Throughout the past week I have been thinking a lot about small and local business and celebrating the contribution they make to our communities.
On September 28th, I shared my article that was published in the Seaside Magazine as an introduction to their featured section focusing on business on the Saanich Peninsula. I will write more about small businesses in the future, their investment is incredibly important to our communities, they create jobs and provide the products and services we need locally.
My parents were entrepreneurs and I grew up watching them build solid long-term relationships with people in the community. We employed dozens of people, many of whom remain close family friends to this day. My parents and grandparents taught me the value of hard work and the confidence to take calculated risks, both of which are needed to succeed and fail as a business owner.
In the summer I pushed lawnmowers, saving my earnings to eventually invest in a bicycle, and as I got older, school clothes. Through the rest of the year, I learned how to buy and sell Cowichan Indian Sweaters. It was this experience that I utilize today in our family businesses and that I take with me as an employee.
I was fortunate to have parents that worked at home and I am proud that Emily and I have been able to provide Silas and Ella the benefit of having a work-from-home dad. The Olsen family is still in business, partners in a handful of ventures. My mom Sylvia, sister Joni and I own Salish Fusion Knitwear, the latest iteration of the family woolworking business. My mom and I are partners in OLSEN&OLSEN Consulting, a company that works with First Nations across Canada updating and renewing their housing policy.
Owning business is not easy but is incredibly rewarding. It has opened many doors for us and enriched our lives. For example, Joni and I flew to Toronto in the spring of 2012 and pitched our business on CBC hit show, Dragon’s Den. We did not get an investment but the research and preparation of our business leading up to the taping was incredibly important. It was a learning experience that provided essential personal, professional and business development.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy, many of us don’t survive the first year. The rewards for those who can succeed are great, providing families an excellent quality of life. Small businesses play a critical role in local/regional economies and they play an equally critical role in the BC Greens economic vision for the future.
I encourage the provincial government to support small business and they can start with municipal finance reforms. Annual increases in property taxes and fees limit the opportunity for small/local businesses to invest more in their operation, hire more people and achieve their potential. In addition, I encourage my friends, family and neighbours to shop local! Happy small business week!
Left: Joni and I pitched Salish Fusion Knitwear on the Dragon’s Den in April 2012.
Right: Yes, we got Kevin O’Leary to shear a sheep. Awesome!