This piece was written by Bill Kimball, Head of Sales, Xero Canada.
This year has introduced an unprecedented amount of uncertainty in the Canadian economy. But, if we’ve learned anything from history, some of the most challenging economic periods have sparked some of the most incredible feats of creativity and ingenuity.
In September, Xero conducted an independent national survey among 1,000 Canadian professionals. When asked what has (or is) stopping Canadians from launching their own businesses, “cash” came out on top as a primary concern (44%), with “confidence in self” following closely behind (26%).
Whether motivated to further their passion projects, or to take matters of financial security into their own hands, new business owners need all the support they can get to take their first steps into entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Xero’s newly refreshed Starter plan was created for this purpose — designed to ensure business owners’ digital environments and finances are properly set up, right from the get-go, and to nurture the green shoots of growth once the country moves into a more stable state of recovery.
At Xero, employees are supported, if not encouraged, to work on their side hustles alongside their full-time jobs — but I’ll let them share their respective stories themselves. Here’s what a few of the Humans of Xero had to say about their “new normals,” including their personal experiences with running and adapting their side hustles over the course of the pandemic.
Climbing the wall and taking a leap of faith
Michael But, Senior Product Designer
In January 2020, a few friends and I decided it was finally time to take the leap and open our own climbing gym. We’d been climbing for years and knew we had a good idea; we would combine climbing, with other activities we enjoyed to create a unique experience and space. From yoga to traditional weight training, and even a lounge with coffee and wifi, we knew we’d built something special in Boulder Parc. Two months later, we closed our doors when Toronto entered Phase 3 of the lockdown.
As a new business, this was heartbreaking, and we quickly realized we had a long road ahead of us when it came to understanding the government’s support plan. We were among the lucky ones and ended up qualifying for some of the government subsidies. But, looking back, I wish we’d had access to more resources telling us what to do next. From Monday to Friday, I work as a Senior Product Designer at Xero. It’s my job to put myself in the headspace of our customers to understand their pain points and ultimately deliver a better experience. This skill translated naturally to Boulder Parc by creating empathy in how we thought about our customer’s problem and the opportunities available to meet their needs. But, it also made me more aware than ever that the right questions needed to be asked to get inside the minds of small business owners, to support them through the pandemic.
Like many small businesses, we still have a lot of roadblocks and challenges ahead. But taking this leap isn’t one that I regret. We’re open now, and I have the freedom to create a business that is completely aligned with both my own and my business partners’ values. And, I get to climb whenever I want! So, test the waters, and, if you need to, give yourself a safety net before you take your leap; whether that means keeping your nine-to-five, finding your community and Starter plan resources, or just starting slow.
Building a network and conquering a fear of failure
Rachel Ward, Marketing Programs Manager
In a year full of uncertainty, surprises, and change, I’ve found myself more grateful than ever for my side hustle, and the sense of calm it’s given me. It all started in 2014, when I found myself in a beautiful (but empty) event space. Fast-forward to the present day, where what started with a desire to fill that empty room, has brought me to a networking event for women in Toronto called RAW: Real Amazing Women. From an annual three-day wellness retreat, to mentorship opportunities, and even matchmaking, we work to bring women together and create a space for them to be themselves.
I’d always enjoyed connecting people, but the pandemic showed me just how powerful a strong friendship network of women can be. Like many businesses, COVID-19 forced us to pivot and move our events online, but my nine-to-five had prepared me for this in ways I never would have imagined. As Canada’s Marketing Programs Manager at Xero, part of my role involves supporting the virtual events held for our Canadian partners and customers. This not only gave me the technical experience of running events online, but connected me with a built-in global network of events professionals at Xero that I could bring my RAW-related questions too. We were more prepared than ever to roll out our events quickly, without taking away from our ability to still deliver a unique experience.
As rewarding as it’s been, having a side-hustle can be scary (pandemic aside). To this day, I still get anxious before an event. But, I’ve come to appreciate how important it is that we get comfortable asking for and giving help. Connect with people in your industry and don’t be afraid to reach out with a digital coffee invitation. Foster your skills, grow your network, and pay it forward when you receive a similar invitation. With my network closer than ever, I can’t help but feel a sense of calm… especially when I’m using what would have been my commute time, to focus on building my side-hustle.
Racing down mountains and making the most of a temporary situation
Tom Bradshaw, Account Manager
Growing up in New Zealand, I can’t remember a time before I was riding a bike. As the country’s grassroots racing scene grew, so did my passion for the sport — I even won a few national titles and represented New Zealand on the World Cup circuit. In addition to racing, I also teach mountain biking — from coaching beginners on biking basics to helping people train for their next international competition or event.
How I approach my career in cycling and coaching, as well as my nine-to-five at Xero is really similar because, at the heart of each, are progression and people. In my role as an Account Manager, building relationships and coaching our partners through the challenges they face every day feels incredibly similar. Whether it’s personal riding goals or when mentoring other riders, we solve problems together, we rise to the challenge together, and we win together. One of Xero’s core values is “to be human,” and it’s such a great reminder for how we can bring our “best selves” to one another and any goal. That said, racing has also taught me how to set ambitious yet achievable goals, whether it’s “Everesting” (where you ride the height of Mount Everest — 8,848 metres or 29,028 ft — in a single activity, which took me 24 hours), or empowering a Xero partner to adopt better processes at their firm to work in ways they didn’t think were possible.
My plan to compete in this year’s World Series was put on pause due to the pandemic. But, if the world’s current circumstances have taught me anything, it’s that everything is temporary — the bad times won’t last forever. So, why not make the most of it while we can? I knew I had to change to continue to progress my riding. So I moved to Revelstoke, BC, where I’ve been able to continue training. I’m fortunate to be able to do so. It turns out, if you’re passionate about something — just as I am about mountain biking — you’ll find the time to do it, no matter the circumstance.
Xero is a beautiful, easy-to-use global cloud-based accounting platform for small businesses and their advisors. The company has 2.45 million subscribers in more than 180 countries. Xero seamlessly integrates with more than 800 apps. It was ranked No. 1 by Forbes as the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company for two years running, was included in the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for their ongoing emphasis on fostering workplace diversity, and recently established Toronto as their North American technology and product hub. Learn more about open positions in Xero’s Toronto office here.