College helps entrepreneur move from Sesame Street to Queen Street
For many years, Barbara Stewart held a dream job as a professional business librarian with Sesame Workshop in New York City — the one responsible for the classic children’s program Sesame Street. Then real life interfered.
Sun Media news service
Barbara Stewart, 59, opened Adornments on Queen while completing two continuing education small business courses at George Brown College. Photo by Matthew Plexman.
“With the market crash, this not-for-profit lost almost 50% of its endowment and had to lay off one-third of the staff,” Stewart says. “As a result, I was forced to return to Canada immediately since I was on a NAFTA visa. When I returned home, I couldn’t find a job posting that suited my specialty or my experience.”
After three months of unemployment, and facing no prospects, 59-year-old Stewart began to consider a career shift. That career shift quickly morphed into the pursuit of a dream — opening her own shop. Unfortunately, she had no experience in retail and (more importantly) no experience operating her own business. So she formulated a plan: go back to school.
“George Brown’s continuing education course calendar and website convinced me that this was the best solution in order to prepare myself,” she says. “That the campus was walking distance from my home in Toronto and the courses were at night were added bonuses.”
Stewart registered for Starting a Small Business and Developing a Business Plan — and was suddenly back in school for the first time in almost 30 years.
“I was terrified of entering the classroom environment again,” she admits. “But that was soon relieved by the character of the instruction, my own excitement and the thrill of learning itself, which has always motivated me. The teachers showed personal interest and attention to every student’s plans and encouraged participation so that we could learn from, and be inspired by, each other’s projects. After the first few classes, I was returning home with high energy and anticipation for the next session.”
That high energy was definitely put to good use. While she was still taking classes, Stewart took her dream of business ownership one step further when she purchased a mixed-use retail–residential building. She started applying her lessons immediately.
“The material in both courses was applied directly to my planning of the store on a daily, ongoing basis,” Stewart says. “Having been out of the country since 1983, I had no idea of the wealth of resources available to small business owners or the legal and institutional parameters that could, and would, impact my planning. My work plan and checklists were, in large part, developed directly from class instruction and discussion.”
Her approach — to learn and do simultaneously — has paid off. She officially opened Adornments on Queen (a décor, accessories and gift shop and tea bar) on May 29, 2010.
“All of this was in the planning stages prior to my registering, but it came to fruition as I took my courses,” she says. “The course work and advice from my instructors carried me each step forward.”
Adornments on Queen Ltd.
338 Queen St. E. (@Parliament) Toronto M5A 1S8