Skip to main content
for the better

I grew up in Trinidad in a very entrepreneurial family and always knew I wanted to run my own business. My grandmother ran her own vegetable stand and my parents were real estate developers. I came to Canada at age 20 to study business at the University of New Brunswick, and now live in Edmonton where I run my own personal and professional coaching and mentoring business, as well as an organization called Women Entrepreneurs Connecting and Networking.

I believe there’s a lack of mentorship for small businesses, especially those who have started but aren’t yet at the stage where they’re seeking outside investors. They want to get to that expansion stage, but aren’t sure how. That’s where I see the struggle with women entrepreneurs I work with, and where I’ve struggled myself.

My first job was in economic development, helping coach businesses in High Level, Alta. I then moved into small-business banking before having kids and moving to Rainbow Lake, Alta. My husband worked in the oil patch and I stayed at home with the kids. It was during that time that I decided to build my own business from home. In 2008, I started an online toy store.

It was a big change from telling people how to structure their business to running an e-commerce company. I sold it five years later to start the other businesses I have now.

I have benefited from a handful of mentors over the years. Today I have a business coach, a life coach and an energy coach. I saw the need for that for me to learn and grow. I needed that help to be able to get my business working. I learned more about productivity, time management and trusting my instincts.

I believe strongly in mentorship as a way to help entrepreneurs advance to the next stage of their business, and to become successful. Having a mentor provide advice, feedback and direction saves startups time and money by allowing entrepreneurs to tap into the expertise of people who have done it before. It takes some of the guesswork and trial and error out of the process.

This also saves entrepreneurs a lot of money during what is a critical stage in their growth. A mentor is an objective, outside expert who can often guide you on ways to do it better, more efficiently or even let you know if it’s something worth spending money on at all. As entrepreneurs, we can get so passionate that we develop tunnel vision. A mentor provides the necessary objectivity and insights we might otherwise not see.

Lastly, having a mentor means having a sounding board – someone you can share your struggles and challenges with, and who can offer their perspective based on their knowledge and experience. Family and friends are great, but they may not have experienced the ups and downs of running their own business. A mentor or coach may not know your business specifically, but he or she can help to point you in the right direction.

Small-business coach Narissa Singh says she learned costly lessons where she started her own businesses. (Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail)

One on one with Narissa Singh

What has been your best business decision to date?

Investing in personal and professional development for my business and myself. That led to re-evaluating my business model, making the necessary changes and learning how to implement strategies for systemizing and prioritizing. I was also able to better articulate my needs and vision to those supporting me. It was a steep learning curve but a necessary one to implement my vision and really get me on track to making the goals for my business a reality. It wasn’t until I took learning into my own hands that my business really took off. I saved a lot of money and really learned how to run and manage my business so that when the time came to hire support, I knew exactly what I wanted, how to direct them, and could articulate my needs and evaluate the results.

What has been the worst decision?

I have made a lot of financial mistakes and hired unnecessary support before my business could handle it. I struggled with knowing how to grow my business and I depended on others to help me get there. I also realized they had the same struggles. Often, as entrepreneurs, we love the aspect of business that we do well and love, because that’s what got us into it in the first place. However, we don’t always know how or have the capacity to get there. So my experience, although costly, really taught me valuable lessons and is for the most part the reason I am doing what I do today, which is mentoring others and providing resources to other entrepreneurs so they can better help themselves.

Who are your business mentors?

There have been a few over the years who have been there for me. I currently work with coaches in various fields as part of my continuous self and professional growth. However, I find that I can reach out to many of my connections in the business world and people are always willing to help, offer feedback, give advice or point you in the right direction.

If you had to choose a different career, and could do anything, what would it be?

I would love to perform in theatre. I often go to dinner theatre and secretly think it would be so much fun to take on the persona of a character and perform.