For small business owners, starting a business is just one small step in a long and grueling road with no guarantee of success.
For Sherry Pilon at Impressions Salon in Rosthern, her business journey started almost too early, but success has come with a steep learning curve.
At 28 years old, Pilon was faced with the choice of buying the salon from the previous owner or moving elsewhere to continue doing what she loved. Knowing she wanted to eventually own her own salon, but not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, she took the plunge into being a business owner in the same community she knew she wanted to live and raise her daughter.
Being young and knowing her industry, but not knowing the ins and outs of business, Pilon turned to Sagehill, Affinity Credit Union, and Clarence Campeau Development Fund for the financial assistance she needed to get started. Sagehill was a godsend as they helped Pilon develop her HR manual and offered guidance on taxes, policies, and procedures she never would have thought about, she said.
Renovations, diversifying the space, and introducing as many different elements to health, beauty, and fitness as she could, not every decision was the right one but every mistake came with a lesson of “live and learn,” she said. The biggest turning point in her business journey came when she thought she was going to lose it all.
“All my money was getting sunk into the gym…I was just so desperate not to lose it, I was also doing worse damage to myself,” she said. At one point the salon was supporting the gym with no net-revenue coming in. When financial troubles hit her the hardest, Pilon said closing down the gym itself and selling what assets she could was the right decision.
“From there I restructured the business. We were so behind with our finances…, I was able to get enough money from (Rosthern’s economic development fund) just to hold me over a little bit to get things in and I just started working around the clock.”
It was a tough couple of years after potentially hitting rock bottom, she said, but things started looking up after that, even if she couldn’t afford to pay herself.
Being a stubborn young woman in business, Pilon wanted to prove to people that she could keep going and that mindset saved her during the tough times, even if it was a silly reason not to quit, she said. The experience is now something she can laugh at.
When it comes to sharing the experience with other people, including other small business owners, Pilon feels more open about it now than she was at the time, but she wants people to know that there is always a solution no matter the problem. Being creative, innovative, and able to adapt and persevere has been the secret to her own success, but she had to go through the tough times to get here.
However, even through the toughest times, Pilon has always had the same goal in mind; to offer high quality, modern services to the people in Rosthern. Filling up the building with different kinds of beauty technicians throughout the years, from massage therapists to permanent make up artists, has taken some work, she said, but has always been part of the plan.
“I always made sure to stay on top of all of our education. We've gone to Vegas a few times to train, we've done lots of things throughout Canada, just to kind of stay on top of it to bring back to our clients here.”
While that goal has not changed over the years, what has changed is Pilon’s place in the community. Being able to support local fundraisers and events was not a concrete goal when she started her business, but it has become a perk of being successful in a small community, she said.
“It's nice to see my business grow into something where every event and every fundraiser has Impressions Salon right there.”