Four years after she lost her job as a journalist at B.C.’s Vernon Daily Courier, Lea Storry is 40 years old and staring down an uncertain path.
Everything fell apart with a single phone call at work: The Vernon office was shutting down, and all staff were being let go. She went from being a full-time managing editor with health benefits to collecting employment insurance.
“I was dumbfounded,” she recalls. “It was quite a shock. It all happened in 10 minutes.”
Even before losing her job, Ms. Storry did not live an extravagant lifestyle. “I was living paycheque to paycheque. I had some savings, but not enough to tide me over.”
After the layoff, she sold her house to rent in Revelstoke and cut costs.
"It was a very heavy financial burden,” Ms. Storry says. “I lived very frugally. I think I ate one meal a day.”
It would be more than a year before Ms. Storry found a contract job as a sports writer for VANOC covering nordic events at the Winter Games. She moved to Calgary in 2010 and went from one contract to the next, but finding enough work to pay the bills proved difficult.
It was major blow to her self-esteem, says Ms. Storry, who had wanted to be a journalist since childhood.
Finally, in September, 2011, Ms. Storry hit her breaking point and decided to try something new. She attended a self-employment program in Calgary and launched a company, Family Lines, writing personal memoirs and corporate histories. “I became an entrepreneur because, unlike my parents’ generation, big and middle businesses don’t support careers anymore. I needed to create my own job and invest in myself instead of waiting for a company to do it.”
Finding clients has been tough, says Ms. Storry, who spends a great deal of time doing unpaid work: networking, writing a blog, doing research and trying to promote her services. Everyone is cutting back on discretionary spending, and if her business is to survive, the economy will need to pick up.
“Today’s economy doesn’t make it easy for small businesses,” she says, “but client by client, I hope to build something sustainable to support me and my husband and give back to my community.”