Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dani MacPherson, founding director of iMADE, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
iMADE is a curated event where independent local small brands, both new and emerging, can come together to share experiences ideas, find support and lift each other up.
With each community we hold an event in, our primary aim is to showcase these small businesses and shed light on the importance and the value to which they have within our communities. When shoppers make a purchase from one of these brands, it helps spread the importance of conscious consumerism by highlighting the value of buying locally. It just feels good!
At our iMADE events, the energy is electric, uplifting, fun, and full of discovery. In addition, we want to make the connection between community, shopping local, and buying small. Merging these important values allows us to produce successful events. Come try it out; you just might love it.
To inspire, create confidence, fire up creativity, generate local business, and encourage business growth. It's a great formula for success for all of us!
We love diversity, inclusion, and celebrate all things kind. iMADE is a place for all humans. Come sit at the iMADE family table. There's a chair for everyone.
I found iMADE to celebrate the creative dream. We want to help the 'small' brands and businesses that get overlooked. It's these hard-working individuals who are passionate about their side hustle or full-time gig and who will put in the hard work to make their dream of being a small business owner a successful reality and who want to surround themselves with others who have these same goals.
It's an incredible vibe to be in. A room is full of 'go-getters,' the 'artsy crew,' the 'underdog'... oh, you just watch them succeed. Their will is strong.
Tell us about yourself
In 2017, an osteoarthritis diagnosis changed my life. I was working full time as an ophthalmic diagnostic tech at the hospital and working my side hustle on weekends at markets. My side hustle was an outlet for me, both mentally and creatively. Because of my new health issue, I had to make the hard decision to step away from it as it became too physically painful to make things. However, there was a desire to stay within the creative community somehow. This was when iMADE was born.
I grew up in beautiful Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where our mom was a circuit Art teacher. She taught grades 1 through 6 and traveled to over six different schools, which equaled to teaching over a thousand children a week. She was a mobile classroom teaching fun art.
My baby sister and I would go with mom to the local craft fairs to sell her creations at Christmas at the local Legion in town. She would take us everywhere, even to pick pine cones off the lawn of our Church for these creations of hers. If she had a creation to make and needed her supplies, my sister and I were the perfect little helpers. Sadly, in 1988, we lost her to liver cancer after a very short eight-month battle. She was 48 I was 15. Ten years after losing mom, we lost our dad to prostate cancer. He was 58. I was 25 and had lost the two most important people in my life. Thankfully, my parents set me up with good values at a very young age, and I learned survival skills early in life. My mom was in the hospital for most of those eight months. She was very sick, so at 14, I had responsibilities that most 30-year-old don't have today. After school, I'd come home to do chores and get supper ready for my dad once he was off work, along with help to raise my 12-year-old sister too. I was adulting very young.
To this day, my sister, who still lives in our hometown, people who were students of my mom's, will come to her place of work and re-gift her things they made in our mom's art class. Even people who purchased items from these very craft fairs she attended bring these back as gifts to us. The iMADE brand is a celebration of my mother's legacy. When you support iMADE, her spirit lives on. I'm so touched by how the brand has grown organically to date. Mom would be proud of all of us and the culture we've created at iMADE. Today, the brand has a successful local pop-up market series that had pivoted to an online market series due to the pandemic, plus we added the iMADE Subscription Box to our arsenal. The growth continues, and I'm excited to see what's next.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner was keeping iMADE alive over the pandemic. It was a very scary and dark time for me and my business. It was going to be a big year with 20 events scheduled and hundreds of vendors, now all wiped out because of COVID. This was my only source of income. Like the rest of the world, what the hell was I going to do?
However, it was important to keep the brand relevant so these small businesses could keep working. They depended on my in-person events as a source of income. I advocate for them, and I had to come up with a solution, pivot, and get creative differently. My tag line from 2020 was 'with fear came fuel.' Again, I was in survival mode.
Ironically, because of the pandemic, iMADE grew nationally because we were now on a digital platform and hosting Facebook online markets in our iMADE Facebook group and created our very own Canadian subscription box, which is filled with small Canadian brands from Coast to Coast to Coast too. It opened doors that may not have been there before or this soon. The opportunity came knocking, and I worked almost 24/7, super focused and extremely committed to the task at hand.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing that comes with being a business owner is letting go of the fear. Trusting your gut and believing in yourself. We're all our own worse critics, and as a creative person, we always want our projects to be perfect, but let's be realistic; there's no such thing as perfection.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a good foundation and business plan.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your idea and give you positive support.
- Put in the work. It will pay off, so don't give up on your dream or yourself.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'd like to say 'thank you' to all the vendors, shoppers, and the communities that we have hosted iMADE in. The support has been heartfelt. iMADE is a creative community in which we want to share with our local communities. Seeing the two come together is magical. We've learned the importance of these local small businesses and just how important they are in our communities over the last two years. It's not about iMADE; it's about the businesses we represent and advocate for. We're all good folk wanting to give back to our neighborhoods and local townships. Who knows, you may just see us in a location near you. Dream big and believe in yourself as you can have anything. You just have to want it bad enough and be willing to put in the work. Stay kind and be an excellent human. The world needs that now.
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.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.