If you ever moved houses as a child, take a moment to remember the experience. First of all, and apart from the heartache of missing friends and everything else familiar, you were probably excited to enter a new environment. A new house equaled new areas to explore. Maybe the new house contained secret passageways in the walls, or perhaps there were tall, branchy trees in the yard, perfect for climbing. All in all, for most children, moving is a mysterious and adventurous occasion.
But for Stephanie Gourlie, co-owner of Discount Granite Plus, moving homes during her childhood was a little different.
Over the course of her early years, Stephanie’s family moved quite a few times. But Stephanie’s parents weren’t interested in house-shopping with a real estate agent or going to open houses. No, they preferred to build each new home from scratch.
For Stephanie, this meant that she was part of the home-building process. “I would often spend weekends reviewing blueprints and looking at model homes with my parents,” she said. In other words, Stephanie wasn’t just sitting around, dreaming about hidden passages in her new homes. Instead, she was helping design them.
“I guess [building and designing] has always been a passion of mine,” she said. “Since my parents built every home from the ground up, it’s something that has always been a part of my life.”
But it took some time for Stephanie to recognize this passion. When the time came for Stephanie to pick her career and education avenue, home-design and contracting wasn’t her first option. Instead she studied computer programming, acquired her diploma in that field, and landed a job in human resources software development. Thus, her career story began.
While working this job, however, Stephanie found herself becoming more and more attracted to the HR side of it. She decided to dedicate herself to human resources, and before she knew it, she was managing the HR departments for a number of automotive and fabrication manufacturing companies in Southern Ontario.
But Stephanie was focused on a much bigger goal than human resources management. She wanted to start her own company.
A few years passed. Finally, in the fall of 2012, an opportunity arose for her to do just that and she readily pounced on it. Partnered with her ex-husband, she founded Discount Granite Plus, a stone fabrication and design company specializing in countertop customizations and installations.
“When I started my own business,” she said, “it was a perfect transition from what I was doing beforehand. I had a thorough understanding of human resources and knowledge of what would be required to bring on more staff.” This expertise, added to her experience working with fabrication and manufacturing companies, was exactly what she needed to get Discount Granite off the ground.
“We launched the business as a very small operation,” she said. “Originally, we thought we’d only do two small bathroom countertops per week. That was our goal, and we thought if we could just manage that, we’d be happy.”
And in terms of staff, they were keeping things small as well. At first, Stephanie was more-or-less on the sidelines, just helping out with whatever needed to be done. Her ex-husband did the installs, and a receptionist managed orders over the phone. Three staff members. That’s it.
And boy, oh, boy, did things ever change in a hurry.
A year after founding the company, it started to take off. So, in order to keep up with the increased demand, Stephanie dropped her other occupations to work fulltime for Discount Granite. It may have taken a few years, but Stephanie was finally back to doing her childhood passion of designing and building.
Business for Discount Granite kept increasing exponentially and, before long, Stephanie had exceeded her expected “two small bathroom countertops per week” by a long shot.
By how much, you ask, has she exceeded expectations? Well, Stephanie went from aiming to sell two countertops a week to now selling approximately 6 kitchen and bathroom countertops per day, which comes out to around 30 countertops a week.
Do the math, and that comes out to a 1,400% increase of Stephanie’s original sales expectations. Suffice to say, Discount Granite is trending upwards.
But how does Discount Granite achieve these incredible numbers? You could sum it up by saying they give their customers exactly what they want.
“Normally, our clients are your everyday homeowners,” she said. “They’ll have been flipping through home design magazines, or watching HGTV, and just trying to figure out how to get that look into their own space.”
And that’s where Discount Granite comes in.
“So, they come into our storefront and work with one of our design consultants to help bring that idea to life. And then because we’re fabricators we actually build their countertops right in Barrie, on the south end, in that same facility that the client would’ve come into in the first place.”
And there it is, the recipe for success. Step1: Listen to the customer. Step 2: Work hard to satisfy their needs 100%. Step 3: Watch your business take off!
“It’s been really amazing watching the business grow,” Stephanie said. “Most of our staff have been here for years – almost since the onset – so our turnover is very low. We all work really organically well together.”
But for Stephanie, being a part of the Barrie community is just as important as running a successful business.
“In 2013,” she said, “we started to get more familiar with the Barrie Chamber of Commerce. We wanted to start growing our network and understand a little bit more about the business community and become more established in the community as a whole. So we joined the Chamber as just members, looking to start our networking and you know, figure it all out.”
And after about 5 years, Stephanie decided to volunteer on the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
“I didn’t see a lot of women in my role as a granite fabricator,” she said. “So I thought it was an interesting dynamic to be able to add that perspective from construction, and construction-based networking into the role of being a Board Member.”
Also, as Stephanie is a black businesswoman, she saw representation as something extremely important.
“It was a matter of trying to see some representation and people that looked like me, in non-traditional roles coming out and being more active in the community.”
Stephanie recognizes that this is part of what has needed to happen for decades now.
“For me, it was just a matter of seeing that there’s people like me out here. I think there’s a large community that needs to recognize that and I just felt like this was something I needed to do for the greater good of my community.”
And she had some high praise for the Barrie business community as well. “The Barrie business community has been really good and kind to me, and I’m really grateful to be able to know so many amazing people that have inspired me.”
And not only is Stephanie grateful for the community around her, but she wants to give back to it, too.
“I want to be a role model to younger, aspiring business owners,” she said. “I just think that’s so important. I love Barrie so much. It’s my home. And whatever I can do to be active in the community and supportive, is just…” She paused for a moment, searching for the right words.
“It just needs to happen,” she said with finality.
And you’re making that a possibility, Stephanie. So, from the Barrie Chamber and from all of Barrie, thank you!
Written by: Peter Wilson