Sonja Smith - SF&Co.
Tell us about yourself
Hi there! My name is Sonja Smith and I'm the owner of SF&Co. I'm 29 years old and live in London, ON with my husband and our two dogs; a 11-year-old Chihuahua named Cali and a 10 year old Boxer named Babe. I live for cuddling my dogs, watching bad reality television, going for walks, and eating delicious food.
Growing up, I had a passion for animals. I found my happy place helping my grandparents on their farm in Exeter, ON. Since graduating from Huron University at the University of Western Ontario, I've started various business' ranging from charities to fashion. These experiences have led me to start SF&Co in January 2018. My journey of making high quality, cool products for people and their pets is just getting started and I'm excited to see where it will take me.
Philanthropy is very important to me. I love giving back to my community and giving a voice to those who don't have one. I volunteer and donate to charitable organizations on a regular basis. I believe the bond between people and pets deserves to be celebrated and that's why I started SF&Co.
Tell us about your business
SF&Co is a pet lifestyle brand of products made for people and their pets. Most of our products are handmade in London using high-quality and cool materials that are designed with people and their pets in mind. At SF&Co we want to take our mission into the community and help save animals. On a quarterly basis, we donate to animal rescue organizations around the world.
We’ve been lucky enough to donate over $2,888 to animal rescue organizations in Ontario. We look forward to spreading the love and helping various animal rescue organizations that make a positive impact around the world. Starting May 2018, 5% of every sale will be donated quarterly to a new animal rescue organization selected by our fellow animal lovers.
What led you to start this business?
The business launched in January 2018 after ending a previous business venture, Ezzy Lynn. I knew I had a passion for business, social entrepreneurship, making products and animals and so I combined my previous experience with these passions to create the model for SF&Co.
Was there something that drew (or pushed) you into being an entrepreneur?
I value creativity and independence and being an entrepreneur allows me the freedom to exercise both. I am able to use my creativity to design and create content for each seasonal collection. As well, I am in control of every aspect of my business and I know that the harder I work, the more positive results that I will see and this is extremely motivating for me.
What were some of the challenges you faced getting started and how did you overcome them?
The top 3 challenges I had to overcome when I first started SF&Co were establishing a sustainable production process, starting capitol, and fear.
The challenge with starting a small business where the products sold are mostly handmade is finding reliable and cost effective raw material suppliers and seamstress’ to bring my ideas to life. I found seamstress’ by asking around at my local fabric store and offered them each a sample to make and then I selected the seamstress’ I wanted to work with based on who was the best quality for the best price. Sourcing raw material suppliers that are reliable and cost effective is still a challenge I face today.
The next challenge I faced was starting capitol. I didn’t need much to start my business however, I did need enough. The enough needed was a significant amount for me and I knew I didn’t want to go into debt. So, I used personal savings to invest in myself. The only way I was willing to do this was if I had a plan for how and when I was going to recoup this investment back. I was confident in my ability and in my plan and so I was able to move forward. However, let’s just say plans always change when you start a small business and so you have to be prepared for that. Luckily, my plans changed for the better as I was offered a booth space at The Market at Western Fair District and I knew that this was going to be a huge opportunity for my business and it’s potential growth.
Lastly, the biggest challenge I had to overcome was fear; specifically, the fear of judgement. I wondered what people would think about me if this didn’t succeed. I had just ended another business, who was to say that this one was going to work? I also had people telling me I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t capable or smart enough and I started to believe them. I was able to overcome this challenge by learning how to trust myself, by being honest with myself about my weakness’ and by learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I did my research, I met with mentors, I asked friends and family for their opinions, I put a plan together, I read books, I took personality tests and I meditated every day. Eventually, the doubt others had in me turned into fuel that propelled me to prove them wrong.
What advice would you give to someone starting a small business today?
The best advice I would give to someone starting a small business today is have a vision, believe in yourself, and take the risk. Lean into your intuition, get started and learn how to make changes as you go. Being an entrepreneur is about taking smart risks and trusting yourself. Just go for it! If anything, you’ll have a great story to tell and you’ll learn invaluable life lessons along the way.