Sharon Wood joined Kids Help Phone as President and CEO in 2009, and brought with her extensive knowledge and experience from the non-profit and charitable sector, coming from roles such as CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Director and Organizational Development at the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only national helpline for kids, and it now leads the world in knowledge of youth mental health and well being. Sharon took on her role when the company was in need of new direction and strategy, and she has successfully integrated new processes and technologies to positively do so. Kids Help Phone not only helps youth across Canada, it is continually recalibrating its ability to reach youth by incorporating new means of communications including message-based services and Live Chat.
Q: Do you have any unique procedures, processes or approaches that have contributed to the overall success of your organization?
A: Kids Help Phone actively engages young people in all areas of our work. We have a National Youth Advisory Council that provides leadership and guidance on youth engagement. We have an active base of hundreds of youth volunteer ambassadors who connect with other young people through activities in schools and communities. We continuously seek feedback from youth through surveys on our kids and teens websites, and we also strike short-term youth advisory groups for every new resource or service we create. We believe that engaging youth is critical to the success, effectiveness and relevance of Kids Help Phone.
EMBERS (Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society) sparked from a conversation Marcia had with a resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who struggled on and off with alcoholism, mentioning a big issue with Vancouver’s disadvantaged neighbourhood: employment. Marcia started EMBERS Staffing Solutions to focus on recruiting people coming out of addiction, recovery, and prison who were clean and sober to assist them in finding a job, many who struggled to find employment due to their past. EMBERS is Canada’s only not for profit, socially responsibly staffing company, and Marcia has successfully supported hundreds of people through who are job ready and eager to get back to work.
Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?
A: When you’re starting from scratch, you need to take time to build the right team. Find people who are equally driven by your purpose but bring different skills, talents and expertise to the table.
Breton Ability Centre (formerly known as Braemore Home) is an organization in Nova Scotia that provides support and services for persons with disabilities. Having worked as a senior administrator with the company, Millie jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of CEO when the position became available, and take Breton Ability Centre into the next level of success. Under Millie’s influence, the company is now recognized as a leader in service to persons with significant disabilities including autism and other behavioural disorders. Breton Ability Centre’s goal is for individuals residing at their Centre to live socially inclusive lives as full citizens in our community, and BAC’s programs and activities are designed with the end goal of achieving just that.
Q: What has helped contribute to the overall success of your organization?
A: Relationships are key and a can do attitude is necessary to inspire your team to achieve your vision. Build your team with competent people who believe in life long learning. As Theodore Roosevelt would say “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 23rd year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.