We are all in the middle of practicing physical distancing, and while this time is very challenging for everyone right now, it is especially difficult for small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we need to support them however we can, so every week we will be featuring some small businesses.
Sweet Convenience is the next business I am excited to feature! If you know me, I am obsessed with candy!
Sweet Convenience opened in May 2014, with an original concept of just being a Convenience Store with a huge candy inspired collection, with store made cotton candy in a variety of flavours and, of course, tonnes of candy. As time went on, they realized that was not the store their customers wanted or needed in Edmonton.
So, after a late night break-in in November 2015, they decided to drop the entire convenience aspect of the store: ie. cigarettes, lottery, etc. and start focusing on candy and really listen to their customers. It became evident very quickly that Edmonton wanted the limited edition, the fun seasonal, and unique items that flood the USA market through the year, but we, in Canada, can never get.
They started with cereal and cookies, and soon they were importing everything from spray cheese to cake mixes. Sadly though, that is not currently the store you are look at. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed everything again. With the rising numbers in the states, and the rules being placed on travel, it has just not become safe for Sweet Convenience to travel to their sources in the USA to import the unique items. And while they can source some of the products and have them shipped here, the pricing would be astronomical and they have always prided themselves in giving the best possible price.
They are looking at new resources and new products daily and they have faith that they will continue to find fun and unique items for all of their amazing customers!
Sweet Convenience hopes to be shipping nationally very, very soon!
What is Unique About Your Business or What Made You Choose This Type of Business?
I started in the retail industry very young. I had lemonade and Kool-Aid stands my entire childhood, our annual family garage sales taught me a lot about merchandising and pricing. I got my first real job at Suzy Shier at the age of 13 and worked in retail up until college. I enrolled in the Grant MacEwan University transfer program for Elementary Education immediately after High School, and took a course in Management that I absolutely loved. After I graduated with my teaching degree in 2004 I decided I wanted to take some time off to travel before pursuing my teaching degree.
My father owned the Mohawk in Drayton Valley and I had been driving out every weekend during school to manage his store, so after University I moved there and started managing for him full time. My father is a brilliant business man and working side by side with him, I learned so much about merchandising, promotions, customer loyalty, innovation, and pricing.
As time went on, I no longer wanted to teach. I loved being in the store everyday greeting customers, finding new products, promoting sales, and merchandising. Dad and I turned that store into an award winning location, we were one of the top stores in Canada and we killed every contest that came our way.
In 2009 I beat out 6 other top Husky retailers and was given the opportunity to have my own store. I packed up my son and partner and we moved back to Edmonton. My Husky location on the west end of Edmonton opened in April 2009 and we hit the floor running. In no time, we too, were winning awards and taking the gas station industry by storm.
Sadly, in 2013 Husky decided to move away from the one owner one store model to a cluster system. After a grueling interview process I was offered my own cluster of 4 stores, but after a lot of soul searching, I turned it down. How could I run 4 stores? How could I provide the customer service my customers deserved if I had to stretch myself across 4 locations?
So, I turned it down and started to brainstorm Sweet Convenience. Owning my own store would mean no corporate rules, no planograms, no specific stock lists; I could carry anything, and everything I wanted, and I could place it anywhere I wanted in my store. But, as mentioned, business is about adapting and change and while the core values of Sweet Convenience has remained the same, the focus is continually adapting, which is a freedom I didn’t have at Husky.
What is Your Favourite Small Business (aside from your own)?
My favourite small business, and I business I proudly display in my store, is Little Boutique. Ashley is a stay at home mom with some chronic issues that also recognizes the need to adapt to change and has taken her business from hair bows to vinyl mugs and water bottles, and now sublimation. She is a brilliant creator, and her mugs are always worth a look because there is guaranteed one that will make you laugh.
If You Had One Piece of Advice to Someone Just Starting Out, What Would it Be?
Imitation is the strongest form of flattery. Since we opened we have seen a few copy cars, very similar businesses pop up in and around, not only Alberta, but all of Canada, and while sometimes it makes you angry, it is also extremely flattering. Someone saw something you created and it inspired them, and now they are your colleagues and you should reach out and collaborate because 2 heads are always better than one.
What Are Your Long-Term Business Goals?
I am not about multiple locations or world candy domination. I want Sweet Convenience to be the best it can be and a destination for people to visit and love. While I will be starting shipping, which is something I have been against for a time. I believe that I can still instill our values of customer service and offer shipping to our customers who just can’t visit as often as they like.
What is Your Funniest/Weirdest/Most Memorable Experience With a Customer or Client?
This was when our little store gained national attention for a simple idea. The colder it was outside, the cheaper your bulk candy would be. In a matter of hours of my simple Instagram post I was receiving messages from media outlets. I was interviewed over 6 times, we were featured in Narcity and on the National News. It was -40 outside and we had a line up of 20 cars outside our doors before we even opened. It was surreal and humbling.
Thank you to Laurie of Sweet Convenience for participating in Small Business Sunday!