Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kimberley Dares, co-owner of The Trainyard, located in Dartmouth, NS, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own and operate The Trainyard, a community-driven business in downtown Dartmouth, NS. We carry the work of over 150 Canadian Makers - with a focus on goods that are whimsical and make you laugh out loud! Our customers are as obsessed with Dartmouth as we are - our beloved Dartmouth ferry can be found in all corners of the shop, including on socks, t-shirts, puzzles, and mugs!
Tell us about yourself
I opened The Trainyard in 2016 with my partner, Jason - and at that point, the idea of owning a shop was more his dream than mine. We quickly realized how much more shop life suited my skills, and before the year was out, I had left my job as a preschool teacher and was all into this dream. I love finding the perfect goods for the shop and connecting folks with local makers and events. My brain is basically an archive of every local craft show and maker launch, so it makes me well suited to helping customers find what they're looking for!
What drew me to entrepreneurship and kept me in was the opportunity to connect with folks and build relationships with the community. We launched a community giving project, Trainyard Connect, in 2017, and it has allowed me to connect with over a dozen really incredible non-profits in our community - and has strengthened the relationships with our customers too. Shared joy in the work of these organizations has been a great way to bond.
I am most fortunate to work with incredible and creative makers and small businesses every day. They motivate me to think about things differently and not to be afraid to take risks. Working so closely for a number of years, many of us have grown our businesses alongside one another - which has made the roller coaster of entrepreneurship easier to handle.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We've been able to give a lot to the community, both in financial donations - but also in time and support for events and projects- and it's been wonderful to reach the 5-year mark in business and see how those relationships and projects have taken root and become something remarkable. Hitting our 5th anniversary in the pandemic, with the amount of love and community support we've seen, was really an affirmation that we're surrounded by folks who understand what we're trying to achieve and share our belief that business and community are intertwined.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It's hard to leave work at the end of the day. I try and create boundaries to protect my family time at the end of the day, but an email sneaks through - or my to-do list gets derailed by an important meeting with a member of our staff team, etc., and suddenly it's 10 pm, and I'm still working!
Finding balance and not becoming a workaholic is really challenging as at the end of the day, it all rests with you, but being available 24-7 is unsustainable. Finding a staff team that loves this place as much as I do has really been game-changing for me.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a framework plan for what you want to achieve. The day-to-day bits will reveal themselves to you and change or adapt as you grow and find your place in whatever business you're in, but knowing where you're trying to go is key. Otherwise, you get lost in the weeds, and it can be hard to find the path again!
- Find ways to accept help! Your business is like having a baby, and it's hard to let go or trust anyone else can do it like you would - but find folks who bring passion to your business and let them help you in the ways you need help! You're still able to direct the path of the business, but it's so much easier when you aren't doing it alone.
- Recognize and play to your strengths: If accounting is a nightmare, work with an accountant; if you dread social media - have one of your team take it on; if you're great at merchandising - make sure you have time to do that. There's a feeling you have to do it all when you're an entrepreneur. Sometimes you do - but whenever you can, let your team or an outside professional join in and take some of the burdens off! It frees you up for the parts that drew you to work in the first place!
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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