By Tristan Kong
Twenty-nine year-old Nicole Ballantyne, has been running her tanning salon for more than five years in Toronto, but it was not her original plan to become a solo owner.
As Ballantyne was preparing to graduate from the University of Toronto with her degree, she, and her mother, Sonia decided to start a business together.
With Ballantyne's mother looking forward to keeping busy after her retirement from Bell Canada after a 35 year career with them, and a 22 year-old Ballantyne eager to join the workforce immediately, it was the perfect entrepreneurship.
“We were always close, and thought being business partners would work well based on our experience,” said Ballantyne.
Ballantyne had managed a few tanning salons while in university, and was familiar with the industry.
Relying on Ballantyne's previous experience, and Sonia's corporate expertise, they purchased, and opened their own salon on Charles Street, Bora Bora Tanning & Concept Spa.
In the first few months, Ballantyne, and her mother used their excitement, and energy at being new owners to make various changes to the salon including adding a computer system to make it more up to date.
Together, the mother, and daughter team turned it into a family venture, with Ballantyne's younger sister, Suzi working some days.
After a few short months of the salon being open, tragedy struck when her mother, Sonia, and her daughters learned the devastating news that she was diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer.
As their mother's health declined, Ballantyne, and her 19 year-old sister Suzi were left to take over the business.
“It was very daunting,” said Ballantyne,
“Never mind that this was our sole income, so we had a great responsibility to ensure Bora Bora Tanning did well.”
After fighting a fierce and courageous battle with cancer, Ballantyne's mother, Sonia, passed away a couple months later.
Despite feeling overwhelmed at losing her mother, and having lost her father when she was 13 years-old, Ballantyne was determined she could be a success.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” explained Ballantyne,
“That my circumstances would not define me, but rather push me to be the best that I could be.”
One of Ballantyne's favourite memories with her mother was during Pride Toronto 2008, their first as business owners, watching her mother stand amongst the crowd at Church Street and Charles Street.
“I fondly remember the smile on her face as she handed out flyers and interacted with people” said Nicole,
“When I am having a bad day, or when Bora Bora Tanning is going through a slow month, I remember that moment, and instantly feel better.”
Over the next few years, Ballantyne, and Suzi worked long hours in order to make ends meet for the first few years.
As a result today, Nicole’s tanning salon has become more successful.
“It is hard work but I love it! I am grateful for the memory of starting up the business with my mom,” said Nicole.
Ballantyne's advice for others who are wanting to start their business on their own:
“Being an entrepreneur is hard work, but it is so rewarding! Remember that making your business a success is not something that happens overnight. Be patient and dedicated.”
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