Building Resilience: Spotlighting Canadian Small Business Owners

Resilience means a lot of different things to a lot of people. For small business owners, resilience can mean the difference between seeing your dreams take flight or watching them fade away. For Becky May, entrepreneur and co-owner of preschool business, Rhyme and Reason, that resilience started building from the day she and her sister began operations. It also played a critical role in keeping their business afloat through the pandemic of 2020. To learn just how critical a role resilience played in the growth of her business, we interviewed Becky to hear her first-hand account. This is her story.

Before opening Rhyme and Reason, Becky was an Early Learning Education grad from Calgary’s Bow Valley College. Rather than pursuing a career in the school system, she saw her sister enjoying some success running a home parenting class for infants, and inspiration struck.

I took the early learning education program at Bow Valley College. My sister was running the first iteration of Rhyme and Reason, which was a small business doing home parenting classes for infants. After I graduated, I decided to approach her with the idea of expanding on the business. I was like, ‘Hey, let’s bump this up a little bit and open a preschool.’ She was into the idea and we became co-founders of the Rhyme and Reason preschool.

They had the idea, they had the educational background, now all they needed was funding. That however, wouldn’t be as easy as they’d anticipated.

Being two young women in the entrepreneurial world was obviously incredibly tough. We tried going through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), or getting loans and lines of credit, but we kept getting rejected. We just didn't have enough to offer in terms of assets or collateral to get approved. 

Persistence pays off

Rather than give up, Becky and her sister persisted. They also started slowly, financing the business themselves and started small. They also discovered that while other banks weren’t willing to work with them, they were able to get banking support through TD. As Becky puts it:

We were very stubborn. we kept getting rejected and just decided that we would keep throwing our own money at the business until we saw some success. We also found out we could get some help from TD. They were one of the only banks that allowed us to get our foot in the door to get things going. They were flexible, allowing us to take out a line of credit. So, we started small, with seven kids when we first opened up in our first year.

Driven by the desire to succeed, and a passion for their chosen line of work, the sisters’ persistence paid off. Ultimately, their hard work and determination helped build a deep well of experience and resilience that would see the business take off and carry them through to lasting success.

It was definitely a slow start, no doubt. And with no real business experience prior to starting the preschool, it was hard to navigate the business world as young women entrepreneurs. I didn’t even know where to start as a business owner. You’re always facing all types of pressures. For one, childcare staff can have a really high turnover. But we persisted and quadrupled within our third year of opening.

Then, in Becky’s words, “Obviously, COVID hit.”

Digging deep: Resilience in action

The effects of the COVID shutdowns in Calgary had a major impact on Rhyme and Reason’s ability to conduct business. Compounding the challenge was the fact that their lease was coming up for renewal at the same time.

When COVID hit, we were in our first original location. Like everyone else, we got shut down in March of 2020, but our lease was also ending that October, so we physically couldn’t stay open. Like it was when we started the business, it was a really big challenge, but again, we just pushed through it.

Rather than worry about what was coming next, we used the time during the shutdown to find a new location and took advantage of the various COVID-era loans and supports that were put in place by the government.

The result of their resilience in the face of a challenge? Two years out of the pandemic, Rhyme and Reason is in a great new location, turning a profit, paying off the COVID-era loans and most importantly, having their best year ever. As always, success boils down to bring resilient, and a good dose of patience.

I’m happy to say that last year we saw our highest registration ever, with about 42 kids who are there on a daily basis. We’re running a morning class and an afternoon class, giving parents the flexibility to choose which days they attend.

Top 3 pieces of advice I would give to other small business owners:

  • Have perseverance, even when you’re feeling defeated
  • Keep everyone in the loop with what’s going on—accountants, lawyers, banking reps, everyone
  • Be flexible, patient and push through

How TD can help

Are you looking to grow your business and need someone to provide advice? Book an appointment with one of our Business Banking Specialist today.

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