Business

BUSINESS BEAT: Launching a business can take many forms

Susan Stokhov, operator of Le Velo cycling accessories, shows off a couple of the company’s products, carrying boxes, along with her husband, Laszlo. - Photo submitted
Susan Stokhov, operator of Le Velo cycling accessories, shows off a couple of the company’s products, carrying boxes, along with her husband, Laszlo.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A recent online scan of the business for sale category in Used Victoria found upwards of 100 ventures up for grabs. They ranged from food carts and beauty salons to multi-million dollar investment properties.

To be sure, the types and variations of business a person or group can get into are limited only by one’s imagination.

And there are numerous reasons why businesses are put up for sale, says Brian Wesley, chairman of Business Victoria, a non-profit organization that since the 1980s has taught budding entrepreneurs how to harness their skills and passions – most recently through its Firestarter program. Anyone looking to take on someone else’s operation needs to check it out with eyes wide open, he says.

“If the business is being sold for health reasons or retirement, those things are very different than one that’s had financial difficulties,” Wesley says. “There is a requirement to do a lot of homework.”

He recommends talking to an attorney about potential legal or municipal regulations, looking at tax statements, assessments and asking about trends in their customer base – get them to open their books.

One must do their due diligence when starting a business as well, he says.

“Do you have a sustainable passion that will carry you through the good and bad times? Do you have a commitment to access the resources that are necessary for success? Are you prepared to network and access mentoring resources? Training and mentorship are two of the fundamental success factors for small business,” he says.

Susan Stokhof had the germ of an idea in mind when she took the Firestarter program. She determined, however, that the market was already saturated in Victoria for her first concept, a dog accessories boutique.

“I’m a fairly creative person and wanted to do something creative in business,” she says.

Undaunted, the government business analyst kept her eyes and ears open until another idea literally rolled in front of her. A longtime bike commuter with her husband, Laszlo, she was encouraged by him to incorporate cycling into a business venture.

The result was Le Velo, a largely online fashion and accessories business that draws on the cycling lifestyle in Europe.

“For a while I stopped riding to work because I hated the look,” Stokhof says of not feeling able to dress for the office on her bike. She continued her research and found ways to creatively craft her product line, along with writing a blog with tips on staying stylish after cycling.

“I do think there’s something about following your passion,” she says of her experience to date. “It can turn into something you never thought it would.”

Wesley doesn’t mince words when it comes to the city’s economy – not to mention that of B.C. and Canada. “The growth in our economy is directly related to the growth of small businesses. Large companies have shed an incredible number of employees. If it wasn’t for small business, the unemployment rate would be far higher.”

Visit businessvictoria.net or levelovictoria.co.

Solar power pioneer making strides

Dave Egles’ solar power company HES-PV heads into 2014 on a roll after winning Solar Canada’s distributor of the year award at the 2013 Game Changer Awards in Toronto. The company, founded in 2008, installed more than 1,000 alternative power connections – largely rooftop panels – in homes and businesses last year and has a staff of 25. They hooked up the first Internet-metered, grid-connected, solar -powered home on B.C. Hydro’s net metering program and won national project of the year in 2009 for an installation at T’Souke First Nation.

UVic business school cracks top 50 list

University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business ranks 49th among North American business schools, in the most recent listings from Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. QS, which grades colleges and universities around the world overall and by faculty of study, placed Gustavson 12th among Canadian schools on the business listing. The University of Toronto's Rotman School of Business posted the best Canadian ranking at No. 8.

Who’s making waves on the business scene

Shaun Wysiecki has taken over as branch manager for the Cook and Quadra street location of BMO Bank of Montreal. The former Colwood city councillor has 12 years of banking industry experience and joined the company in 2012 … Laura Walsh is the new director of development for Our Place Society. A recognized fundraising champ in Greater Victoria, she will spearhead those efforts for the charity organization to help it expand opening hours and services to the street community … Re:Organized! operator Stephanie Deakin, winner of the Professional Organizers of Canada’s 2013 Ambassador Award for her mentoring work and volunteer activity in her community, joined fellow Greater Victorian Barbara McDonell of Clutter Queen Services on the finalist list for the award.

Send your business news to ddescoteau@vicnews.com.

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