photo of Raia laughing and smiling
Business Growth
Min Read

Five Ways to Look After Yourself And Your Employees

It’s no secret that the pandemic has drastically impacted the way entrepreneurs manage and run their businesses. With uncertainty still at the forefront, it’s never been more important to prioritize mental health and community building.

As an entrepreneur, it’s not easy to watch businesses struggle to pivot and adapt many times over. Repetitive challenges are no doubt frustrating, but it’s an opportunity to recognize that collectively, business owners are building a new level of resilience and determination. With that, there is a unique opportunity to deepen authentic connections with our communities and team members. You might be wondering: How can I strive for sustainable balance and ensure my mental health is a priority while keeping things in flow?

A great place to start when it comes to maintaining a positive relationship with yourself, your team and your customers is through these five steps:

1. Address and unpack emotions

In the current climate, business owners are faced with several layers of tough decision-making that require heavy-duty leadership. From readjusting staff to staying on top of restrictions, we’re all running full steam ahead while attempting to stay afloat and avoid being overwhelmed. With that in mind, the only way forward is through. Addressing how you and your team are feeling is crucial to laying a solid foundation for next steps – it starts with acknowledging the realities of emotional impact. Whether through daily check-ins or weekly meetings, cultivating a culture of compassion goes a long way.

While addressing feelings is a solid starting point, following that up with a refreshed mindset is necessary. A relaxing break from daily tasks can help reset your mood while promoting positive wellbeing and reducing stress1. Creating a pause mindset can simply be taking 30-60 minutes every day to go outside, stretch, or practise meditation – and allowing your team to do the same. Cultivating an environment for you and your team to feel comfortable taking breaks can improve mental health overall.  

2. Connect with other entrepreneurs

Navigating isolation in this experience is extremely common, especially when you’re running a business. In stressful times, consider seeking advice and support from others around you. Asking for help doesn’t always come naturally, but connecting with other entrepreneurs might give you the fresh perspective, insight and comfort that you didn’t know you needed.

3. Hone in on transparency and communication

Businesses today are being held to a higher standard and consumers are carefully choosing where to spend their dollars. ​​No matter what industry you’re in, it’s really important to evaluate the presence that your business has and, as an owner, you have the chance to peel back an extra layer of transparency — specifically with online content — when it comes to communicating with your customers. Despite the fear that many entrepreneurs have about sharing “non-business related” content, leaving your audience in the dark can do more harm than good. With transparency comes the chance to build trust and embrace authenticity.  

To foster genuine connection, think beyond what you sell and consider the needs and desires of those you are selling to. There’s a lot of value in temporarily pausing the marketing emails and salesy social posts to genuinely reinforce your relationship with your customers. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers want brands to connect with them2.  So not only does transparency in business strengthen accountability, but it can also improve efficiency and generate better performance3.

4. Acknowledge your wins

Constantly striving to make your business the best it can be, has its advantages, but celebrating wins (no matter how small they may seem) will fuel you with the energy you need to push forward. You might consider times you reached your target revenue or had a big launch as wins – but the day-to-day moments of progress are equally important.  

Maybe you shifted your products online or grew your social media presence – it might not seem innovative, but they are still achievements worth celebrating.

Consider setting a goal of daily journaling to keep track of one thing you did that was outside your comfort zone, one thing you are proud of and one thing you want to work on. Being a business owner, especially in these times, relies on hard work, determination and perseverance — remind yourself that there is significance in each day.

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Have you heard, “it’s time to pivot?” way too many times over the last few years? I sure have! Entrepreneurs are the rocks of their businesses, and that often means juggling several too many tasks at once. It’s important to recognize that no matter how many backup plans we have, sometimes uncontrollable and unavoidable circumstances arise. It’s okay if you don’t have solutions to every possible scenario right away. The road ahead is a marathon, not a sprint.

Learn more about Coach Carey at or on Instagram at @coach.carey


  1. The Wellbeing Thesis, accessed December 2021
  2. Sprout Social, accessed December 2021
  3. Devon Maloney, Slack, November 2019

George Sully standing with his arms crossed.
Business Growth
Min Read
The Power of a Network

For entrepreneurs, the road to success looks like a lonely one. But it doesn’t have to be. And to reach your next level, goal — or whatever it is — it’s easier when you’re doing it with those supporting you. For a serial entrepreneur like me, I’ve found that your business is only as strong as the people you work with along the way.

Success is impossible to achieve on your own, and I’m no exception. A lot of people have helped me along the way to help turn Sully & Son Co. into one of Canada’s top premium accessory and footwear brands.

I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about surrounding yourself with the right people, both personally and professionally, and how networking and collaboration has helped me take Sully & Son to its next.

Tip 1:  Strategic Collaboration

Collaborations are an incredibly valuable way of introducing your brand to potential customers in new, unexplored demographics. Finding a brand that shares your values and is working towards the same goals as yours can be a challenge, but if you have a product or service you can stand behind, you’ll draw the attention of potential partners that will be a good fit.

It isn’t easy to find that perfect partner without having a solid grasp of what it is you do best. Find your thing and use it to stand out from the crowd. Because once you do – collaborations can really take your growth to another level.

There’s never a bad time for a brand to try and form a strategic partnership. As long as both parties can fulfill their part equally, there’s no question that it will be a mutually beneficial situation: a true win-win.

Tip 2: Bringing on your brand champions

It’s important when finding people to promote and grow your brand, that they actively want you to succeed as much as you do.

And when it comes to presenting your brand to the world, your brand champions become even more integral. Here are some tips I’ve learned about finding vendors and collaborators to work with to help make my brand shine.


When finding the right stylists for your products, try to seek out those with some good credentials. Stylists that have more experience tend to have more access to what we are constantly looking for the most, and that’s exposure. Most importantly, access to the right opportunities can lead to the right personality endorsements.

If you’re working with someone new and on the rise, just make sure you have great chemistry and that their hunger to prove themselves (and ultimately your brand) feels right.


There are thousands of talented photographers out there and choosing the right one for you might feel impossible. But that’s where social media can be your best friend. There’re plenty of professional photographers who use specific hashtags – such as #advertisingphotographer or #photoshoot – that could be a good avenue to finding someone you’d like to work with. On the flip side, your social pages are also a great way to showcase the creative vision of your brand to photographers interested in working with you.

Brand Reps

You can’t be multiple places at once, so when you’re able to find someone to carry your water in different markets, it can be a true game changer. Again, it’s about finding the right people who you jive with and get a good sense that they’re actively part of your team. Start by doing your research. You’ll be surprised what you can find online if you actually take the time to look. The fashion landscape is ever changing and so are the reps that are constantly looking for new product!

Press & PR

There are lots of ways to hustle and get your name out there. I know people who approach journalists, bloggers, and influencers in hope of getting your brand out there. I’m fortunate to be at a stage where I have a publicist who handles those matters for me now, but if you’re new to the industry, I suggest focusing on your social media and making sure its tight! These days press will come to you if you have the right stuff.

Tip 3: Support Networks


Having a supportive family network has benefits that go just beyond your business’s bottom line. When your family is in your corner cheering on your success, any challenge becomes more manageable. My family cheered me on from day one. They’re entrepreneurs themselves, they always got it and have supported me 100%.

But what about working with family? I think you can tell from the name of my company that I’m all about working with family. My son may only be two and a half, but I can already see the budding entrepreneur in him. I can’t wait to see where it takes him. They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in this case, that couldn’t be truer! He’s well aware of what his daddy does for a living and he’s right there in the mix with me. I look forward to seeing his creative genius flourish regardless of the direction it takes him.


The business community is just that — a community. That means there are a wealth of resources to help business owners manage challenges, get advice, and find collaborators. Finding that community and the tools that come with it is a definite key to success.

It’s a different landscape now. When I started out, there was a lack of information; a lack of knowledge. But resources like DHL Mentorship are special because it’s information, tips, and advice coming from people who’ve been there before. It’s the coolest thing to get that type of information readily available to people like myself who are always learning, listening, and trying to find a better way to do what we do.

Tip # 4 Networking, Networking, Networking

Surrounding yourself with knowledgeable, supportive, and like-minded people is a major step towards finding your next. The power of connecting with people and growing your network cannot be overstated.  The vision for your business may come from one person, but the more people who share it, the more likely you are to succeed.

About the Author

FGI Visionary Award Winner, George Sully is best known as the original maker of the Star Trek Discovery Starfleet boot. Sully is also a Bata Shoe Museum inductee, the creator of Black Designers of Canada, and co-founder of House of Hayla and his newly minted accessory brand Sully & Son Co., which can be found in both Hudson’s Bay and Harry Rosen.

Learn more about George Sully at Sully & Son Co. or on Instagram at @realgeorgesully

Lawyer Jamie Bell gives advice on the legal things to keep in mind at different stages of growth in your business
Business Growth
Min Read
5 Legal Considerations for Small Businesses

As small business owners, it can be overwhelming navigating the legal side of your business.

It’s no secret that laying a solid legal foundation might not be at the top of your ‘to do’ list as a small business, given how much you already take on day to day. But that doesn’t mean you can or should ignore it. Understanding what you need to consider at different stages of growth and implementing them as soon as you can will save you money, reduce your long-term risk, and give you the confidence to grow knowing you’re legally protected.

Here are a few things to keep in mind at different stages of growth in your business:

1. Growing your Team

As you grow, you will likely need a team to grow with you. Hiring support is often the only way you can scale and get the specific expertise to carry out and hit your business objectives and goals.

The first question I ask my clients when they need to hire is, “What kind of support do you actually need?” Do you need a contractor or an employee? To learn about the difference, I wrote an article that defines both and can guide you in this decision. Once you know what kind of worker you need for your business, you’ll need to ensure you have a proper agreement in place that is clear about what the relationship is and clear about the work they’ll be carrying out to help your business grow. Not having the proper agreement, or misclassifying the worker in the first place, can have expensive consequences down the road. It’s best to get this right from the get-go.

2. Considering Incorporating

The most common question I get as a lawyer is, “Should I incorporate?” And my first response is always, “It depends.”

There are three common legal structures in Canada:

  • (1) sole proprietor (you’re going it alone, and you and your business are one and the same)
  • (2) partnership (you’ve teamed up with one or more people with the intent to make a profit)
  • (3) incorporating a new company, which is a separate and distinct legal entity with its own legal rights and responsibilities

For some small businesses, it’s important to separate themselves legally from their business right away and incorporate a company. This includes instances where they are operating in a particularly risky industry (like food, construction, or fitness) or hiring employees and want to separate their personal liability and assets from that of their business.

For other business owners, incorporation makes sense once their business is growing and bringing in sufficient income such that they are in a financial position to take advantage of certain tax benefits available to corporations. Unfortunately, there is no “magic income number” and the decision to incorporate that flows from a financial reason is best made with the advice from your accountant.

Forming a new company adds an extra layer of complexity to your business, so it’s always a great idea to make this decision after talking to your accountant and lawyer to make sure that the timing is right to support your growth.

3. Refining Client Processes

No matter what business you’re in, your success is likely dependent on providing excellent customer service. As your business grows, it becomes more important to focus on the organization and refinement of your systems. For example, If you provide 1-to-1 client services, you might want to refine your payment terms or how you deliver those services. If you are in retail, you might want to change your refund and returns processes over time. Refining your client processes and systems is important when you notice issues popping up, but it is especially important when you’re growing and want to limit the amount of resources (time, energy and money) you spend responding to these issues.

I recommend taking some time to review your touchpoints with your customers and ensure your contracts and website clearly set out the expectations of that relationship. This might be refining and tailoring your client contracts or updating your terms of use and policies on your website.  The more we can keep these processes organized and flowing smoothly, the more time you can spend on being proactive, versus reactive in your business. A good starting point is to consider the last issue that popped up in your business: is there a way you could have avoided this with clearer communication? If so, go make that change now. Your future self (and your team!) will thank you for it.

As you grow, get in the habit of checking-in with your customer processes to ensure they are supporting you.

4. Growing your Business Online

If businesses want to grow these days, having an online presence is vital. Whether that means adding an e-commerce element, growing your email list, or increasing your presence on social media, it’s an important and impactful way to take your business to its next level.

If you are online, or going to be soon, it’s important to understand the legal requirements that come along with that. For example, if you have a website, you are legally required to have a privacy policy that sets out what data you collect from your users, how you collect it (email list sign-ups, cookies, or other tracking tools) and how you use it. Not the most exciting part of your website (#fineprint), but a legal necessity!

If you sell products or services online, your terms of use and FAQ section are a great way to set out your policies about refunds, exchanges, shipping and related disclaimers.Your terms of use are also where you include important clauses to protect your ownership rights over the content you provide on your website, like your blogs or free resources you provide your visitors.

It’s important to not only be aware of what you are legally required to have online to protect your business, but also to ensure these support and reflect your processes too!

5. Protecting Your Brand

The more you grow, the more important it is to protect your brand and the reputation of your business. You can do this by registering your trademark. A trademark is a combination of letters, words, sounds or designs that identifies your unique business from others in the marketplace (like your name logo!).

The best way to protect your brand is to register it as a trademark in the countries you do business in and as early as you can in your business. This ensures that you are the only one with the legal right to use your trademark and can take legal action against anyone else using your name or logo or who is trying to imitate your business.

On the flipside, if you are in the very early start-up stage, you should always conduct a thorough trademark search of your proposed business name to ensure it’s available and not being used by anyone else. Nothing is worse than having your heart set on a name, investing in design and branding services, only to realize the name is already in use and trademarked.

Whether you’re just starting out or scaling your business, registering your trademark is a great idea to ensure that you can confidently scale knowing you’ve protected your brand the best legal way you can.

As business owners it can be so easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like the ‘to-do’ list never ends – usually because it doesn’t! That’s why it is so important to celebrate the wins along the way. No matter how big or how small, we must recognize and be proud of the steps we are taking forward in our business growth journey.

Whether it’s launching that new product, bringing on a team member, or tweaking a clause in your client contract or on your website that you’ve been meaning to get to, treat these like big wins and celebrate them. Even taking the time to read this article and understand the different legal considerations for your business and feeling more confident in the legal steps you might need to take as you grow is worth celebrating.

Get in the habit of looking back and celebrating how far you’ve come — this will serve to fuel your fire to take your business to the next level and beyond.


About the Author

Jaime Bell is a lawyer and the founder of Wild Coast Law, a business law firm based in British Columbia. She is also the founder of Contracts Market, an e-commerce store that provides legal contract templates for small businesses. Jaime’s mission is to make access to legal less intimidating, more affordable, accessible, and fun. In her spare time, you can find Jaime chasing her dog, Osa, through the forest or up the mountains on Vancouver Island, where she now calls home.

Nancy Mac talks about how her immigrant parents and Asian Heritage helped shape her and her small business.
Business Growth
Min Read
Asian Heritage Month: How a Small Business Came to be with Immigrant Values

Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Asian-Canadians who have made Canada into the country we know and love.

As a child of Vietnamese immigrants, and a small business owner, I’m celebrating this month by sharing my personal story of growing up with my parents, how my experiences have shaped who I am, and how my business, Freon Collective came to be.

Freon Collective is a low-waste, eco-friendly lifestyle brand that I started in early 2019. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a hobby (you’ll come to learn that I have too many hobbies). I approached Freon Collective as a hobby, but my parents always instilled the value of hard work in me. With that thought in mind, that’s how I’ve grown it to be the nationwide brand it is today.

At 18 years old, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, my mom left her family, her country, and all she had ever known. She fled Vietnam alongside hundreds of thousands of people between the 1970s and 1990s in a mass migration known as The Boat People. These vessels were small, cramped, and there were constant threats of starvation, sinking, pirates, and more. When she reached Malaysia, where she was reunited with my uncle (who had made the same journey earlier), she met my dad and eventually had me.

During this time, my parents went through many struggles while they were seeking resettlement in more developed countries. They were separated for a year and a half when my mom left for Canada with a six-month-old-me in her arms. She worked day and night jobs to support the both of us and raised enough funds to sponsor my dad to come to Canada.

As immigrant parents who did not want their child to go through the same struggles they did, my parents actively encouraged a more traditionally “safe” route: focus on academics with the hopes it would lead to a stable career. Despite this push, they never discouraged my creative pursuits. When I was interested in learning piano and violin, they worked music lessons into the family budget. When I became interested in photography, they purchased a camera for me for my birthday. When I eventually became interested in sewing and design, they helped me buy a sewing machine — so long as I continued to pursue academics — they were content knowing I was also taking sewing courses in high school.

When it was time to choose a post-secondary option, I knew I wanted to study fashion and design. My parents were never able to receive higher education — I would be the first in the family to go to university. They wanted to support me, but naturally, my parents had reservations. Likely because I would have to move across Canada and my choice was so different from what they had in mind. After all, what kind of jobs would there be in the fashion industry, besides the obvious one of fashion designer? Still, I was determined and I packed my bags and moved across the country to attend fashion school.

While I was studying for my undergrad, I worked part-time as a sewing instructor at a local business in Toronto. My mom worked actively to support me, even though she had doubts about my career choice. At this point in her life, she had gotten her GED, worked several jobs from hotel housekeeping to factory jobs, serving, and eventually becoming a nail technician and opening her own nail salon. As soon as I graduated, I landed a job with a local children’s clothing brand, where I honed my sewing skills and continued to work as a sewing instructor on the weekends.

As if a full and part-time job wasn’t enough, I started a lifestyle and beauty blog on the side. This began as a creative outlet for me to continue my photography and writing passions, but it eventually became a third job. I would wake up in the morning and edit photos, write posts, and then do the same in the evenings after work. When my blog gained more traffic, I started attending events, growing my network, and learning more about the marketing and advertising world. Like my parents who had worked several jobs when they started their lives in Canada, I found myself doing the same.

A major hurdle (and blessing in disguise) came when I was just two years out of my undergrad. The clothing manufacturer I had been working for was going out of business. Despite still having my part-time teaching position and blog, I had no idea what I was going to be doing next. I felt like I had failed — a fear that many children of immigrants know all too well. I thought, “I should have listened to my parents.” After all, my parents worked day and night when they were reunited in Canada to support their families back in Vietnam. Like most immigrants, they didn’t have safety nets to fall back on in times of crisis. It was common for my parents to take the overtime shifts, working twice as hard to counterbalance their language deficiencies. They saved every penny to buy their first house, bring my mom’s family over, and provide a comfortable life for myself and my siblings. They worked so hard to give me a life where I wouldn’t have to worry, and here I was, practically going to be jobless in a few weeks.

When my parents came to Canada, they took any opportunities that came to them and never said no. They knew that nothing was going to be handed to them in this white-dominated country and lived with a mindset of work and survival. I witnessed this firsthand, so when the opportunity came up for me to take over the manufacturing side of the company I was working for, I decided to go for it. After that company closed, I moved everything I would need into my 500 square feet condo and opened Freon Collective. I was now self-employed and starting a business with no formal business background.

Freon Collective began as a small-batch production company. I would work with other businesses to sew their products, produce patterns, design samples, and more. A few months into this, I started Freon Collective’s in-house brand. I made a few sets of reusable cotton rounds, opened an Etsy shop and was completely blown away when they sold out within the first few hours.

The colleagues I had met in the blogging industry were incredibly supportive and instrumental in helping Freon Collective grow in those first few months. Before long, I found myself taking product shots by day and editing photos by night. I was sewing every day, shipping out orders, fulfilling wholesale accounts, and participating in my first local markets. You could say all of the creative pursuits (photography, writing, sewing, etc) that I had when I was younger came full circle.

When I started Freon Collective, I had no idea this brand would become what it is today. Let’s be honest, running a business is hard. It’s unstable at times, it’s 10x more work than anyone thinks it is, and you — yourself — are responsible for all of the decisions. As overwhelming as the past few years have been since opening a small business though, I know this is where I was meant to end up after all.

As I reflect on Asian Heritage Month, I can see the parallels between my mom’s life and mine. When we were both 18 years old, we left our families and hometown. We worked, went to school, and eventually opened our own businesses. My mom worked to support her family, and as I’ve grown older, I find myself wanting to work to continue my parents’ Canadian dream. I want to make my parents proud, and for them to know that everything they’ve done to come to Canada and build a life here wasn’t in vain.

If you’d like to learn more about Asian Heritage Month and Vietnamese Boat People, please visit the following resources:


About the Author:

Nancy Mac is the owner of Freon Collective, a Toronto-based low-waste lifestyle brand. She is passionate about design, sustainability, and supporting local businesses. Her products have been featured in several publications including Chatelaine, Buzzfeed, and Who What Wear.

Learn more about Nancy and Freon Collective at and @freoncollective

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