004 Keeping the Dream Alive

Posted by Kyle Williamson-Fox on

Always keep your dreams alive. 
And keep them coming true.
- Cheryl J. Barclay


From nine years old to the end of high school, I seriously wanted to play in the NBA. No policeman, astronaut, businessman, fire fighter, or doctor for this guy; pro-basketball was all I ever thought of "career-wise" when I was a kid.

It wasn't about the money or fame, it was the simple fact that it was the one and only thing I loved doing. I knew everything about basketball and I played any chance I got; rain or shine. It was the first thing I became passionately obsessed with.

Even though she didn't teach me how to play, my mom made sure that I had the best gear and basketball shoes available. She would say: "you got to dress for success." I got to play in basketball leagues and go to camps in the summer even though we didn't really have the money for it because she knew I loved it so much. She wanted to keep my passion and dream alive. 

Unfortunately, I didn't really know what it took to make the NBA. Even though I was a great shooter, the rest of my game never developed. So my hoop dreams slowly dwindled in the twilight of my high school career. C'est la vie. 

In my senior year, I had to choose what I wanted to study in university. My mom was adamant that I get a post-secondary education but I had no idea what I could do for a living. All I ever wanted was to be a basketball player! 

Needing to choose a direction, I was really struggling. Then I thought if I couldn't play basketball, maybe I could coach it. But how the heck do you become a coach?

I asked my mom, "how do I become a professional basketball coach?". She didn't really know how to answer but quickly made the connection that coaches are great teachers. "Maybe you could become a gym teacher and get into coaching that way. You would be a fabulous teacher!" 

She was once again keeping my dream alive or whatever was left of it because I thought it was a pretty darn good idea. I was excited about it. 

I graduated teacher's college in 2011 and as you can tell, I didn't become a one for a couple of reasons. 

First being, I figured it was going to be very difficult to get a full-time gig right away because there was a major shortage of jobs. It would be a while until I found something permanent.

The second reason and probably the bigger reason was, I had just gone through teacher's college and discovered how much went into being a teacher.  It's an unbelievable amount of dedication and hard work and didn't think I was ready to give it my all. In my opinion, teacher's are severely underpaid for what they do. 

I can hear it now from the non-teachers out there: "Ya, but teachers get all this free time with weekends, holidays, march break and summers off!"

They certainly do, but I believe if you want to give your students the best experience possible and inspire them to be their best, you take that "free time" to become a better teacher by further educating yourself. You owe it to the children and the school that employs you. I had just finished a five-year undergrad and one year of teachers college and just thought to myself, I'm not ready or mature enough to make that kind of commitment. 

I know it's a lot of money to spend on an education that i'm not necessarily using at the moment but I do plan to go into teaching one day. Once again, thanks to my mom, this dream is still a possibility. She told me, I should keep paying the yearly fee to be on the Ontario College of Teachers and when i'm ready, I can get back into it. 

In the meantime though, she has helped me realize another passion and dream of mine: building and running a business. It's so difficult some days but everything about it has been absolutely worth it because of the experience I have gained and I have her to thank. It's like i've gone to school all over again from what I have learned.

Thanks Mom. I love you. Happy Mother's Day. 

- Kyle






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003 Please Wait, You Will Get Your Pillows

Posted by Kyle Williamson-Fox on

The value of an idea lies in the using of it.

- Thomas Edison


Back in April 2011, I had just graduated Teacher's College from University of Western Ontario. I couldn't apply for any jobs until the summer and the odds of me getting something were slim-to-none. All of you teachers out there know that it's near impossible to snag a teaching job right out of school so I began my search for a summer job. 

My sisters, Linzi and Rayelle, had a spare room for me in their downtown Toronto apartment in the Queen and Broadview area; a street over from Degrassi.

Shout-out to the east end as I don't think that it gets enough love! It's less hustle and bustle with a pace and vibe that's just cool and easy-going. Also, it's close enough to the downtown core that you don't feel too far from the rest of the city. To this day, I still get the heart-warming feelings of nostalgia welling up in me when I visit the area. 

My living quarters were awesome but my job search sucked. There was nothing out there that got me excited to work for the summer and possibly beyond since I had a better chance at making the NBA than getting a teaching job in September. 

So I did what any other broke kid with no job does. I called Mom (Pia). I asked her if she knew of anyone looking to hire a poor student out of school.  

In between her entrepreneurial ventures, Pia has been a contractual accountant, mainly specializing in bankruptcies. At the time, she had just been hired on to dissolve a company in Markham that designed and distributed home decor across North America. With bankruptcies, comes collections. She figured I could help in this area so I started the following week! 

I did my part calling, emailing, and following up with businesses that had past-due invoices that needed to be paid ASAP. As you may have guessed, calling a complete stranger and asking for them to pay an outstanding bill is not exactly fun. People cussed at me, hung up on me, or just straight-up lied to me with some of the lamest excuses you've ever heard. Again, wasn't the most fun, but beggars can't be choosers - I had a job and it was helping out my mom with hers. 

Later into the summer, I was assigned to do odd jobs other than collections. This company had sample sales twice a year that were absolutely bananas. Their mailing list would get a notice of a weekend sale and they would be lined up around the block to shop. They were having one last sample sale and I was asked to help with set-up and restock as items got low. 

One of the best-selling products at these sales were the decorative pillows. When I say best-selling, I'm saying people went crazy for these things. I'm sure the main attraction was that they we were going for $10 and $15 but they were really good-quality covers that would sell for $45 to $65 at retail and we had a big selection to choose from.

On the final day, I was there with my mom for four-straight hours filling pillow covers for customers that were pushing and shoving each other in order to get the discounted pillows they wanted so badly. You would have thought that we were hocking $100 bills for a buck. 

Unfortunately, we didn't even have a table or barrier when we were filling the pillows for customers so our personal space was non-existent. I had people so close to me, I knew what they had for lunch. I would constantly be reminding people to back up so I could breathe: "I am going to have to ask you to back up a little but and be patient, you will get your pillows!" It was like a Black Friday sale at an American Wal-Mart. Well, maybe not that bad...but close. 

This was my introduction to the world of energetic shoppers looking for a really good deal. As well, this was the first time Pia and I saw how much people loved decorative pillows. Maybe there was something to it... 

- Kyle 








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002 You Just Never Know

Posted by Kyle Williamson-Fox on

Opportunities are usually disguised by hard work, so most people don't recognize them. 
- Ann Landers

Yesterday I forgot to mention that The Pillow Shoppe does custom work. We tend to stay within the realm of custom pillows, bench/seat cushions, table runners, and foam ottomans. I also forgot to mention that my mom and mentor, Pia, is quite funny. 

We had someone refer us to a Toronto designer, telling him that we did great custom work and could possibly help him with a project of his. Pia set up a consultation with him on March 21st; the same day as my grandmother's 87th birthday. 

Pia scheduled the meeting early enough so she could have the consultation and still have plenty of time to get home to prepare dinner for Ma's birthday.

Unfortunately, the designer was running late. Being a good daughter, Pia didn't want to miss out on making dinner so she asked me to meet with the client and get all the necessary information for a follow-up meeting.

I met with the designer and came away from it thinking we may not be able to do this kind of job, as it was something we'd never done before. Sewing and manufacturing is not my specialty, so I looked forward to passing on the information to Pia to see what she thought.

Later at dinner: 

"I don't know if we can do this job, Mum. It sounds complicated. We've never done anything like this before." 

She nodded and said to me, "I'll give him a call and see how we can make this work. You just never know what kind of opportunity it will present." 

We celebrated Ma's 87th with a lovely meal and cake. My grandmother is a wonderful woman and I love her dearly. She is the matriarch of our family and has been an entrepreneur most of her life. Every time I visit, she always asks me how things are at the shoppe and passes on her wisdom through tales of running a business back in the day. Her latest venture being selling her beautiful handmade feather art in the form of cards and wall hangings. 

Being an artist and craftswoman, she taught my mom how to sew at the age of five. I guess this was the groundwork for what happened next.

Pia met with the designer a few days later and agreed to do the custom project! She told me that it will be difficult but very possible.

I thought she was nuts, but over the past six years working with her, I've learned to trust her when she says she can do something. She's a strong European woman!

Since we are still working on the project, I cannot divulge the details just yet. All I can say is: it's "wild".

More on it later. Thanks for reading.

- Kyle





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001 The First Pillow Blog

Posted by Kyle Williamson-Fox on

Creating art is a habit, one that we practice daily or hourly until we get good at it.

- Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception


I hope this blog inspires you and gives a glimpse of what it's like being an entrepreneur this day-and-age, as well, what it's like working closely with family.

I've never written a blog before and would love to make this a daily thing, but since we are a really small company, there is a hundred things to do every day, so i'll try my best!

I think my family and our company tales are funny and interesting enough to let you in on our day-to-day. I really appreciate you being here and hope you enjoy it.

Since I am new to this, you'll have to bare with me. This blog could be: full of grammar mistakes, run-on sentences, too short or too long...who knows! My spelling, however, will be impeccable thanks to spellcheck. Unless you're American; it will probably bug you how us Canadians spell "colour".

And believe me, this blog will talk A LOT about colour, since that's what we do! We bring colour into your home in the form of those soft rectangular things that sit on your furniture you may know as "pillows" or "throw pillows" or "decorative pillows" or "toss pillows" or "cushions".

FYI: we don't carry sleeping pillows yet but our pillows are so soft and comfortable that you will want to take them to bed with you. 

We've been at this crazy business since 2011 where we started in Markham, Ontario. We just moved into our new location, which we love, in the design and decor district of Toronto. 

It was intimidating at first, being amongst some very successful design and decor companies like: Modani Furniture, ELTE Market, Weaver's Art, and Artemano.

However, I think we have found our footing in the few months we've been here. We are starting to feel like we belong since we've had so many wonderful customers come through who love our business concept and our pillows. 

If you haven't seen a thousand pillows in one store before, I highly recommend you come check us out. It's like walking into a candy store; full of colour, texture, friendly people, and good music.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading :) 

- Kyle

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The Pillow Shopper