Brittany and Michelle Monkman used to be like a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs—they had dreams of building something from scratch but didn’t truly believe that their dreams were attainable. “For years, it seemed that owning a business was the stuff of fantasy,” they recall. “We would often daydream about what our own business would look like, how we would do things differently from the other hair salons out there, and how much we would enjoy being entrepreneurs. The problem: that life just didn’t seem to be in reach.”
Those mental roadblocks came crashing down when they found the Indigenous Business Development Services (IBDS) Program through Community Futures! The duo participated in the IBDS Dragon’s Quest Business Plan Competition, which involved crafting a business plan to outline exactly what they would need to do to turn their dreams into reality.
“The instant that we completed our first business plan—that was when we realized what was really possible for us. It was the moment where the dreams the two of us had been talking about seemed to finally be in reach, and we recognized that now was the time to go for it. We didn’t want to regret failing to take a chance on ourselves.”
Alongside Ben Hopper, their local business coach (he has earned the illustrious title of “marketing and motivation expert” from the sisters, due to his incomparable enthusiasm and creative ideas), Michelle and Brittany set off to build the business they had thought about for years. They leveraged Brittany’s 6 years of hair styling experience to build The Hedge Hair Co., a unisex hair salon located in Winnipeg that provides hair grooming to men, women, and children, along with makeup application services and an offering of hair and cosmetic products.
The pair hasn’t looked back since, although they’ve learned more than a few lessons about entrepreneurship along the way. “Don’t be a perfectionist,” they laugh. “We’ve learned when to say, ‘That’s good enough, move on.’ It’s a hard lesson because as a business owner you want the best for your company, so you’re tempted to try and make everything perfect. However, focusing too much on the details causes you to lose sight of the big picture, which stops momentum in its tracks.”
When Brittany and Michelle struggled to keep the momentum going, they reached out to Community Futures’ Deborah Smith for insights and direction. The two also built a powerful network and leveraged each connection’s unique skills to help them succeed.
“Randy Councillor of Fisher River Economic Growth and Eddie Kidd of our band, Fisher River Cree Nation, have reviewed our financial projections, provided constructive criticism, and given us much-needed financial advice that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Building a helpful network of people like Deborah, Randy, and Eddie has made a huge difference along our journey! If we could give any piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, it would be to reach out to people and programs; gather as much support as possible. People want to help and they provide resources and fresh perspectives. Even if you don’t agree with their opinions, at the very least you learn to see your business from a fresh point of view.”
In addition to personal and professional support, the Monkmans made it their mission to learn as much as they could about building a great business from the entrepreneurs who came before them.
They took advantage of written resources such as Community Futures’ online business owner library, which contains tools like financial literacy booklets, business plan workbooks, and small business loan applications. Michelle and Brittany also visited their local library, where they found E-Myth Mastery—a book they recommend to all new business owners who are just starting down the entrepreneurial path.
“Sometimes experts and books tell you things that you don’t want to hear, but are important points to consider if you are serious about starting your own business and serving your customers well,” Michelle explains. “We combined that knowledge with Brittany’s 6 years of hair styling experience, her careful observations of what has worked and what has failed in multiple salons, and my additional ideas and inspirations to create a successful Winnipeg-based business that leveraged existing clientele.”
Today, the Monkmans look back in disbelief at the years when they believed that owning a business was out of reach. “All it took was that first step—deciding to jump. Then, with Community Futures and our network of great people and resources, we just figured things out one task at a time. If you’ve been dreaming about creating your own company for years, don’t let another day go by. Take a chance on yourself and build something you’re proud of. We sure don’t regret it!”
Nothing makes us happier, Michelle and Brittany. From all of us here at Community Futures Manitoba, congratulations on your small business success!