Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kirk Sutterfield, owner of West End Comics, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are your friendly neighbourhood comic shop, and obviously, we sell new and vintage comics, but we also sell new and vintage trade paperbacks, role-playing games, board games, toys, action figures, statues, and a host of other items that are unlikely to find elsewhere. Our customers range from children to seniors- everybody likes comics and toys, don't they?
Tell us about yourself
I have always had a passion for comics and toys. They were a formative influence as a child obsessed with art and art-making, and they continue to influence my work as a visual artist to this day. I grew up in the neighbourhood where we operate and live just up the street from the shop. Moving back into the 'hood' in my late 30's felt like coming full circle. Opening up the store a few years later not only provided a foundation from which to concentrate my personal interests and pursuits but also allowed me to create a hub where people in the area could meet, geek out and explore their own collecting/ reading/ playing passions. The community we have established is a huge motivator for me. There are so many great people that have chosen to support the shop in a myriad of ways, and I am humbled by their generosity of time and spirit.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Two things, in particular, stand out to me about this question. First and perhaps most significant is having had an employee for the last six years. Working in a small shop is an intimate affair and takes tons of dedication, extracurricular energy, and time. I am proud of the fact that I have been able to provide an environment that caters to long-term happy employment. Secondly, we recently celebrated our 10th anniversary! Ten years of successful retail is no easy accomplishment, and I couldn't have done it without the support of so many awesome people along the way.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing by far (aside from the most obvious: overhead, taxes, unexpected expenses et, al.) is the amount of time and energy it takes to run the shop. For the first four years, I worked 6-7 days a week, 8-10 hours a day, all by myself. Finally, being able to afford an employee reduced that burden, but it was still nine years straight before taking any real vacation.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I get asked this a lot. I think my top 3 recommendations are:
- Do something you love and believe in what you can stand behind.
- Keep your overhead as low as possible.
- Be prepared to work harder and longer than you ever have.
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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