Kara Morgan is an Elite+ Mompreneur member based out of the GTA. As the COO, Lead Innovator & Process Architect of Plan It! Outsourcing Solutions and PlanIt Solar Blinds, Kara is dedicated to helping others to become more organized and systematic so that their businesses can thrive. We’re happy to share Kara’s Success Story!
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
It was a natural inclination. My immediate and extended family members are very creative, innovative people many of whom are self-employed or work in a field that allows them to be creative. My father is an Engineer and an entrepreneur, my maternal grandfather built and operated the first general store in the village where I was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, my maternal great grandmother was a merchant who traveled to neighboring islands to buy and sell goods, so it’s in my blood.
Since I was in my early teens I would come up with ways to improve products or services that I used almost instinctively. When I joined the workforce, I naturally found ways to improve processes and always found faster ways of doing things.
I started my first business over 20 years ago, after my first son was born. I sold Black History, multicultural and multi-lingual books at events and online out west.
When my 2nd son was born, I started PlanIt! Outsourcing Solutions in 2012 shortly after resigning from a government job which I held for almost 9 years. In 2016, I opened Planit Solar Blinds, a new division which supports our Office Set Up service. Both now and 20 years ago, I needed flexibility in my schedule to raise my son and I wanted to use my skills and innovative nature.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
I really enjoy the flexibility that I can have in my schedule, with my priorities and when or where I choose to work. There’s nothing more enjoyable (from a work perspective) than taking a laptop or tablet to the lakeshore on a quiet weekday and doing work that you love while a warm breeze caresses your skin and an orchestra of birds sing jubilantly in the distance.
I love that I have the freedom to choose who I work with and who my clients are. I also like the fact that my earning potential is based on my performance, skills and knowledge and not some arbitrary or subjective variable.
Above all else, I wanted to set a good example for my boys. I wanted to show them how to dream and stand for something that you believe in. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, whether it be team members or clients. I really enjoy solving problems people may have by showing them an alternative way of looking at things. And lastly, I enjoy all the learning that comes with being an entrepreneur. I have stretched myself in ways that I might not have had I worked for someone.
Can you describe a typical day?
My days are very fluid and dynamic; however, I do certain activities on specific days to support my health, my operations, professional development and marketing.
Activities change from day to day, but my mornings start with getting my son ready for school, dropping him off, returning home, writing five things in my gratitude journal that I’m grateful for, exercising (sometimes I leave this for the nighttime), reviewing my activities and appointments for the day – which may include clients, networking, meetings, phone calls, business development or research. At the end of the day, I pick my son up, look through his agenda for homework or forms, prepare supper while he does some learning activities, he plays a little bit, we eat supper, I bathe him, then bed. After he’s asleep, I come back downstairs, finish eating (I’m a slow eater) and continue working or check social media. Finally, I review the activities for the following day. Before bed, I try to release whatever discouraging things happened in the day.
Who do you count on for help? Do you have a network of family that answer the call?
I’m usually the one people turn to for help so this was a big challenge for me. I had to learn to ‘ask for help’ more often. I have several supports that I use in the community especially when I need a break; my older son is very helpful when he’s not studying, and my mother and sister help out when needed. I’ve had great support from several networking groups that I belong to and some of the seasoned business owners who have walked this path already. I also try to get the most out of government funded organizations and networks that have a wide range of resources and supports for small businesses.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at home for work? Or vice versa?
Of course, on both fronts. Self-employment is for most small businesses ‘precarious employment’. Financial security is usually sacrificed especially in the beginning. Sleep is the other casualty.
I think you have to go into this game realizing that sacrifice is inevitable. Prioritizing becomes critical. I chose this lifestyle so I could be available for my family, but sometimes this means my needs become secondary. Having said that, I know that I’m not useful to anyone if I neglect myself, so I’ve begun building more ‘me’ time into my schedule.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
When you’re self-employed ‘days-off’ are a kind of mythical creature that has only been captured by a chosen few – a unicorn if you will. While you typically get to choose your own working hours, this often means that you are ‘on call’ 24/7. Being really disciplined and setting boundaries are good survival tactics you need to learn sooner rather than later.
When you first begin, days off are often not an option due to financial constraints. So instead of days off, it’s more like ‘time off’ which may mean a few hours here or a break there.
In my business, I don’t work on statutory holidays or PA days when my younger son is home from school. On those days, we may sleep in, chill at home, head to the beach or bike trail or go for a walk somewhere surrounded by a thick canopy of trees, woodland creatures (except snakes), near a lazy creek or river. We love bike riding, hiking and dancing to Latin music and music from the Caribbean (Soca, Reggae). Heck we dance and listen to all kinds of music all the time, even if it isn’t a day off!
Are you active in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
I have been a volunteer in various capacities in my community since I was 16. I have worked in various capacities trying to implement change, justice, equality; advocating for mothers, youth, children; speaking on behalf of the oppressed, marginalized and discriminated. With my older son I was on parent council and with both sons I always volunteer for field trips and try to help out when I can. One of my earliest positions was volunteering for the Provincial government as a Diversity Ambassador.
I’ve been actively involved in the United Way’s Days of Caring event for over 10 years. When I started working for myself, I was able to get directly involved. In the past four years, we’ve planted trees, trained staff to use Excel and most recently volunteered at a women’s shelter organizing food and clothing donations and cleaning.
I’ve also advised and educated dozens of entrepreneurs about processes improvement and efficiency.
I am a big advocate of supporting local businesses so that the money stays in the community and benefits the people in the community. This helps businesses grow allowing them to hire locally which is sometimes critical for families with young children.
Name another entrepreneur who inspires you.
There are too many to name just one. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the big celebrities who have beat the odds but my source of inspiration is my family and extended family.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Growth and expansion for all three businesses locally and internationally. I will continue to develop products that support productivity and efficiency and hope to have several licensing deals within the next five years. We will work with companies offering complementary products or services. And we will expand our reach in local and international communities to support causes that I’m passionate about including protecting women and children from abuse, creating meaningful jobs for youth and the underemployed, protecting the environment and encouraging more women to become the architects of their own destinies by enabling them to be financially independent without sacrificing their families.
Any tips for women thinking of starting a business?
- Know your destination. Simply put, “Begin with the end in mind” to quote the late Stephen Covey, translation – pick your destination, hold on to that vision and always be mindful of what motivated you to choose that vision in the first place. There’s always a catalyst in everyone’s life that forces you to either make a change, refocus, change your perception, shift your paradigm or even walk away. Whatever ‘that’ is for you, keep it in a safe place and revisit it whenever you get discouraged – and you will get discouraged.
- Always have a plan. Planning is 80% of success; it keeps your goals front and center. So, have a plan, a backup plan and a backup plan for your backup plan. Because nine out of 10 times, you will fail on your first few attempts, heck you may fail a whole lot, but failure is only destructive when you fail to learn from it because you will most likely make the same mistake again. So, fail fast, move on, do better and build on your successes. Don’t dwell on what you did wrong, improve on what you did right.
- Ask for help. No one is an expert at everything. Fine tune what you do well and delegate what you don’t.
- Never stop learning. Technology has really level the playing field for many industries. Small businesses can now compete with large conglomerates in ways that were impossible 5-10 years ago. In some cases (not all), technology and process innovations can allow businesses to do things in a fraction of the time it would have taken them in previous years. So you need to educate yourself to stay ahead of the curve.
- Network. Build meaningful relationships in person and online. Whatever challenge you’re going through or experiencing, someone else has been there done that. Someone will have the answer you need.
- Take care of you. You’re no good to anyone if you are just barely getting by physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.