CEO, Women’s Enterprise Centre
Social Change Award Finalist
Laurel Douglas is the CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC). WEC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women launch, lead, and scale their own businesses. Under Laurel’s leadership, WEC has become recognized as one of the leading business resources for women entrepreneurs in BC, and a best practice internationally. WEC provides business loans up to $150,000, advisory services, skills training, mentoring, and resources to women who are starting or growing their own business.
My first job ever was… selling vegetables at the Kitchener-Waterloo farmer’s market, starting at 6 am every Saturday morning. I was proud of my ability to pick up a handful of green beans and have it weigh exactly a pound!
I chose my career path because… I like to help people and create lasting social value.
My proudest accomplishment is… raising my children. There is no real playbook for what you encounter as a parent. My kids are both in their early 20’s now and I’m very proud of each of them.
My boldest move to date was… when I was in my mid-thirties, I quit my job in the UK and moved to a 10-acre property I had bought in the West Kootenay region of BC, where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know how I’d make a living.
I surprise people when I tell them… that I’ve ridden a bicycle across Canada (and it was uphill and against the wind all the way!)
My best advice from a mentor was… that being different can be a strength. When I was hired by the French company called Alcatel, I asked the Director why me- I was not an engineer, not French and a female. He said that’s why we wanted to hire me! I’ve also learned to have a little fun every day, and remember to be thankful for it. In other words, embrace differences and cultivate gratitude.
“Model the behaviours and values you want from your people. Employ servant leadership. Always take the high road.”
My biggest setback was… probably when 6 people in my family died in a year, including both my parents. That derailed my life for a while, understandably… but I learned how resilient I am through that experience, and it helped me reevaluate my priorities and reinvent myself.
I overcame it by… quitting my job and moving back to Canada, then changing careers. When your personal landscape is altered so dramatically, it’s time for reflection. I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life back in Canada (after living abroad for almost 10 years), and that I wanted a life that was better aligned with my values. I’ve been leading nonprofits in the economic development field for almost 22 years.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… exercise by taking a walk in nature more often.
I stay inspired by… studying the teachings of great leaders, walking in nature, practicing my faith and participating in a couple of study and leadership peer mentoring groups.
The future excites me because… life is an adventure and there is always something new to learn.
My next step is … a new adventure. Always.