Kanako Heinrichs has worked as an interpreter and as an administrative assistant, but it’s her current position that’s most promising.
Heinrichs runs a business. She founded her company, Queensberry Flower Company, in 2009 when she opened a Tokyo-style flower shop in the Granville SkyTrain station, followed by a second location in the Yaletown station in 2011.
“We sell Tokyo-style flowers, which is all about cute, pop design. So it’s not the very conventional style. We specialize in pre-made, cute bouquets and sell them at our kiosks in the stations,” she said. “Our shops are located inside the stations so it’s easy for people to get to on their way home of whenever they’re going out.”
Price points are $5, $10, $15 and $25. The company also does flowers for weddings.
The 31-year-old’s business inspiration came from travelling on the SkyTrain, coupled with a desire for a career she’s truly interested in.
“I was using the station as a commuter. I wanted to bring something more exciting to the station because I’m from Tokyo where people shop inside the stations and a lot of things are happening in the subway stations. Here, I didn’t see anything so I wanted to start something new,” Heinrichs said, adding, “I was laid off a couple of times and decided that instead of trying to get a job that I’m not interested in I’m just going to completely change my approach and do what I wanted to do.”
Heinrichs studied visual arts at the University of Alberta, where she enjoyed working with colours and composition, and holds a floral design diploma from an institute in New Westminster.
Queensberry Flower Company now has five staff, business is going well, and Heinrichs wants to expand the chain. That’s where a new business initiative comes in.
She’s one of 10 female entrepreneurs in a five-month long Vancity Community Foundation pilot program called Women Entrepreneurs: Financing Opportunities for Growth Project.
Funded by Status of Women Canada, it’s aimed at helping women develop business growth plans using one-on-one business coaching. Participants, who had to show they were positioned for growth, were selected in June.
Each has been assigned a business coach and, at the end of the program, they’re encouraged to make a business plan presentation and financing pitch to a panel of Vancity account managers and other financiers. Participants aren’t guaranteed financing—that decision will be on the merits of their business.
Project lead Joanne Norris said coaching is providing entrepreneurs with guidance and support to help them develop a plan and think about the kind of financing that makes sense.
“Our hope is with that kind of support, as well as some support in terms of group engagement and being able to talk about some of the barriers they may have growing their businesses, this will help get them through to that next level.”
More women than men start businesses in Canada, yet more men grow them.
“We’re very entrepreneurial as women, but we tend to keep our businesses smaller from both a revenue and an HR perspective. That’s fine. A lot of women, and men, too, are creating a job for themselves, not necessarily building a business, but there are those that want to go to that next level,” Norris said.
Heinrichs is pleased to be part of the pilot.
“To me, that’s something that I really need—to talk to somebody and work with somebody to plan how I can grow my business, what it is that I need to do or which part of the business I need to grow,” she said. “To determine that, I just needed to have somebody to talk to—somebody professional.”