Success stories

Success Stories

Community Futures is pleased to showcase some of the many good news stories in rural Alberta. Everyday we help people like you start and grow successful small businesses.

Curious Owl Daycare

Alyssa Shaw-Letouneau
Lethbridge, AB


Alyssa Shaw-Letourneau was a teacher about to begin working on her second degree when she ran into a slight glitch; there were no childcare openings available. So what was she to do with her youngest child?  Her improbable response was to open up her own daycare to fulfill the demand for good quality childcare required within the City.

The mother of four has her Bachelor degree in Elementary Education and thought it all made sense.  She became curious about business and started attending the Community Futures Chinook Challenge sessions to learn about business plan development and opportunities for financial support.   The sessions started the ball rolling and it never stopped.  “The Staff at Community Futures were great to work with” Alyssa explains, “They answered my questions, supported me as I worked my way through the learning process.”

And there was a lot to learn about the business side of owning a daycare.  Child care licensing, government regulations, health codes, building inspections and the list continued.  Alyssa thought that operating a daycare would be a lot like teaching, but it felt more like taking on the role of a school superintendent as she wrote policies, developed budgets, retained staff, made projections, generated her marketing strategy plus created a healthy menu of hot lunches with a morning and afternoon snack for the children in her care.

Once a viable location was found the business became a community affair. Parents and staff previewed the location, offered suggestions, and helped with moving and set-up.  Her two teenage children also helped paint, clean and move furniture into the new location.  “We have all made contributions to make this business a success,” Alyssa proudly states.

In May 2013, Curious Owl Daycare opened its doors at 1206 - 3 Avenue South, to provide childcare for 38 children while the parents go to work.  The daycare employs six full time childcare workers and a part-time cook.  The children range in age from 12 months to five years.

Alyssa explains, “I saw the need and it became the focus.  I wanted to create a childcare experience like I would want for my own children. I wanted a clean facility with professional staff.  I wanted to provide age appropriate development opportunities for the children and I wanted to focus on literacy so I incorporated a lot of reading, singing and language skills into the daily program. “

Alyssa is grateful for the opportunity to work with Community Futures Lethbridge Region as she transitioned from teacher to entrepreneur.

“I have no regrets; I enjoy playing with the children and fostering their creativity.  We build block towers; play with flubber, sing, read, and laugh.  It’s a busy place, but when nap time comes around things are calm and peaceful.”

Alyssa smiles with satisfaction as she reflects on the journey she has begun.  The only thing she is sure of at this stage of the game is “it’s never the same day twice.”

Umami

Patricia Luu, Alex Luu and Sven Roeder
Lethbridge, AB


The ideas for the Umami Shop developed over time between siblings and friends while all were living abroad as young professionals working in the fast paced corporate world.  Although their work histories were diverse, they all agreed they were good at one thing – food; they all loved food!  But they wanted the concept to be different; to challenge the norm, to be original and eventually in 2009 the UMAMI Shop concept was first born in Chalon-sur Saône, France. And then in 2013 Umami Shop Canada, in Lethbridge, AB.

“Everybody eats”, states co-owner Patricia Luu as she described the thought process around the business concepts. “We grew up with organic, natural food that we cooked for ourselves.  Our parents owned the Asian Supermarket in North Lethbridge and they ensured we knew how to cook, to understand ingredients and mostly the importance of freshness and that is what we bring to UMAMI Shop.”

Umami is used to describe food that is “delicious” and was discovered by a Japanese professor, explains Patricia. “It expresses the deliciousness of food; the pairing of food to please the palette.” “We focus on fresh healthy products. We broke the global norm, and placed our kitchen at the front of the store. The Chef prepares the food; show cases the ingredients while the client watches. It is completely transparent, open and visual,” explains Patricia. The menu incorporates local ingredients, the customer observes, tries the flavours and can buy the ingredients at the store and then can go home to recreate, to play.”

“Our mission is to offer our customers a world food experience that supports our philosophy of eat, play, and laugh. Together.”  At UMAMI Shop the happiness is bringing people together to enjoy food.

The Umami Shop offers a lunchtime menu, a bakery, a deli, fresh local produce, a global grocery boutique, catering, as well as cooking classes in the evening.  The business caters to fresh food, prepared daily.  There are over 6,000 products in the shop with a diverse ethnic variety.

The three partners of UMAMI Shop, Patricia Luu, Alex Luu and Sven Roeder bring their own unique experiences to the business and the group has learned to leverage their skills to complement the success of the commercial adventure.  The opportunity arose to work with Community Futures and the business partners chose to take it.  Patricia stated “Community Futures took us seriously, they believed in us and helped us with the perspective of local business.  The business sessions help us understand the process of financially starting our business and the people were easy to work with.”

Umami Shop Canada employs a staff of ten.  “Our crew is amazing” beams Patricia. “They know all aspects of the business and are motivated by the everyday activity.”  Everyone believes in eating fresh, being healthy, understanding food and educating others about the food products in the shop.  “At first, one of our biggest business challenges was the hiring, but once we were open, people came to us.  They loved the new concept and wanted to be part of it.”

Patricia’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to seek and understand the opportunities in the community and take advantage of them for you never know where they may lead you.  “Then duplicate yourself” emphasizes Patricia. “Share what you learned and success comes back in folds.  It is about community and bringing people together.”

UMAMI Shop creates a space to eat, play and laugh while you enjoy fresh food, wonderful aromas and even a café latte if that is what your palate desires.

A new concept, new experiences, new adventures combine to make a savory taste of success by three young entrepreneurs doing what they love. 

UMAMI Shop
814-4 Ave South
Lethbridge, Alberta

Bikram Yoga Lethbridge

Liana Suriano
Lethbridge, AB


“You asked for it; we built it” is Liana Suriano’s promotional statement when talking about her beautiful Bikram Hot Yoga studio located on WT Hill Blvd. South Lethbridge.  You can hear the pride in her voice when she explains the in-depth planning and preparation completed to make the space a state of the art facility.   The studio opened in April 2013 and has already had over 1500 patrons come through the door.  The Studio employs three full time instructors and two part-time receptionists.

It took two and half years for Liana to find a landlord who would work within her design parameters and modify the building structure to exactly what she wanted for her patrons. 

“I was told by Community Futures I had an excellent business plan and I had done all my market research to back it up so I knew my vision was attainable,” Liana explains.  It was her clear vision that kept her focused through the continuous search for the right location.

 “Others had tried to open a hot yoga studio in Lethbridge and gave up when met with the studio design challenges, and their stories simply motivated me to continue.  I knew I was going to create exactly what I wanted and what the community asked for,” she ardently explains.   Her passion for her business is captivating.

Liana was introduced to ‘hot yoga’ while attending the University of Alberta completing her teaching degree.  She speaks of the stress of working part-time while being a full time student. “I have experienced my product and I know the lifestyle health benefits that can happen.”

Not only is Liana passionate about the yoga, she also loves teaching.  She came from an entrepreneurial background, “My parents owned a restaurant in Lethbridge and I remember sitting on my mother’s knee as she did the books.” Through her parents, she learned what it takes to run a successful business although being a small business owner was not her initial intent while completing her education.  However, the concept of the studio brought all three of her passions together and she considers herself fortunate.

Her family history taught her about business finances and her introduction to Community Futures Lethbridge Region helped her obtain the financial security to move her business plan forward.    With financing in place, planning, commitment and determination brought the long-awaited vision to fruition.

Her business journey was challenging, but she was never disheartened.  “My goal was to create an environment for all levels of ability, to create exactly what my patrons were asking for,” she states. 

Liana’s commitment to her community comes from her heart.  “I have done all I can possibly do to get the business going.  Now I have to let the business take its course.”

She lives what she teaches; be calm, breathe and be in your own stillness. 

Website: bikramyogalethbridge.com 

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Community Futures Lethbridge Region
2626 South Parkside Drive
Lethbridge, AB T1K 0C4

403-320-6044

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Communities Served

Barons, 
Blood Band Reserve, 
Broxburn, 
Coaldale, 
Coalhurst, 
Del Bonita, 
Diamond City, 
Iron Springs, 
Kipp, 
Lethbridge, 
Magrath, 
Monarch, 
Nobleford, 
Raymond, 
Shaughnessy, 
Spring Coulee, 
Stand Off, 
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Tempest, 
Turin, 
Welling, 

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