Designing a business during a challenging situation

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

By: Namish Modi (he/him)

After recovering from a concussion last year, Madison Greenough (she/her) took on a new challenge.

The concussion, which halted Greenough’s Winter 2021 co-op term at British Columbia Investment (BCI) Management, started her journey into entrepreneurship.

Inspired by an idea to sell handmade products through the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) program, Greenough launched Beaverdam Designs. With her partner, Greenough began manufacturing and selling woodworking equipment. The company’s focus is on home décor products which they distribute through the FBA program.

FBA is a shipping and storage service that helps business owners sell and ship their products to customers from all over North America who get free shipping through their Amazon Prime memberships.

“We’re really trying to bridge the gap between Etsy handmade products and bringing that to Amazon on a wider scale,” says Greenough.

A flexible solution

Beaverdam Designs logoBeaverdam Designs is part of Greenough’s co-op credit through the University of Waterloo’s Enterprise Co-op program (E Co-op). E Co-op is run by Waterloo’s Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business in partnership with Co-operative Education and the faculties.

In E Co-op,
students earn co-op credits while starting their own business. Greenough appreciates the flexibility offered through the program.
“This fit in well with my schedule, and it allows a variety of lifestyle changes and lifestyle opportunities to fit this into our educational pathway,” says Greenough.

Raised in St. Catharines, Ontario, Greenough made a big move in September during the COVID-19 pandemic. With her partner, she decided to study remotely and move to rural British Columbia (B.C.). “It’s been great to experience a new province, I’d never really spent time out in B.C,” she says.

Learning new skills

Her co-op work term in Fall 2021 began with a “crash course in entrepreneurship” and networking. In Greenough’s experience, after the initial stage, it was open-ended in terms of setting flexibility for her own hours and tasks. She had a prototype product ready to go before the term began.

“For most of the term, I spent time establishing social media platforms and a website, and establishing the list page to sell the product,” explains Greenough. She also developed her marketing skills to help promote and sell their products.

Greenough believes the benefits of collaborating with other students helped make the experience a worthwhile one for her.

“We regularly post updates and check in on each other and see what other students are doing and working on,” she says. “It’s always good to have a little healthy competition and keeping up with each other to always have things to talk about, and accomplishments to share.”

Despite the overall success of her foray into entrepreneurship, Greenough says there were internal challenges that came with starting her own business.

“I’m very goal-oriented and I sometimes set too high of expectations for myself,” she says. “I had a long list of goals and tasks to complete. I found there were always little things that would interfere with that and would take up more time. I learned how to set reasonable expectations and tried to account for anything that could go wrong. And, to have contingencies in place so that if you don’t have enough time to meet a certain expectation, you know what you’re going to do as a backup. I think that was my biggest challenge for sure.”

Previous co-op experiences

During her previous co-op work terms, Greenough worked as an analyst at Sun Life and in accounting at NAV Blue. Following her E co-op term, she worked at BCI Management on the cash operations team.

“I was very lucky to have three really great co-op jobs, and I really enjoyed them. But this (E co-op term) was a unique and fascinating experience, it was completely different than all of my standard co-op jobs. I really enjoyed the flexibility that this co-op term provided. And the ability to not only decide on my own daily tasks, but to decide the entire direction that the term would go in was completely up to me.”

- Madison Greenough, E Co-op student

Prioritizing health and well-being while growing a business

University of Waterloo Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) student, Madison Greenough
Madison Greenough
E Co-op student & Beaverdam Designs founder

Prior to her concussion, Greenough was captain of the Waterloo cross country and track and field varsity teams. For several weeks, she struggled as she suffered from arm and leg tremors. It took her five months before she was able to go for a long walk.

The E co-op experience gave her the support and flexibility she needed to complete her co-op requirement while focusing on her business and her health.

“This experience really taught me how important it is to take care of yourself. I was stubborn and thought that I would get better with time alone, so I would sometimes log on to my work laptop to try to send an email, but after just minutes I would be so exhausted that I would be out of commission for the whole day, setting myself back in my recovery. I learned the value of taking care of yourself and prioritizing your health and wellbeing above work and school.”

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