When clients walk in the door of Nicole Weston’s office they are greeted by a chalkboard sign that reads “Welcome. What you focus on expands.”
Weston knows all about focus. A lifestyle coach and counsellor, she’s intent on building her business, Professional Lifestyle Services, and empowering others to live their best life.
Her drive to succeed led her to Starter Company. At the time, she was employed as a social worker by Rose of Sharon, a not-for-profit that supports young mothers. “I really didn’t know much about the world of business,” says Weston, “so I thought Starter Company would be a phenomenal opportunity.”
Starter Company provides funding, professional mentoring and other help to Ontario residents, aged 18 to 29, who are starting or expanding a business in the province. The York Small Business Enterprise Centre (YSBEC) administers the program through funding from the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth.
Weston applied for the program, which included an interview over Skype by a couple of YSBEC’s mentors. “They asked me all these questions, such as ‘If you don’t get the money, will the program be worth it?’” says Weston. “I said, ‘Absolutely. Money would be a plus, but I need someone to guide me, to show me how to do my business’s finances and marketing, and how to make a business plan.’”
The next step was meeting with the mentors in person at a coffee shop near her Bradford office. (Weston has since relocated to Barrie and also works out of a wellness centre in Vaughan.) “They helped me create my business plan and an Excel spreadsheet with my financial projections,” says Weston. Attending seminars and workshops offered by YSBEC provide tools and information for Weston.
She appreciated the practical advice, but she was just as grateful for their vote of confidence. “I was taking every risk possible. They made me feel that I could do this,” she says, adding that she’s the first woman in her family to graduate from high school and university, as well as the first one to start a business.
When Weston was accepted into the Starter Company program she received $3,500 up front, then $1,500 at the end of the six-month program. She put these funds toward the purchase of a computer printer and office furniture, as well as additional training and certification in coaching techniques.
Meanwhile, her YSBEC mentors helped her better understand who her target customers are. They also encouraged her to ramp up her networking efforts so she joined a local chapter of Business Network International. “We meet every Wednesday and it’s the best thing I could have done for my business,” says Weston. “You can have a website, business cards — you can do all of that, but if you aren’t out there on the front lines, nobody knows you’re there.”
Since completing the Starter Company program, Weston has hired a bookkeeper and has decided to enlist the help of a website designer to revamp Professional Lifestyle Services’ website. She continues attending seminars, networking events offered by YSBEC to continue her business growth and development. Weston is also accepting more speaking engagements, including a keynote address she’ll give to an audience of 300 this fall.
It’s just one more way that she’s putting herself “out there” as her business expands.
You can learn more about Professional Lifestyle Services and continue following this local York Region success story at nicoleweston.ca