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My Entrepreneurial Journey

May 18, 2021

The Lemonade Stand, Uxbridge Ontario, Uxbridge, furniture paint, paint studio, how I got started

It has been almost three years since we opened The Lemonade Stand as a brick and mortar location.  I almost can't believe it as the time has just flown by.  So many ups and downs and challenges - especially the last year as we have been going through a pandemic.  

I am often asked how I got started in this business, so I thought I would share a little more detail about my journey.  

I always knew I wanted to have my own business.  My father was an entrepreneur his whole life and I looked up to that.  I saw the hard times and some easier times in business.  I saw the stresses and worries that come with running your own business, but I also saw the flexibility and freedom it provided him.  

Although I knew I wanted my own business, I had no idea what I wanted to do and I certainly didn't have any money to get started.  So I took the typical route and went to college for two years for Legal Administration.  I hated every minute of it.  I knew before I completed the first year that it wasn't for me, but I didn't want to disappoint my dad so I completed the two years and went to work for a Criminal Lawyer in downtown Toronto.  It was one of the worst work experiences of my life.  I was treated very poorly and it was highly stressful.  In fact I was so stressed that they had to send me to the hospital as I broke out in hives everywhere.  That job lasted three months and I was fired - which was probably a good thing because I'm not sure I would have quit on my own.

After this I took a little time off to figure out my next move.  I spent the summer in Winnipeg with my aunt, then came back home to try college once again.  This time I enrolled in a three year program - Business Administration with a specialization in Human Resources.  I actually enjoyed this program a lot and graduated with honours.  

I finally got a job in Human Resources and spent the next 18 years of my life climbing the Corporate ladder and taking online courses to get my degree in HR. 

I always had a creative spirit, and dabbled in different projects.  I took a whole series of cake decorating courses and really got into the scrapbooking world.  I would have whole scrapbooking weekends with my friends and it was so much fun. 

In 2011 my world changed a lot.  I lost my dad suddenly which brought a lot of emotions to the front.  It forced me to re-evaluate things in my life.  I went through a divorce that same year and started the road as a single parent.  

It was in 2013 or 2014 that I stumbled across a beautifully painted dresser in a home decor magazine.  The dresser was painted using Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint and I was super curious.  I googled where I could purchase this paint, which brought me to a cute little store called Mango Reclaimed.  If you've never been to this studio, you should definitely take a visit if you are local (east of Toronto, Ontario).  The studio has grown a lot since I was first there, but I can tell you that when I walked into this place it felt so right.  It was sunny and bright, and there were beautiful paint colours everywhere, an array of brushes and gorgeous hardware.  There were also numerous pieces of furniture restyled and a huge smiling face greeting me (that would be the owner Melanie).  Needless to say my interest was peeked and I took a couple workshops from Melanie and began painting pieces in my home, which turned into pieces that I would sell.  I also began making farmhouse signs and selling them.  I will always be grateful to Melanie for inspiring me and starting me on this creative journey.

Here is Melanie and I in her studio a few years ago.  We were preparing for a workshop:

 In 2015 I remarried, we moved to a bigger house and turned the basement into my studio.  Keeping in mind I was still working full-time in Human Resources, my goal was to turn the basement into a working studio with a small retail section and a place where I would hold my workshops.  At this point I was also teaching creative workshops at other retail locations and attending markets to sell my products.  

Here we are set up at one our our markets.  This one was an all-weekend show and my husband joined me to help out.

We finished the basement and I quickly realized that this was not going to work.  Our dogs were a bit of a problem, I was worried about smells from cooking food, parking, and a few other things.  It was then that my husband and I began to look for a retail location.  

Here's what our renovated basement looked like:

In 2016 I left my full-time HR job.  This was a huge step for me.  I was so worried about income as I was making a decent salary and I knew my salary would drop significantly.  I can say that without the support of my husband I would have never been able to financially or emotionally do this on my own.  Growing a business takes time and I knew it would take more time to start paying myself, so I did keep a couple of HR clients for another couple years that I would bill every month for my expertise.  

In 2018 we found a cute little spot in Uxbridge Ontario and I totally saw the potential for a store front.  It was scary signing a lease and making the commitment, but I knew if I didn't try it I would always wonder about what could have been.

Here is what the store looked like when we got it.  At this point we had already ripped down walls and the drop down ceiling, and ripped out carpet. 

I solicited my best friend, her husband, and my uncle to help with the renovations, and of course my husband did SO much.  We even painted the outside of the building (that's my besties hubby that did all the painting).

 

It started off being a retail space at the front and the studio at the back where we would regularly hold workshops.  Then in 2020 COVID hit and everything was turned upside down.  Workshops were off the table and we had to find a way to pivot.  We started curbside pick ups, live Facebook sales, DIY kits, and turned the back of our studio into a retail space as well.

Has it always been easy?  Absolutely not.  There is a lot of stress and planning that comes with being an entrepreneur.  You are the only one that can drive and push the business forward.  But, there are so many rewards with owning your own business.  One of the biggest for me is the flexibility it has provided me to plan my own schedule and be with my family when I choose.  Especially during COVID and online learning, I have been able to be here for my daughter while she is learning from home.

My biggest advice is to make sure you do something you are passionate about. I love the store we have created.  It is vintage inspired, beautiful and we create an experience for every person that walks through the door.  Our goal is to inspire and encourage creativity.  

We now have two staff members, Lauren and Erika.  Lauren has been with us almost two years now and Erika is our newest hire.  We continue to grow and evolve and I am loving strategizing about where to take The Lemonade Stand next!

Lee xo

P.S. I often get asked why we named it The Lemonade Stand.  My husband actually came up with this name and I loved it.  It is a tribute to your first entrepreneurial experience.




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