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Little Wins – The Entrepreneur Life

When I decided to go into business for myself after decades of building my career with some of Canada’s biggest brands, I knew enough to know I didn’t know very much when it came to being an entrepreneur.

In fact, I actually always saw myself as most motivated by a regular paycheque and my desire to contribute something meaningful to my employer.

That all changed last summer when we hung out our shingle and launched Off the Wall On the Fence. The business idea was conceived after completing a renovation in the backyard of our small Beaches semi. My husband, a veteran of the printing industry, had been experimenting with large prints of photographs and artwork to decorate two fences—one brand new but blank and boring, and one old lean-to.

The result was transformative – we were revolutionizing patio decor. Suddenly, colour and drama energized our space without adding clutter or reducing our small urban footprint. Friends and family would visit and rave about the art prints that we left out year-round in all types of weather. So many remarked that they had put canvas prints, mirrors or painted wood plaques outside only to have them ruined by the end of a season.

That launched the idea of Off the Wall On the Fence – a concept that enables customers to upload and edit their own pictures to our print-on-demand site, or choose from our gallery of Canadian artists and extensive image bank.

Getting to the point of launch has been an amazing journey and no doubt I am having the full MBA for Entrepreneurs experience! To be fully transparent, I imagined the crowds would be lining up at the site on day one of our launch. Umm, not quite. Despite all of the hard work and struggle to ensure we prioritized needs vs. wants, despite our attention to detail and ensuring our prototypes were of the highest quality, and despite our determination to deliver the best possible customer experience – they weren’t breaking down our (virtual) door.

I found myself disappointed. You see I was used to celebrating “big wins” in my previous corporate roles. But then I realized, building a business with a vision to make the world a more beautiful place, takes time. It takes perseverance. And it takes the ability to focus on and celebrate the “little wins”. The day the idea popped into our heads, the chance to work with amazingly talented and dedicated partners to bring the vision to life, and the day we delivered our first print to our first grateful customer.

These were all little wins, but their impact has been huge.

I’m learning, growing and exploring every day. I get that the entrepreneur life is a long-game and in order to play it effectively and build on momentum, you have to acknowledge and be grateful for every little win.

So here’s to the latest win – my new blog where I am excited to connect with all of you who share an interest in design, décor, art and the entrepreneurial life. I hope you can join me on this journey.

Lisa Hartley
Off the Wall On the Fence

Lisa has an extensive career as a brand strategist and marketer in major Canadian organizations including The National Ballet of Canada and Scotiabank. In addition to operating her new business, Lisa mentors a number of young professionals, and is often called upon for speaking engagements, consulting and writing services.