Many people warned me that it wouldn’t be easy. Most small businesses go under within the first couple of years. With a young family, it’s especially tough because being successful requires long, unpaid hours of marketing and finding new business, all while paying for daycare. How could it be possible with a spouse who works long, unpredictable hours? With no local family to pitch in?
When we began, professional organizing was in its infancy. Back then, people didn’t know what a professional organizer did. This was before TV shows like Hoarders made our work mainstream.
Now in its fifth year, Alex the Organizer is going strong. I credit the business’ success, in large part, to my supportive husband Tim. He was the one providing encouragement when times were lean in the beginning. He pushed me not to give up when a business advisor told me that there was no market in Brantford for our service. He uncomplainingly rearranges his work as much as he can to accommodate any late night meetings or weekend workshops I arrange in order to be home for the children. I guess I often take for granted having a partner who was open to me choosing to take the path less traveled. He stepped into the role of problem solver to make it possible.
Sure, there are days when we each think that it would be easier if we each had nine-to-five jobs, or any local extended family to help with childcare, but at the end of the day, when passion guides you, the tiredness, long hours and time away from family are small costs to pay for all the benefits of being self-employed. With each new client and each referral to someone they know, it reaffirms the importance and the need for this work.
Another reason for our early success is the mentorship and camaraderie of many other small business owners in our community. It’s not until you are a small business owner that you understand the pride of knowing that your countless hours of unpaid work have resulted in a business that not only provides a much needed service to help improve people’s lives, but also creates work for other people. I am especially proud of that. I am often called by new potential organizers about work opportunities or for information about how to start a new business. I like that there is a sense of cooperation among organizers; we know there is lots of business to go around. I enjoy giving back by mentoring new organizers.
As our family has grown, so have the challenges with scheduling our respective work. But so too have the rewards increased. Tim and I share parenting duties as well as caring for our families’ needs. We each get to experience the satisfaction of being capable co-parents to our sons. It has been a great gift to have a partner who believes in me and unfailingly supports my endeavours. Tim and I rely on being well organized to ensure that our household runs smoothly. In fact, it is often the skills that the business teaches our clients that save us at home! When we cater to busy families, we really, truly get it! Leaving for an evening meeting is not always easy after a day of work but our five year old gets it. Ask him what his mum does for work and he’ll proudly tell you, “She helps people.”
The adventure of starting and running a business with small children has also broadened and strengthened our community ties. We chose Brantford as a place to raise our children, and to start this business because of its central location to neighbouring communities, its size and its natural beauty. Little did we know what a truly welcoming place it is. The business community in Brant is a small one and it seems that everyone is inter-connected in several ways. Joining the Chamber of Commerce allowed me to connect with many other business people. I’ve made friends, facilitated connections between other businesses and I’m proud to call myself a Brantfordian.
Thank you Tim, Nathaniel and Leopold, and especially to Brantford, for opening up a world of possibilities to me, to my business and to our family.