Ashley Kirwan is the Co-founder, CEO and Principal Geologist at Orix Geoscience; a leading geology firm that partners with exploration and mining companies to provide geological and geomatic expertise and business strategies for grassroots, brownfields and advanced projects. Orix started in a downturn and has grown over the last six years to 56 employees within three offices (Toronto, Sudbury and Winnipeg). Orix has grown by employing a driven, diverse and entrepreneurial group of people, now composed of 50% females, which is unheard of in the mining industry. Orix stands out in the industry as a new generation of leading geoscientist. Ashley is passionate about working with collaborative teams on innovative projects and is
committed to leading a new generation of geoscientists in the mining industry.
My first job ever was… I started working from grade 6 babysitting for multiple families and by grade 8 I had my first actual part time job washing golf clubs and carts by hand at a golf course in my home town Lively, Ontario. My first job in geology was for Mirarco where I hand entered drill log information into an excel spreadsheet (little did I know we would offer this same data entry service at Orix years later!).
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… In 2012 I decided to take a chance and work with a friend doing something I loved…it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I was an entrepreneur. I now know my entrepreneurialism is driven by a love of working with good people, passion for problem solving, and desire for personal growth (I love multi-tasking and not getting stuck doing one thing for too long).
My proudest accomplishment is… Becoming the President & CEO of a company in the mining industry in the same year I had a baby. I love hearing about trailblazers who do things out of the norm. In the mining industry a business owner and CEO who is a millennial, female, and recent mother is definitely outside of the norm.
My boldest move to date was… Leaving a good job where I loved the people I worked with. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had a drive in me for personal growth, and although I loved my job, I felt I needed a different experience. I left my position to work at a junior exploration company that had me living in Nevada for almost a year and pushed me to take on new roles and responsibilities. This bold move opened the door to new experiences and lead me to co-found Orix. I’ve realized good things come from stepping outside your comfort zone.
I surprise people when I tell them… That I am the co-founder and co-owner of a geological consultant firm. I am not your typical mining executive so it’s always refreshing to have a conversation with others when they realize I’m part of a group that is breaking boundaries in the mining industry.
Also that I feel more at home in northern Ontario. Although I live and work in Toronto, I grew up in Sudbury and still call the north home.
My best advice to people starting out in business is… Surround yourself with good people! You will spend many long days and nights starting your business so it’s best to find supportive people that you enjoy being around and can laugh with! I would also recommend operating as if you are a larger business (right from creating a proper business plan and budget, to organizing your files on your computer, and having a clean PowerPoint presentation that markets what your business niche is).
My best advice from a mentor was… Think bigger picture and set goals that are higher than any you would have imagined. It’s easy to set obtainable goals that are within arms reach, the challenge comes in setting goals that are so outrageous, you would almost think they would be impossible to achieve…until you surprise yourself.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… My instinct is to say an extra hour to check my emails, but what I would really do is take the extra hour to sleep!…I have a newborn so any extra hour of sleep is heaven. I would also take 1 hour each day to enjoy a long cup of coffee and cook breakfast, my favourite meal of the day and a great way to fuel up.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I grew up in Sudbury and feel most at home spending time in the great outdoors in northern Ontario (although I run a business from Toronto). I also love the challenge of active travel and have spend many vacations with my husband hiking, camping, and cycling.
My advice for entrepreneurs who need funding is… Create a clean and well-thought out PowerPoint presentation that is concise and can be used for your “pitch”, research business grants as there is a lot of funding out there for start ups, and reach out to all of your contacts and attend as many networking events as you can…you never know who will be the person to get you in the door…
I stay inspired by… Listening to other entrepreneur stories both inside and outside the mining industry. There are a lot of people doing really interesting things in the world, often by trailblazing, taking risks, and having the courage to speak up. My business partner, Shastri Ramnath, also inspires me, she is a visionary thinker and has the ability to dream bigger than anyone I know.
The future excites me because… It is unknown! Although I consider myself a planner, I appreciate the fact that flexibility is a key factor in personal and business growth. Orix is not the company we thought it would be 5 years ago, and in 5 years time it will evolve in ways we could only imagine. I’ve learnt to not stress about having a set 5-year plan, but instead aim for goals and appreciate the windy path it takes to get there.
My next step is… 2019 will be another year of growth for Orix! Our team’s focus will be on marketing our business globally and expanding our geology, geomatic, and software development services. We are excited about the innovation that is coming out of the mining industry and are driven to be leaders in “Human Intelligence” for strategic exploration, aligning new-age technology with geological expertise.
This year I will also be involved with WIM Toronto by contributing to their speaker sessions, which showcase professional women in the industry. I will also be involved with Laurentian University by supporting initiatives to promote the geosciences.
Hear the rest of her incredible story at the season premiere of the Women of Influence Luncheon series: The Americas Powerhouse Luncheon. With Women Who Rock we are shining a spotlight on The Americas Diversity story during the PDAC 2019 Convention. Tickets are available here.