Meet Kathleen Quinlan, founder of Fiore Botanica and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Micro-Business Award Finalist
Founder, Fiore Botanica
Finalist, Micro Business Award presented by Diversity Institute & Magnet Export Business Portal, EAST
After a life-threatening illness, over 20 years ago Kathleen Quinlan made the decision to limit her exposure to the dangerous chemicals that can be found in personal care products. This eventually led to the online launch of her Fiore Botanica Natural Skin Care line in 2009, incorporating the traditional aromatherapy she had studied with 100% natural, ethically-sourced ingredients — all hand blended in the company’s own facility, and offered at an accessible price. Their first retail store opened in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia in 2013, and within five years they’ve outgrown three different locations in town, and are looking to expand again.
My first job ever was… making pies. I learned how to make great pies and butter tarts from my mother. To save money for university I started my first business, The Pies the Limit, when I was 13 years old. Every nickel I earned making and selling my pies went towards my education. I continued my business throughout my college years in Toronto.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I’ve always been “the bucks stops here” kind of person, wanting to control my destiny both financially and professionally. While working towards my dream of Fiore Botanica, I was a very successful self-employed Massage Therapist working in the major motion picture industry and in private practice. I love the hustle and creativity that being self-employed requires, and the transition to entrepreneurship was logical for me.
My proudest accomplishment is… being the finalist for the East in my category! I feel that this happened as a result of the careful growth of Fiore Botanica, never taking on more than we had the capacity to deliver. Particularly when moving into the amenity market, it would have been easy to have given into the enormous demand. My methodical and rational approach to growth has allowed Fiore Botanica to be built on a solid foundation of trust and goodwill in the marketplace.
My boldest move to date was… leaving my successful and established Massage Therapy practice in Montreal, Quebec, to move to rural Nova Scotia to focus on growing Fiore Botanica full-time.
I surprise people when I tell them… that my business has flourished in a small rural community. In-store and online, Fiore Botanica is proving that dedicated marketing, active customer engagement, and thinking nationally (and internationally) can translate into success. With online conversion rates running 5-6% above industry average, international exposure at the Golden Globes, and a repeat customer rate of at least 55%, Fiore Botanica has proven that success can be achieved in a rural setting.
My best advice to people starting their business is… know your business, but also know about business. Like the three “Rs” all industries share fundamental principles that need to be mastered to create a solid foundation upon which to build. Mentors, experienced business owners, and teachers abound that can be invaluable in teaching you, formally or informally, the skills you need to develop in order to start on the right foot with clear-eyed determination. All you need to do is ask.
My best advice from a mentor was… to really listen, whether to others or, what is sometimes harder, yourself. I have learned so much just from paying attention to people. Being in the moment with others helps you learn to be present with yourself. By cutting out the noise, this ultimately helps you learn to focus and make better decisions.
“Mentors, experienced business owners, and teachers abound that can be invaluable in teaching you, formally or informally, the skills you need to develop in order to start on the right foot with clear-eyed determination.”
If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my father, he was my very first mentor. His guidance, advice, and support are touchstones I rely on even today. Through his words and his example, I learned the importance of integrity, honesty, hard work, service, and community. His lessons have taken me far in my life and govern me every day.
I would tell my 20-year old self… Your life is going to have many twists and turns taking you down roads that weren’t in your plans. But at one point you will come to understand that your plans weren’t meant to be made, but rather discovered. The most difficult roads will lead to the most beautiful places and you are going to learn that you have strength you never knew you had.
My biggest setback was… my own doubts. When I was in my thirties, I realized that this was what I wanted to do, but I constantly second guessed myself, undermining my own dreams. I thought that a dream that began in a kitchen, with just a humble spoon and a bowl, was far too modest to grow into a serious business.
I overcame it by… engaging with successful women. I heard their stories, many with the same humble beginnings, and recognized myself. Their determination, work ethic, and passion resonated with me and I realized that I had those same qualities that I could give to my business.
Want to celebrate Canada’s top female entrepreneurs in person? Get your ticket to the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Gala!
I never go a day without… feeling and embracing joy. Whether it’s connecting with family or friends, dancing by myself to my favourite music, laughing without restraint, or just marveling at the very fact that I am living my dream, taking the time to immerse myself in happiness and feel gratitude helps me keep everything in perspective.
The last book I read was… my journal. I have been chronicling my days since I was 16. This narrative of my life helps me take a step back and reflect, and the poems or quotes I have gathered over the years provide inspiration and grounding.
I stay inspired by… working on new formulas in my lab. It’s my happy place, where I feel the most creative and alive. When you spend years working on a formula, and see it go on the shelves, that’s gratifying. When people take time out of their day to call or write to say that my product has impacted their life for the better in large ways or even small, there’s no words to describe that feeling.
The future excites me because… I see my business as part of a future when completely natural products will be the rule, not the exception. Fiore Botanica has differentiated itself as a company that has always been 100% natural, right from inception. Our current clients and the new “green” wave of consumers appreciate and respect that commitment.