Tara Lee Genge is the owner of Chalk Therapy, a furniture shop that specializes in breathing new life into forgotten vintage and antique furniture located in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
When Tara Lee Genge was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer, she began painting, refinishing and selling old furniture to “keep myself going during chemotherapy,” she says. When she entered remission, she decided to expand her business. Tara moved Chalk Therapy from her home studio into a 1,200 square foot shop where she could work on, sell and transport more furniture. She began planning a grand opening.
Setting Up a Modern Business
Tara had never run a business before. She and her husband Adam wanted “to do it right.” That meant moving beyond cash. “We needed to accept payments and were looking around for different providers,” Adam says.
During the search, Helcim popped up. “A review came up with the ‘Top 5’ processors in it, and Helcim was right up there.” Adam says he was “just drawn to the transparency of the website.” He added Helcim to the shortlist. Other processors didn’t list pricing online so Tara and Adam began phoning around.
Struggling to Find Fair, Transparent Payment Processing
Tara faced a challenge in getting payment processor reps to take her seriously as a female business owner. “I did not like how they talked to me personally,” she says. “They kept looking to speak to my husband or the business owner. To me, it was like, ‘OK, we’re done here’.”
When Tara did connect, she was frustrated that the sales reps would not tell her about the costs. “Unless we signed a contract they were not willing to discuss numbers,” she says. She worried about unknown expenses as a new business owner. “The sales reps kept saying, ‘you’ll get to know the percentages after you get started’,” she said. “What can you do with that?”
Tara also uncovered processing penalties. “You had to do minimum processing. If I wasn’t doing a lot of business, they would charge you,” Tara says. “I thought, if I don’t have sales, I have to pay a penalty. How can you protect yourself? How can you protect your business?” Other processors charged higher fees for businesses that made more money. Tara was not impressed. “If I make more money, they take more money off. How is that fair?”
Same Terminal, Shocking Cost Differences
Tara and Adam also shopped for terminal equipment. Tara was advised to go to Costco. “The rates were decent,” she says, and she received several hundred dollars off of a terminal as a Costco member. However, the discounted terminal still came to $899. Adam found the same terminal on Helcim’s website for $329. “I took a screenshot of the Helcim website, the terminal was half the cost, and sent it to Costco,” he says. “I told them we weren’t buying from them.”
Finding an Empowering Payment Partner
Armed with processing and equipment pricing from several processors, Tara and Adam saw that Helcim stood out. Pricing information was “all right there on the website,” Tara says. “It didn’t take two or three hours to get the information we needed. We didn’t have to call around and talk to sales people.” Tara liked the fair pricing. “Helcim had no penalties and just seemed more easygoing and more realistic for a small business.”
Adam reached out to Helcim’s inbound sales team. “I liked the transparent and straightforward way of talking,” he says. “I just got a good vibe off of everyone we were talking to. Everyone. Every time.”
Initially, Tara planned to use Helcim to accept payments and track her hours. “We also had some idea that we would need a POS,” she says. Helcim provided all-in-one business platform Helcim Commerce, with built-in payments and integrated software tools that Tara would need, such as customer management, a point-of-sale (POS) system, inventory and online store tools. Tara and Adam opened an account.
Looking back, Tara says, “I’m irritated we spent so much time looking around. We were wasting time looking for other providers. And it was all there on Helcim’s website - and with better deals.”
Learning to Run a New Store on the Fly
Tara opened Chalk Therapy shortly before the grand opening. Customers started coming but the internet wasn’t connected so she could only accept cash. To allow card payments, she ordered Helcim’s mobile card reader and used it until she could go online and use the POS.
Tara and Adam learned to use the POS system quickly, adding products on the fly. Tara would finish painting a piece of furniture, set it on the floor to dry, and a customer would already be asking for the price. She would quote a price off the top of her head, and Adam would enter the piece into the POS while the customer was paying. Tara says it was easy “because you just click on things. It’s click, click, click, done. Thanks for the payment. And I’m back to painting.”
Running a business with a modern system was important to Tara. Many businesses in her city still write down orders and hand out paper receipts. “I wanted something clean and easy and organized,” she says. “If you can’t learn it in five steps or under, it does not interest me.” She had tried other systems, such as Shopify, but found “the rest had a time-consuming song and dance to them.”
Serving a Stream of Customers at the Grand Opening
Chalk Therapy’s Grand Opening was a success that took Tara and Adam by surprise. “Neither one of us had run a store before,” Tara says. “We were not anticipating the store and business to get as big and popular as it was so quickly.” Instead, she found “more and more people kept coming in and seeing it and we were expanding and incorporating new ideas.”
That first week, Tara’s entire business changed. People came for the furniture but wanted to buy her personal supply of non-toxic mineral-based paint. She sold it. Then they wanted her brushes. Tara sold those too and immediately ordered more of everything. “Suddenly, I realized, I’m a paint retailer,” she says. She now sells three brands of paint.
Selling Workshops Online
Once the store was running, Tara decided to run a painting workshop. She added it to the online store that was integrated into Helcim Commerce. Within minutes, she received a notice that someone had paid $140. “We thought it was a mistake,” she says. “We hadn’t advertised it or featured it on the website, but people found it.” The workshop quickly sold out. Tara added more workshops. They also sold out.
Empowered to Expand
Chalk Therapy continues to grow in new ways. Tara is excited. She plans to expand her paint inventory and to hit the spring and fall home shows. She’s still learning, trying new ideas, and is feeling empowered.
Let the expansion continue!