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Starting A New Life & A New Business (Behind The Scenes: Part 10)

Part 10: Starting Shoebox Scanning

So here I was, back to square one for the third time in the last three years. No job and no idea what I wanted to do next with my life, and COVID-19 was still raging wave after wave. I took the time while on Employment Insurance to learn more about myself, develop more ways of setting boundaries, and begin to focus on my skills, experiences, and life events that led me here to my advantage. I realized that I enjoyed helping others, especially when I truly believed in the service that I was providing. I also needed to give myself more credit for all that I had done so far in my life (and documenting it now in this blog has helped to highlight how much I have done). I also realized that I needed to do something for myself and to be selfish sometimes, push against the grain and find my place by carving the path on my own.

My family has always been important throughout my life. I spend almost every Sunday having dinner with my family, catching up about the week's events, enjoying a very much unneeded dessert, and playing a competitive card game or two. We are a close family and have always been. We have had to deal with some recent obstacles, but we are closer than ever. We have been more honest with each other, which has allowed us to have deeper conversations that should have happened decades ago. Where we come from is important, but it means nothing if we don't know where we are going. I'm happy to have people in my life who care about me and know that I care about them as well.

It was my partner who initially pushed me to start Shoebox Scanning. I had digitized and uploaded all of my family’s photos and videos to multiple devices (my computer, USBs, and external hard drives), all to protect my family’s history and each family member’s story. One story was that of my brother, Clinton, which I shared in my first blog post. He passed away in 1986 after battling a brain tumor for two years. I was 5 when he died, and I lost my best friend, who taught me all the cool things that an older brother does. All my family has left now are a few of his belongings and the photos and videos of his life. I know that if anything were to happen to them, we would all be devastated. With this in mind, I decided it was time to join the Cloud service bandwagon, removing the stress of wondering what was backed up to which hard drives and when it had been completed last. I uploaded all of my family’s content to Google Photos. For half the cost of my Netflix streaming service, I have everything stored securely on multiple servers worldwide and have secure access to any memory at my fingertips. This wasn't the only solution, but it was the best for my family and me.

The relief that my family and I have felt since completing this digitization is impossible to express. Of course, losing the original physical copies will still hurt, but we know that it can all be recreated if needed or left digital to continue viewing whenever we wish.

In July of this year (2022), I started a self-employment course through exercuserv plus inc.. I had never even thought of starting a business until this point, but for all that I have completed in my life, I thought, "Why can't I do this, too?" I met some other great individuals on their new entrepreneurship journey with great business ideas. We shared our thoughts, encouragement, and suggestions to help build up each other. We also had some fantastic experts in a variety of fields which we were able to glean knowledge and experience from. I became known as Mitch, "the guy who asked the what-if questions," as I tried to think 5+ steps in advance. I had always loved strategizing and planning for other companies I worked for, and now this was my company, and of course, I wanted the best for it.

By the end of the six-week course, I had a notebook full of tips, answers, and valuable information to use in my small business. I wrote my Business Plan and submitted the 54-page document (including 20 pages of appendices highlighting my research, tables, and graphs used to prove my business viability). A few weeks later, my Business Plan was approved, and I started creating new systems, revamping existing ones, and reconnecting with my networks here in Lethbridge. I also pushed myself to meet with a few breakfast groups during the course to prove that I could confidently present to a group. Getting back on that horse, so to speak, after so many years was both anxiety-invoking and confidence-boosting. I enjoyed being surrounded by other like-minded people who were on a similar path as myself. I also realized how many people I knew, as I tended to run into many from my past. Life is all about connections, and I missed having that opportunity over the last few years.

Self-employment training certificate
Self-employment training certificate

The ball really started to roll now. I purchased my Lethbridge Business License and my Trade Name, followed by setting up my business bank accounts through ATB. They offered an Unlimited Business Account for Startups with no fees for the first year. How could I say no? I've learned the ins and outs of having business and personal accounts and credit cards. I have to say, it feels good. I also paid for Quickbooks Online after debating a few other options. I chose QuickBooks as it seems to be the most widely used, and my accountants also offered me a discount. It has taken me a bit to get used to the setup, but I feel confident with most of the program. I'm my bookkeeper for now, but I do plan to hand the reigns over to someone with more experience.

I explored the city a bit more and met with Andrew Chernevych and Bobbie Fox (related to Terry Fox) at the Galt Museum & Archives to learn more about what they offer the community. They both shared so much information and resources available to the public. If you have not been to their website, I highly recommend checking it out, especially the Research section ( You can even pay for prints of Archival images and digital files that may interest you or your family.

Making a big step, I joined the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce in September and completed my Grand Introduction shortly after. Another excellent opportunity to share Shoebox Scanning and who I am with the community. I admit I was a bit nervous, but I did my best. You can watch the video below.

On October 20, 2022, I purchased my ticket and attended the 2022 Business of the Year Awards. I knew a few other business owners by this point, but I went on my own, looking forward to meeting individuals at the event and chatting with those at my table. It was so great to see how other businesses and business owners were overcoming obstacles and succeeding in so many different industries. Although I felt a bit out of place, I made the best of the situation and had a great time meeting many people. A shout-out to Carrie at Sandman Signature Hotel, Jean and Lauren at Prime Catering, and Lane and Carrie at London Road Marketing. Thank you all for making me feel so welcome; wishing you and your business all extraordinary success. The photo below is me all dressed up and ready to go to the awards. Note the little yellow bowtie. :)

Dressed for the Business Awards
Dressed for the Business Awards

A week later, it was time to give my first speech in Toastmasters. I joinedDynamically Speaking Toastmasters at the end of September and met some fantastic people who were encouraging, supportive, and genuinely lovely. I decided to push myself in this endeavor as well and recorded my first speech on October 27th. It was just an introductory speech about myself, but I wanted it to be more than just that. Something deeper that others could potentially connect with. I know the struggles I am going through and someone else out there is going through as well. I practiced over and over, and it went pretty well. The video quality, however, is not so good. My connection lagged quite a bit that morning. Watch my Icebreaker speech titled "Taking Up Space" below.

Deciding to update my business cards, I had my first headshots taken by Jackie Standing at StandOut Photography. She made my first photo shoot very enjoyable, and I loved how the photos turned out. Thank you to Jackie and Rebecca from StandOut Photography.

At the same time, I worked with Courtney at Paramount Printers Ltd. to revamp my business cards and create a postcard to send out to residents of Lethbridge. I added the first headshot above in both prints to let people know who I am rather than just being another business. Keep your eyes peeled for postcards in your mailboxes. :)

My New Business Cards

My Postcards

This whole journey of starting Shoebox Scanning has been the culmination of my experiences; family events, job experiences, customer service knowledge, connections with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, technology knowledge, and my adaptability to a variety of environments and situations. Each has added a piece of the puzzle that now shows me exactly where I need to be and where my passion is, helping clients to preserve their family’s legacy and share it with future generations. I also couldn't have done this without the support of my family and friends; specifically, I would like to thank Bonnie Johnson, Peter Gallagher, Trina Hall, Jason Bacon, Lynda Kavanagh, Freddi Dogterom, all of my past clients, and everyone else who listened to all my ideas and vents from time to time.

I look forward to my next steps as a business owner and how Shoebox Scanning will grow and change. Thank you for reading through this blog, and I hope you have enjoyed the journey. If you know anyone who has a dusty box of photos stored somewhere, please tell them about Shoebox Scanning. I would be honored to help them preserve their family history.

Wishing you and your family all the best,

Mitchell Hall

Owner of Shoebox Scanning

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