A serial entrepreneur Elaine has successfully built teams and realigned business strategies for over 15 years. She recently launched Disruption Ventures, a Venture Capital fund that invests in female-founded and managed companies. This was a natural progression for Elaine as she has spent the past 6 years consulting and advising start-ups and early-stage companies, helping them reach their goals and access financing. Prior to consulting, she was CEO of B5Media. The company was sold to Alloy Digital in April 2012. Elaine was also the CEO of Ziplocal which was sold to Canpages in 2009. We caught up with her ahead of our spotlight event in Toronto on September 18th — The New Age of Business: How Digitization is Reshaping Your 10-Year Plan — where she will be speaking on the panel.
My first job ever was… Working in my mother’s children’s clothing store when I was 12. I was obsessed with making sure people didn’t leave without finding something they loved to buy.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I’m not sure you decide, I think it is part of you. Some key influences were my dad who is an entrepreneur and a woman I babysat for who was the president of a company. I remember thinking, I want to be like Jan!
My proudest accomplishment is… I’m not very good at celebrating my accomplishments because I’m usually on to the next. Can I tell you when I get there?
My boldest move to date was… I’m generally a bold person. It’s hard to say what has been “most” bold because at different stages in life I think I have done the unexpected relative to my position or authority. I just don’t deal well with the status quo for the sake of resisting change. I suppose what I’m doing now with Disruption Ventures is pretty bold. It’s definitely REALLY hard!
I surprise people when I tell them… That I was SUPER shy when I was a kid. So shy that my aunt suggested to my mom that they should get me assessed. I think I just observed in my early years. I then realized it wasn’t very fun to be the shy one and made a decision to get outside of my comfort zone. I guess it worked…or maybe I over-corrected!
My best advice to people starting out in business is… Make sure it’s your passion and that you get up in the morning wanting to do nothing else. It’s really hard and you’ll naturally question yourself all of the time. You have to believe it’s what you “need” to be doing.
My best advice from a mentor was… Early on in my career, someone helped me understand that not all people are motivated by the same things in life. That to lead effectively you have to provide opportunity for people to set their own goals and to understand what makes them tick.
I would tell my 20-year old self… the same thing I keep trying to tell my much older than 20 self, that it’s a long life and not to be impatient. I have to give people time to catch up sometimes. I’m not very good at that.
“ To lead effectively you have to provide opportunity for people to set their own goals and to understand what makes them tick. “
My biggest setback was… A horrible human who tried to take his own failures out on me. He was powerful and made my life a living hell for a while. It impacted my health and my happiness.
I overcame it by… I fought back. Bully’s don’t get to win.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is… Setting a goal and then making it happen. From concept to reality. I love to execute.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Do the activities I love; golf, hiking, skiing. Sports, exercise, being outside keeps me grounded and sane (well relatively speaking!).
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I love country music, cooking for friends, Nicholas Sparks movies, and I think kids are way cooler than adults!
The one thing I wish I knew when starting Disruption Ventures is… Nothing. I’ve enjoyed the journey, learned from the challenges and it’s made me more bullish on what I’m doing.
I stay inspired by… The desire to succeed. To prove that my mandate and thesis are right and to watch and participate in seeing amazing entrepreneurs thrive.
The future excites me because… I think young people rock! They actually care about social responsibility, the environment and what is right and fair. They’re clever and informed and they also strive for balance. I’m long on Millennials and Gen Z!
My next step is… Step? I take leaps. 😉 My next leap, expanding on my current platform. This is just the beginning!