I was born in Turkey. I am the middle child of our family. I was always part of an entrepreneurial family since my dad, my sister and brother all owned their own businesses. Back home in Turkey, I worked for a big retail & wholesale fashion business as an Accountant; however, I was always a part of various company fashion shows and was very involved in the decision making process for new fashion ideas.I came to Canada in 1983 to “take a break and visit relatives” not planning to stay. Well life had different plans for me, I have been in Canada since. I later had three children . My baby boy became our “guardian angel” on the 3rd day of his birth to heart failure. I am blessed to have two healthy, beautiful daughters Myda 26 and Tanya 20.
My entire career was spent at a Canadian Tire Financial Services from 1984 to 2009. I worked in the Finance Division as an Accounting Coordinator, and then progressing into the role of Team Lead for the last 11 years. While working there, I studied Accounting , Management and graduated with a degree in General Art and Science studies.. My passion for understanding human behaviour led me to take another program called Counseling for Human Services. The experience and education that I built during those years have helped me in different areas of my business today. When I opened my store in Port Dalhousie, I joined the Port Dalhousie Business Community. Currently I am serving as the Treasurer on the Port Dalhousie BIA Executive. I continue to study fashion and personal styling with a focus on energy profiling.
IB: Where my boutique is located is a tourist area; however, I am not a seasonal merchant. I am open all year around but my hours of operation will change as seasons change. Spring season starts in April and I start as early as 9am until sunset. This can go up to 10pm at night especially during the hot season e.g. June-August. Fall & Winter hours go from 11am to 6pm. I offer flexible appointments for those customers who can’t make our regular hours. I work alone so my day is full of “to do lists” and vary depending on which one is a priority. Every morning I open my doors with a positive attitude, and a short prayer almost like talking to my internal “God”, the Universe and my angels know that I am grateful for their encouragement and support. They also know that I know that I will have a good day, sharing joy with my customers throughout. This little ‘meditation’ gives me the courage to get the day going.
Next I go around and check that the items are hung properly and displayed in a way that will decorate my customers’ eye. Sometimes I change items around to give a fresh look and bring a different energy into the store. Once I look around and I am satisfied with how my boutique looks I will check my calendar for the day. Any calls that need to be done, any supplier that has to be paid, and any shipment happening that day etc. Do I have business shows or marketing, networking events to attend? These are some samples that I can think of now. Daily or weekly bookkeeping also is on my to do list- having a finance background comes in handy here. Social media posts e.g. Facebook, Instagram etc are scheduled. There will be days that a couple of hours will be booked aside to do cleaning e.g. dust, windows, vacuum etc. When there is a shipment, I will work on them, which means, removing packaging. This could be fashion clothing, shoes, boots, handbags or accessories. Individually I will be checking to ensure all are in good shape, price them and find a place to display. This is one of the fun parts since I like to create a story when displaying items. I make sure that dusting is done a day before or at the same time when new items are being put on the shelves. In between the daily work this is what I bring to the store when a customer walks in. First I would greet them and let them know about my specials and invite them to take their time to look around. If they need my help I will be happy to assist them. I also would like to get to know who the customer is, find out if they are a new customer, how they found us, are they local? So by asking real questions and being real with them, I start building a relationship and rapport with them and then it is very easy to see what they are looking for, find out what their body style is and show them product lines that we have in the store. I give my honest suggestions to what will look good on my customers and that will lead to a sale. And of course I do get visits from friends that I love to spend time with.
RB: What do you do to preserve your health as you run your business? Do you have any rituals, for example?
IB: I like walking and dancing. During the spring and summer I usually walk home from my store, which is about an hour and 30 minutes. At times I come to work early and have a nice walk in the beautiful Port Dalhousie. I often go to the Pier and enjoy the view of the water before I open the store. Since I work alone, I try to look after myself; however, I must admit I have some work to do when it comes to bed time, which is pretty later than what is suggested. We all have something to work on right?
RB: Can you discuss some of the major changes that have occurred between starting your business and where it is now? For example, business model or management changes?
IB: During the six years, I managed to work alone, at times by getting help from family and/or close friends when I needed to go for business trips. I didn’t need to do major changes; however, you always look to renew yourself and business one step at a time. One major change I would think was to decide to keep one unit instead of the 2 units that I had started with. This was due to economical and unique location challenges that I had faced the last three years of my business.
RB: What are some of the challenges you are facing or have faced this year?
IB: Specific to the area ” being in Port Dalhousie” is a challenge right now due to a development project that has been delayed for more than 6 years. The negative media resulted in many thinking that all businesses are closed in the Port and many stopped visiting us. The good news is we are seeing some positive changes now and all the business in the Port are doing the best to attract new customers, and bringing back the old ones. The challenge of ” getting the cash flow” running while dealing with economical challenges. The challenge of pairing “the new trends” to ” the expectation of our customers”, such as which style they will more adopt and at what price points? These are some questions that we go through during the decision making process.
RB: Describe what innovation means in your business and how do you go about it.
IB: When we check the “meaning of innovation” in general it is defined as “a new idea.” For me, in my business innovation will be serving a real purpose to my customers. It will be continuously looking for better ways to satisfy my customers with improved quality, durability of my fashion products, my personalized, sincere service and affordable pricing. Overall it is to make my customers shopping experience unique and enjoyable. A new idea can also be; adding new brands to our collection or new ways of displaying our fashion in our boutique. Creating different stories each time.
RB: How do you balance being a “big dreamer” vs setting realistic goals for your business?
IB: My big dream is “to own a place where I can live and operate my boutique” instead of paying rent. My dream also includes that this place must be in Port and has to be near the water. It’s a challenging big dream but why not? We must look forward to something. In the meantime, I review closely my financials for my business and make appropriate decisions whatever that may be. You must have both. One without the other would not feel complete.
RB: Who or what motivates you to keep going with your business? And Why?
IB: Once you have your own business you don’t look back. Your only options will be to enhance your business and to add a step further, like I plan to do soon. As much as I offer my personalized service to my customers within my store I will also be offering private consultations to my clients “Personal Styling focused on individuals energy.” I call it “Your Inner GEM” which GEM stands for ‘Glamorous, Elegant and Magnificent YOU! My relationship with my customers and their positive and encouraging support keeps me motivated daily.
RB: Has your definition of success changed since you have started your business? If so, how?
IB: Sure it did. At the beginning it was only a shop that you wanted to make money and make a living. You only focus on the “big picture” and miss the “little satisfactions that you experience along the way.” As years go along success becomes; building wonderful relationships with your customers, giving back to the community either by being part of a charity fashion show or having your own charity fashion shows raising money for worthy causes. Hearing compliments regarding products I carry, receiving “thank you cards” or “flowers” from satisfied customers, etc. There have been a lot of treasured memories and the satisfaction of completing a successful 6 years.
RB: What would you say is the most important skill required to run a business?
IB: I don’t think “one skill” is enough to run a business. In general, I can sum the most important skills as: being able to sell, customer focus, communication and curiosity. However, in my personal experience, my passion for my business keeps me going, also my determination to make the business work is another one. Elaine R. Slatter talks about these two traits in her book called “ Fabulous Fempreneurship” Your Complete Business Startup Guide.” I would suggest anyone who is planning to start a business to read it..
RB: There are a lot of myths about entrepreneurs. Now that you have started and are successfully running your own business what would you say is the biggest myth? What have you learned most from it.
IB: Women entrepreneurs need to act like men to be successful in business. As a female entrepreneur I find we bring “unique” qualifications to the business world. One being our intuition, mine has never let me down so far. I am not sure how many male business owners would go with their “gut” on decision making. I believe we learn things quickly and we believe in the importance of “building a relationship”. Taking time to connect individuals e.g. customers, employees, community comes easier to female entrepreneurs than men. What I learn from it is to just ignore the myths and do what feels right in your heart and on your paper.