Entrepreneur Profile: Velma Richmond and Velma’s Candy, Tea and Gifts

Velma’s Candy, Tea & Gifts has been a fixture on Marine Avenue in Powell River since 2013, and for proprietor Velma Richmond, the shop has been the slow evolution of all the things she wanted to keep her busy and engaged in her retirement.

“My husband and I moved to Powell River over 15 years ago, when he took early retirement from his job as a professor,” said Richmond. “We both grew up in Ontario and then lived in Nova Scotia for a long time, and one of Powell River’s biggest draws for us was the weather. We were both so sick of snow!”

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With other members of their family settled in British Columbia, the move from one Canadian coast to the other was an easy decision. “We visited Powell River the year before we moved here to check it out and look at houses,” said Richmond. “Powell River felt like Nova Scotia from the moment we stepped off the ferry. People were so friendly. I went into one store, and the owner came up to me and hugged me! We had a nice little chat about what we were doing, and every person I talked to was so friendly. It was easy to make friends, even before we moved here.”

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Richmond is an experienced entrepreneur, having run both pottery and soap making businesses in Nova Scotia, managed the Farmer’s Market for her town, and taught yoga. This experience served her well as she approached what she wanted to do in her retirement. “It’s very important to have purpose in life,” she said.

Velma’s Candy, Tea & Gifts came about organically once Richmond and her husband moved to Powell River. She taught yoga for a few months when she arrived, but when the yoga studio closed its doors, it was time to find something new. On the advice of her neighbour, she visited the Powell River Farmer’s Market, and discovered that the only soap maker in town had recently moved away, so she was able to easily step into that void with her previous experience. “The Farmer’s Market is where I really met Powell River,” said Richmond. “They taught me what the community needed, wanted, and liked, and they were brutally honest! It was so much fun.”

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After about five years, Richmond was ready for a different challenge, so she sold her soap business, moved into a different booth at the market, and started selling homemade candy. “My husband had been suggesting candy for several years, but I was always hesitant because I was worried I would eat it all,” she said with a laugh. “So I decided to just make candies that I personally wouldn’t eat, and it worked out very well!”

A few years later, Richmond joined forces with a local tea blender. “She asked me if I wanted to share a space with her at the mall for December,” said Richmond. “We weren’t able to connect with anyone there, but Mara knew the owner of this space, which had been empty for a long time, so we rented it for a month. It was very successful, so we just kept renting month to month instead of shutting down after Christmas.”

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That was in December 2013, and in 2016, her friend stepped away from the business, though her teas continue to be sold in the space. Richmond has continued to expand slowly, adding more opening hours, bringing in new products, and listening to her customers. “I always listen to my customers, because they tell me what I need to do to keep going,” she said. “For me it’s a fun thing, but as time goes on it becomes more and more serious.”

While the shop is a retirement job for Richmond, she believes that entrepreneurs who are social, open-minded, and willing to listen can make a go of it in Powell River. “I was successful because I never overspent, and that comes from my previous business experience,” she said. “I think a lot of entrepreneurs see the money coming in and just spend it, but I was very guarded, and that let my business grow in such a way that it’s never outpaced me. I knew I would start some kind of business when I came to Powell River, but I didn’t know what it would be until I could reach out the community.”

You can find amazing tea and accessories, candy, chocolate, and gemstones at Velma’s Candy, Tea & Gifts, 4660B Marine Avenue, in Powell River.

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