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Standing applause to those brave business captains

Who said running a business is easy? An opinion piece.
Small business
Running small busineses is often challenging, but no less rewarding.

I don't know who that storyteller was that came up with a plot that owning a business is fun and easy, and that working for yourself you'd make more money while doing less.

That idea was seeded in my mind when I was a child. And for some time, I was confident that it's an absolute truth because of one of dad's friends, a successful entrepreneur and self-grown multi-millionaire, who also was a very positive man and big-time joker. So looking at him, I thought there was nothing hard about running a business, but it seemed like a lot of fun. It was in the late 1990s-early 2000s.

And then I grew older, and the 2008 crisis hit. Only then I realized how much pressure was on that man's shoulders. I think he turned almost completely grey in less than a year, fighting to save the jobs and keep the operations going.

I remember talking to him one day at our cabin. He looked tired and sad, not like himself anymore. He said, "Hey, I have that much money left. But will it be enough?" To me, it was a huge number, but for him, it was all he had to save several sinking ships floating in different industrial oceans with no other help. I don't know all the details, but I think in the end he managed to save a couple, which survived and thrived for years, but only until the next crisis.

To be an entrepreneur is no easy job. The more business owners I come across, the deeper my understanding is of their feats.

Many of my friends chose that path, and I can see firsthand how regular workdays often turn into 12-16 hours of non-stop multitasking, after which, even when they are home, their head is still boiling with ideas, worries, calculations and plans. I can see that quite often if the business experiences financial difficulties, they are the first ones to get underpaid. If something goes wrong, be it the building, the business, customers or anything else, in small business the owners are the first ones on the frontline, trying to resolve it, brainstorming, talking and doing their best so that little crack in their ship doesn't turn into an unfixable hole.

But on the other hand, small business has so much beauty in it. It gives you the freedom to see your visions and dreams materialize. It allows you to create jobs for others. It allows you to fill the needs of people around you. It becomes your real-life sandpit, where you can try out different ideas.

Whether you want it or not, but even with a few employees, it makes you a real leader that has to navigate the social structure of the group to create a healthy environment, ensure that people enjoy what they do and work together to see the business succeed. And that's a wholly different, but no less interesting task.

Estevan has an incredible variety of businesses, a great and diverse business family. Soon after I came here and had a chance to look around, I remember sharing my surprise with my folks back home. I couldn't believe that a community of 12,000 people would have everything Estevan had then and still has, despite all the challenges thrown our way.

Pretty much anything one may need can be found here, you can try it on, touch, smell, sit on or take it for a drive, and then check out, without having to drive far from home or blindly ordering online from who knows where.

Having such a distinct business community is a big asset for any area. But it all comes to the "shop local" mantra. Without having all these different businesses covering every little need one may have, you can't have a full-fledged shopping experience. You'll have to go somewhere else for some of the stuff you need, and when eventually there, will end up buying those things available at home.

But if you don't shop local, there is no way those small operations will make it without the support of local people. (I saw it happening in Boissevain, Man., where a few little stores they had were often sitting empty and some were closing, as people would head to Brandon for most of their shopping needs. The small town market wasn't saturated enough to cover it locally).

When I was a teen and asked about what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always said that I wanted to create jobs. This dream hasn't come true yet, but I still keep it in mind and hope that one day I will have a chance to try on all the challenges and joys of being a small business owner.

But unlike then, now I see many times clearer how much it actually takes to work for yourself. And I bow my head before all Estevan small business owners, bravely navigating rough waters despite all the challenges.