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The place where our passion was born.

Thirteen weeks ago, Debbie and I uprooted our lives in Abbotsford, BC, Canada, and moved back to our roots to support her father after a diagnosis of Stage 4 Liver Cancer.

Some of you may know, the Isle of Man was where we brought up and first met. after getting married in 1987, Debbie and I started our own business. The first business we bought was called Ebony. It was a ladies clothes store that I bought off an old school friend as a going concern. Debbie left her career in corporate finance to become an entrepreneur. The store was smack in the middle of the financial district.

Jonathan and Debbie
Jonathan and Debbie in those early days.

 

Things went well, and about a year later, we opened up a second store. This time, a bespoke high-fashion shop in the high street called Chapter 2, which was all custom built. For those folks in retail these days, I know what it feels like; believe me, I really do. Our business model back then relied upon customers having disposable income. When interest rates hit 17%, that quickly dried up, and within 6 months, we had to close our doors. We had no choice but to start over.

We chose to sell our house and our car just to get back on our feet. It was a season to rent. (The home pictured behind me in the video is our old apartment.) We had great times literally living by the sea, and this is where Debbie fell pregnant with our first-born Gemma, and we enjoyed many adventures living in Castletown and love coming back here.

Having lost our own business, I’ll never forget those feelings of failure and loss. It breaks my heart to see businesses go under.

It’s not always the fault of the owner. Look at today’s Covid-19 Pandemic. If you’re forced to close under Government order, you’re kind of stuck.  But there’s always a way to sell and stay in touch with your customers. It’s all about marketing!

For the past 30 years, it’s been my passion to help small business owners become the very life-blood of our local communities. Everywhere I look, I see opportunity. Every time I’m shopping, I’m asking questions and offering advice. One of the reasons we moved to Canada in 2002 was to start our own business again.

Fast forward to today, and our team at We Make Stuff Happen shares the same passion. With our current situation of living in the UK, we’re still able to make everything work. With global client reach, we have already been an online agency for many years. I guess we were early adopters of Zoom. And that’s what our life is like right now. A kind of permanent #workation (work + vacation). At this moment, I’m living 8 hours ahead of our main team who are back in Canada. It actually makes our workflow more efficient. With having programmers in Europe and Australia we’re actually improving productivity because of those time differences.

We should never underestimate the power of human resolve. We’re seeing that each day with Mac (my Father in Law) as he battles cancer. And I am so passionate about small business owners and small business owners on the Island just coming out of lockdown again, everybody’s trying to get back to some kind of normal.

I remember picking up the pieces and starting all over. We just had to start over, and I know a lot of businesses feel like they’re starting over right now.

We just want to help.

 

1992, 1651 and 2021 – here’s to a brave new world and marketing advances!

Isle of Man
This was the place of my birth. My family history goes back to 1176! I lived here until I was 30. We have so many great memories and stories from here. Back in 1992, we moved into flat one, #5 The Promenade in Castletown – the ancient capital city.
There’s an ancient, historic monument close by to where we lived, it’s called Hango Hill. It was the official execution site of the Isle of Man in the 1600s. I  have a relative who was killed, executed here. William Christian or Illiam Dhone as a Manx people would know him. He was our Manx Martyr – kind of like the William Wallace of Scotland.
At that time, the Isle of Man was under British tyranny. Then through Oliver Cromwell, Lord Stanley was Lord of Mann. William Christian, his Hand as it were, amassed a group of 800 militia whilst he was a war and they took back the Island, except for Peel Castle and Castle Rushen. He tried his best to get back-rule for the Manx. But when the British Navy surrounded the Island, they knew they couldn’t win and surrendered back control. So the upshot was somebody who was very patriotic, very passionate about his Island was actually executed for their actions.
Maybe I have that ancestrally passed down patriotic gene too?

William Christian

William Christian, also known as Illiam Dhone (Brown William). Oil painting on display in the National Art Gallery at the Manx Museum in Douglas (IOM). Source: Courtesy of Manx National Heritage

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