There are not a lot of business people in Golden, or anywhere else for that matter, who can say they have been self employed for 15 years, and are still going strong.
Isabelle Simard, owner of Numbers & Letters, started building up bookkeeping clients 15 years ago, and has never looked back.
Originally from Quebec City, Simard moved to the Rockies after falling in love with the area during a student exchange.
“I came to Banff for the summer after my first year of university, and I never left,” said Simard. “I loved it. It was a way to let the world come to me. If you can’t see the world, let the world come to you.”
Working at the youth hostel, she moved her way up the ranks, and within a few years she was the general manager.
“Every time I got promoted, the books got promoted with me. Even as general manager I always did the books. I just had a knack for it,” she said.
In her late 20s, Simard started a family and parted ways with the youth hostel with a new computer, and the Simply Accounting program. After teaching herself to use it, she found that a few acquaintances needed some help with their bookkeeping and taxes.
“Within a year I already had four or five clients,” she said.
Pregnant with her second child, Simard jumped on the opportunity to purchase some property out in the Blaeberry, and fell in love with the area. She kept her clients in Canmore, travelling back when she needed to, but Simard had to find a way to grow her business in Golden.
“I really needed to kickstart my business, so I put three ads in the paper – one for bookkeeping, one for house cleaning, and one for babysitting. Anything to get work,” said Simard.
“My friend Tracy Prather, saw the three ads in the paper and thought, that poor woman must really need some work. She was doing some work, bookkeeping for the physio clinic, and she needed help with Simply Accounting. She called, we became instant friends, and have been friends ever since. It’s been 15 years.”
Through word of mouth, Simard’s business took off from there. And within a few years, working from home, she was too busy and was actually turning away business.
“I decided to take the plunge and become incorporated. So that’s when we became Numbers & Letters,” she said.
Simard, with some help from her friend, neighbour, and receptionist Anne Galligan, was able to purchase some office space on 9th Street South, where she still is today.
“There were so many people who helped me, but I call her (Galligan) my angel in business,” said Simard.
After 15 years in business, Simard has learned a thing or two.
“If you’re going to be self-employed, you have to love what you do. You’re going to do it until you’re blue in the face, and even when you hate it, you still have to do it,” she said.
“You have to be really conscious of what you’re going to be good at, and what you’re not. And if you’re not good at it, give it to somebody else. For me, I’m good at the numbers, but not at marketing. So if I want to update my website, I get someone else to do it.”
And one thing Simard has learned, especially in the last year, is to always appreciate what you have. After a dog attack put her in the hospital in Calgary last April, Simard was overwhelmed by the community support.
“I took a hit last year, and people are telling me that I survived it so well, but that’s why. I was in the hospital 12 days in Calgary, and there was not one single day that I did not get a visitor. It’s a beautiful community.”
Simard has done what she can to give back to the community, volunteering on the boards of Community Futures and the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce.
And she is always conscious of the people who have helped her get to where she is, and the lessons she has learned along the way.
“Surround yourself with good people in business, men and women. Love what you do, because you’re going to do it forever. Don’t get too emotional, be careful taking things personally. That’s a hard one to learn.”