Meet Jean Blacklock, Founder of Prairie Girl Bakery
Jean Blacklock grew up in Saskatchewan, where she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with degrees in Commerce and in Law. She then became a partner at a major law firm in Calgary and later joined BMO Financial Group as an executive in wealth management. Her last role at BMO was managing wealth services for BMO Harris Private Banking and as COO of BMO Trust Company. What’s she up to today? Running one of Toronto’s most popular cupcakeries, Prairie Girl Bakery.
My first job ever was as a freelance caterer when I was a teenager. I made crazy dishes like duck breast in puff pastry. My Mom and sister were my unpaid staff whom I barked at a lot.
Growing up in the prairies was…wonderful. Most people in the Prairies are straightforward, friendly and hardworking and those are traits I try to emulate.
I decided to leave the corporate world because…I could do more interesting things outside the bank than if I stayed. Also 2009 was the height of the financial crisis, so executives were given incentive to leave.
My proudest accomplishment is…the family Andrew and I have raised. Right now our 4 young adult children are ages 18 to 23 and each of them is a good solid person making his or her way in the world. I like them as well as love them!
My boldest move to date was…opening a cupcake business. But I always had a good feeling about it…
I surprise people when I tell them…I’ll become a registered psychotherapist next spring. Telling people this often catches them off-guard. Then they change the subject!
My best advice for someone looking to start their own business is…stop talking about it and do something. There are so many things to read about, develop, explore and just do to even decide if it is viable. Simply talking about ideas doesn’t get the momentum going, and in order to open and run a business, creating and sustaining momentum is essential.
My best advice from a mentor was…don’t have a partner. This advice came from my Dad, also an entrepreneur. I know some people thrive in partnerships but for me, owning a business can offer such independence so I feel, why weigh myself down?
My biggest setback was…opening the 3rd store and realizing the revenue wasn’t nearly what I had forecast for that location.
I overcame it by…working hard on building the local customer base and using that location’s kitchen for a new division, Cakes by Prairie Girl.
I balance work and life by…frequently reviewing my priorities and just focusing on those things. Also, I’m well organized and this helps me not to spin my tires, wasting time in frantic mode. For example, if I know that in 3 weeks I want to give someone a present, I’ll add buying it to my list now. That old saying “Don’t put off till tomorrow what can be done today” is golden.
Being an entrepreneur, a mom, and a wife is…really fun. I love having such variety in my life. Also I don’t have time to meddle in my kids’ lives and I’m sure they appreciate that!
My diverse experience helps me…run my business in a professional way. If I didn’t have my law and corporate experience I don’t think I would be so inclined to try to create a work environment where people are treated with respect. It makes me sad to read about small businesses that try to get away with not paying severance or overtime, for example.
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I’m a slave to my cat Betsy. She is mostly indifferent to me but I love seeing her little grey and white face when I come home every day.
Creativity is an important part of my job because…to stay relevant a business needs to keep evolving and growing. When we opened 5 years ago I never imagined having the big menu we have now but it’s important to stay fresh in the customers’ eyes through products, website updates, social media and so on.
I stay inspired by…my husband. Andrew has a big job but he always has a sense of humour and keeps work in total perspective. And he is so encouraging of everything I do.
The future excites me because…I have many more things I want to do and I feel that I’m just hitting my stride now.