Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gene Lee, owner of Atomic Age, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We're a community-based comic book store that focuses on reading rather than collecting. We also carry a large variety of toys and knick-knacks for kids of all ages. Being community-based, we feel it's important to give back to the community by supporting several schools and their silent auctions, as well as distributing excess comics through our local children's clinic.
Tell us about yourself
I kind of came about owning/operating a comic book store in a roundabout way. I was looking for a business I could run from home so I could look after my aging father as well. The property I'm based at happened to come up for sale and was only a block away from my nephews, whom my dad visited daily. It was kind of a perfect storm. After my father passed away, I wasn't sure if I was going to continue with the store, but a smiling child who found the "perfect" Pokemon pack convinced me to continue with the business. I then became the father of a child on the spectrum. Being self-employed really made things easier when it came to therapy sessions or just having to pick him up from school cause he's having a "bad" day. An in-law developed cancer, and again, being self-employed made it really easy to be around to chauffeur him to and from treatments. Fortunately, both my son and in-law seem to be past the worst of their challenges. I never imagined when I started my business that it would benefit me in the ways it did, but I'm glad it did, which is probably why I keep going.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The biggest accomplishments are the ones you don't see coming, like helping your community, friends, and family. Everything else is just "stuff."
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a small business owner, it's hard to "get away" for any length of time. I personally would not mind because I've worked all my life, but I do regret not being able to go away for the summer with my wife and kids.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Obviously, pick something you like and are good at. Know when to admit when things aren't working. Make sure you're not underfinanced. It's surprising how quickly you can burn through your finances, so watch your spending and cash flow.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Build your talent stack. Learn complementary skills related to your business/business model.
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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