An exclusive series by Carolyn Grisold that profiles female entrepreneurs in Toronto
Business Name: Fridays Off Fabric Shop
Owner: Alanna Banks, 32
Type of Business: Fabric Shop
Hours of operation: 24/7
How did your business come about?
I have been blogging under the fridaysoff domain name for the last three years and I’m known online by this “name.” I came up with [it] several years ago because all the topics I blogged about were things I did in my spare time and I always fantasized about a four-day work week.
Did you work in the industry before?
No, I have never worked in this industry. I just love sewing and knitting and have been doing so for almost 10 years. With this passion comes a love for fabric. I have a day job at a public relations firm downtown, so that skill set has come in very handy for launching this business. I also teach in the corporate communications department at Centennial College teaching event management and social media.
When did you decide to become an entrepreneur? Was it a calling or a choice?
I was born to do my own thing. I’ve never been one to follow the pack. Just ask my friends and family and they’ll tell you that I’ve always got some kind of business idea brewing in my head. None of them actually ever materialized, but this idea for a fabric shop hit me early this New Year and I just went for it and now here I am. I am over the moon! It really is a dream come true for me.
How do you balance work-life?
I really don’t like talking about work-life balance because, to be honest, I don’t think it exists. There is no balance. You just make it work and survive. Basically I work at my full-time job all day, hang with my son for most of the evening and then as soon as he’s in bed I’m on my laptop working on my shop, blogging, or emailing back and forth with suppliers. I sleep well at night.
Do entrepreneurs even see work and life separately?
Being an entrepreneur is almost like being an addict. Once you taste a bit of success you want more, so it’s hard to separate work and life. But as long as you don’t overindulge then you’re good.
Are you a member of any support groups for entrepreneurs?
No, but that’s something I want to get involved with. There are so many MeetUp groups out there that I need to get into. Right now it’s tough because I work full-time. However I’m going on maternity leave in June, so I’m hoping to get involved with some groups when I have ‘more’ time then.
Why did you choose to locate your business online?
I decided to open an online fabric shop because there aren’t many Canadian online fabric shops that offer the designer 100% cotton fabrics that I carry. It’s also really tough to find good quality fabrics in-store when you don’t live near a big city. These fabric lovers have to turn to American fabric sites and with that comes higher shipping costs, duty and taxes. My goal is to offer competitive prices and manageable shipping rates for everyone in Canada.
What kind of challenges are you facing now that your shop is open?
The biggest challenge I see is getting new traffic. I’m at an advantage because I already have a following from my blog, but my goal is to get outside of that circle and hit up new people. I plan on continuing to use social media platforms, social media advertising, and blogs to push my brand out to as many people as I can to acquire new customers.
What have you learned that has been the most surprising?
I’ve learned a lot about fabric. I know so much about fabric now, it’s crazy. I’ve also learned that I have a good eye for sifting through all of the different designer fabrics out there. You don’t have to buy a whole collection, you can mix and match and create your own unique collections. That for me is really fun!
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love that I built this all from scratch. Everything from my name, to my blog, to the community that follows me and now all of the fabric that I’m selling in my shop. I love that I have created all of this!
Carolyn Grisold is the managing editor of Women of Influence Magazine and a contributing writer to various print and online publications (Post City Magazines, Toronto.com, Gallery Magazine, Argyle Magazine). Follow Carolyn on Twitter @CityandCharm. To suggest a female entrepreneur, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.