Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in apparel but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christian Rawles, owner of Ambler Mountain Works, located in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Ambler Mountain Works is an apparel accessory company focused on making products that encourage people of all ages to spend meaningful time outside. Ambler started off exclusively making winter beanies (we call them toques here in Canada) for adults. Over the years, we've added more products to our collection to serve the entire family from kids on up. We build our products to stand the test of time, and we encourage our customers to take them with them on all of their adventures.
In order to maintain a high level of quality, we produce a majority of our hats and apparel here in Canada. The remainder of our products is made by hand in Nepal by Fair Trade certified producers. Our customers typically have a strong connection with our production story and appreciate that their Ambler products are made domestically or by Fair Trade workers. Our product designs are inspired by nature, and we hope that these products, in turn, inspire people to enjoy time outside in nature.
Tell us about yourself
I'm a husband and a father to two boys. I own the business with my wife and what initially drew us to it was the opportunity to remove ourselves from a 9-5 work life to create more time with our growing boys.
Our business is a vehicle for us to be able to live the life we want to live. We're fortunate to be able to live in a mountain town in British Columbia where we can go for bike rides and laps at the ski hill before heading home to put time into our business.
There will always be pressing issues and stress within any business. We do our best to take these things in stride and remember the reasons we're in business. We still take our business very seriously and provide a very high level of customer service to both our wholesale and e-commerce customers by being transparent and treating people how we'd like to be treated.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think our biggest accomplishment over the 12 years of owning Ambler is that we've maintained profitability every year without taking on any debt. We've focused on growing at a reasonable pace and finding ways to diversify our revenue streams. When we purchased the business, the only revenue came from selling winter hats through our wholesale customers. Today, we have year-round product offerings through wholesale, e-commerce, and a custom program for corporate customers.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest parts of being a business owner is that it can become very easy to be stuck in what I like to call the entrepreneurial echo chamber. We have all of these ideas of where we could take our business, and there are endless opportunities as well as endless pitfalls to avoid. I find it challenging to navigate through these thoughts and decipher what is right for my business at that moment and then to make a plan to act upon it.
I have learned to get these thoughts out of the echo chamber by writing them down and then having conversations with other business owners, my wife/business partner as well as mentors. We certainly can't go at it alone!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- I don't think there's a better time to start a business than right now. So if you're thinking about it, take the first step to make it happen. However, if you can avoid quitting your day job to launch your company, I recommend starting it as a side hustle for as long as possible.
- Clearly define what success means to you from the beginning. Success means different things to different people, and it's easy to chase someone else's idea of success before you figure out what yours is. Define success for your business, and then keep that in your mind throughout the good and bad times.
- There are two parts to the profitability equation
revenue and expenses. Give equal time and attention to both of these, and you'll get to profitability faster.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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