As a florist, Angel Wall works with customers on what may be the happiest or saddest days of their lives and everything in between at Meadow Rose Floral, Home & Gift. No matter what a customer’s vision is, Wall is proud to help them create their dream wedding or honour a loved one as their family gathers to say goodbye. It all started when the former flower shop in Rosthern went up for sale, and Wall knew she wanted to start her next entrepreneurial venture. After crunching the numbers, filling out the paperwork, and seeking some small business advice from Sagehill Community Futures, she was able to open her new venture in April 2019.
When starting a business Wall says the paperwork itself is no small feat, especially when you have a short amount of time to apply for potential funding opportunities. The dedicated and supportive staff at Sagehill helped Wall make her business dreams come true without risking her financial stability and long-term savings while helping Wall focus on making her new store her own. Wall’s main goals were to modernize and rebrand her new business by creating an online presence and bringing in new product lines. Doing the research so she could bring in a modern selection from small Saskatchewan and Western Canada businesses was time well spent, she says.
“People are wanting sustainable products, they're wanting quality pieces, they're not wanting your traditional giftware.”
The customer needs didn’t change following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Wall, as she ensured gift-giving, and funeral and wedding planning continued within pandemic guidelines.
“A COVID shut down was definitely not ideal within the first year of business, but we're weathering it and we're making it through,” she says. Wall and her staff were able to power through and keep spreading joy during a difficult time. Even with restrictions in place to keep customers at home, Wall was able to offer contactless deliveries to Rosthern, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and even beyond, for special days like Mother’s Day and the Easter season as well as many days where people just wanted to spread happiness during difficult times. “People started wanting to send their friends and family flowers. It became a novel idea to spread joy.”
Growth, just like entrepreneurship, takes time and effort, and up-and-coming entrepreneurs can’t be afraid of hard work, says Wall. “Be willing to put in long hours, but the long hours will pay off when you see something that's like your baby flourish into something that you dreamt it would be.” Taking over the shop and turning it into Meadow Rose has taught Wall to roll with the punches, even if one of the first punches you get is a global pandemic. “Always believe in yourself, that you can do anything you put your mind to, and push past the fear because greatness happens on the other side of fear,” she says.
Colleen Haussecker has always been an entrepreneur at heart. When a health scare made her change her eating habits, she knew that using a lot of spices for added flavour, instead of things like sugar, salt, and butter, could raise the nutritional value of her food. But Haussecker soon discovered that organic, nutritious spices and herbs were not readily available, even by big food companies. After a year of planning, Canadian Organic Spice & Herb Co. Inc. was born in the fall of 2013 in Watson, Saskatchewan.
“We're building a brand that the consumer can trust. It is a high-quality, organic, clean, pure brand, and people can go to our brand and buy good quality food at reasonable prices. We thank our customers in the end for our success.”
What started as “a full line of retail spices, herbs, and seasonings,” says Haussecker, has grown into bulk offerings and new product lines using Saskatchewan commodities. “Our idea was to launch a full spice line into the market, and then after that, launch products using Saskatchewan grown pulses and legumes etc. and to use our spices to create new and different products.”
While their reach has also expanded to multiple countries, with products currently available across Canada, Australia, Japan, and China, Haussecker is excited to send Canadian Organic to even more locations in the future.
As a small operation with 14 staff, hiring the right people for the job has been the key in building the business, says Haussecker. “We try to hire people that are working in the field of their natural talent, meaning we try to find what people love to do, grow their passion for what they enjoy doing and what comes naturally to them.”
Haussecker herself has benefitted from her faith and people who want to see Saskatchewan businesses and businesswomen succeed. Organizations, including Sagehill Community Futures, have been behind Haussecker as she’s grown Canadian Organic.
“[Sagehill] really helped us at the beginning when we needed some guidance and direction. It was awesome to have them there and to be able to reach out to them.” Along with the staff at Sagehill, many government programs, and business support groups, Haussecker says she has benefitted from a wealth of business knowledge and experience from Saskatchewan entrepreneurs.
When starting their own businesses, new entrepreneurs should consider how many hours they put into it. While making their own hours can be appealing to new entrepreneurs, if they are going to be successful, they are going to have to work twice the hours that they did before, she says. Haussecker admits that she is a workaholic and can do 100-hour weeks without tiring, but it is all worth it because she is passionate about what she does. She advises new entrepreneurs to do the same.
“Be passionate about what you're doing if you're starting a business and be prepared to really have to work at it. It's a competitive world out there.”
‘More Joy’ for journalist Christalee Froese has sometimes meant simply being able to get out of bed in the morning.
While touring with her book Journey to Joy (YNWP, 2018), a recount of her nervous breakdown and recovery, Froese quickly realized she wasn’t the only one who had encountered mental health issues.
“I was made profoundly aware of how many people across Saskatchewan, and the country, struggle with mental health, whether it’s their own, or the mental health of someone they care about, work with or live with,” said Froese. “People of all ages and all genders shared stories of suffering with me that left me thinking, ‘We’ve got to do better to make mental health a part of the conversations we are having about our general health care.’”
Her answer was to host events featuring professionals and organizations that offered personal coping strategies, as well as general information and resources about depression and anxiety. The first ‘More Joy’ event was hosted at Regina’s Conexus Arts Centre on Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 28, 2019, selling out with 400 in attendance.
“It was quite astonishing to see people lined up for a ‘mental health event’ as if it was a concert,” said Froese. “And the really amazing part was, you could see the suffering that people were experiencing, but you could also see them leave that building with some hope.”
In 2019, the movement started an online Facebook group called ‘The More Joy Challenge.’ As part of this initiative, members added a topic of joy to their lives each month. The group, now at 2,000 members from across Canada, takes on topics that promote mental health awareness and feature weekly ‘Let’s Talk Tuesday’ segments about mental health.
In 2019, Froese partnered with the University of Waterloo’s Tina Chan to create More Joy Coping Cards. They are a set of 30 small cards on a key ring that offer mental health tools, and can be thrown into a purse or backpack for quick access. Saskatchewan Polytechnic loved the cards so much, they partnered with Froese to develop customized ‘More Joy Coping Cards’ for adult students.
“The movement has taken on a life of its own as people realize it’s okay to talk openly about mental health, and as they see there are accessible solutions,” said Froese explaining that the 2020 version of More Joy Regina attracted 700 attendees, including NHL goalie and suicide-attempt survivor Clint Malarchuk, who was the keynote speaker.
While COVID-19 curtailed all public events, it provided an opportunity for the More Joy Movement to help support those at home. A ‘COVID Coping Video Series’ and ‘COVID Care Kit Program’ reached hundreds and helped earn the movement an award from the Conexus Credit Union’s Capital Care Fund.
The movement’s online programming revved into high gear with a running program called the ‘Fearless 5K ‘and a dancing program called ‘Dance for Joy’.
“People were really looking for an outlet to express their helplessness during isolation from the pandemic and we saw that if we could get them connecting and moving, it would provide a huge amount of relief,” said Froes,e explaining that the run and dance programs provided weekly classes, as well as weekly mental health speakers.
The movement has since launched a program to pay for counselling for those who don’t have work coverage. Three candidates have been put through the program so far, the cost of which is covered from funds raised by the More Joy Movement’s events.
“The ideas were all there, but some of the struggle has always been around financing, business structure and sustainability, so when Community Futures introduced the MashUp Lab program, it was a lifesaver,” said Froese. “Without the help of Community Futures, the longevity of the More Joy Movement was uncertain, but now there is a path forward that is sustainable and will allow us to help people for a long time to come.”