Meet Melanie Normandin, Vice President of Arctic Consultants Inc., and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Finalist

 

Melanie Normandin

Vice President, Arctic Consultants Inc.

Finalist, Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, EAST

 

Arctic Consultants has been meeting the procurement needs of remote communities in Nunavik and Nunavut since 1984. Melanie Normandin took over the family business with her husband in 2009, and now works not only to ensure the day-to-day runs smoothly, but also to help guide growth on a strategic level. Combining four types of services — including wholesale food and general merchandise, expertise in the logistics of packaging and the shipping of products to Northern communities, and transportation — Arctic Consultants is aiming to become the leading procurement team serving communities North of the 55th parallel.

 

My first job ever was… babysitting kids.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… Turn of faith, my husband had his eyes on my father’s company. I decided to jump in. That was the best career move I ever made.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… balancing a family of three kids, marriage and a growing business. It’s a struggle in constant adjustments but it all works out.

 

My boldest move to date was… buying a triplex with my boyfriend now husband three months after we met. That was fun.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I dream of taking my family on a long trip around the world with only a packsack.

 

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… Surround yourself with the best.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… You only live once, don’t waste your time

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Ashevak Kenojuak, an Inuit artist from Cape Dorset that I find so inspiring. A soft, reserved petite women, yet strong and very independent. Her art is absolutely stunning. I wish I had the chance to meet her and talk to her eye to eye before she passed away.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Lucky you, all these wonderful years in front of you, enjoy.

 

“That year has turned out to be one of the most exciting, intense and fun year of my life. I am now a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.”

 

My biggest setback was… I had planned on travelling around the world with a friend for one year. When this plan felt short, I was lost and had no idea where to go from there.

 

I overcame it by… I found a job in the video games industry that opened up a whole new fascinating world to me. I then met my husband and it was love at first sight. That year has turned out to be one of the most exciting, intense and fun year of my life. I am now a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

 

The last book I read was… Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles from Katherine Pancol. Light and very well written.

 

I stay inspired by… Planning a trip or planning renovations then doing it.  

 

The future excites me because… It’s a mix of business and personal growth and confidence. My dreams and plans are getting bigger and bolder with time. It’s very exciting when I think of the future.

 

Success to me means… Freedom to live the life I want. Being independent, and in charge of my destiny. Surrounding myself with significant people and creating a great world for all my loved ones friends and employees.

 

 

Meet Mandy Farmer, President & CEO of Accent Inns Inc., and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Finalist

 

Mandy Farmer

President and CEO, Accent Inns Inc.

Finalist, Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, WEST

 

When Mandy Farmer’s father started Accent Inns Inc. in 1987, he didn’t plan on having any of his children go into the business. But Mandy took over as president and CEO in 2008, bringing with her an innovative, lighthearted (and highly profitable) vision. With fun and unique amenities and on-property experiences, big brand personalities, Instagram-worthy decor, and a focus on keeping both guests and staff happy, she’s revitalized the family-owned chain (not to mention the exterior corridor motel market), growing it to eight hotels across BC under the Accent Inns and Hotel Zed brands.

 

My first job ever was… I was 14-years-old and a chambermaid in a small B’nB. I had to wear a full french maid outfit including a bonnet and a long black dress that came all the way down to my ankles. The worst outfit to clean a room in.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had a crazy idea I just couldn’t shake! After ten years of pitching business plans unsuccessfully my mentor finally told me to give up. This rattled me and I knew then that giving up was not an option, I just had to pitch it in a completely different way, which then lead to success and Hotel Zed was born.  

 

My proudest accomplishment is… getting said business plan finally approved and opening our first Hotel Zed.

 

“Hire people better than yourself. You really need to curate a team that inspires you.”

 

My boldest move to date was… launching “the Nooner” Valentine’s Day promotion where we invited people to give the gift of their sexy selves: check in time at 11am, check out at 2pm. It was a hit! Fox news picked it up which has a circulation of 42 million.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I’m an Honorary Captain in the Royal Canadian Navy.

 

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… hire people better than yourself. You really need to curate a team that inspires you. Then your business grows and you also have so much fun working together.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… being told to give up…man, did that light a fire of determination within me!

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Tony Robbins.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… You are in for an awesome ride! Buckle up!

 

My biggest setback was… I don’t really have one. I’ve been able to turn negatives into opportunities:

  • All our properties had leaky condo. Awesome! We get to change the look of the hotels and refresh our exterior!
  • An arsonist burned down one of our restaurants. We got out of our lease with a lack luster restaurant, scored the perfect tenant, built a better building and added a second floor with our gorgeous new Head Office on top.
  • Our properties have exterior corridors and realtors told me the valuation of our hotels was rock bottom. We turned around this “setback” by making motels cool again.

 

The last book I read was… Own The Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus

 

I stay inspired by… surrounding myself with the most amazing, interesting and smart people.

 

The future excites me because… we have the resources and that awesome smart team of talent for us to achieve our wildest dreams. I feel like we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. I don’t know what that is yet. Our team needs to sit down and figure out what it is, but I have an overwhelming feeling something great is going to happen.

 

Success to me means… loving what you do and having employees that feel the same. My New Year’s resolution was to build thriving happy communities for our employees in each of our hotels. I write this goal in a journal every single day.

 

 

Meet Debbie McGrath, CMO and Chief Client Officer at Echelon Wealth Partners

Debbie McGrath is an award-winning business strategy and marketing and communications expert with deep experience in professional services, financial services, real estate services and consumer retail industries. Best described as a visionary and architect of winning marketing campaigns and developer of client-first business initiatives this University of Western Ontario graduate and three-time RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award nominee is now Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Client Officer at Echelon Wealth Partners. While the Director of Marketing for Chestnut Park Real Estate, Debbie’s efforts were acknowledged by the prestigious Christie’s International Real Estate’s Affiliate of the Year Award in 2016. Debbie is a member of the Board at the HART Foundation, a Canadian not-for-profit that raises awareness and funding to provide housing and rehabilitation services for sex-trafficked women.

 


 

My first job ever was… as a camp counselor at Camp Onondaga, however, my first in-office role was during university as summer staff working in the file room at Thomson Rogers law firm. I was also a receptionist in my early days.

 

I chose my career path because… it satisfies my insatiable appetite to build and improve without limits.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… my children — for their infectious glow, independent spirit and determination in pursuit of their dreams.

 

My boldest move to date was… starting my own company, especially when my children were so young. My husband and I didn’t have financial elasticity to allow for failure and it was in an industry I didn’t have any experience in. What this demonstrated was my risk tolerance, which has been a great gift both in my career and for the personal financial decisions my husband and I have made.   

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I played competitive badminton. My husband laughed and commented that it was a “backyard game” until I took him out on the court to change that perception. It’s the fastest sport in the world, most people don’t know that or believe it. A shuttlecock moves at 493km/hr. Google it!

 

My best advice to people starting their career is… be curious about everything.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… “There is no such thing as failure, you’re gaining experience.” I received this at a particularly dark time in my life and wasn’t emotionally available to receive it. With time comes distance, and upon reflection, those failures taught me incomparably valuable life lessons and I am ultimately thankful for them – with no desire to redo them, of course.

 

 “A setback is simply a challenge with the potential for growth.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… trust your gut, it’s amazing how on-point our instincts are.

 

My biggest setback was…There have been a lot of perceived setbacks in my career and personal life, but I prefer to think of them as pivotal moments with opportunity. I believe anything is possible for anyone; the road might be challenging along the way, but if you’re determined to succeed, you’ll find a way around them. A setback is simply a challenge with the potential for growth.

 

I overcame it by… perseverance. Certainly, there have been days or weeks when I would’ve preferred to stay in bed and shutout the world, however, I didn’t (and still don’t) have that option. I have children who need me and a business that needs me. I have a commitment to financial security with my family. At times I’ve been forced to dig deep to find my motivation — but it’s always rewarding in the end.

 

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend it with my children and husband doing an activity together, biking, playing tennis or golf.

 

The last book I read was…Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons, The Story of a Business Philosophy. I bought all the available copies of this book from the publisher and recently distributed it to our company on our corporate retreat. His theory of trust, culture, brand and customer service was inspiring and he is a wonderful example of a Canadian entrepreneurial success story.

 

I stay inspired by… the limitlessness of what’s possible! The evolution of relationships and connections is amazing. I have had the good fortune of having worked for extraordinary people who are now business partners, despite the fact we no longer work for the same organization. One of the special qualities about Canadians is their interest in connecting people and I think that’s one of our greatest assets, our ability to network.

 

The future excites me because… a wave of change is coming. I feel as though a seismic shift is on its way, for women, for our daughters and for future generations. Doors that were closed are now opening, transparency is being demanded and expected and increased opportunity will hopefully be the result. #Metoo has been an unbelievable movement and its impact has been felt across every industry and at all levels of the corporate world.  

 

My next step is… educating women and girls on the value of investing. To have control over your money is incredibly empowering and understanding the tools to generate and preserve wealth is a further step forward. Over 90% of women will have control of the household finances at some point in their life, however, only 40% of women have a financial advisor. Their hesitancy to participate in wealth preservation is due to a lack of trust and fear of the system. I’d like to bridge this gap to build a better future of financial independence for women.