How I’ve Failed At Small Business

It’s scary to be vulnerable when we talk about business. There’s a focus on being honest and authentic in your marketing efforts, but it’s scary to admit when you or your business is struggling. What will people think? Will clients stop buying from me if they think I’m having issues in the business? Or the dreaded fear of whether or not to throw in the towel and close your business. I often hear the comment, ‘I don’t know how you do it all’, and the truth is something always suffers. Some aspect of your life is neglected. So for Small Business Week, I wanted to share with you how I’ve failed at small business.

The Struggle Is Real

Businesses have been very transparent about struggling since 2020, especially small businesses. We saw so many large corporations claw back locations and staff to stay afloat during the shut downs. For me, 2023 has been my hardest year in my nine years as a business owner. I want to share why.

I acknowledge when it comes to talking about business is that I’m far more creative than analytical. Numbers have never been my strong suit (shout out to my high school math teacher Mrs. Wheeler who helped me get across the finish line of graduation with so, so many after school sessions). This was probably my biggest fear going into business ownership: could I handle the numbers side? I was tattooing for seven years when I decided to make the leap to a new province and open my own studio. While I had confidence in my tattooing, I didn’t have confidence in my ability to run a business.

Flash forward 3 years as a solopreneur and I start a second business in marketing and promotion. My businesses are growing and I need to take on more help to grow and manage. That means more accounting work. In 2019 I attended a business networking event in New York where one of the speakers said ‘Learn to love the numbers’. I knew this is something I had to do. I was clinging to the mindset that if the overall number in the bank account is growing, I MUST be doing ok, right? 🫣

The Hard Truth

I’m sad to say I adopted this policy for far too long. The time came where I really needed to dig in to the numbers – how were both businesses performing? What was doing well and what wasn’t? Where are all our billable hours going exactly? I felt deep shame that I was so hands off the details of accounting in my business. I relied on other people to do what I struggled with. I assumed they would tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t they..? That shame kept me from facing what I kind of knew but didn’t want to face…something is not right in one of my businesses, and I don’t know what it is exactly.

It took me a year of trying to really get up to date on the details of how my businesses were doing. While I always kept invoices in order, receipts filed and paid my taxes on time, my accounting software had never been set up with the categories I needed to separate my two businesses and the services of each.  While it seemed like things were chugging along and I was focused on growth, the numbers were not supporting the growth I was going after. I believed in what we were doing and that I could figure it out. As I recently heard in another networking session this last year’ “Hope is not a strategy”, and I was definitely hoping it would work out. 🤞

The Decision Not To Open

It was time to face the truth in more ways than one. I had opened a third business, which was a sister company to Truro Buzz- Secret Nova Scotia Tours. Where Truro Buzz was all about showing people online what it was like to live and work here, Secret Nova Scotia would actually take people to these places. Other than the horror of opening a tourism business in 2020, I quickly realized I could not fracture my attention over another business. As much as I loved it and believed in it, after three seasons, I couldn’t continue it. In 2023, I didn’t open for business and it won’t open again. I thought this would feel like failure, but it didn’t. It felt like making the right choice as much as it’s not what I wanted. 

Now I had to do the hard work to break apart all the pieces of my other businesses to get a real clear picture of every aspect. This is honestly hard for me to write. I know there are people out there who will read this and think, “How could you go so long without knowing your numbers?!”, “You should never be a business owner” and other negative, deprecating things our inner voices tell us when we feel shame. 

Learning From My Mistakes

The reason why I’m pushing through my discomfort to write this is because I know I’m not the only one. If my confessions help another business owner to take a better look at their business or reach out to someone for help, then it’s worth it. Shame keeps us from helping other people because we’re embarrassed to admit our shortcomings. I am very embarrassed but I also know that I am making the changes to right the ship, and that’s what matters. Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

So many small business owners are not people with business and marketing degrees. We’re people with a passion and a product or service we want to share with other people. We’re figuring out the business side of it as we go. In a perfect world, we’d be able to have marketing managers and CFOs so we can focus on the thing we do that we love. That’s not an option for many small business owners. Some people are truly a jack of all trades, and can handle the back and front ends of their business. Others, like me, rely on bookkeepers and other professionals to handle areas that we’re not strong in.

Why We Do It

If you’re reading this and feeling your own shame about an aspect of your business, I hope this will encourage you to reach out to someone for help. There are so many free resources available to help you that I’ll tag below. I think it’s obvious to most that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Another quote that stuck with me is that ‘Business owners rarely have two good days in a row’ and I have found that to be true in my nine years of experience. 

So why do we do it? Everyone has their own reasons, but what I’ve found to be the most common thread is freedom. To own the thing you’re spending so much time working on. To be able to make your own schedule, even though that schedule is often more hours than you put in working for someone else. In many cases for less money! If you’re lucky, to be able to work wherever you want. Yet new businesses spring up every day. Almost 98% of Canadian businesses are small companies and employ over 10 million Canadians ( Whether owning a business is right for you or not is a question only you can answer for yourself, but know this: there is a solution to every problem if you look for it. I’m learning from how I failed at small business and applying it to what I do in the future.

Resources that have helped me:
Truro Colchester Partnership for Economic Prosperity
LSI Workplace Education
Abundant Living, Debbie Lawrence

5 Days In Vegas

I had hoped to go to Vegas for my 40th birthday but it didn’t pan out. In December, we decided to book a last minute trip to Las Vegas with two friends of ours, leaving on Jan. 1st. Three of us had never been there, but my husband Tyson had gone once with friends six years ago. I hear lots of mixed reviews on experiences in Las Vegas so I wanted to share our experience with you. Here’s our experience having 5 Days in Vegas and our tips for your own trip.

The Welcome to Las Vegas sign is further than you think.

We were actually super happy with the flights we got. We would leave Halifax at 6 am and arrive in Las Vegas at 12:30pm their time with one stop over in Toronto. If you’ve done any air travel since 2020, you know this is not what happened. As our boarding announcement started in Halifax, we got an email that our Toronto to Vegas flight was cancelled. Thankfully we quickly got a hold of an agent on the phone to tell us not to board that plane. We were rebooked to go to Edmonton, then Vegas. What was supposed to be a 9 hour travel day became a 22 hour travel day, but hey, we got there the same day right? We were also very glad we all packed a carry-on bag so we didn’t have to worry about our luggage on top of everything else.

Our first day we woke up early as we were on Atlantic time, but this was great. We got up and out before most people in that time zone. Let me preface this by saying none of us are ‘night’ people, so we saw the strip a lot more in the daylight than night time!

Vegas Is Not Hot In The Winter Months

Alicia is sitting at a booth putting a sweet potato fry to her mouth with a fork and is surrounded by plates of food

I’m glad we chose the time we did for our 5 days in Vegas. I had never been to Vegas or Nevada but obviously my thought process was “it’s a desert, it’s going to be warm if not hot”. It was not haha. Watching the weather the weeks before we went showed that the daytime was from high single digits to mid teens. In the mornings when we left our hotel, it would be maybe 5-6 degrees Celsius. In the afternoons 10-15 degrees Celsius.

The temperature was great for walking all day for me because I didn’t feel sweaty or overheated. It was definitely chilly first thing in the morning and in the evenings but definitely manageable. I packed a lot of layers so if it started out cold in the morning, I could take off a jacket or cardigan in the afternoon as it warmed up. Tyson had previously gone in June and said it was way too hot for his liking, around 45 degrees.

You Don’t Have To Gamble

We didn’t put a single dollar into gambling the entire time we were there. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying anything bad about choosing to gamble. I was under the misconception for a long time that that’s what you did if you went to Vegas. There are literally slot machines as soon as you walk through the gate to the airport. There’s so much else to do – sights to see, food, shows, museums, comedy shows. There are endless possibilities for entertainment at your fingertips if gambling is not your thing.

The Food Is Expensive & The Portions Are Huge

You probably know I like to eat. Food is a huge part of travelling for me so I was very excited to try the restaurants in Vegas. While I knew things would be pricier there, we were NOT prepared for how expensive food was everywhere. We chose to primarily stay on the strip. I know we could have found less expensive and excellent eating experiences off the strip, which I do wish I’d looked in to more. I had made reservations for supper every night but we ended up cancelling most because the cost was just too much. We were quickly burning through our food budget. While this was disappointing, we had to make adjustments and that was ok. I know better for next time.

Drain Your Blisters

5 drag queens on the stage of Rupaul's drag race live in vegas
Rupaul’s Drag Race Live in Vegas

We walked almost 90 kilometres in the 5 days we were in Vegas. I had great walking shoes, as did Tyson, but we still got blisters and had sore feet (except Dave. He’s a unicorn). I’m confident in saying no matter what footwear you have, you’re going to end up with sore feet when walking THAT much on concrete and asphalt. Next time, we’ll walk through the hotels more than the sidewalks as the carpeted floors really do make a difference.

Ok, not to be gross but I wish someone had told me this! I developed blisters in the first few days. I didn’t want to pop them because I knew then the skin would be raw, and I still had more walking to do. On the second last day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I used a pin to poke a small hole and just drain the fluid at night before I went to bed. I wish I had done this sooner. The next morning it felt so much better and it was far more comfortable walking the last day.

While this wasn’t the trip I envisioned (I was also sick the first two days from a bad cold I got before we left), I can’t wait to go back again. We’re more prepared this time and I feel like there’s still so much I want to see and do! For us 5 days in Vegas was enough to be honest. I can’t see us staying for a week or longer but who knows what the future holds!

Recipes From My Newsletter!

You know I love to eat. Every so often in my monthly newsletter, I share a favourite or new recipe I’ve found. Here’s a collection of what I’ve shared so far!

Fluffy No Fail Pancakes

I love pancakes, but specifically my mother’s buttermilk pancakes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made (and tweaked) this recipe over the years. From using whole wheat flour to changing buttermilk to greek yogurt which is currently my favourite variation. Here’s the original recipe from Mama Kay herself with the greek yogurt substitution if you’re so inclined – just in time for Pancake Day!

2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar 
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Make a ‘well’ in the centre where you’ll pour the wet ingredients & set aside. In another bowl or larger measuring cup, pour:

2 cups of buttermilk (or substitute 1 cup milk, 2/3 cup greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
Or you could combine in a shaker cup!

If you use the milk and yogurt, add the yogurt to the milk and mix. Crack in your two eggs (or separately in a bowl first if you’re worried about shells) and the add the oil, then mix everything together.

Pour liquid mix in to the dry ingredient well. Fold the flour in to the liquid before you begin to mix a little more rigorously. IMPORTANT NOTE: You don’t want to overmix to get the lumps out! Once all ingredients are combined, leave the batter to sit for 5 mins. Heat your pan to a low to medium. You want to slow cook them. If you turn the pan up too high, they’ll burn on the outside and be raw on the inside! I use butter in the pan, but you can also use oil. The amount will depend on the size of your pan. I use about a tablespoon for a large pan that fits 5 pancakes. Then start cooking your pancakes.

I like to use a measuring cup I used for the oil to scoop out the pancake batter. I have the batter just heaping out of that cup and it makes the perfect sized pancake. I leave them until you notice the bubbles in the batter. When you see those start to surface and pop, flip that bitch!

Whenever I make these, I make extra and freeze them! I put parchment paper between them and then stack them in a ziplock freezer bag. Any time you want one, you just pull it out and pop it in the toaster – no defrosting required! They come out crispy on the outside & fluffy on the inside!

Some of my favourite topping varieties are greek yogurt & berries, peanut butter & banana, or cinnamon & slipped apples! Enjoy!

The Best Brownies Ever

It’s zucchini season! Last year a friend shared a zucchini brownie recipe with me and I honestly can’t stop making them. You’d never know there was zucchini even in them! Pro tip: I got better results when I grated the zucchini instead of using my food processor. I’ve had them with and without the frosting. Incredibly good both ways. They’re super quick and easy to make. You can find the recipe here.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Dry Rub

The day before Hurricane Fiona, I posted stories about the pulled pork roast I made in case we lost power (oh, sweet summer child – did I not know what we were in for). I got a lot of requests for this recipe so I’m sharing it here! This is an adapted version from Nadia G’s recipe.

Dry Rub

1/4 cup parsley
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1/2 tbsp cayenne
3 cloves of minced garlic

I make the dry rub and coat the pork roast the night before. Coat all sides with the dry rub, keep in a bowl and cover until morning. When you’re ready to cook it, place it in the slow cooker and make your BBQ sauce.

BBQ sauce

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup of ketchup or tomato paste (my preference is ketchup)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 shot of whiskey (I like crown royal but I’ve also used rum)
1 clove garlic minced
1 red onion minced
1 chili minced if you like heat

Pour this over your roast in the slow cooker. I prefer to cook it on low for 8 hours but that can vary depending on the roast you choose and time you have. You can cook it on high for 3-4 hours. I prefer a boneless center roast but I’ve also used blade roasts and pork loin roasts as well.

Once roast is cooked, remove the roast from the cooker and set aside to rest, tenting with aluminum foil (exactly like it sounds – create a tent peak over the meat). Put the slow cooker back on high and sprinkle in 2-3 tbsps of cornstarch whisking continually. I like my sauce to be thicker so I usually go with 4 tbsps to thicken it up. 
Once your sauce is at the desired thickness, turn off the slow cooker and begin to shred your roast. Once all the meat is shredded, return it to the sauce in the slow cooker, mix thoroughly and serve! Great for sandwiches, tacos – anything and everything! Also freezes well!

Bombay Breakfast Sandwich

You KNOW I love me a breakfast sandwich. In October, I worked with Nova Scotia Egg Farmers and came across this recipe for the Bombay Breakfast sandwich! If you’re looking for a spicy twist on a classic, this is it! It was so easy and delicious that it has become a favourite in our house. 
You can check out the recipe video we create at Truro Buzz here!

Shaved Carrot & Apple Salad

Back when the Food Network was actually about cooking shows, and not reality competitions, I watched a lot of Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. One of my favourite recipes was this Shaved Carrot and Pear Salad with Curry Vinegrette. I modified it to use apple instead as I have them on hand more often than pears. We usually have honeycrisp or pink lady apples, but you can substitute your own favourite. 

Shaved carrot is an awesome alternative to lettuce. It works really great with zucchini too! I much prefer the peeler method of the long thin strips to a spiral. Its soft and crunchy at the same time! Its so easy and quick to make – 15 mins and you’re done!

1 1/2 pound large carrots, trimmed and peeled (about 8 carrots)

2 firm pears or apples 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (dehydrated also works)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Using a vegetable peeler cut the carrots lengthwise into thin ribbons or slices. Quarter, core, and stem the pears. Using a knife, slice into very thin strips. Place the carrot and pear slices in a large bowl with the chopped parsley.

2. Combine the white wine, curry powder, honey, salt, and pepper and blend to combine. With the machine running add the olive oil. She recommends using a blender but you can also use a bowl and whisk, or shaker cup. Pour the dressing over the carrots and pears. Toss to combine and serve immediately.

alicia is standing in front of a roughed in driveway on wooded land smiling and giving the thumbs up

Building A Home in 2023

I never thought I’d build a house. I’ve owned three very different style homes that I loved, but nothing like what I would design for myself if given the chance. Flash forward to 2023, and my now husband and I get to talking about building our own house. The one we were living in was too big for the two of us. We dreamed of designing the features we would like our forever home to have and we decided to go for it. Neither of us have done it before or been in the position to consider it. Of course, we want to document the experience of building a home in 2023, and share it with you! Also to have this to look back on once we’re done. 😅

Saying goodbye to our house

I’m going to be honest – I’ve NEVER heard anyone say building their home was a good experience. It’s usually ripe with a lot of stress and battles between the couple building, contractors, supply issues and so much more. When I say neither my husband or I were previously in the position to consider building a home before now, what I mean is that neither of us were in relationships that could weather the stress of that process! Who can relate? True story: my sister just earlier this year face-timed me while covered in plaster dust crying ‘Don’t do it’, regarding our upcoming plans to build.

We found ourselves some land and began the process of planning. Allow me to lay out the battlegrounds thus far.

Battle 1: What is the size of the house we want to build?

Here’s where the disagreement starts for us. You may know this about myself and Tyson already from social media, but we have different priorities when it comes to our living space. Tyson is a minimalist who is attached to nothing. At one point in his life, he lived out of the box of his truck while he worked pipelining in Alberta. I am a borderline hoarder who is attached to all her things and having space to keep said things in.

Left to his own devices, I think Tyson would build something that is probably 800 square feet. Like not quite Tiny House but just a step above. I, on the other hand, can’t imagine building less than 1500 square feet. We are still in negotiations on this subject but I feel like we’re settling close to 1500.

1300. – Tyson

Battle 2: Single floor or 1.5 story?

As I mentioned above, the plan is to build our forever home. I can understand Tyson wanting the house to be a single story so we don’t have to worry about stairs as we get older. My thought process is that we build a story and a half where that upstairs will have our primary bedroom, ensuite bath and my office area. The main floor will have the same and when it becomes necessary, we can relocate downstairs. The upstairs will then become the spare room space.

While I’m on the subject, I had to convince Tyson that we needed a spare room at all as he doesn’t believe in having unused space. He figured the spare room would be my office but I don’t want to not have my office when people come to visit as I use my office space daily. So you know, both of our families live outside of province, as do a lot of our friends. We have had many occasions to have a spare room.

-When we’re old upstairs will look like the forbidden wing in Beauty and the Beast – Tyson

alicia is standing in front of a roughed in driveway on wooded land smiling and giving the thumbs up

The Resolution

With all this in mind, we are putting the house plans aside for now and just focusing on the garage first. We’ve decided to first build our garage which will house the Airstream trailer we currently live in for the winter. After enjoying a few years living mobile and mortgage free, we’ll work on building a house.

Deciding on the design and layout for this was MUCH easier. We know we need it to be long enough to store the 25-foot long trailer. I also want to be able to park my vehicle inside once we are no longer living inside the garage. We also decided we don’t want to have a basement in our new house so we will build on two rooms at the end of our garage. One will house Tyson’s tools as a workshop, and the other will be our gym and music room. Is this better than having more space in the actual house? You’ll have to ask him. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Yes, it is better. Tools are loud and messy. Drums are loud. – Tyson

Garage Battle 1: Choosing a siding style and color.

Again, as you can imagine if you know Tyson, his priorities for choosing a siding is that is good value, long lasting and low labour to put up. He doesn’t care whatsoever what it looks like. I VERY much care what it looks like. He would like to go with metal siding, which I’m ok with. However, choosing the profile of the metal siding and colour is taking me longer than he’d like. 😬

Durability and longevity are key. I want a low-maintenance solution. Set it and forget it. – Tyson

So this is the beginning of building a house in 2023 for us. We’ll update you as we begin the garage build and how the process is going for us. Have you gone through this process? I’d love to hear about it. Click here to share your experience and advice with me!

This blog is brought to you in partnership with Hubcraft Timbermart in Bible Hill, NS.
A beautiful pastel colored sunset sky sits behind the airstream trailer with a black chevrolet silverado in front of it on a grassy field

Build The Life You Want To Live

I’m an early 80’s baby. I grew up being taught you went to school, then you went to college or university. You got a job after you graduated, hopefully a good one with a pension. Then you grind away in an office from 9-5 saving money to buy a house and take the occasional vacation. There wasn’t a lot of talk about straying from this path, or how you build the life you want to live. Now that’s a topic that’s very much on a lot of people’s minds.

We all know there was a huge shift from baby boomer work ethic to millennials having more of a living ethic. Not to say that generation isn’t hard working, but there’s definitely more of a focus on living your life instead of working for so much of it. I don’t know about you but the thought of waiting until retirement in my 50s or 60s (hopefully..!) to travel and enjoy my life does not sound appealing to me! Not enough people realize that you can build the life you want to live yourself; that you are the architect of your own future!

A beautiful pastel colored sunset sky sits behind the airstream trailer with a black chevrolet silverado in front of it on a grassy field

In my latest newsletter, I said I would share what building the life you want to live looks like for me right now. I was focused on making a 6-figure salary. That’s what I wanted, that’s what I was working towards. Spoiler alert – I haven’t achieved it. Over the last few years, I realized I didn’t need that to live the life I wanted to live. I wanted:

  • enough money to not worry about paying my bills
  • to take a vacation every now and then
  • to be able to take a day off without stressing about money.

When I worked out what the cost of those things would be, I figured out I could do that with a LOT less than 6 figures, which also meant I was working less! This is another thing I want for my dream life. I’ve been working 6 days (sometimes 7) a week for years now while I built up my businesses. I did this for a few reasons: One – I was growing two businesses, then three, so that obviously required a lot of juggling. Secondly, I was deeply unhappy in my personal life and working made me feel better about that.

After doing this for the last five years, I’m ready to wind down to a regular work week. To enjoy my evenings with my husband, family or friends, rather than catch up on work or try to get ahead of more work. While I lived the ‘hustle’ life for a few years, I do not glamorize it. There needs to be some balance, or work life integration to not burn out, or look back to realize how much of your life you spent working instead of living.

What does our dream life look like for the future?

Now that we live in the Clutterbug, our 25-foot Airstream trailer, our dream is to live in other places with it. Our current dream plan we’re working towards is to be able to tow the trailer down south for the winter. We would like to leave in October before the weather gets too cold and ideally take it to Arizona, but take our time getting there. We would fly back for Christmas and then back down south until we drive back in April.

So how do we make that work?

Step 1: Determine how much money we need to save to cover our expenses at home.
We will only have a garage on our land but we want to make sure we save enough to cover the utilities while we are away.

Step 2: Create a budget of what we think we need to make to afford gas, groceries and other necessities. That includes touring to see the sites of where we’re travelling!

Step 3: Can we work while we’re away?
I’ve been doing some freelance writing and working on a travel writing portfolio so I could potentially work while we travel. I also have the luxury of being able to work with my business while I’m away. Tyson doesn’t at this point as he has a physical job here in Nova Scotia. We need to figure out if there’s something he can do while we travel, or if we can save enough that it won’t matter if he’s not working.

Step 4: Set up a timeline that we can work towards.
This is an important one on actually achieving the goals we’re setting for ourselves. We want to do this by Oct 2024. By actually setting a date, we are giving ourselves a tangible timeline to work towards and work backwards from. I set checkpoints in my calendar like ‘Need to have X amount saved by this date’, ‘Need to create a list of potential writing opportunities by this date’, etc. If we don’t set a time, we don’t end up doing anything to actually work towards achieving it, and the dream just keeps getting pushed along.

Timelines you set for yourself are NOT set in stone so don’t let that stop you. We may be coming up on the fall of 2024 and realize this year is not going to be possible to be away for the winter. We could have an expense come up that takes away the money we saved up to carry us through those months, a sick family member that needs us in Canada – any number of things. But if you don’t set up timelines for yourself to actually build the life you want to live, it’s not going to happen. We all know time flies by (how is it August 2023 already?!?!).

Here’s your ‘build the life you want to live’ homework!

  1. Map out what you want for your dream life. The job you have, the hours you work, the money you make, the perks you want. Regular vacations, a four day work week, working for yourself – whatever it is! Write it down and be specific! You can get a great Dream Journal from Glowbug Designs Rebecca Hill here.
  2. Do up an estimated budget of what you need to live this dream life. Ballpark what you can, from your daily/ monthly expenses, to estimated travel budgets or decreasing your work week. What do you need to bring in to live your dream life?
  3. Set a date or timeline for you to move towards building the life you want to live. Remember, it can be flexible, but if you don’t set a timeline to work towards, how will it ever come to be?

Money is an intimidating topic for many of us. Budgeting is generally not something we enjoy doing because no one likes to feel restricted in what they can or can’t have, but that’s a whole other blog! If you can shift your perspective on budgeting being a tool that helps you in building the life you want to live, you can open up all kinds of possibilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what our dream life is, and seeing how we’re working to achieve it inspires you! Now get out there and build the life you want to live!