I always thought that after I began a nursing career I would be a real Florence Nightingale for 25 years and retire on a nice pension. However, in the back of my mind I always wanted to be my own boss, work my own hours. So, I thought of the “perfect” business. I opened a maternity shop, but after less than 3 years I couldn’t make a go of it and sadly had to close. It wasn’t the perfect business, because I didn’t do my homework. If I did I would have found out that 3 or 4 similar business in past years also failed to succeed because the market was too specific for such a small population; even though once I had my idea it seemed like every second woman I saw was expecting. I think it was like buying a new red car…no one else had one until you bought yours and then every second car was red! So with my tail between my legs and deeply in debt, I went back to nursing, then into medical sales for several more years.
In 1998, as a hobby, I began painting, and soon realized I not only loved creating again, I had a flare for it. As a child I was always making something but never really felt I was artistic. I now had a desire to combine my need to be an entrepreneur with my passion for creating.
In 2005, I decided to take what I had learned and try it again. This time I did my homework and knew I had to do something different. I set out to create my own unique brand. I had also begun making jewellery, so I opened a small art & gift shop in downtown St. John’s with the intent to create my own brand of art & jewellery. This time I had a strategy and a plan in place even before I opened my doors. My plan was to establish myself as a unique brand then to sell my shop and continue to work full time as an artist and jewellery designer in a quaint studio in Trinity to supply other shops and local tourists. Sounds sweet doesn’t it? It was, because after just 5 years I was approached by a young entrepreneur who wanted to buy my profitable shop. So I continued on the path of what I set out to do. I am delighted I didn’t let failure get in the way of success and I am enjoying that little studio shop and the many wonderful things it brings.
One of the big differences the second time around was that I also had the support of NLOWE. I had like minded woman around me for support; women who had been in both successful and not so successful situations but they dragged up their pantyhose and plunged forward. I looked up to some of them as mentors, and eventually began to mentor others. It made me realize that we need to collaborate and find mentors and peer groups where we can pick each others’ brains and learn from one another. It isn’t about following in the foot steps of your mentor it is about learning from them.
I also realized to not be afraid to ask for something I need in order to create my own path. As women we need to lead and by doing so we can inspire others. Leading means supporting other women entrepreneurs in any way that we can. Being an entrepreneur means taking more risks. What we need to do is applaud each others’ efforts as we start our own companies, to help each other and be honest about how you actually find time to buy groceries and get your hair cut.
Will I get rich at what I do? Probably not until I am dead and then hopefully they find valuable masterpieces covered in dust in my basement. In all seriousness though, richness is not always about money and success is not about wealth. It is about doing what you want to do and enjoying every minute of it (well almost every minute!). Don’t get me wrong, any business has to be able to support itself. Building a business is hard work and making money is what we are there to do for the most part. There is no magic bullet and there is no such thing as an overnight success. Being a woman starting a company is even harder. We have to push boundaries to get our businesses off the ground. It is an emotional roller coaster and if somebody tells you it isn’t they aren’t telling you the truth.
Just remember…if you think you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on…, because in the end, it is all worth it!
Elizabeth Burry was the founder of Elizabeth Burry Fine Art & Gift Gallery and the recipient of the 2009 NLOWE Start-up Entrepreneur of the Year award. She currently spends her summers in her studio shop in Trinity, NL and creates art & jewellery for her wholesale and online retail clients during the winter in St. John’s. You can visit Elizabeth at www.elizabethburry.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.