In 1960, Eleanor Fulcher borrowed $500 to start her own self-improvement and modeling agency. At the time, there were few, if any, women who owned their own business. Instead, women were encouraged to become teachers, nurses, secretaries, or stewardesses. Yet in spite of these established guidelines, Eleanor went on to build the most successful self-improvement and modeling school and agency in Canada. Then, in 1980, she opened the first spa in Canada at a time when they were only running in Europe and Florida. She is the epitome of a strong, female entrepreneur and continues to inspire today.
My first job ever was… A secretary. In those days, there weren’t many other options. A woman could choose to be a secretary, nurse, or teacher; an entrepreneur was certainly not a realistic option.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I saw the women in their 30’s and 40’s still doing the same secretarial job that I was doing, and I had an epiphany: ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life!’ It was my boss at the time who opened my eyes to the world of modelling and image development. I was the youngest secretary on the executive floor and he said, ‘Eleanor, I need you to look older’. So, at 16 I enrolled in a modelling and image school, only to realize that I had a knack for it. I started working at the school, I was a natural, and I loved helping all the women. When I realized I couldn’t go much further with that modelling school, I decided to open my own.
My proudest accomplishment is…Opening the door for women to have a safe place to discover who they truly are. Some of my clients were women in controlling or even abusive relationships. I helped them discover they had beautiful wings and that they could fly, many of them right out of those abusive relationships.
My boldest move to date was…Opening Canada’s first spa. When I first registered it, I called up the business bureau and no one knew what a spa was! It was the late 1970’s and the only spas were in Florida or Europe. It was a beautiful property on Lake Muskoka. It was so hard getting it opened, but once we did, we quickly learned the women loved it.
I surprise people when I tell them…I owned the biggest modelling agency and school in Canada.
My best advice to people starting out in business is…Be determined, have faith and believe in yourself.
My best advice from a mentor was… To name my company after myself, ‘Eleanor Fulcher Modelling School and Agency’.
My biggest setback was…The spa! Opening that spa, as amazing as it was, got me in to a lot of debt. I was scared I would have to file for bankruptcy.
I overcame it by…Asking that same mentor/friend to help me out. This world is all about relationships, and I pride myself on building strong friendships based on integrity. When I called my mentor, and told him I was in trouble, he immediately wanted to help. He came in as an investor and I was able to save the business.
Work/life balance is…Making sure that home is home. It is a place to escape from the chaos of work life. By keeping my maiden name for the business, it allowed me to create somewhat of a double life, sort of like Batman and Clark Kent. At home I was Eleanor Arnold, the loving mother and wife, and at work I was Eleanor Fulcher, the savvy business woman.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I’m a real softie! People might think I am a tough business woman, but I am very sensitive.
I stay inspired by…The possibilities of life. I get up and I am grateful to be alive and I thank God for every day I get.
The future excites me because…There is always a future. I don’t plan for something 5-10 years ahead. I’ve learned to live spontaneously — you have to when you reach my age! Especially now, I’m grateful for every day, and I try to live in the moment.