Louise Pickles has dedicated her career to the culinary industry, gaining experience in hotels, resorts, and various small businesses. Her inspiration to begin her first brand, Pickles Pantry, stemmed from her time working at a charcuterie shop. After achieving success with her first entrepreneurial endeavour, Louise was eager to expand. She teamed up with her husband, Aaron Walsh, and coffee roaster, Dana Meiner, to open a second business, Hank’s Cowichan. A go-to spot for freshly made pastries, sweet treats, and coffee, Hank’s provides an assortment of provisions, including cheeses, and charcuterie crafted by Pickles’ Pantry.
While Louise and her business partners had invested their own money into startup costs and construction for Hank’s, they quickly realized that additional funding would be required to purchase equipment. Louise got in touch with WeBC to access the Business Loan Program for Women Entrepreneurs.
“WeBC has been super helpful; the program was easy for me. Getting a little bit of funding from WeBC at the end just gave us the ability to finish purchasing equipment and get our doors open. Without that, we would have been looking at borrowing more money through other institutions so we were really grateful for the support.”
Q: What made you want to start a business?
A: My partner and I shared a deep love for cooking. We had always dreamed of creating something of our own that would allow us to share our culinary creations with the world. We also saw an opportunity in our local community for the type of food and baked goods we wanted to offer.
What truly pushed us to start our business was the desire for a more flexible and fulfilling lifestyle. We wanted to have more control over our work, our time, and our future. The combination of our passion for food and the need for a flexible lifestyle got us here today.
Now that I have Hank’s, I feel like this is where I was always meant to be. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the rewards are irreplaceable.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur?
A: That there’s an answer to most problems. Everything can feel overwhelming when you’re in the moment of dealing with problems.
When they come up, it can feel like it’s too much and you can feel like you’re not going to get there. But I’m learning as we go along that actually we will figure them out, and we can do it.
There are a lot of days where we feel like we’re winning and we’re getting it. And there are a lot of days where we’re overwhelmed and it’s too much. We’re wondering how to make this work with our lives and our children and all of our personal things going on. But if you’re smart about your choices and you take your time and you assess the situation, most things are achievable.
Q: What were the specific challenges you faced that the loan helped you overcome?
A: During construction, we encountered unexpected challenges, like water and sewer upgrades and additional plumbing work. These unforeseen issues required extra funding and threatened to delay our opening.
The loan we received came in at just the right time, helping us overcome these hurdles and ensuring we could open our doors as planned.
Q: How does your community play a role in your business’ success?
A: We wouldn’t be where we are today without the community’s unwavering support. Our regular customers, many of whom have become friends, have sustained us daily. We’ve also benefited from networking with other local businesses and entrepreneurs. In our close-knit community, there’s always someone willing to help, offer advice, or provide solutions when we encounter challenges.
Our community is a priority for us and we consider it a two-way street. Whether it’s sourcing local products, collaborating with neighbouring businesses, or supporting events, we make an effort to reinvest in the community that has supported us.
Q: If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business, what would it be?
A: Do your homework, and then do it again. Building and running a business can be challenging, and there’s always more to learn than you expect. Research thoroughly, listen to experienced voices, and be open to asking for help. Building a strong support network is just as important as having a great idea. With the right knowledge and support, you can overcome obstacles and make your business a success.
Where to find Hank’s Cowichan