by Heidi Riley
Caley Aylward loves being a business owner. Home by Caley Joy, located on Water Street in Summerside, is only one of the successful business ventures she is nurturing.
Recently, the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce gave Home by Caley Joy the New Business of the Year Award. “I do this because I love it, and the only reason I am here is because of the clientele and supporters. To get that recognition is like the cherry on top.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur,” says Caley. Seven years ago, she started a photography business, focusing on capturing personal moments for couples in love, including weddings, engagements, and milestones. She also creates and captures experiential images for PEI Tourism organizations and small and large businesses to tell unique and inspiring stories.
Caley’s interest in photography started in high school in her hometown in Newmarket, Ontario. After graduation, she went on to a four-year fine arts program at Ryerson (now Toronto Metropolitan University), concentrating on image arts and photography.
She also earned a Teaching degree at Western University and did substitute teaching for a while. Although she decided that teaching was not the best outlet for expressing her creativity, she feels it has been very useful.
“I learned a lot about child psychology that I find useful now that I have a daughter. I took electives around teaching in rural and remote locations. My education degree didn’t necessarily help me open this store, but it opened my eyes to the idea that we can create jobs anywhere.”
Caley visited family on the Island every summer. Over the next few years, she moved back and forth from PEI a few times, and met her husband Sean Aylward on one of those trips.
The idea of opening a store came about during the pandemic. “In 2020, most weddings were cancelled, and my tourism photography work was put on hold. I always wanted to have a little store, and I had time to build a business plan.
“We opened Home by Caley Joy in November 2020, and since then we have doubled our inventory.
“I try to apply my arts background to everything I do. Being an artist is similar to what I do now on a daily basis. I create something in my heart and put it out in the community, and others get to critique it.”
The space where the store is now is the original site of husband Sean’s business, The Humble Barber. The couple purchased another building close by to house the barber shop, which has been in operation for eight years, and has since expanded to a second location in Charlottetown.
In 2022, the couple has also opened a seasonal waterfront beach bar called The Knot, which offers drinks and rents bicycles, kayaks, and paddleboards.
Caley applied and was approved for the Self Employ PEI program with SkillsPEI. Self Employ PEI is an employment program developed to help unemployed Islanders who want to launch their own businesses. The program provides financial support and business counselling to new entrepreneurs during their first year of operation.
She was also approved for Employ PEI, an employment program developed to help new and existing employers with long-term employment opportunities for job seekers. An employer receives a temporary wage subsidy to provide on-the-job training for a new full-time employee.
She was also approved for Web Presence Assistance from Innovation PEI, which provides a non-repayable contribution to PEI businesses and local not-for-profits to assist with the creation of an online presence or to upgrade an existing website to include e-commerce.
About the staff
Amy Parker began working with Caley remotely, helping with branding and marketing, and helping to design the logo, website, and marketing assets. She moved to Summerside last spring and has worked in the shop ever since, where she has helped move all the shop inventory to an online store so that products can be sold online across Canada and the US.
“Amy can look at the store and decide to reach out to a wholesaler or to update the website,” says Caley. “She is willing to take on a challenge and come up with a creative solution.”
Alica Keough has worked with Caley for two years. “She began by coming to the shop as a guest, and we started to chat about the possibility of her working with me. We forged a relationship that I knew would translate into a successful business partnership. She has become such an important face in the shop, and everyone who comes in loves to chat with her. She gives great knowledgeable advice on products and loves to help any customer find something perfect for their home.”
“I didn’t hire either employee in the traditional way from an ad,” says Caley. “I receive a fair number of resumés, and I also get people who drop in to apply. The people I hire need to bring something creative to the team that is outside the scope of what I can do. Because the business is small, we all need to do multiple jobs. I want you to come to me with an idea, identify something that needs to be done, and be willing to do it.
“People can have all the education in the world, which is great, but I don’t necessarily need someone who took a merchandising program.” Caley says she would be pleased if someone came to her and said they had an interest in design and wanted to learn more.
“I like when someone reaches out in person. An electronic resumé leaves me wondering who the person is. The cover letter is also important. It explains who you are, why you want to work here, why you like what I’m doing. and why you want to be part of it.”
Challenges and rewards of self-employment
Caley says there are still nights when she wakes up worrying about the business. “You can’t just shut off at 4:00 and not think about it anymore. I don’t think we have ever not worked while on vacation.
“At the same time, as an entrepreneur, I have the freedom to do what I want. And I get to meet so many nice people in this community and forge good relationships and business collaborations.
“If you are considering entrepreneurship, you have to start small. Put progress over perfection. It’s better to get started than to wait for everything to be perfect. You really have to love what you are doing, because you will be thinking about it all the time, and it will take up so much of your time.
“If you have joy in your work, profits will follow. If you genuinely enjoy what you do, people can see that, and they will support you. That is the biggest testament to PEI: the Island really comes out to support their own. I can’t imagine a more supportive community.”