Early in her twenties on a Friday night shift at a bulk health food store, a coworker took Daina Bull under her wing and shared everything she knew about the healing power of supplements and foods. It was the beginning of a lifelong career and passion for Bull, and after eventually buying her own natural health products store—Anna’s Vitamin’s Plus—she found herself hoping for the same kind of mentorship in running a business.
“Here I’d had this great mentor to guide me in learning about vitamins and healthy lifestyles, and I had people to encourage me along the way, but I wanted to develop my management and leadership skills and I didn’t have the same kind of mentor for that,” says Bull. She bought Anna’s Vitamin’s Plus in 2004 after moving to Vernon from Salmon Arm, where she’d spent six years working at two health food stores.
“I was here looking at what was out there and saw the ad that Anna’s was for sale,” says Bull. “My husband at the time said, ‘You do all of that for someone else.’ I ended up buying it and never looked back.”
Named after the previous owner’s mother, Anna’s was located in an 800 square foot space in Vernon Square, “a door amongst many doors,” says Bull, who soon bought a converted house on 27th Street and instantly doubled the store’s size. Anna’s carries everything from supplements to help with sleep and immunity to bulk herbs and natural shampoo bars.
Early on and over the years, Anna’s grew a loyal following of customers who appreciate the store’s extraordinary customer service and array of bulk and local natural products. In 2006, Daina gave birth to a daughter who “grew up in the store” (and is now a part-time team member). That flexibility was a bonus, says Bull, but being a new mom and new owner of a business “didn’t leave a lot of time for management courses.”
“I had lots of education in the field and I was great in customer service, but in running a business, I was kind of winging it.”
By 2021, a year after the onset of all the business challenges that came with COVID and a desire to take her business to the next level, Bull went out looking for help, and found it in Momentum—the business accelerator program for women run by Community Futures North Okanagan. Through funding, learning and peer mentorship, Momentum helps growth-minded entrepreneurs who are motivated to realize their business’s potential.
“I wanted to grow my business and get some guidance, and I just didn’t know how to go about it.”
Just a few weeks into the program, which takes participants through core sessions that focus on defining values, goals and opportunities as well as steps such as formalizing processes and employee contracts, Bull was seeing the difference.
“There’s running a business and doing everything, and then there’s managing a business and working smarter. This was a time of asking hard questions and getting the encouragement that I needed. We’d been this ‘mom and pop shop,’ but we were getting bigger and needed guidelines in place in order to grow.”
Through the Momentum funding for business development, Bull soon tackled one of her biggest business opportunities yet: launching an online store. The timing was ideal. The online shopping habits developed during COVID had spilled over, and people liked having the chance to do their ‘homework’ ahead of popping into the store or being able to order and get curbside pickup.
“As a whole people are thinking so much more about their health now, so going online and meeting that need was an ideal opportunity. I realized through Momentum that I don’t want to be bigger, I want to be better. This was part of that. Behind the scenes, I’m able to run the business much more smoothly.”
And when there are bumps, there are other women to share in the struggles and inspiration through peer mentorship calls.
“You realize, ‘I’m not the only one’ getting hit with things. It’s been so great to have the ideas and suggestions and support of the group. The motivation is huge: It’s holding me accountable in some of the things I want to do.”
What would she say to other women entrepreneurs considering joining Momentum?
“Truly, it’s that support of not doing it alone, having that guidance. We all share our experiences we save each other some headaches.”
Interested in finding out if Momentum is for you? Learn more about the benefits of this unique business accelerator for women and apply.