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Women Entrepreneur Series: Building the Community with Public General Store

Lauren Marinigh | March 8, 2017

After gaining experience working in the retail and customer service industries for the last few years, Olena Kozel and Erin Ahl were inspired to create their own destiny by starting Public General Store in 2016. Olena had always known that she wanted to open up some sort of storefront focusing on small batch items and local art, while Erin, a jewellery maker, had always wanted the opportunity to offer herself and others a creative open retail environment that supports other artisans like herself. Although the pair had these goals and visions separately, when they shared their ideas with each other they realized there was potential to create a joint venture.

Olena and Erin had a lot of common interests and beliefs which made them sure they would be successful business partners. They both were ready to take the risk and open a business and were both very interested in supporting both small businesses and artisans locally and nationally. “We believe that reaching out and offering artists and makers a space to showcase their products is so important,” Olena shared. “We believe in the growth of our city through young entrepreneurs opening small businesses and we wanted so much to be a part of that within our community in a more permanent way.”

Public General Store is a modern day general store stemmed from both the want and need for a conveniently located home-goods shop in the Wolseley/West Broadway area in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They carry products ranging from pantry supplies, cocktail items, natural plant and mineral based cleaning products, bath and home textiles, beauty products and everything in between.

The Public General Store storefront.

With the help of Futurpreneur Canada and BDC, Olena and Erin were able to bring their idea into reality. They explained that with the help they received creating their business plan and a realistic cash flow really helped them build the confidence they needed to be new business owners. “Futurpreneur enabled us to feel comfortable asking questions and admitting that sometimes we felt like we had no idea what we were doing.”

With no prior business background, it can be scary starting your own business and the business duo explained that it has really taken a test of patience and perseverance. From facing challenges in regards to figuring out finances, dealing with setbacks on their opening date and renovations of the space, and giving up a steady income, it has been hard but worth it. “The day we were approved for our loans, the day we officially opened, the first time a stranger told us how much they loved our shop,” the pair describes all of these things as huge milestones for them.

Olena and Erin’s entrepreneurial journey is just beginning, but they’ve had several learning curves so far and from that wanted to leave other entrepreneurs with some advice:

  • Don’t lose hope if things don’t go your way all
  • of the time.
  • Make sure to give yourself realistic deadlines and always leave room for things to take a little longer than expected.
  • Make sure you support and are behind what your business does.
  • Be educated and passionate about the products that you are selling. People will support you if they see how much you truly care and believe in the business that you have opened.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask many questions as you need. There are so many resources out there to help new entrepreneurs.

Olena and Erin are just two of the many women business owners changing the face of entrepreneurship in Canada and both Futurpreneur Canada and BDC are so proud to help people like them turn their idea into reality.

If you’re a woman looking to start your own business, visit our website to connect with one of our experts.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada