As you may already know, Boysenberry is a business located in Downtown Sydney on beautiful Cape Breton Island, NS. We renovated the 100-year old building to be a chic welcoming space for women to gather and socialize, we have combined the best of both worlds giving you a wide open cafe area to sit back and relax in before shopping at our size inclusive clothing boutique, oh and don't forget to check out our local Canadian home goods selection either.
Boysenberry is complex. We're not a simple "just a boutique" or "just a cafe", we are constantly looking at ways to grow (while still being a fairly new business) in order to become one of Cape Breton's main destinations. But, before we jump down that rabbit hole of possibilities, let's take a look at some questions you guys are always asking us about.
1. How did you pick the name, and what is a "Boysenberry"?
Literally the most asked question I get on a daily basis, and rightfully so, one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make when opening a business is choosing the perfect name. But, I'll have another blog post going into more detail about business naming.
So if you had to guess, you would be correct in saying Boysenberry is a type of berry! They're not very common in Nova Scotia, we typically love our blueberries, but I was aware it was a real berry before choosing the name. (Funny story actually..)
A boysenberry is a "hybrid" berry, its a cross between a raspberry, blackberry, dewberry, and loganberry. Which you'll often hear me refer to my business as a hybrid since we combined two businesses under one location, crazy coincidence eh?
2. Why did you choose to operate in Sydney, NS?
That's an easy one, its my hometown!
Okay, maybe not so easy..
If your a local Cape Bretoner, you know were our own worst critiques. I won't discuss the negativity on this page, but I do want to reflect on this question because its insane how many times I get asked it. And its a good question to ask, choosing a location is important, but when people ask me this question, they're not curious as to why I picked the old Jacobson's building to renovate, they want to know why I picked a dying town to open my business. Sometimes I'm flattered when they mention how beautiful my store is and how it looks like it belongs in Downtown Halifax or Toronto (yes someone actually said that to me once and I turned bright red, I was that excited) but then they follow it up with the negative comments about the rest of our main street and our island in general. You better bet I fight them on every negative comment they throw at me though, its 2021, we don't need that type of energy here. Yes, I know things aren't perfect, I'm not naive, but I'd rather be apart of the solution than the problem. Cape Breton Island is a beauty all in its own, we take her for granted way too often, the trails, our waters, our food, the culture - we are a destination and tourist know it, we wouldn't be ranked number one island if they didn't see our true beauty. Sydney is growing, its revitalizing, there are people who whole heartily believe in our downtown area and are fighting everyday to make it better. I could have chose to open my business in downtown Halifax where they already have a well established downtown core, but what's the fun in that? I want to be here, helping solve our problems because they are solve-able, I want Boysenberry to be a spot that is recognize as inspiring others to invest in the downtown, it won't happen overnight but Rome didn't either.
3. Do you worry about competitors - both local and online?
In the old days people believed competition in business was a bad thing, today its encouraged. I cannot wait til the day I'll walk down Charlotte Street and pass ten other clothing boutiques before even arriving at my own. Why? Because today people want more than one option, that's why online shopping so popular, they are able to shop from 100+ stores all at the same time.
I love having competition, it keeps me from getting lazy since I'm constantly looking at ways to improve and be the best I can. I love supporting them and looking to them for inspiration, honestly if we lived in a world without competition it would be quite boring in my opinion.
4. How was the process before officially opening the doors of boysenberry? Did you have a business plan?
It was the most stressful time of my life.
The fear of not being good enough and failing will eat away at you every single day. Its terrifying, but you need to keep your head above the water and push through. Its kind of like ripping off a band-aid. You can only prepare yourself for so much and that's where I struggled, I spent too much time planning when I hadn't even opened yet. How do you plan for something when you have no idea what to expect?
That being said, you obviously do need to have a plan. I find business plans more helpful to a bank/investor point of view, than an actual owner/manager. I'll touch more on the things you should and shouldn't plan for when opening a business in another blog post, because well there's a lot of information.
5. Who did you seek advice from for your business?
Literally everyone I possibly could!
Easiest place to start is the internet, search Youtube and Blogs about the daily life of a business owner, learn from their mistakes, and be inspired! I still watch Youtube videos all the time from boutique owners I found from all over the world, their knowledge is so important when it comes to how I make decisions for my business.
I'd also suggest reaching out to local business owners in your area! Remember they are busy but the majority will be excited to help in any way they can, I recommend asking specific questions, you want answers that you normally wouldn't find on Google. Don't forget to look into any organizations in your area that helps entrepreneurs with starting a business, most places have some form of Chamber of Commerce or even a Business Improvement District (BID) office.
6. What has been the biggest challenge of being a new small business owner?
Trusting your judgement. Everything is new to you so its hard to rely on years of experience when you don't have any. I usually quadruple-guess every decision I make, and I mean every decision. Its time consuming, but by putting so much thought behind the small things I think thats what makes Boysenberry so successful. Eventually I'll get better at trusting my gut instincts, since they're usually right anyways.
7. Will we ever see a second location for Boysenberry, like in Downtown Halifax?
Quoting my homeslice J-Biebs here (I don't know why I called him my homeslice, I don't know him.. but it just felt right?).. "never say never"
I have no plans to expand Boysenberry through a second location anywhere right now. A huge reason why I opened Boysenberry was to invest in my hometown, the Cape Breton location is a huge part of our brand identity so I think having a second location would go against our brand. We're trying to make Boysenberry a destination within Cape Breton, so the idea of having the one and only Boysenberry is definitely something I would be okay with.
Although, I do believe I have an entrepreneurial obsession. I definitely would love to open another business someday, in an area like Wolfville, Antigonish, anywhere in PEI, or maybe even down the street from Boysenberry. Who knows what the future holds..