Coffee Chat with Melissa Ramkissoon - President, Office Guardians Inc.
Catching up with Melissa has always been a breath of fresh air! We first met over 10 years ago, in our unmarried days, and what I loved about her was her exciting and candid personality. She was always brimming with new ideas and I left our meet-ups with a smile.
These days our circumstances have changed - we have a lot more responsibilities: families of our own, jobs and businesses plus we're now in different countries - Australia & Canada. However, this coffee chat with Mel brings all the memories flooding back. Over ten years later and she's still brimming with exciting ideas and refreshingly candid! She has also proved that she's not just a dreamer, but also a doer.
If you're an entrepreneur or thinking of starting something exciting, you'll love what Mel has to say.
Hey old friend, what do you do these days?
I am the President of Office Guardians Inc., a company I launched back in October 2014. My company works with businesses and startups to help market their company and services. We work on building websites, create branding, make videos, and develop strategies that help recreate our clients’ businesses. We work with companies from the perspective of being a part of their team; we want them to succeed as much as we want our own company to succeed. To do that we will create a package that lines up with our clients’ budgets and needs. From this we have created new products and procedures to make sure that we can offer everything that they need under one company.
On a personal side of things, I am a mother of two and married to my best friend. We work hard on building the lives that we would like to see for us, and for other people; we’ve done this through being active in our church and working together towards our goals.
What fires you up every morning?
My kids fire me up every morning, partly because I have no choice, and partly because they are really cute. At the end of the day, the motivation to take care of my family fuels me. If I can make their lives better, while making my life better, then I have won. Additionally, coffee helps.
How saturated is your industry and what strategies are helping you secure a market share? Are these strategies working for you?
The marketing industry is very saturated. Especially since we are currently experiencing an economic downturn in Calgary. So we provide marketing services with a twist. Where we offer a wide range of services to help the business owner from the very first step, until completion. We make it simple for our clients to we success in their projects. Currently the strategy is working, we can help from day one of a business to a medium sized company and have the ability to modify as we go. Our new sub-division has really been starting to take off www.howtostartmy.business and we have another sub-division that is coming soon that will help us reach a whole new market.
How do you stay competitive in your industry?
We offer services that are modified for each client and we will go out of our way to add new services that allow our customer to free up even more time.
What does 'Flourishing' mean for you in the context of your life & business?
Flourishing for me, right now, is interchangeable with balance. The more balanced my work and family life are the more I feel like we are flourishing. Running a business and a house is a hard job. So we are putting boundaries in place to help us focus on having better health while we carry so much. We have put blocks of time that are strictly family time, and doing that has made things less stressful. You would think taking time where you are not allowed to work, when you are running a small business would do the opposite, but it has helped us be more productive in the time that we do have. In the future, we are going to have even more going on in our lives, so we are trying to grow thorough this season to prepare us for the next season.
Right now, I have a lineup of babysitters, aunts, neighbours, and access to two day homes (if I want). My goal is to grow my company as big as I can, while being a part of my kids’ lives. So for now, that will mean using my arsenal of helpers to help me try to balance our lives and be with my kids as much as I can.
My day can go from making Valentine’s cards, to having a client meeting, then coming home to make dinner and singing “Twinkle Twinkle” while putting my kids to bed. Let’s just say I drink a lot of coffee and am quick at changing my many hats.
What challenges do you face in your business and how are you approaching them?
There are two challenges that stick out to me when you ask this question. The first is being a mom and raising kids. How do I give them the time they need, but grow a company successfully? There is so much information out there about people who have this same challenge. You have people on one side who say you have to stay home and the other side that says you have to work or do what you want. It can be giant guilt trip, today I feel guilty because I spent too much time with my kids and not enough time working and then the next day it will be, I feel guilty because I spent too much time working and not enough time with the kids. So this is why we are working on balance. It helps to drastically reduce the guilt trips. When I make the decision that it is okay for me to be away from my kids for x hours a week and to work x hours a week, and then I stick to it, it is easier to be present with each activity and that reduces stress.
The other challenge I find is staying on top of the learning curve. As our company grows there are new things we need to tackle and there is always something new for me to learn. Before when I worked for other employers I knew my role and had an initial learning curve and then I settled into the role and everything was good. Now, there is an endless level of learning. Trying to predict what our next needs are going to be and start to learn about that need before it becomes an issue has been helping.
Do you ever get discouraged? How do you overcome this feeling to stay focused?
From what I have learned from other business owners; not only do I, but every business owner gets discouraged. I have moments during the course of a month, where I want to quit and go back to an easy 9-5; but that would take me away from my kids. So when I have those feelings some times I have to push them aside, sometimes I have a coffee, other times I pray about it, or just go and hang out with my kids.
Your top 3 dinner recipes?
- Lasagna & Salad
- Trinidad Stewed Chicken with Red Beans and Rice
- Homemade Pizza, Handmade dough & individually selected ingredients.
What is your advice to a mom/wife wanting to start a new business?
My advice for moms that are wanting to start a business is to take a HUGE breath and do it. Don't over think it, I think a lot of moms get disqualified because the whole process is too daunting. Take it one step at a time. It will be small for awhile but eventually it will grow into what you want it to be. If you have kids that are not in school full-time yet, then my advice is to call all your friends & family (That you trust with your kids), and create a list that has their available schedules. If you can afford childcare then get childcare, if you want time with your kids during the week figure out how much time you are willing to give to your company. Take your new list and see what is going to work best. Can you work evenings and go to networking events? Can you work on Saturday because your product is sold in a market on Saturdays? Make your best plan and then see how it works. I currently have friends, family, two day-homes, a drop in daycare, and a preschool on my list. All to balance the needs of my clients. Your schedule will look different but if you have a solid plan it makes it easier to say yes to clients for meetings and so on.
One thing people don’t know about you?
I competed in a cross-country ski biathlon as a teenager; a couple days after being cleared from having mono; when I had never skied; or shot that style of riffle before.
Three top things that make you feel beautiful?
- I am a redhead, so I have become fond of that feature, as
I have grown older. When I was younger it got me teased, but now I see that everyone wants it.
- Mascara - I can go from looking like I pulled an all-nighter to being ready for a date in one application of mascara.
- Heels - It’s like you go into a business meeting wearing a good set of heels and you can go from being timid to a ball buster.