How She Did It: Mandy Rennehan, founder and Blue-Collar CEO of Freshco.ca

If Mandy Rennehan’s entrepreneurial success story doesn’t inspire you to get up and get moving towards your goals, we suggest you check your pulse. The Blue-Collar CEO of Freshco.ca, a boutique construction firm that dubs itself “The Fun Company,” Mandy is an award-winning entrepreneur who started with nothing on the East Coast of Canada and has built a name for herself in the competitive GTA and across Canada and the U.S. Today, the Freshco.ca brand is synonymous with quality, excellence, and integrity. Here’s how she did it.

 


 

 

How did you know that entrepreneurship was the right path for you?

I didn’t. It chose me at a very young age. I was born and raised in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, a fishing town. By the age of 10 I was foraging for bait and selling it to local fisherman for profit.

 

Did you talk to anyone for business advice or direction on what steps to take?

I actually didn’t know what to ask people, so I watched and listened to everything going on around me and learned that way. I purposefully chose to take on the projects that would have the most impact to help build my credibility and business — some worked, some didn’t!

 

How did you fund your business in the beginning? Did you need any start-up capital?

Sweat equity was all I had. I saved every penny until I became my own line of credit. After five years of self-funding the business, the bank gave me a line of credit because I had real cash flow and, by then, credibility.

 

How did you land your first client?

Word of mouth. I took on a big project for free, to prove myself and my work ethic, and it paid off with the referrals that got my business rolling.

 

How did you scale your business to the next level?

I visualized the goal and started climbing, like I did when I first started my business; except this time, I strategically picked people who added value in the areas that weren’t my strengths. Together we are an unbeatable powerhouse. Many of my original core team are still with Freshco today.

 

“We have found a happy medium of the collaboration between human connection and technology that is a force in the industry.”

 

Has your business gone through any transformations since you began?

A million and six! My team has grown and evolved, and technology has made things both better and worse. To get the consistency and quality Freshco.ca is known for, we realized we had to train and mentor all new staff in-house. The whole process takes a year! It is a massive investment but essential to ensure the customer service and quality we have become known for is maintained. In our conservative industry we are known as the Fun Company because we make fun a priority. All our staff have their caricatures on their business cards, they wear cheeky uniforms on job sites, and do amazing work with an awesome attitude – our clients love it!  We have found a happy medium of the collaboration between human connection and technology that is a force in the industry. We have an incredible project management and booking system that allows projects to be booked together, based on location, and saves our clients hundreds of thousands a year in trip fees. We have also created a custom Clean Room to allow us to work and contain dust and debris without impacting a functioning retail location. We are also the first in Canada to use the Fortis Exoskeleton in a construction application to reduce fatigue and injury — the list goes on.

 

Looking back, how much of your success do you attribute to luck, and how much do you attribute to your skill, personality, or intelligence?

I believe I was lucky to be born with all three. For that I am grateful.

 

Connect with Mandy at @MandyRennehan and MandyRennehan.com.

Exporting Canadian Art: How Geneviève Lévesque created a viable market for affordable visual artwork

The Canadian art market contributes to thousands of jobs in creative employment annually, bringing millions of dollars into the economy. At the same time, the industry is fraught with stigma and buying art is seen as a luxury few can afford. However, RBC Canadian Entrepreneur Award-winning entrepreneur Geneviève Lévesque noticed a market: those who appreciate art and want to make a living as an artist, yet are excluded from the traditional scene. Thus, Artêria Gallery was born.

 


 

By Rebecca Heaton

 

Geneviève Lévesque founded Artêria Gallery in 2007, by simply responding to a need in her community: she knew a lot of artists, and it was clear that they needed help promoting their work. Specializing in emerging markets, Artêria manages over forty professional artists from Canada, the United States, and Europe, and is described by Geneviève as “the bridge that helps artists make a living off of their talent.”

Each year, Geneviève spends 25% of her time traveling to numerous international events. This year, she’s been to art markets in San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, and LA, to name a few. Depending on the day, you can find Geneviève sipping champagne and discussing fine art with friends, or in a garage filling crates with pieces that need to go across the world. “Entrepreneurs have to be a jack of all trades,” she says.

What is most striking about Geneviève is her passion for what she does and her knowledge of art as both a practice and a theory. “Part of the reason why art is such a growing field,” she explains, “is because the term ‘art’ is so broad. Art can mean anything from graphic design to opera to baking. Anything that comes from a creative thought process and anything that you put your heart into can be called art.” Geneviève also sees art as a way for people to connect with their humanity and find comfort in times of need. “I think people collect art and believe in art because they connect with the authenticity and vulnerability of it. A piece of art is an extension of the human soul in many ways,” she says.

After being in the art business for her entire adult life and traveling around the world, Geneviève has learned about different cultures’ relationship to art. For example, the tradition of collecting art in Europe has been part of their society for much longer than in North America. “Many Europeans see buying art as an investment and believe a home is incomplete or empty without art. The art is passed down through generations and they believe in its value and see themselves as patrons of the arts,” she explains. In North America, buying mass-produced art is much more common and does little to support the art industry and its artists.

 

I think people collect art and believe in art because they connect with the authenticity and vulnerability of it. A piece of art is an extension of the human soul in many ways”

 

Interestingly, many Canadian businesses are beginning to incorporate art in their offices. “It has been well documented by scientific research that art can improve well-being and to a level, health! For example, it has been proven to reduce anxiety, which is a great asset in a workplace that can get stressful from time to time,” says Geneviève. This belief in the power of art is what motivates Geneviève, and while starting her business has been stressful, centering it on something she loves has been key to her continued success.  

And, while there is a tremendous amount of risk involved in starting your own business, Geneviève says there is always someone there to help you. “The trick is asking for the help,” she says. She also suggests finding a mentor, even if they are not in the same field as you because “a business is a business.” What surprised her most was that growth is actually more challenging than the initial start-up. “It’s a totally different ball game,” she says. While growth can be scary and is easier said than done, Genevieve encourages female entrepreneurs to not be afraid to go international. “It really does open so many doors. Artêria wouldn’t even be alive if we didn’t take that leap of faith to go elsewhere,” she says.

At Artêria, Geneviève gives her staff a lot of autonomy and believes in the importance of offering them flexible hours. First, because she values work/life balance and secondly, because the new generation of workers have different expectations. She explains, “Millennials have a different relationship with work, in that it needs to make them grow into better human beings. We expect a lot more from our jobs and the clock-in, clock-out dynamic just does not cut it.”

Geneviève insists that this career path chose her. What started out as a volunteering process, promptly became a full-time activity because the demand was so high for artists seeking representation. Being able to travel, work in art and choose who to work with is a dream come true for Geneviève, but it could not have happened without a lot of hard work and a little determination to go and get what you want.