International Women's Day (Part 2)
March 8th was International Women's Day and we wanted to take time to shine a spotlight on a couple of the amazing women in our family. We're started with Blair's partner, Jenny, last week and now we're sharing Janet's story. Janet is the matriarch of the Muzzolini family. She knows kung fu and how to handle a sword, so don't mess with her!
I am Janet Muzzolini, currently senior co-owner of our family business, Christies Mayfair Bakery, better known by my family as the Matriarch of Christies.
I was born and raised on a farm and when I look back now, I contribute learning many of my business skills from my father which involved the business of farming. On graduating from high school, like many of my girlfriends, I had a longing to move to the big city of Saskatoon. I was fortunate to be hired by Affinity (then Saskatoon) Credit Union. During the next two years I took the opportunity to work with Bell Telephone in Halifax for six months, but I missed the prairies and on return to Saskatoon attended business school followed by a secretarial position with CNR. Also during this period I met Ennio, who was this handsome young man, who recently emigrated from northern Italy a few years earlier. I took a shine to him and we married while I was working as a secretary at CNR and he as a baker at a local small bakery.
I was seven months pregnant when the owner of Christies Bakery presented Ennio with the opportunity to buy his bakery on a six year mortgage with a small down payment. Seeing this as a way to possibly make a much better living to raise a family, we raised enough money, a loan from my brother-in-law, to purchase Christies. Those first three years were very difficult, I knew nothing about baking, and we found out the hard way that there was a lot more to business than a job or just baking. We cried a lot in the first year, but decided to roll up our sleeves and put in the work. I was thankful for my skills in accounting, which helped me to manage the business end of the bakery.
I was a 22 year old small woman at the time, which was uncommon for a woman in business. I dealt with a lot of men on the business end who did not believe I was the owner. They needed a lot of training, for instance they would come in to the bakery to ask for the owner until I gave in and got Ennio from his baking and he would just wave his arm the Italian way and say “she handles that”. It frustrated me that the bank would always need “my husband” to sign a loan, but they didn’t need a signature for “his” loan, so I put them to the test. I told them I wanted to take out a $5,000 personal loan without my husband’s knowledge. It took a lot of reasoning and threatening, but the bank gave in and gave me the loan, which I paid back the next day just because. I joined the small group of women in business at that time foremed to support each other. When my daughter, Tracey, came back into the business, I encouraged her to stand up for herself and continue to work on changing the struggles women in business still have. I also took a lot of business seminars and encourage other women to do so as well.
It took three years with a lot of juggling the creditors and a second location to get out of the red and into the black financially. During the years I found I was good at selling and marketing, and took on the role of acquiring wholesale accounts such as hotels and restaurants. I discovered that I had cake decorating skills and built a large cake and wedding cake business, using various marketing ideas that I didn’t identify as such at the time. Our business has grown with many ups and downs during the years.
After my youngest child, Blair, was in university I decided to go back to school and become a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. I wanted my own career and chose this as likely something that would fit my challenge and interest. My children learned to work in the family business at a young age, and I taught Blair how to handle the daily business accounting because I needed to go to Regina for the first year of my studies. Now he handles most of the business end of things at the bakery. After graduating I worked as a counselor fulltime in an addictions rehabilitation center for 15 years while still keeping my support for the bakery. It was sort of like having two jobs at once.
My children have taken over the family business for some years now and taken it into a new era of digital, online, social media and modern ideas that they are better skilled to handle than many of my generation. My eldest son, Russ, now lives in San Francisco coaching start ups and continues to support Tracey and Blair in the family business.
As for me, I am retired (sort of), doing a little bit of accounting and struggling to let go entirely of the business!
Have a fond memory of Christies Bakery? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!