me, right. Luckily.
So yeah, I don’t know. Well, there we go. There we have to exactly to Purdue okay. So I’m going to ask you the old favorite then sports or culture, culture, okay. And what’s the what’s the real driver there for you? Music ballet art.
I love music. I’m a musician through and through. So when I was, gosh, 15 years old. I started in a band on weekends. So other kids are working at Dairy Queen and I was in a wedding band playing it by girl hiding behind a drum kit of seven. Tom Tom, right. Yeah. And so I use it gets me to the core. It makes me cry. It makes me laugh. It’s makes me happy. It makes me sad. Nothing makes me more proud than seeing my children play. And that’s what I was gonna ask you next. And I’m never happier than I am when I’m at a concert just fills me up. Excellent. Love it.
My answer to that question would be sports, but I always admire somebody who has you know that that musical ability because that is not something I had. My parents tried desperately to find some sort of creative musical talent in there and they put me through guitar and get this one ready. Violin. God, can you imagine what they did to themselves? violin lessons Read teenage kid like my poor parents. Yeah. So, ya know, I have so much admiration for people who they really have mastered their craft.
I was like, don’t get me wrong. You don’t want to see why the drum kit today not mastered my craft, but I appreciate and absolutely love to watch those that have
Yeah. Okay. So let’s think about an entrepreneur getting started today. Maybe it’s somebody who would like to have a retail location at some point in time. Or maybe it’s somebody who really wants to take events to that next level. What kind of words of wisdom? What kind of advice do you think you would have for them?
I go back to the fire in your belly and just wanting it more than anything else. And when I say more than anything else, I mean, not having watched TV. Not so now I forgetting what his name is God, it’ll come to me later. But he’s a huge actor. And, and somebody said to him, how have you become like, You’re so lucky. How did you become so successful? And he said, You know what it is? When you’re out with friends, I’m working. When you’re sleeping, I’m working. That’s certain, because I’m like, why must I work and not that it has to go to that level, but you better be ready, like you better, it’s not going to come easy, because it’s not at all saying if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. And nothing makes me crazier than someone will say to me, You’re so lucky. And sure that maybe I am. But I have worked. And anyone who knows me will say how do you do at all? And I have one like that? Yes. Yeah. And I mean, it’s just because I think when you really love something so much, and, and I like I remember the day that I sold my first item on a website to a stranger. So I’m at Bell, I’m at Farm Credit Canada, I’m at a cubicle, I get a ding on my, I don’t even know if I had a cell phone. That’s how crazy that is. I don’t know how I knew. But I jumped up my cubicle I like, and they don’t even know who I am like, it’s for real. So that’s right.
Those are the things that have driven me. I remember my boss from credit, saying what motivates you, Michelle? And I was at a time in my life. I was like, How do I answer this because not a thing that it was very much I needed to it was creating something that somebody else would want, whether it’s a service that I made up in my head, that’s how I felt like I felt like, what women want all the things that we do, and I have a great team now. But there was a period of time up until now almost where it was all in my head, okay. And I did everything from marketing to selling booths to creating the floorplan everything, and how cool we’d be by the time the event came just to watch it all. I could smell it and see it long before it happened. And it was just like magic watching it all come together. And that’s what motivates me. And you’ve got to be ready to work like you’ve never worked work before. Yeah, I have a friend who took a course. And he said, You know, when we were there, the guy said, I want you to work like you do the night before you’re on vacation, where you’re like up, you know, all these things you have to do. And I looked at him, I said, I know this sounds crazy, but I kind of feel like a to do like I work until I go to bed. And I know that’s not normal. But that’s just who I am. And I realized that everybody’s life balance is different. And it’s not that I’m not present for my children. But it’s just a matter of when it’s my choice, right, I oftentimes will choose working. Exactly. Okay. All right answer. Sorry.
No, that’s, that’s wonderful. So it looks like we have time for one more question. Okay. And so I don’t mean to put you on the spot again. But this is one that you might not quite be prepared for. So as an entrepreneur, it’s not a bad question. I know, but as an entrepreneur, there’s always those those things that happen. And when you look back, you really can laugh about it. But at the time, you know, it was stressful, or it may have even caused tears. But it really became a lesson that you learn from and it may have been your location the first time or someone you hired. But do you have one of those quick stories that you can share?
Probably the biggest lesson. I had hired a company, marketing company and the contract was over. So this was what women want. And they weren’t happy that it was over. So. So there was anyway, basically it made me dig deeper than I ever had. Because I was my my show was somewhat threatened at the time. They created another show. So all of a sudden I felt like can I really do this on my own? And it was that year that what women want had only been for the three years that they were part of it in the basement of Connexus. The fourth year when I was by myself, it went go through the roof, every floor of Connexus with a waiting list because that was the fire because I needed. So now I often look back and thought, boy, that was a crazy year. And I think it was just the first of many opportunities to prove to myself that you know what, like, if you really want it that bad, and I tell entrepreneurs this all the time, yes, if you want it that bad, and you’re ready to work, and you’re so passionate, you’re gonna get it, you’re gonna make it. Get ready, because it’s gonna be scary and risky. And so many people will tell you, you can’t do it. Absolutely. And then one day, you’re gonna put it out there and they’re gonna go wow, what you did exactly.
Look what you built. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Okay, well, that actually brings us to the end of our time together here. So Michelle, I would very much like to thank you. We had some technology problems.
Like me when I was watching the
Exactly, you look stellar, I can. Still it was awesome. So I’d like to thank you the listeners for joining us here today on 91.3 FM CJ ter Regina community radio for night views The Secret Life of entrepreneurs. And thank you Michelle from Bella chic. And what women want for joining us to talk about the transition corporate project manager to fashionista. I will be back here on October 17. Two weeks from today with Candice Feasel from the Style Academy from sheer escape a salon and spa and she’s got a third one in there. Oh SAS fashion week she was instrumental in building Sask Fashion Week. So Candice has her hand in almost as many things I think he’s a superstar, no doubt. Absolutely. We are at a time, I’d like to thank you for joining us today on The Secret Life of entrepreneurs. As always, if you’d like to be a guest on the show, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Facebook and Instagram at abovethe fold.Ca. Just a reminder, you can even submit questions in advance of the live show on any of our social media channels. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, local business owner, digital marketer and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.