From a corporate cubicle to a pink-walled home office, meet ‘Mompreneur’ Toni Akam, Owner and Creative Director of Confetti + Bows, an online party boutique specializing in paper flowers and stunning backdrops. Always immaculately dressed and sporting a big smile, this mother of two makes it look easy, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes. There have been many sleepless nights spent covered in glitter, confetti and paper flowers to help her customers ‘make life awesome one party at a time.’
Toni’s online store offers anything one might need to throw a special soireé–From unicorn garlands to moustache balloons (perfect for Movember) and everything in between. Toni is driven by her passion to help people celebrate precious moments and make them as memorable as possible.
Learn more about this self-proclaimed ‘paper junkie.’ Meet Toni Akam of Confetti + Bows:
What was life like before Confetti + Bows, and what motivated you to quit your day job and start your own business?
I was working at CIBC in the marketing department. We did brochures and marketing for mutual funds so it was completely different from what I’m doing now.
Then about 4 years ago, I went on maternity leave, had my first daughter and my second daughter a year after that. So I was pretty much home with them from the time they were born. I’ve always loved planning parties and making decorations, specifically paper ones. I was asked to do more and more for friends and family, so I thought I’d turn it into a side hustle. I was basically at home with a toddler and a new born trying to start a business of making paper flowers and backdrops. I tried to do it during her nap times and at night. Then, after about a year I decided to turn it into a real business.
I work from home now. I have 6–7 hours a day to do everything I need to do after I drop my daughters off at school. When I’m not driving around the city, I’m usually doing some kind of craft, working on my website, fulfilling orders and thinking about what I should be selling on my website. I’m always trying to update my inventory.
Toni’s 3 pearls of wisdom for entrepreneurs:
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to do everything. Set aside a big chunk of time to do everything you need to do, especially if you have a family. It’s important to budget time properly to keep some balance in life.
- Talk to everyone you know. You have to be everything for your own company (admin, creative director, owner etc…). It can be overwhelming. Leverage your network to learn more about areas you aren’t already an expert in.
- Make sure to keep some balance. Try not to get too stressed out about everything because it can get overwhelming when you’re on your own.
Describe the biggest challenge you’ve experienced as a small business owner and how you dealt with it.
Not having enough time for everything is a huge challenge. That includes spending time with my family. I thought that starting my business would give me the opportunity to spend more time with them. And it does, to a point, as it’s not a 9–5 but I’m always still thinking about work. I feel the weight of the responsibility I have and it’s hard to leave that headspace.
When I’m with my kids, I try to put my phone away and it makes things so much easier. I’m not always wondering if I have a new email or tempted to respond immediately to a text.
Share a story when you went above and beyond to solve a problem.
I work with mostly brides or people who want to throw parties. So, they are usually in a good mood. Since our initial contact is usually over email, we will walk through everything together so I don’t tend to encounter many problems.
There was this one time where we had to install paper flowers onto draping and it was our first time doing it. The flowers wouldn’t stick properly and kept falling down. The draping was too soft and we didn’t really know what to do. Time was running out and we basically spent 4 hours troubleshooting what normally would take 1-2 hours to do. We tried everything that we could. We ended up having to go to Home Depot, and using fishing wire and double sided tape to make them stick. After all was said and done, it looks amazing and the bride loved it.
It’s a typical work day. Where can we find you?
I’m in front of a computer or driving around picking up things from vendors or going to photo shoots. I’ll meet a client or a vendor at a coffee shop as well.
Inspiration or perspiration?
Both. Instagram is a great place for me to get inspired. I’ve found so many amazing women who have their own companies and have been doing their thing for years. I’m constantly inspired by them. It makes me want to keep going and do what I do.
Who is your role model?
I have a few. I’m really inspired by Kelly Mindo from Studio DIY. She’s out in LA and she has her own studio where she does DIY everything. Her Instagram feed is my inspiration.
Another person who inspires me is Ashley Rose from Sugar and Cloth. Her Instagram is also a big inspiration to me–very bright and colourful. She’s out in Texas.
I also love Aww, Sam. She is out in New York and does a lot of creative DIY projects.
Do you have a motivational mantra or inspirational quote that helps you get you out of bed in the morning?
“The most effective way to do it is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart
Work-Life balance is *tough* for a small business owner. How do you stay balanced?
Since a lot of our days and weekends are booked up with appointments and activities, there is very little time to actually do stuff that we want to do. I feel like I’m being pulled in so many directions. I think it’s really important to plan on doing family activities and get them into the schedule just like you would for a dentist appointment, even if it’s something as simple as going for ice cream one day after dinner.
My husband and I also try to find time to spend together. Luckily our parents are close by so we can leave our kids with them once in awhile. We try to let them have a sleep-over at our parents at least once a month, so we can spend some time together or with friends that don’t have kids (see what the other side’s lives are like!)
What’s next for Confetti + Bows?
I can’t really see past next month right now! Long-term, I’ll be focusing on my store and my website. Even though I just launched it, there are so many things I’d like to do with it. I’m always searching and looking for local vendors who create party goods and supplies that I can sell in the store. I also want to add a blog to the website. I’d love to teach people how to make paper flowers and style tables as well as show them all the ways they can use the items I sell on the website.
Toni is very passionate about sourcing items for her store from local artisans. That’s why most of what you see in her shop is hand crafted in Canada and the US.
Learn more about Toni and Confetti + Bows:
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About the Author: Amanda is the Content Coordinator at FreshBooks. She loves executing extraordinary experiences every day both on and offline. When she’s not doing that, she is taking her dog, Jonny, on adventures or searching Toronto for the best coleslaw.