Welteg: a Buyers Club Turned into a Web Shop and Retail Store
Anna Isaac is a Mi’gmaq entrepreneur in Listuguj, who with her spouse Frank Brisk, owns Welteg, an e-shop and brick and mortar store. In business for some years now, Anna has a very inspiring entrepreneurial path which shows the positive impact that mentorship can have in the life of a person.
Anna left her community at the age of 15 to study in Toronto where she graduated from high school and then university. She resided and worked there for about fourteen years, returning several times every year to visit her family in Listuguj.
While living in Toronto, Anna worked for a number of different companies that provided opportunities for mentorship by both entrepreneurs and executives. With their support and guidance she learned how to maintain the books and records of an enterprise, manage human resources, etc. However, she had never considered becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, it was something that frightened her a little, and for that reason, she always preferred working for other people rather than being her own boss.
The beginnings of her entrepreneurial venture
In 2010, she returned to her home community after the death of her parents in a car accident where she took on the responsibility of guardianship of her younger brothers. The following years were very challenging financially and taught her the importance of managing cash flow very carefully. In 2012 she met her spouse Frank Brisk who is both a crab fisherman and an artist. In 2013, to help make ends meet, she and her spouse started to sell beadwork and baked goods such as cannolis made by Anna, and the wood burning portraits and paintings made by Frank at local farmers markets and pow wows. For their first pow-wow, all they had was one single stand displaying several pairs of earrings and one wood burning to raffle. Unbeknownst to them at the time, it was the beginning of something greater, that one day they would own a thriving business.
Anna noticed that many people were lining up to buy soft blankets for very high prices at a Christmas market in 2014 and decided to try to source them directly from China just once so that she could have a blanket for herself for a lower price, without the intent of becoming a reseller. After an extensive search she found a manufacturer in China that made the blankets she was looking for, however, the project required an investment of $10 000 from her own savings, and this made her a little nervous. Rather than paying the order costs on her own, she came up with the idea of launching a Buyers Club in Listuguj. She then created a pamphlet announcing that she was going to order blankets, and people had between three to four weeks to pre-order their blankets at the cost of $50 for a queen size blanket and $60 for a king size blanket, which represented less than half of their market value. Four to six weeks later, the blankets were delivered in containers and people were able to pick up their orders from her driveway. At that point, all the activities of the Buyers Club were conducted through a Facebook Page.
A prospective enterprise
The activities of the Buyers Club gradually evolved, so much so that, around 2015, they started to think that perhaps there was a potential for business development. They officially took the great step in 2016, by creating Welteg, which means “nice” in Mi’qmaq, a name that was chosen because so many people described their products and their way of doing business as ‘welteg’. They started with just a pop-up shop for pow wows and other events, adding a website and e-shop in 2018 and a brick and mortar store in 2019. They continue to participate in different events to sell their products and build brand recognition and loyalty while offering options such as free shipping in their e-store to encourage online purchases. Given that the company now generates revenues, the Buyers Club is no longer required to build capital for large imports, however, on at least two occasions during the year, particularly before Christmas, she continues to offer buy-ins because it’s her way to help a great number of people in the community by providing excellent value for their holiday gift giving.
When she launched her business, Anna’s only product was blankets, but now it’s possible to buy blankets, wallets, purses, jewellery, beads, leather, etc.; she aims to stock her e-shop with a perfect mixture of more traditional pieces and others featuring modern styling. In order to encourage her clientele to visit her e-shop on a regular basis, she tries to ensure that new items are added frequently and that customer requests and feedback are treated with great importance.
Sharing her knowledge and experience
Although the company is doing well, Anna and her spouse continue to work in their respective fields. For the past 6 years, Anna has been teaching part time in the fields of entrepreneurship, accounting, and business administration for the local vocational training institute and providing bookkeeping services to several local businesses. The schedule is perfect for her, because she is able to look after her three children and her business in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and keep books in the evenings. By retaining their jobs, they can also ensure that all profits made by Welteg are reinvested in the business, promoting growth and expansion.
When told that her business and the work accomplished is impressive, she doesn’t hesitate to emphasize that before getting where she is today, she went through many difficult years of trying different business models and methods. In her view, many people who wish to go into business expect to succeed and become profitable rapidly and are not prepared for the early years, which can be the most difficult. She therefore shares her story with her students, community members, and anyone else who approaches her for help so that she can better prepare them for the realities of entrepreneurship. A firm believer that a great part of her success can be attributed to the mentors who were generous enough to share their knowledge and experience with her, she makes sure that she gives back by doing the same for new entrepreneurs. In closing, when asked what advice she would give to people interested in going into business, Anna replies without hesitation: be patient, work hard and be realistic about your expectations while making educated and informed decisions.
To discover other projects and initiatives led by women, we invite you to visit our women entrepreneurship section.