The only words that came to describe her feelings were all negative: scared, lonely and frustrated. In another month, Frances Weldon, co-owner of Cattail Ridge Family Market, was set to celebrate four years of running her entrepreneurial venture. However, what had begun as an exciting entrepreneurial venture for both the husband and wife team did not turn out the way she expected.
As the anniversary approached, Ms. Weldon reflected on the price that she had paid to get the venture off the ground. Apart from significant financial contributions from their retirement savings, Ms. Weldon had lost touch with friends and family, had taken no vacations and was constantly on the go. This is not what she had hoped for. She knew that she was not happy and had lost the interest and excitement of running her own business. The only way to continue was to figure out what had gone wrong and fix the problem.
Both Frances and Michael were born and raised in Sackville, N.B. The couple ran a family farm in Pointe de Bute in the 70s before moving to Alberta in 1988. In 2003, the they moved back to Sackville to care for Michael’s elderly parents. Michael soon found a job in the nearby town of Amherst, N.S. at the newly opened Shur-gain animal nutrition store.
Both Frances and Michael had always been passionate about growing and buying local food and decided to set up their own shop in Sackville to sell non-medicated livestock feed with no animal byproducts and locally produced vegetables and meat. After two years of planning, they opened the store in summer 2008.
Michael continued to work at Shur-gain while Frances took on the task of running the new venture. From the outset, the couple faced the usual challenges of running a small business, including a shortage of financing, difficulties building a customer base, etc. As the business struggled to grow, Frances found herself getting immersed into the business at the expense of her relationships with friends and family. She started losing sleep and realized that she was no longer happy, or excited to go to work in the morning. Although Michael joined the business in 2011 to help out, Frances continued to be involved in every single aspect of the business and she felt that she had to touch everything to ensure it was taken care of.
As Frances reflected on her journey, she realized that although Michael had come on board, she had not given up control of anything. She felt that if she did loosen her grip, things would unravel and the business would suffer as a result. The key to happiness, she realized, was to strike a balance between the personal and professional aspects of life. Unfortunately over the years, she had let the pendulum swing too much on one side.
To regain balance, she asked Michael for his help in taking over some responsibilities from her. Michael immediately agreed to offer his help, as he had been eager to take on some tasks. The couple decided to split the front office and back office operations; Frances taking over the front office as she enjoyed dealing with people and Michael taking care of the back office operations, which was his strength.
Frances encourages entrepreneurs who have partnerships to fully leverage the potential of their partner’s expertise and time.
The transition has worked out really well. Frances now spends time with friends and family and the couple will be taking a vacation soon. She now looks forward to getting back to work, and has plans to expand the market by incorporating a playground area, a pumpkin patch as well as organizing community related events, such as a pet show. Business has been doing very well as Frances points out, “a happy entrepreneur is a productive entrepreneur”.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Nauman Farooqi is a professor and head of the department of commerce in theRon Joyce Centre for Business Studiesof Mount Allison University.
This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Report on Small Business website.
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