Susan Stokhov

Susan Stokhov

BUSINESS BEAT: Launching a business can take many forms

Whether buying an existing operation or starting your own, due diligence required, business advisor says

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.”

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