Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Karla Briones, founder of KB Consulting, located in Ottawa, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I help underrepresented entrepreneurs start, grow, and scale their businesses. As an immigrant woman myself, I found it hard to get the support I needed to grow my businesses. I became part of different groups and had coaches, but they lacked representation in gender diversity, ethnicity and business industries. There are many business coaches that I don't fully identify with and decided to be that change. I help BIPOC entrepreneurs flush their ideas; I connect them with my own network of professionals, funding partners, service providers to help make their business dreams or business growth a reality. I take an approach of actually being a business owner myself in different industries (retail, commerce, food, and beverage, etc.) and then apply the strategy that has worked for me to help them grow. All the while being human and knowing what it's like to feel like you're the "underdog," - I am passionate about bringing diversity into the business ecosystem.
Tell us about yourself
I came to Canada in a U-Haul truck from Mexico. My family and I left the northern part of Mexico, which was getting dangerous due to cartel wars. We started over when my parents were in their late 40's, and I was 18. I saw my parents' professions not be validated and cleaning homes or selling gas contracts from door to door to give us (the kids) a better chance at life. Eventually, my father re-certified as a veterinary practitioner, and my mom went back to school to become a lab technician, and together they opened a vet hospital.
This business journey was a dream they were proud of, but also a dream filled with difficulties, not knowing what they didn't know and filled with mistakes. In the process, I ended up opening other businesses which I still own (Global Pet Foods and Freshii - two very different industries!) and learned a great deal about being an entrepreneur. When my parents decided to retire and sell their practice, they hired me to help them sell it. In doing so, they realized the many mistakes they made when they were starting out. Fixing those mistakes to get the business ready to be sold almost puts their retirement in jeopardy.
This is when I realized there is very little help and guidance out there for new immigrants who want to become entrepreneurs. I realized then that I wanted to start advocating and helping immigrants open scalable businesses. I launched an online academy (Immigrants Developing Entrepreneurs Academy to provide newcomers with the right step-by-step process to launch in Canada). My clientele quickly expanded from solely immigrants to people from underrepresented groups: women, BIPOC, newcomers, etc.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
On a personal level: creating multi-million dollar thriving businesses that employ staff that has stayed with us for 10+ years. We have seen our staff go on maternity leaves and return. We have seen our staff buy houses, cars and even open small businesses of their own thanks to the support (financial and moral) that our businesses have provided to them. On a macro scale, my biggest accomplishment is being involved in the successful entrepreneurship journey of literally hundreds of underrepresented entrepreneurs. Knowing that I am giving back to the country that has given me so much. And knowing that the ripple effects of my consulting and coaching work are going to be beyond what I could imagine. I have clients that have launched and scaled that are hiring and signing mortgage papers for themselves and writing letters for their employees...this is beyond satisfying.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Initially, letting go. :) When I started in business, I was also a new mom. I treated my business like my newborn baby - "only mom knows best..." this led to an overwhelming and eventually a breakdown that FORCED me to let go and trust my staff and my family and forced me to ask for help and be humble enough to receive it. And this is hard for an entrepreneur: asking for help and being humble enough to accept it. Since then, I have learned to hire the best and get out of their way. To give them the tools and be the leader that they learn from and run 10x farther than I'd ever thought I could. Striking that balance of humility and leadership is HARD. But once you get it, it's so empowering for one as an owner and for your team.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Surround yourself with a community - don't try to do this alone. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey - seek out mentors, coaches, colleges, fellow entrepreneurs. Not to sell them on your business, but to learn from each other and create a community.
- Don't hide behind the "I'm not good with numbers" statement. If anything, add "yet" to the end of the sentence and do something about it. A great and easy-to-read book I always recommend is Profit First by MIKE MICHALOWICZ.
- Chunk it up: we all want the "Tesla version" of our business. Nothing wrong with wanting that - but wanting the bells and whistles from the beginning can paralyze people even to get started. I challenge everyone wanting to start a business in asking themselves, "how can I get there by starting NOW and growing it organically?" Can you start it part-time, online, or subcontract? Don't be afraid to launch ugly. :)
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Life of an entrepreneur is hard - but it is a great way to carve your own destiny as fast or slow as you want. You are in the driver's seat.
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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