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Local woman entrepreneur credits mentorship for helping her business grow

There is a new storefront in downtown Prince George and, for Michelle Knudsen, it is the realization of a long-time dream to build a professional, forward-thinking salon.

Michelle is the Owner of The Current Hair Studio, a hair salon and future hair academy that cut the ribbon on its new location last month.

She started the business five years ago in her basement, when she felt she had reached her peak growth as an employee. Now, Michelle has grown from ‘solopreneur’ to employer, leading a staff of eight hairstylists in her downtown commercial location.

At key points during the growth of her business, Michelle participated in two peer mentoring groups offered by Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), a non-profit organization that helps current and aspiring women entrepreneurs start and grow their business all over B.C.

“I was inspired to join the mentoring group because I knew I needed some support and that I couldn’t do it alone,” says Michelle.

The groups were led by established local entrepreneurs who have first-hand experience running businesses in Prince George—Bobbi Carpino, Co-Owner of Salmon Valley Campground, and Shauna Harper, CEO of Live Work Communications.

Two big takeaways Michelle has learned from participating in WEC peer mentoring groups are not to undervalue herself and her offerings and to delegate so she can focus on the bigger picture.

“I think the mentoring group really helped me to gain clarity and direction, and to stay focused and learn to prioritize what’s important. It made me accountable.”

While many entrepreneurs can feel isolated and struggle with decision-making in the first few years, group support from a peer network can help them build confidence, find balance and improve their business skills.

The top three challenges that women aim to overcome in a peer mentoring group are strategic planning for growth, sales strategies, and creating a better work/life balance, according to the applications WEC receives each year for groups around the province.

Now, Michelle is excited to provide an exceptional experience to clients who are looking for professional hairstylists who take their careers seriously. As part of Michelle’s vision, senior stylists work with apprentices in order to be more efficient, remain current in an ever-changing industry, and balance growth with sustainability.

“The personal growth I’ve experienced as an entrepreneur is huge. When I think back to the young lady I was over five years ago, and all that has happened since then, I’ve come a long way.  I’m an extremely hard worker and a really big dreamer—and that scares people sometimes. I’ve learned that I don’t need the approval of others, but I do need help/support and there is a difference!”

For other women entrepreneurs who want to follow in her footsteps and live out their business dreams, Michelle recommends they connect with Women’s Enterprise Centre, which also provides business loans up to $150K, free advisory services, skills training and a supportive community.

“It’s extremely affordable and well thought out. The local mentors they choose are women who I look up to in the community, and I found they had a great amount of experience and wisdom to add to the group.”

Michelle’s previous mentor, Bobbi Carpino, is facilitating a new peer mentoring group in Prince George starting this month, and the first meeting is January 15. Women’s Enterprise Centre is accepting applications now for the last two spots. More information is available at wec.ca/PeerMentoring.

“Five years from now I see a lot of growth for the academy side of things. I see myself stepping away from working behind the chair and more focused on running the business and the academy. My advice to any women who want to start a business or who are just starting up is this: surround yourself with mentors who have strength in the areas where you are weak. Sometimes our original vision doesn’t make sense and that’s okay, a true entrepreneur is a problem-solver.”

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