"Even after the start-up loan and advice, Community Futures has always been there to help."
Sweet ideas, sweet success
Penny Kowalchuk spent much of her adult life focusing on her career – so when she became unable to work, it was a huge adjustment. She soon realized that she needed a way to keep her mind occupied, and, in partnership with two friends, established Sweet Ideas, an old-fashioned candy shop in Lethbridge.
"Our mission was to create a business where people feel happier when they leave than when they come in, and I think we've achieved that" says Penny. The store specializes in items that can't be obtained elsewhere, and brings in stock based on customer requests. "Our candy comes from all over Canada, the US and Europe. Really, the store is as much a cultural experience as a shopping destination."
From the beginning, Penny received support and advice from Community Futures Lethbridge Region, receiving an initial loan to renovate the store space, and another loan to increase their stock. "They have always been there to help," says Penny.
Sweet Ideas has now become a real family affair. When Penny's original partners didn't work out, her husband Dave quit his job to run the store full-time. Other family members are investors, and Penny's mother does the books. Penny provides support from home, helping with marketing and paying the bills. She has also become involved in giving advice and support to other entrepreneurs starting up candy stores. "It's a happy place to be involved with," Penny smiles. "We see parents sharing memories with their kids, and the kids bring their allowance to spend. It's just a wonderful way for me to keep my mind engaged."