Local entrepreneur to speak at networking event Sep 16, 2023

Written by Svjetlana Mlinarevic for The Carillon

For those who are thinking about opening a business or who have a business and would like to expand their knowledge, two entrepreneurs will be speaking in Steinbach on Sept. 20 with advice on business, import and export, and will be on hand to answer any questions.

“Basically, we speak to entrepreneurs everyday and some of the feedback we received was how it would be interesting to change up a little bit how the networking is in our environment. Some of the feedback was that some of the new startup entrepreneurs were really interested in hearing about some success stories from established businesses, up and comers, and entrepreneurs who have interesting stories. That’s how the idea came about and we had our first edition in June it was a huge success – it was a sold out event. We ended up having about 10 to 12 entrepreneurs from Steinbach come to downtown Winnipeg for the event which is what sparked our next addition in Steinbach,” said Natalie Beaudry, director of operations for The World Trade Centre (WTC) who is putting on the speakers series.

The event, which will be held at the Mennonite Heritage Village, will feature guest speakers Melissa Funk and Tina Jones.

Tina Jones
Melissa Funk

Funk is the CEO and co-founder of Steinbach based Lynn & Liana Designs, the largest resin accented serve ware company in the world, according to the WTC.

Lynn & Liana started as a small family project five years ago in a garage and has since grown to a team of 25 staff. The team designs and hand-makes thousands of eco-friendly trays, cheese boards, and coasters every week. They deliver their products around the world to customers ranging from large department stores to small independent gift boutiques in Dubai, South America, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Africa, Europe, the USA, and Canada.

Funk’s goods have been featured on Good Morning America, The View, Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Buzzfeed, and the Golden Globes.

Jones owns Jones and Company Wine Merchants based in Winnipeg. Jones’ company is Winnipeg’s largest private wine store. The store began as Banville & Jones Wine Co., with Jones and her sister opening shop in south Winnipeg. In the first year of business her sister decided to pursue wine importing and Tina proceeded as the sole proprietor. The company has grown as a destination wine retailer and world-class wine education centre with an award-winning magazine, The Cellar Door. The retail store offers 1,500 wines from around the world.

Jones has been recognized with the Order of Manitoba in 2020. The Order of Manitoba recognizes individuals who have demonstrated excellence and achievement, benefiting in an outstanding manner the social, cultural or economic well-being of Manitoba and its residents. She has also been honoured as a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

“Basically, what they’ll be able to expect is hearing the successes and pinpoints of an entrepreneurial journey shared by Tina, and Melissa will share her experiences as well. They both have backgrounds in different business structures: One being mostly retail import and one being manufacturing export. I think there’s a great pairing there in the sense that Tina has curated items in her boutique that would be a great fit for Melissa. At our previous edition, the two speakers got quite personal and shared who their mentors were and the dos and don’ts of entrepreneurship and when they shut off and don’t think about work. I think it’s fun to hear the personal side of entrepreneurs’ experiences as well,” said Beaudry.

Beaudry said there are steps that entrepreneurs will go through to set up their business but the biggest challenge is picking a business model, getting organized, and having the ideas to sustain a lifestyle. She used Funk as an example of a business that grew into something wonderful.

“We are good family friends with the manufactures of the resin we use, EcoPoxy. Ecopoxy is a manufacturer based out of Morris, and they introduced us to their beautiful, eco-friendly resin,” said Funk, noting she wanted to create something unique and different and using natural products and turning it into home pieces is what gave her the edge in the marketplace.

“They showed us how to design with their resin, and it was love at first sight. We knew we wanted to work with the resin and turn it into functional artwork of some sort, and so we did! We created our cheese boards, started posting on social media and created a website. We quickly found a niche market for our products in gift stores and boutiques and grew quite quickly from there.”

Funk said the biggest lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur is to believe in yourself and your products.

“I never imagined myself being in the role that I am in, as I had never been in business before or gone to university, and yet here I am, loving my role as CEO and growing immensely in it. I have found a new side of myself and really embrace these new strengths that became apparent to me as a leader, all because I was willing to take risks and pushed myself to grow.”

As for advice, Funk said entrepreneurs should focus on what they’re passionate about. Customers will not buy into your company if you’re not passionate about your products, she said. She also recommends using your story which sets you apart from other businesses and draws customers in through that personal connection.

“More and more, people want to buy from something that matters. When you are vulnerable with your customers and team members, you will build trust much quicker, which will then turn into reoccurring sales.”

Not only will the event be educational but Beaudry said it’s a great networking opportunity.

“I know that the group of entrepreneurs that came from Steinbach during our first event ended up meeting people from the federal government, from our organization, from BDC, and different organizations that help entrepreneurs along their journey. And even other entrepreneurs that can kind of share some of their trials and some of their successes. I think there’s huge value in networking like this.”

Funk and Jones will speak from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased at www.wtcwinnipeg.com/events/world-trade-centre-talks/.

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