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Advice from the Profit Award Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

Through timely innovation, strategic thinking, and smart execution, these three finalists have launched—and built one (or more!) successful companies with a track record of growth, profitability, industry leadership, as well as breaking new ground. Through their drive, managerial acumen, and leadership traits, they have generated exceptional economic growth and social change.

We asked their best advice for other entrepreneurs.



Coming from a family of medical doctors, Ann was well aware of the need for financing medical procedures not covered by public healthcare. Ann started iFinance Canada in 1996, providing loans to Canadians for medical, dental, veterinary, and more recently, home improvement and payday lending. Starting her company by personally knocking on doctors doors to register them for the program, Ann’s hard work paid off. Nineteen years later, iFinance Canada has processed nearly $1 billion in loan applications and 10,000 medical clinics offering iFinance’s patient financing options (under the company’s original name, Medicard).


Q: How have you overcome your biggest obstacle and how did it lead to success?


A: My biggest obstacle was finding the balance between family and work. I never stopped to say either was impossible, but life kept happening and the push and tug of having and raising eight children while trying to build and expand a corporation was extremely challenging. I learned to get things done – to wake up and face challenges both personally and professionally – to concentrate on the moment and to take advantage of every minute. Perhaps having so many challenges and so much on my plate (as all working mothers do) helped me to become extremely organized, intuitive, and focused.



Focused on the main goal of lowering the cost of aftermarket automotive replacement parts, Dolores assisted her father in following that vision. Together, Dolores and her father created At Pac Auto Body Parts, a manufacturer and distributor of auto parts. After being involved in administration in her father’s body shop, she quickly saw the business opportunity and acquired her Quebec Auto Appraisal exams, becoming the first women in Quebec to become a licensed automobile appraiser. Together, they started with a 6,000 square foot warehouse with 100 SKUs, and now have three warehouses over 100,000 square feet and 28,000 SKU’s. Dolores is also an executive board member of the Automotive Body Parts Association in the United States, and was the first woman elected by members to serve on the board.


Q: How have you overcome your biggest obstacle and how did it lead to success?


A:  In the 1980s, the automotive industry was vastly male dominated. My role at At Pac and my knowledge of the industry challenged the gender norms of that time. Being a woman in a male dominated industry was an obstacle that I overcame with the unconditional support of my family and my constant drive to further my knowledge of the automotive industry. I was always compelled to prove my worth as a woman in the industry and this pushed me to work harder in allowing the company to flourish.



Ashley and her husband started their commercial refrigeration business with one truck on the road and a small home office. Today, they have eleven trucks and will have fifteen on the road by the end of the year. Ashley has continually won large accounts with multiple national companies, including 7-11, Starbucks, Mac’s Stores, and Husky Energy sites, which have been awarded through their exceptional customer service and extended offerings. To support a changing marketplace, Ashley has morphed Techni-Craft from a refrigeration company into a full-fledged facilities management company, allowing Techni-Craft to grow from a refrigeration company to a one stop shop for any c-store in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with plans to expand into the rest of Canada.


Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

A: If I could go back in time I would not have given away as much of my company, as we did when starting the business with a non-investing partner. It would have allowed us to take advantage of growth opportunities sooner.



Related: 22 Lessons from Successful Entrepreneurs






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.