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Building a Nest takes support
Dentistry had provided Robyn Murrell with a good career and life for 28 years, even afforded her the opportunity to live in Ireland for four of them.
Away from the lab where she created moulds and prosthetics like bridges, she had the time and money to pursue her passions for fitness and antiques. But when the practice where Murrell worked in Vancouver was sold and her services were no longer required, she was at a crossroads; she could invest in more education to upgrade her dental technician skills or she could invest in herself to transform her passions into her livelihood.
She became certified as a personal trainer and, with her sister Heidi Clarkson on board as a silent partner, she also started Robyn’s Vintage Nest, a home-based business restoring antique furniture and vintage industrial lighting.
“I’ve always loved working with my hands,” says Murrell. “This was my perfect opportunity.”
But striking out on her own was daunting. She didn’t have enough money to open up a storefront. She had no idea how to market her fledgling business, no idea how she’d find customers, or whether they’d even take to her work.
“When you’re a home-based business, you have to work harder to get the word out,” says Murrell.
Juggling fitness clients and her Queen’s Park basement suite filled with furniture finds like armoires, tables, chairs, dressers and cabinets she’d rescued from garage sales, second-hand shops and even back alleys awaiting her restorative touch, she became overwhelmed at times.
That’s when she discovered the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Saturday program. Tapping into their resources, she joined a nationwide effort to increase awareness and appreciation for the entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation of small businesses.
“It’s almost like a support group,” says Murrell, who will be celebrating Canada’s first Small Business Saturday by holding an open house this Saturday to show off her handiwork.
“Everyone is in the same boat, everyone needs help. You can’t just do it alone.”
Enrolling in the program gave Murrell a reason to start networking with other small businesses in New Westminster, forging connections to learn from each other. One of those connections led to an offer to decorate the front window for the month of September at Brick + Mortar, a new home and gift shop on Begbie Street.
“It’s important to make connections with other businesses,” says Murrell. “It opens avenues for marketing.”
Murrell also learned how to market herself using social media like Facebook and Twitter, building an extensive email list of potential customers. She and her sister put up posters at local events like the Hyack Parade and the annual antique fair at Queen’s Park.
Her apartment is still choc-a-bloc with furniture, her dining table piled high with vintage cake pans, glass funnels, wire egg baskets and even a glass cigar cutter destined to become unique light fixtures, but a lot of it is spoken for. She’s even started doing custom orders.
As she’s working from home, she takes customers by appointment, or they can visit during one of her special open houses. Robyn’s Vintage Nest is one of about 20 small businesses in New Westminster that have signed on to the Small Business Saturday promotion, with many of them offering special incentives or discounts to customers who visit them on Saturday.
To learn more about Small Business Saturday, and to find out the local businesses that are participating go to www.shopsmallbiz.ca. To learn more about Robyn’s Vintage Nest, go to her Facebook page www.facebook.com/RobynsVintageNest. She will be showing off her furniture and vintage lighting at her workshop, 402 First St., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Enter through the iron gate on the right side of the house.