Veille sur toi: Cheerful companions
Karine Foisy’s Words of Wisdom
I dived into entrepreneurship without really realizing it. First you should know that my career path was not at all destined to be business management! My parents are both entrepreneurs and I’ve been watching them manage their businesses and all the attendant risks since I was very small. No doubt that helped me face the challenges of entrepreneurship.
A teacher by training, I was happy to teach in primary school for 10 wonderful years in Montreal, in some of the poorest neighbourhoods on the island. Then, like many entrepreneurs, I had my own children and took maternity leaves, during which I felt like I needed to express my creativity. I accomplished this by working with glass.
I have been making fused glass objects for 10 years. I started off working in my basement while my kids were taking a nap. I made many different objects just for fun, but then I became really attracted to night lights and what they represented and signified. That was when I founded Veille sur toi, in 2013. I liked the fact that the night light would be watching over children as they slept and that they were meant to be reassuring, soothing objects. I developed a passion for drawing these little sweet, benevolent characters. I slowly started off selling them to friends, then online through Etsy. My pieces quickly became popular, and other points of sale started reselling my work. In 2015 I won the “Etsy le meilleur du Québec” contest (“Best of Etsy Quebec”), which provided me with a grant so that I could set up my new basement workshop. The contest also gave me a lot of visibility in Quebec. I was off and running!
First challenge: Learn how to delegate!
I pretty quickly came to realize that I couldn’t do everything at the company myself. At the time I was still working at a primary school full-time. So I hired someone to help with production. That was the beginning of an important step in my entrepreneurial life: learning how to delegate! I started by delegating repetitive tasks that took a lot of my time, like sending parcels. Then I started delegating a portion of the production of the night lights by subcontracting the glass fusing work to qualified people. With time, I started delegating other tasks I was less effective at and which took a lot of my energy, like accounting or managing production and inventory. It also became important to hire someone I could trust to help me with various administrative tasks—that’s when Magalie, my versatile assistant, joined the team. She particularly helped me with customer service, which was an extremely important aspect of the business. I often advise budding entrepreneurs that having excellent customer service is fundamental to their company’s reputation.
"In short, learning to delegate work became necessary, and even though it was hard to do at first, you have to learn to put your perfectionism aside—while this means things might not always go as you would ideally wish, it’s really worth it in the end. That was the best decision I made for the growth of my business at that time."
The qualities of an entrepreneur
I discovered and dived into entrepreneurship without really realizing it, and I found out that I possessed skills that made me a good entrepreneur: a good ability to adapt, creativity, the ability to work in a team, the ability to build positive business relationships and trust, and finally—the ability that is most important to me—I knew how to listen to my instincts!
The aspect of my business that matters most to me
Products that are locally produced. I love that my products are made in Quebec, and I like knowing that I’m helping our economy by hiring employees. The cost of local production is higher and sometimes customers don’t always understand that, but when you take the time to explain to them all the costs of a product, then they understand, and at the end of the day customers are proud to support a Quebec company that produces its goods right here!
Entrepreneurship is a difficult career
It’s crazy how there are days when you feel your business is ready to take on the world, you feel invincible and anything is possible! Then other days, you just want to pack it in, you feel really discouraged and everything seems like climbing a mountain. With time I’ve realized that these ups and downs are normal and happen regularly—it’s easier living with the down periods because I know they’re temporary.
People don’t always realize how much work I put into the business. When you create a new product, there’s a long process of development, research, trial and error (which is often discouraging!), doubt, searching for suppliers, looking for workers… And once you finally have the prototype (which will be costly in terms of designing the pattern and testing), your work still isn’t done—that’s just the start of a long sales process. Packaging, the photo shoot, assembly, getting in touch with points of sale, social media campaigns, online marketing…
What I love about my work
The freedom! I can create what I like, develop new products that reflect my tastes, meet customers during shows, enjoy some freedom in terms of scheduling so that I can take time for myself or spend it with my family… Being your own boss has a lot of advantages!