Catherine launched Callia in 2016, in the same way many entrepreneurs do. She identified a niche that needed to be filled and, while working full time in another job, she found a way to fill it.
Her friend had recently been promoted and Catherine wanted to send her flowers. Sounds simple, right? With a busy marketing career, Catherine didn’t have time to research florists and she also didn’t trust the big, syndicated companies out there to look after it for her.
So, she took it upon herself to create the company she wished she could have called on.
In the early days of Callia, Catherine would head to the warehouse at 5 a.m. to put stickers on the boxes going out that day. Then, she’d continue on to her marketing job.
“I wasn’t sure it was going to turn into a real business,” she says, of Callia.
She wanted every aspect of her business to be flawless before she made it official, she explains, but advice from other entrepreneurs convinced her otherwise.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” she says. “You’ve just got to get something out there.”
Get it out there she did, and then she was faced with the decision of what to do next. Should she quit her steady marketing job for her so-called side hustle? Or stick with the tried and true?
She chose option A.
It wasn’t easy for her, having the mindset that numbers speak more than words.
“I love certainty,” she says. “I hate risk.”
She collected all the data she could on how to become a successful Canadian small business owner and business growth strategist, catering to her analytical side as she spent her time networking.
Her first business interactions were with the former Innovate Manitoba and North Forge, though it was a chance encounter with a contact from her younger years that gave her the next push.
She’d met entrepreneur Josh Simair through a program she participated in at age 16, connecting with him again at a party just as she’d started Callia and the business he co-founded, Skip the Dishes, was starting to take off.
Josh put Catherine in touch with the Manitoba Technology Accelerator program, which helped her leverage new and existing relationships in the entrepreneur community.
Four months after launching her company, Catherine raised enough from angel investors to hire her first employee. That employee is still on staff, along with several others who have stuck with Callia from the beginning.
It comes down to having a team that is people-oriented, says Catherine, and that genuinely cares about those within it.
“Callia’s not going to be the right fit for everyone and it’s also not going to be the right fit for everyone at every stage of their career,” she says. “We’ve made really intentional choices to always prioritize the person and the person’s goals as much as we prioritize the business goals.”
The company also follows the Pareto principle, which, as Catherine explains it, is based on getting 80% of the result for 20% of the effort.
This principle is reflected in The Lean Startup, a book by Eric Ries. As Catherine describes it, the faster you can try and fail, the more successful you’ll be.
Along with the lessons she’s learned and the network she’s built, Catherine depends on a team of professionals to guide her through the grey areas that don’t fall within her expertise.
“I think the more you can find ways to create efficiency and hack some of the things that you don’t want to or need to spend your energy on, the more successful you can be,” Catherine says, “and I think finding professionals is one of those areas.”
She’s found a formula that works, having grown Callia from a one-woman show to a team of 60. The company has expanded “to almost every postal code” in Canada, Catherine says, and now serves Ohio and Minnesota, too.
With local warehouses, delivery drivers and custom packaging that protects flowers from the elements, Callia is able to maintain the quality customers expect.
“You can have the prettiest box and the nicest website,” Catherine says, “but if you don’t have great quality, super fresh flowers that are handled even in -41 degrees to absolute perfection and delivered to your door exactly when you want them, then the entire customer experience fails.”
The company also recently launched Curated by Callia, which sends boxes of artisanal gifts across Canada.
To gift Callia (or order for yourself—why not?) head to callia.com/vexxit for an exclusive 10% off discount that’s just for our listeners. And, for more on how this one-of-a-kind company found its success, you can find the full podcast here.