Turn your hobby into a business: Step three — Start your business

By Michelle Ferguson November 30, 2018

In this three-part series, we look at how you can turn your hobby into a business. Part three: Actually starting your business.

One day, while working on a new kids’ collection, Monika Kupczak Ainslie decided to make a headband for herself.

“I was working with a new fleece-lined bamboo, which was so nice, and thought ‘I’d love to have something made out of this fabric,’” she explains.

After consulting with customers, she reproduced the simple headband to sell at her next craft fair — where not a single one was purchased. To help clear the product, Kupczak Ainslie added a leather loop. The beautified version sold out in record time at the next market.

With the headbands performing so well, the self-taught designer decided to re-focus her brand and concentrate on wholesaling the product.

Today, House of Koopslie is known for its versatile, easy-to-wear ladies’ apparel and accessories. While the company has undergone a lot of changes over the years, one thing that has remained constant is the support Kupczak Ainslie has received from Business Link.

A not-for-profit, Business Link acts as the first point of contact for Alberta’s budding entrepreneurs, giving them access to the tools and resources they need to start their own business. In 2016-17, the organization assisted 5,780 clients with everything from market research to business plan development to registration and licensing.

There are so many different parts that you need to know about when you’re a small business owner.

Monika Kupczak Ainslie

Kupczak Ainslie first accessed the entrepreneurial hub eight years ago, when she started making silkscreened hats for boys. Despite owning an award-winning brand and being carried in 600 stores across North America, she still accesses their services.

“There are so many different parts that you need to know about when you’re a small business owner,” Kupczak Ainslie says.

Throughout the years, Business Link helped her choose her target customer, focus her marketing, file for intellectual property and scale her business.

There are many resources in Edmonton that can help you transform your hobby into a business. We’ve mapped out a few to get you started:

Create a business plan: Creating a one-page business plan can help you narrow down your target market and how to reach them — one of the first steps towards creating a successful business. Not sure where to start? Attend a Business Model Canvas workshop through the Business Link; attend a Startup Edmonton Business Model 101 workshop; or access Futurpreneur’s interactive business plan tool.

Register your business: If you plan on earning more than $30,000 of revenue, pay employees or import/export goods, you’ll need to register a business number with the federal government. Business Link can help with this and other permits you may require.

Make sure you have the proper licenses: Whether you plan on opening a brick and mortar store or creating out of a home studio, book an appointment with the City of Edmonton through the Open Window program to better understand your business license, development permit and building permit requirements. (P.S. If you’re looking for space Arts Habitat is a non-profit dedicated to finding, managing and developing space for the arts in Edmonton.)

Finance your business: Check out BDC and The Branch (ATB’s new arts and culture-focused branch) for financing options geared towards entrepreneurs and artists, as well as the Edmonton Arts Council for grant opportunitiesFuturpreneur also provides unsecured loans of up to $15,000 to help entrepreneurs aged 18-39 launch a business or grow a side hustle, while Alberta Women Entrepreneurs offers small business loans to women-owned businesses.

Learn more about running a business: Now that you’ve sorted out most of the essentials (find a complete list here), start rounding out your skills with Startup 101 (90-minute sessions with experts on topics like legal, accounting, social media, sales, customer success and more) and Business Link events and webinarsFrancopreneurs, and Alberta Women Entrepreneurs also offer valuable workshops on a number of topics.

Have specific questions or need more help? Access mentorship through Intervivosfree one-on-one guidance through Business Link; support through Francopreneur; and advisory services through BDC and the ATB Entrepreneur Centre.

The companies featured in this story are all proud Edmonton Made businesses. Are you Edmonton Made? You can register for the program here. (It’s free!) Have a story idea for an Edmonton Made company? Contact us at made@edmonton.com.

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