Our very own Caralyn Rabichuk was invited to share her experiences as a woman and Metis entrepreneur by the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce at a sold out conference on January 27th 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Feb 16, 2016

"As entrepreneurs we are all familiar with sacrifice, support, determination and risk.

Risk is an intimidating word to most people. As entrepreneurs, risk is how we all got started. It's reality. If you're not willing to take some considerable risk I don't believe you could reach the true potential of your vision. When Rob and I started this transport company, he was working full time in a sales position making over 100 thousand dollars a year. We were very comfortable. I was a stay at home mom to our 2 children and, pregnant with our 3rd and that's when my husband wanted to grow our 3 truck, completely manageable small business to 17 trucks. Risk is putting it lightly. I joke with my husband all the time he took advantage of my then exhausted, emotional state to convince me to take the leap. And if you know my husband, he was a great salesman! He still continued to work the full time sales position, being out of the province 12 out of the 20 work days in a month while I did dispatching, with 3 children, under 3 years old, from our basement. It was a very stressful time, and after another year of that, and my threat of bodily harm, Rob decided that it was time for him to quit the sales job and focus on our growing business. The only thing was, we didn't believe our business was strong enough to support our salaries. That's where we learnt about sacrifice.

Sacrifice. If you are considering being a business owner and are truly dedicated to making it a successful company you need to be prepared to make numerous sacrifices in your personal life which in my experience, is very hard for most people. There is a misconception that being an entrepreneur is easy and we go golfing and get our nails done all day. That couldn't be further from the truth. Being an entrepreneur is working harder and longer then you every have. It' s a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no holidays, no sick days lifestyle. Our company is literally our 4th child. There have been a lot of occasions were Rob had to go drive a truck and miss out on what was going on with our family. It is the unfortunate reality that owning a business sometimes means that family life comes second. Without this business, our family struggles. It's rather ironic that the reason you work so hard is to support the family that you are now missing time with.

Rob and I didn't come from wealth. We are your typical middle class Winnipeg born and raised couple. There for, when we decided to take the risk of starting our own company we did it on our own and had to make serious sacrifices not only personal but obviously financial as well. Any extra money we had went back into our business. We cut Rob's pay in half and I still was not collecting. We were determined to grow and succeed. We did as well as we could, but like every business that starts in the basement of house in North Kildonan, it needs help eventually. Help is my dad, who is a mechanic, fixing some of our first trucks in his driveway under a flash light so they would be running the next day because we couldn't afford to take them to a garage. It's our moms, making us dinner and babysitting, because Rob and I had focus on work. Of course, from what little they had, the financial help our families provided. I can't stress enough the importance of a support system. Not only for the growth of your companies but for the well being of your family. I have learnt over the past years that support and working with the right people is instrumental in business success.

Support is finding the right employees and having them in positions that match their abilities so they are not only happy but reaching their full potential. Keeping your employees happy can determine whether or not you will be successful. Your employees are a true reflection of your business. In our business, they are who are customers perceive us to be. They are the face of Covert Logistics. And in order for us to continue the relationships we have with our customers, they need to be satisfied with our services which include the personalities of our drivers and office staff.

I learnt only a short time ago that support also means working with professionals as equity partners and mentors. The idea of having an equity partner was a tough one for me. Like I said earlier, this was a 4th child to us, so sharing custody of this child was terrifying. I didn't want to share. We had worked so hard to do everything on our own and grown our company without help….so why now? I can tell you why now, we had reached a point where we were no longer a basement business, and we had exceeded our projections and surpassed our initial goals a long time ago. We needed to take our business to the next level or make the decision to stop growing. And stop growing was not in Rob's vocabulary. Neither is can't, or won't. Rob is truly extraordinary. When most people would shy away from a challenge, he is the first in line. His knowledge and understanding of the transport industry is the reason for the majority of our success. Rob has single handedly created logistic solutions for major national companies, who prior to working with us, had substantial losses due to the lack of knowledge in logistics. So when he told me that our business still had major potential to grow, I couldn't argue. We then went to a consultation meeting with Louis Riel Capital Corporation and the Métis Economic Development Fund.

As potential entrepreneurs you should prepare yourselves for rejection. There will be a lot of people who do not see the potential in something like you do. We as entrepreneurs see things differently. We are true optimists. We have to be. So when we went to this meeting, we were fully prepared to tell our story and be faced with rejection again. But this time was different. They listened, and wanted to see us again. We were shocked, they had listened! They saw what we saw. They saw us. Two people determined to make this business work. Two people willing to sacrifice and take risks.

It was like a giant weight had been lifted, a breath of fresh air. We were now working with two organizations that offered and continue to offer complete support and encouragement. In one of first meetings with them a comment was made, "it's time for you guys to start working on your business, not in your business". Those few words had immediately changed the way we operated. Working with these two organizations has opened doors we didn't know existed. LRCC and MEDF gave us access to a Grant program. This funding has allowed Covert Logistics to receive equipment and technology that we would not have been able to access at this point in time. We have received countless hours of business support. They have taught us how to better manage our employees. Our financials have stabilized. This stabilization has allowed us to sleep at night. It goes without saying, the financial support from the LRCC and our now equity partner, MEDF, has been immeasurable. But the personal support for me is what has become the most beneficial. We have had the opportunity to receive countless hours of coaching and mentoring and from very intelligent, experienced professionals. To have access to these resources is very reassuring. In the past with it just being Rob and I, we would only have each other to bounce ideas off of. Now, we have a whole team of supporters with vast professional knowledge to offer advice. The idea that there is a group of people cheering you on can only be described as comforting. And granted they have invested in our company so they obviously want us to succeed for financial reasons, it's more personal than that. They truly want us to succeed, not only in business but in our family life as well. These two organizations recognized that our business is a major part of our daily family life and they encourage us to find balance between the two.

Covert Logistics has grown from a little one truck basement business to a now a multimillion dollar corporation with 60 pieces of equipment. We have come a long way.

I believe that every business has a unique story of their beginnings and that alone is a testament to what it takes to be successful. That was ours."


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