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Running a business

Pam Robertson has big dreams for her tiny homes

In honour of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias.

Name: Pam Robertson

Location: Port Mellon, BC, Canada 

Business: Sunshine Tiny Homes Ltd.

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What does your business do? 

Sunshine Tiny Homes is a Canadian, female owner-operated, custom tiny home design and build company. We specialize in custom design tiny homes built with impeccable craftsmanship using quality, environmentally friendly materials. Permanent platform foundation or mobile trailer on wheels—our homes are built to CSA standards. 

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

After undertaking a prototype build some years ago and selling it within 12 hours of it being listed for sale, I noticed a great need for minimalistic living that was versatile and affordable. I then applied to the LEAP program and received the People's Choice award in 2017 for my business pitch. Building tiny homes was an opportunity to address many of the Sunshine Coast's housing needs and beyond—and the audience loved it! Tiny homes are not just a trend. Not everybody wants a large home, they just want the “right” home. 

My vision to become a major manufacturer of these homes is a progressive goal. I’m proud to be recognized as a leading tiny home developer on Canada's west coast and my determination to create tiny, sustainable homes continues to be the driver behind my business. I wear many hats and push government policies to catch up with public demand for more viable home options.

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What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?

Essentially, I was on a crash course in entrepreneurship. I had some previous experience with my occupational health and safety consulting company, but that was B2B, and this is a much more involved client-based company. The biggest lesson I had to learn and embrace in the first year was to just have faith that it will all work out. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

The lack of availability in the workforce was a surprise, along with the unforeseen challenges of being a woman business owner in the construction industry.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?

The fundamentals and importance of marketing. I took an online focus group called “Million Dollar Message” run by Aurora Winter, which was a valuable mastermind course that gave me confidence and invaluable support through the beginning stages of my company.

How does running your own business make you feel?

Honestly, most days I feel overwhelmed. You can carry all the knowledge in the world, be an expert in your industry, and still feel like a fish out of water. It is exciting and nerve-wracking all at same time, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner? 

As a small business owner, in the early days you are wearing all of the hats. As your business grows, you have to figure out how to let go of some of those hats, delegate responsibilities, and trust that others can support in those roles to build a successful business. Also, like many other industries, we are challenged by labor shortages.

I will continue to be challenged with bias as a female business owner in a male dominated industry.

What are your proudest moments?

I am most proud when we hit milestones. For example, achieving the goal of CSA certification in several categories. It is a rigorous process and we have passed with flying colors. I am also proud to have been a participant at the The Global Online Tiny House Event and connecting with people on an international level.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

Currently, my biggest plan is to scale up my business, increase our workforce and volume, and to make our houses available across Canada. The other is a dream to build a tiny home community on the Sunshine Coast and give back to the community.

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

Engaging in mentorship programs, support from Community Futures, my drive and determination, as well as approaching work with a solution-based mind set.

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When you are breaking glass ceilings, you are never in a position to take your foot of the gas.

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners?

The struggle to be taken seriously. Another one of the unique challenges female business owners experience is the inability to unabashedly enjoy their accomplishments. When you are breaking glass ceilings, you are never in a position to take your foot off the gas.

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias?

Absolutely! Females in this industry, like in many other male-dominated industries, will continue to forge forward to break down the biases. In my experience working in this industry, I have learned how to gracefully face a lot of opposition, to stand my ground, and to know that I am making the best decisions for my company because I have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to guide me.

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry?

It isn’t for the faint of heart. If you don’t already have thick skin, you will grow one. And you can do it! Whatever your dream is, you can achieve it.

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business?

Just like pregnancy, there is never a perfect time. Don’t be afraid to reach out to ask for help or guidance. Surround yourself with like-minded business women like THE FORUM and Women’s Entrepreneurial Networks. Mentorship is invaluable. Believe that whatever you focus on will become a reality. Look for network organizations that are specifically designed for women, and engage with local businesswomen.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

Deoji, my dog. He’s a big, loveable, golden retriever who gets me out in nature and we decompress together. 

How can female business owners support one another and their community?

Engage in organizations such as PowHerHouse, SEWN (Sunshine Coast Entrepreneurial Women’s Network), stay active within your community, attend events, gather with local business owners, and refer customers to other businesses in support.

To learn more about Sunshine Tiny Homes and to support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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