Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business solutions but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Leah Sanford, Principal & Co-Founder of Kelford Inc., located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The business is Kelford Inc., and we are Advisors and Coaches. We help entrepreneurs rekindle (or spark) their love for marketing their business—which is really just demonstrating value at a distance. By the time a client reaches us, they've been through a lot. They've got a lot of feelings about what they've been through too. They've made money, they've spent money, and they've (most likely) wasted time and energy. And so we work through feelings, ambitions, dreams, and structure so that they can know what they want, get what they want, and grow what they want.
Who "they" are most often entrepreneurs who identify as women. What I love about working with these folks is that they love the clarity of discovering, articulating, and then getting exactly what they want. When they openly ask for advice, they listen and seek to apply it, which is every advisor's dream! Our best clients are the ones that want to dig in, want to explore and experiment, want to grow their dreams, and love their business.
Tell us about yourself
Big question! So, hi there, I'm Leah! I'm a Communications and Marketing professional, Certified International Trade Practitioner, Entrepreneurship teacher, and business owner. My first day on the entrepreneurial job involved meeting the client (for the first time) and immediately getting to work planning a trade booth and presence at an international conference in Madrid that was to take place a few weeks out. So, jumping on both feet to the deepest end is kind of my way into things and has been for most of my career. Love the thrill of it.
What brought me to that moment, and entrepreneurship more generally speaking, was an opportunity to help my partner with the new business he had just started a month prior. I was ten years into my career in Communications. I was miserable at my then job, and I wanted a challenge and needed a change. I wanted something I could really sink into and care about, help shape, and put my spin on. And here I am, six years later, loving every minute of entrepreneurship.
About me is: I love what I do, I love life, and I have a BIG laugh—and laugh a lot (you know, when I'm in the office, haha!). When I'm at work, I'm cheerily coaching clients on their path to achieving their marketing and business goals. I'm running a corporation heading up Operations, Finance, Sales, and Project Management. It's awesome! I also teach entrepreneurship through Canada's Lab2Market Program, which is its own amazing experience that is so rewarding and inspiring. I enjoy the various hats, challenges, and experiments that come with each role. When I'm out of "advisor mode," I'm a mum to the world's best dog (Marshall), an amateur obsessive gardener, and a paint-by-number aficionado who plays video games late at night.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Running a financially profitable, emotionally rewarding business and loving it every day. That's big. It's hard to do. And I can't imagine doing anything else now.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Turning down work. In the early days of the business, we were excited to get a project and said yes all the time. But the fit wasn't always ideal. Saying no to a project—to money—felt audacious! But over time, with a little practice, we've come to appreciate that there aren't "bad clients" or "bad projects"; there's just a bad fit. And so you learn how to spot fit signs in early conversations, and you work diligently to build (and maintain) a financial buffer and bandwidth for the business, so you can select for fit.
It's hard, and no one really was talking about it when we started out. Now I talk about it all the time. It's ok to turn down business! It means you'll have capacity when the right fit work comes your way, and you'll be able to do great work with a client that values you.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Starting: Take your time—take as much time as you possibly can. Slow and steady is far better, enjoyable, and less stressful than trying to go big all at once. Hustle culture is desperately overrated.
- Running: Find the joy in what you do and protect that. It has to be both fun and functional if it's going to last. You are the only one who can make it fun for yourself. So build that in from the start and check in on it regularly.
- Growing: Don't skip the hard work of ongoing, meaningful customer discovery. Your customers will change over time as you grow and evolve the business. Keep checking in with your best customers, and look into what makes them a great fit with your business. Get rid of the bad-fit ones. It's ok to let them go—it's better for everyone. Always be open to learning new things about the best-fit customers and refining your product/service/process so that you deliver your best to the folks that value you the most. That's how you'll find financial and emotional profitability for your business and be able to love it for the long term.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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