Tracy Kelly-Wilcox is a firm believer in timing and passion.
When she wanted to start a bakery and cafe in Imperial, SK, Tracy was already running a catering business out of the local bar and using her creative talents to feed the local area. There was already a cafe operating in the small village south of Watrous, but the owner was looking to retire. The timing was just right for Tracy!
By 2017, Kelly-Wilcox was the owner and operator of the Grain & Pulse Bakery Cafe, and by the winter of 2018, she was off and running.
“By having this business, there's more to it than just selling my food and making money. You’ve got to be a part of the community, especially when you're in a small town.”
Her catering work before taking over the bakery told her that the town wanted food options, not just strictly coffee and baked goods, so she expanded the previous cafe into her own space, including a bigger dining room and a commercial oven, dishwasher and sink.
As a small business in a small town, Kelly-Wilcox sees the importance of community identity. As Grain & Pulse, she does this in two ways; hosting her four course Saturday supper parties and by hiring and training as many local teenagers as she can.
Since opening, she has had seven high school employees that have gone on to the cities to continue their education with valuable skills that Kelly-Wilcox has fostered.
“It is a skill they have taken with them to the city. I do get calls, oh, you know, can I get a job reference or recommendation for this teenager, that teenager and it's been absolutely wonderful to help the young people in this community prepare for the larger world.”
While the supper club events had been shut down due to COVID-19, Kelly-Wilcox said she is excited to bring them back to the community. “It gives people in the small community a chance to go do something fun, that's different. They don't have to drive all the way to the city. It's an evening out where, yeah, you can get a babysitter and still be home by nine. It really seems to resonate.”
With 30 years of experience in the service industry, everything from management and promotions to sales and catering, there are still things that Kelly-Wilcox delegates to others. She advises other new business owners to know and accept that they cannot do it all and there is nothing wrong with that. Know what you don’t know, she said.
“I hate Excel, my brain doesn't work with Excel. It's like no. I have an accountant, I happily pay her fees because I don't have to deal with it...Why not pay for a service that brings me good value and peace of mind and it gives me more time with my family and more time with my business. No brainer.”
When Kelly-Wilcox needed financial help, as well as her wonderful accountant there was also Sagehill Community Futures supporting her.
Because they focus on support for rural businesses, an area where traditional financial institutions are less involved, Kelly-Wilcox was able to get what she needed to purchase and maintain her business, especially during the pandemic. “I'm building equity, as opposed to throwing away money into a rental situation.”
When it comes to what business owners need to be successful, Kelly-Wilcox said they must be passionate about what they are doing. For her, that is feeding and supporting those in her community, Imperial, SK.