For Katy Bailey and Dave McGregor of Katrine, the decision to expand their part-time business into their livelihood could not have come at a better time. In the space of two weeks, Katy had decided to quit her full-time job and Dave had been let go from his 10-year job.
"I was on maternity leave and I decided to stay home and run the garbage business from there," Katy said. "Then Dave lost his job. It was a scary time."
With one roll-off truck, a few bins and a flatbed, the husband and wife team decided to expand by purchasing a local septic business that was for sale. Northern Sanitation and Disposal then became a full-time operation.
"We found that people wanted one-stop shopping when we just had the garbage side because they wanted toilets as well," Katy said. "With the septic business, we had a licence to haul sewage so we started out with 10 portable toilets."
Since then, the business has grown to include 175 portable toilets (five different styles), 14 garbage bins, two roll-off trucks for the bins, one septic truck, two portable toilet trucks, and a trailer to haul toilets and other material for clients.
Dave is also a licensed septic installer, although he hasn't done any yet. By making themselves more knowledgeable, they can assist their customers, most of whom are seasonal, in maintaining their septic systems.
"The business keeps growing and I can't believe how big we have gotten over the past five years," Katy said. "Trying to keep up with demand is the hardest thing to do now."
While Dave does the manual work along with a seasonal employee, Katy is the face of the business and does sales, promotion, advertising, accounting and handles the phone calls.
"It's hard being a young, female entrepreneur, with a young daughter," she said. "Sometimes when I go out and represent the business to male contractors, I am young and they look at me and I know they are wondering if I can actually fulfill the promises I am making.
"When I get phone calls, usually they ask to speak to the owner who they assume is a man. I tell them I am the owner."
The couple is dedicated to the business and they put everything back into it, forgoing many material luxuries. Their weekends are spent "on call" in case they are needed at a site and they can't always rely on a regular paycheque. They maintain their own trucks and look at it as time spent together as a family.
"You have to figure out what is important," Katy said. "I don't have a flat screen TV but I get to raise my daughter at home. She understands money doesn't grow on trees and I think she is learning a good work ethic from both of us."
A break for the couple is having a barbecue at home together.
"It's what we enjoy and I know our friends who are our age don't do what we do since they have regular jobs. But we do attend a pumper show in Kentucky every year to learn more about the industry and find new ways to make our business more green," she said.
Katy goes to all the events and helps set the portables up, since she believes putting a face to the business is important.
She can also address their needs and ensure everything is done right away.
"Customer service is so important. I was raised to be polite to people," she said.
When companies start small and then grow, she sometimes finds that customer service can suffer.
"I am the one who answers the phone so I know exactly what is going on," Katy said. "Whether it's an event with one portable or 50, everyone will get treated the same."
The business was able to offer its services during the G8 Summit in Muskoka, the Olympic Torch Relay, a pond hockey tournament and an annual Iron Man Triathlon. It caters to weddings, events and services construction sites.
"Some days I think I wish I had a regular job and guaranteed paycheque but I think owning my own business has made me smarter," Katy said. "I see how hard Dave and I work and what we are doing for our family and it feels good. Getting recognition for what we do is so important for us and tells us what we are doing is right."