Comment la communication narrative peut aider les entrepreneur.es à se sentir eux-mêmes au travail, y compris ceux dont le genre est marginalisé.

Bradley Sensabaugh

Au travail, vous montrez-vous tel.le que vous êtes, autrement dit, êtes-vous vous-même? 

Nombreux sont ceux et celles qui parmi nous peuvent répondre « oui », sans réaliser à quel point c’est un privilège. Pour la communauté LGBTQ2S+, et les personnes transgenres et non binaires en particulier, ce n’est pas aussi simple. Il existe encore des pratiques, des croyances et des barrières systémiques qui font qu’il est difficile, voire dangereux, d’être soi-même sur le lieu de travail.  

De plus, vous pouvez éprouver ces difficultés quel que soit votre statut, employé.e ou entrepreneur. Selon un sondage mené par la CGLCC (Chambre de commerce LGBT+ du Canada) et l’Institut Deloitte, sur les quelque 28 000 entreprises appartenant à des personnes LGBTQ+ au Canada – combinant un chiffre d’affaires de plus de 22 $ milliards et un effectif plus de 435 000 Canadiens – une sur deux a délibérément caché le fait que ses propriétaires étaient des personnes LGBTQ+, et trois sur dix ont été victimes de discrimination. 

Afin d’approfondir ces questions et de découvrir des solutions potentielles, j’ai rencontré Brad Sensabaugh, conseiller principal, Diversité et inclusion, à BDC. Brad s’est joint à BDC il y a quelques mois à peine, mais en peu de temps, il a eu un impact déterminant sur notre stratégie de diversité et d’inclusion. Homme transgenre engagé à faire connaître les défis auxquels sa communauté est confrontée, il a passé près de dix ans en tant que spécialiste de la diversité et de l’intégration à rendre le milieu de travail plus inclusif pour tous les groupes marginalisés.  

Brad a expliqué pourquoi il est plus difficile d’être soi-même pour certaines personnes, en quoi la communication narrative peut contribuer à changer ce paradigme et comment nous pouvons tous être de meilleurs alliés à l’avenir. 

 

Laura : Je suis persuadée que pour certaines personnes, il est difficile de se faire à l’idée de ne pas pouvoir être soi-même au travail. Commençons si vous le voulez bien par explorer les raisons pour lesquelles certaines personnes, comme les membres de la communauté transgenre, ne peuvent tout simplement pas être elles-mêmes sur le lieu de travail?  

Brad : Je pense que pour les personnes trans, non binaires et de divers autres genres, le concept de dévoilement est incommensurable. Imaginez donc les défis que cela pose sur le lieu de travail. De bien des façons, nous pouvons être dévoilés sans le vouloir. 

Par exemple, il se peut que notre carte d’identité ne corresponde pas à notre expression de genre, comme c’est le cas pour un homme transgenre dont la carte d’identité indique qu’il est de sexe féminin. L’acte extrêmement banal et simple de s’identifier légalement peut être un processus intimidant, avec parfois des conséquences telles que l’échec d’une affaire ou une occasion manquée, et quelquefois aussi une sécurité compromise. 

Cela peut aussi se manifester très simplement, sous forme d’exclusion. Lorsqu’elles entendent parler de parité des sexes, c’est-à-dire d’une représentation de 50 % de femmes et de 50 % d’hommes, les personnes non binaires ont en quelque sorte le sentiment de ne pas exister.

 

« Imaginez que vous essayiez de fournir le nom d’une personne citée en référence et que vous deviez expliquer pourquoi cette personne ne vous reconnaîtrait pas sous votre nom ou votre genre actuel. »

 

Laura : Qu’en est-il pour les entrepreneur.es? Selon une étude canadienne, environ 50 % des propriétaires d’entreprises LGBTQ+ choisissent de ne pas divulguer cette partie de leur identité.    

Brad : Pour commencer, c’est souvent une question de sécurité. Bien que de multiples droits et protections soient en vigueur ici, au Canada, nombreuses sont les personnes qui craignent encore la transphobie et l’homophobie et choisissent donc de ne pas être complètement franches ou transparentes – de peur que cela ait un impact sur le succès de leur entreprise, ou pire. D’autres entrepreneurs et entrepreneures doivent faire attention lorsqu’ils font affaire dans des pays ou des territoires – même dans certaines parties des États-Unis – dépourvus de ces droits et protections. Cette réalité peut être encore plus préoccupante. 

Les personnes appartenant à la communauté transgenre ont parfois des trous dans leurs antécédents en matière d’emploi, de crédit ou de logement. Imaginez que vous essayiez de fournir le nom d’une personne citée en référence et que vous deviez expliquer pourquoi cette personne ne vous reconnaîtrait pas sous votre nom ou votre genre actuel. Cette difficulté peut également se présenter lorsqu’il faut fournir des relevés de notes ou des diplômes. Tout cela peut susciter le sentiment de ne pas agir avec franchise et une attention plus insistante à l’endroit d’une personne transgenre. 

Il ne s’agit là que de quelques exemples. Chaque membre de la communauté a son propre vécu qui définit la mesure dans laquelle il ou elle se sentira à l’aise pour partager son histoire. 

Laura : Je sais que vous vous sentez à l’aise pour partager votre propre histoire, et j’aimerais en savoir plus. Comment avez-vous commencé votre carrière dans le domaine de la diversité et de l’inclusion?  

Brad : La défense des intérêts des autres et un sens aigu de la justice ont toujours fait partie de ma vie – ce sont des valeurs qui m’ont été inculquées par mes parents dès mon plus jeune âge. Ensuite, tout au long de mon propre parcours en tant qu’homme trans déclaré, j’ai vécu directement certains des défis, obstacles et problèmes auxquels les personnes trans peuvent être confrontées dans les environnements de travail. Mais cela ne m’a pas empêché de regarder ma vie en face; ce n’était pas quelque chose que j’allais essayer de cacher. J’ai saisi les occasions d’entamer le dialogue sur ce que signifie être un homme transgenre. 

J’ai longtemps soutenu la communauté transgenre de façon parallèle. Puis, il y a environ dix ans, j’ai commencé à évoluer professionnellement dans le domaine de la diversité et de l’inclusion, et j’ai beaucoup appris sur d’autres communautés également. J’ai décidé de devenir un expert en matière de diversité et d’inclusion, en mettant l’accent sur l’inclusion. Car si la diversité est une question de mesure, l’inclusion est une question d’impact – et c’est là, je pense, que nous pouvons vraiment faire évoluer les choses dans les organisations. Ces convictions et ces valeurs s’accordent parfaitement avec le fait de travailler pour une entreprise qui a une optique sociale comme BDC, et je me suis senti extrêmement bien accueilli depuis mon arrivée, il y a quelques mois.  

Laura : Je suis heureuse de l’entendre. En quoi, à votre avis, votre propre expérience a-t-elle façonné votre façon d’aider les autres communautés marginalisées? 

Brad : Ce que j’ai appris durant ma transition touche aux concepts de privilèges et de stéréotypes. De nombreuses personnes trans sont visiblement trans, un terme qui, je considère, ne s’applique plus à moi. Je veux dire par là que si nous nous rencontrions par hasard, vous ne me percevriez probablement pas comme un trans, mais comme un homme cisgenre. C’est un privilège dont je jouis, contrairement à d’autres membres de ma communauté et à de nombreuses autres minorités visibles. Je ne suis pas dévisagé ou menacé à cause de mon apparence et je ne subis pas de moqueries. 

Cela n’a pas toujours été le cas, à l’instar de nombreuses personnes transgenres. C’est pour cette raison que je me sens obligé d’affirmer qui je suis et de rappeler à tout le monde qu’il ne suffit pas de regarder une personne pour savoir si elle est transgenre. En partageant mon histoire personnelle, je contribue modestement à corriger ce qui se dit sur ce sujet ainsi que tant d’autres idées fausses. 

 

« La communication narrative est indissociable de l’éducation; elle nous aide à élargir nos horizons et à ouvrir les esprits. »

 

Laura : Comme vous le savez, nous avons ajouté une composante de communication narrative à notre stratégie de diversité et d’inclusion à BDC, en présentant des témoignages d’employés et de clients pendant le Mois de l’histoire des Noirs, le Mois de l’histoire des femmes, le Mois de l’histoire des Autochtones, etc. Comment voyez-vous le rôle de la communication narrative dans l’inclusion? 

Brad : La communication narrative est indissociable de l’éducation; elle nous aide à élargir nos horizons et à ouvrir les esprits. L’évolution et la compréhension qui en résultent peuvent être très puissantes. Plus nous écouterons et nous nous sentirons à l’aise pour poser des questions, et plus nous admettrons honnêtement nos lacunes et demanderons davantage de renseignements, mieux nous serons tous informés.  

Chaque entrepreneur.e a une histoire qui contribue d’une manière ou d’une autre à son entreprise, et c’est également le cas pour chaque membre du personnel. Personne ne fait son parcours tout seul. Lorsque j’ai commencé ma transition, j’ai réalisé que mon histoire n’était pas uniquement la mienne. Mes parents ont eu leur propre parcours en devenant les parents d’un fils trans, et mon frère, qui avait autrefois une sœur, avait dorénavant un frère. Ainsi, je vivais ma propre expérience, ma propre histoire et ma propre vérité, et ils vivaient les leurs. Vous ne pouvez pas vous attendre à connaître absolument tout de l’expérience de quelqu’un d’autre. 

L’acceptation et la compréhension progressent lorsque nous accordons aux autres le bénéfice du doute, que nous leur permettons de vivre leur propre parcours et que nous cherchons à trouver des moyens d’être de meilleurs collègues, amis et alliés en cours de route. 

Laura : Y a-t-il des ressources que vous pouvez recommander aux personnes qui ne sont pas non binaires ou transgenres afin de les aider à mieux comprendre et à devenir de meilleurs alliés?

Brad : Il existe des organisations exceptionnelles qui offrent non seulement un soutien aux personnes non binaires et transgenres, mais qui proposent également des ressources – FAQ, témoignages, conseils précis, etc. – pour aider toutes les personnes, ainsi que les organisations, à améliorer leurs connaissances et leur compréhension.

Je commencerais par citer The 519, un centre communautaire situé à Toronto qui dispose de nombreuses ressources pour les entreprises. Fierté au travail Canada est un excellent outil pour les entrepreneurs, et Pflag Canada aidera les particuliers et les familles. Enfin, il existe une excellente ressource au Québec : Jeunes identités créatives

 

« Être un véritable allié ou une véritable alliée exige des actions, et pas seulement de l’empathie ou de la sympathie. Quelquefois, cela peut vous mettre mal à l’aise, mais il vaut mieux agir et en tirer des leçons que de ne pas agir du tout. »

 

Laura : Ces connaissances et cette compréhension sont si importantes. Et si on passait à l’action? Avez-vous des conseils sur la façon dont un allié ou une alliée peut offrir son soutien? 

Brad : J’aime l’idée de se demander cinq fois « Pourquoi? » avant de commencer à poser des questions concernant la communauté. Ce que je veux dire, c’est que vous exprimez votre souhait de devenir un allié ou une alliée pour cette communauté : Pourquoi? La réponse à cette question pourra vous donner des pistes d’action. Ensuite, posez la question « Pourquoi? » encore et encore et vous déterminerez plus précisément ce que vous pouvez faire ou ce sur quoi vous souhaitez vous concentrer. Souvent, le fait de demander aux autres « Que puis-je faire? » sans y réfléchir soi-même peut sembler être de la paresse. Commencez plutôt par lancer une idée : « Voici ce que j’aimerais faire », puis posez la question : « Qu’en pensez-vous? »

Être un véritable allié ou une véritable alliée exige des actions, et pas seulement de l’empathie ou de la sympathie. Quelquefois, cela peut vous mettre mal à l’aise, mais il vaut mieux agir et en tirer des leçons que de ne pas agir du tout. Il suffit souvent d’une seule personne pour briser la glace, défendre quelqu’un, ou agir – et cela suffit pour que tout le monde en parle. Nous voulons parvenir à parler ouvertement, afin de provoquer le changement. 

Laura : Quel est le changement que vous aimeriez voir se produire concernant le genre? 

Brad : Je voudrais que nous commencions à réfléchir à la parité des genres en comprenant que les femmes et les hommes n’ont pas toujours l’apparence, la voix ou le comportement « dont on a l’habitude ». L’appellation des femmes transgenres est souvent erronée, au téléphone et en personne. Mais pour être honnête, il en va de même pour les femmes cisgenres. Je pense qu’en tant que société, nous avons beaucoup d’attentes quant à l’apparence, à la voix et au comportement d’une femme, et chaque variation provoque un déclic.

J’aimerais que nous réfléchissions davantage à la diversité parmi les femmes, les hommes et les personnes non binaires. Le genre n’est pas la seule chose qui nous définit, ou qui fait de nous ce que nous sommes. Mais quelles que soient les expériences et les identités qui s’entrecroisent et nous façonnent, nous méritons tous de vivre et de travailler en étant vraiment nous-mêmes. 

Mandy Rennehan, CEO of construction company Freshco, is on a mission to make the trades more relatable.

Mandy Rennehan

By Sarah Kelsey 

 

Mandy Rennehan — the fast-talking, down-to-earth CEO of Freshco, a retail maintenance and construction company that counts organizations like the Gap and Tesla as clients — is on a mission.

“We devalue the trades,” she says, of the way society looks down on blue collar workers — a group that includes everyone from estheticians to electricians. “We don’t think about the people who design and build all of the things we rely on. It’s now about making the trades relatable.”

Mandy, who’s called Bear by just about everyone who knows her, is hoping to fuel this revolution by bringing a little of her blue collar perspective to the white collar world. Her efforts have included everything from inspirational speaking (with viral TEDxTalks), providing scholarships and mentorship for women in trades, partnering with Barbie’s You Can Be Anything Mentorship Program, and an HGTV series called Trading Up that will air in 2022. (The show will follow her as she trains apprentices while renovating three unique properties in her hometown of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.)

“It will give me a bigger platform to share my message,” she says. 

Growing up with financial struggles, Mandy hightailed it out of Yarmouth with “only a hockey bag and personality” after high school, taking odd jobs that played to her physical strength on dairy and horse farms. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t be academic or go to school, I just didn’t want to,” she says. 

Instead, Mandy spent her spare time cold-calling construction companies asking if she could pitch in on projects. “I laid stones, concrete, electrical, and pulled wire for weeks so I could understand the foundation of everything,” she says. 

“If we don’t talk to people about how rewarding the trades field is — fixing essential things — we will remain in this trade shortage.”

Luck struck when she landed a gig with a flooring company and was tasked with developing a customized cherrywood for a wealthy client in Halifax. The son appreciated her craftsmanship and work ethic — and was vocal about it.  

“From that time, my name spread through the Maritimes like a bad fart,” she jokes. “There wasn’t anyone who didn’t know about the young woman from Yarmouth who was making waves in construction.” The then 19-year-old Mandy founded Freshco, which has since grown to service Fortune 500 clients across Canada and the Eastern United States. 

“I am a pilot project that went really well,” she says, adding how important it is to share her own story. “If we don’t talk to people about how rewarding the trades field is — fixing essential things — we will remain in this trade shortage.”

Mandy points to the issue of how trade work is viewed versus earning a university degree. In her experience in the industry, blue collar parents push their kids to go to university thinking it will insulate them from the discrimination they faced, while white collar parents do the same because they think non-corporate jobs aren’t prestigious enough for their kids.

The reality, though, is that the world of construction and trades is not only rewarding — it is beginning to lead the way with innovative and future-proof technologies. 

“You need more math and physics to do most of the things you need to do in trades than you need for a desk job. But the industry isn’t being sold that way,” explains Mandy.

Case in point: “You know those cabinets you dream about — the cabinets you see in magazines? Years ago we had to physically train someone about the art of spraying cabinets. Today, we put them in a spraying simulator. That simulator is all AI that’s teaching people how to do things using tech. We’re no longer wasting wood or resources,” she says. “And then we have exoskeleton suits that allow contractors to demo without putting wear and tear on their bodies.”

“We’re not — nor will we ever be — in a place where we can get rid of people. But you’re no longer going to school to learn how to lay bricks; you’re going to learn about the technology behind new high-tech processes.”

Software has also changed the game. A general contractor can now work from home and watch what’s happening on site through cameras. Programs even allow teams to do scans of an area so crews can see what’s behind a home’s walls. 

“What this is doing is attracting people with a tech background to trades,” says Mandy. “We’re not — nor will we ever be — in a place where we can get rid of people. But you’re no longer going to school to learn how to lay bricks; you’re going to learn about the technology behind new high-tech processes.”

The challenge then is getting people’s viewpoints to catch up to the way the industry is evolving. “We’re still missing the people with the knowledge of modalities for building techniques. We don’t have enough people that have enough wisdom to do certain things. And if we don’t start training more people in building modalities or making them aware of the career possibilities, we’re all going to be sitting here struggling to find people to build things.”

Which is why she’s extolling the virtues of working in the trades for everyone. 

“This industry was made for both genders,” she says — an assertion she’s supported not only through hiring and training women in her own company, but also by providing inspiration, mentorship, and financial aid to girls and women interested in trades. “But I’m not just after your daughter and those in junior high school. I’m after people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s who say ‘I want to work with my hands. I want to build stuff. I want to build and maintain a new Canada.’”

All people have to do is take a cue from Mandy’s career to see how wildly successful and fulfilling life outside the white-collar world can be.

“I’m bringing the sexy back to the trade industry,” she jokes, “and I’m making and inspiring new leaders and general contractors who see the absolute gratifying fun and kick-ass part of the trade industry. The opportunities are endless.”

How storytelling can help entrepreneurs break down gender bias at work.

Bradley Sensabaugh

As Vice President, Client Diversity at BDC, Laura Didyk is leading the bank’s efforts to understand and address the challenges faced by underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs — whether they be racialized, identify as women, identify as members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, be living with a disability, or exist within a combination of these identities. This month, she’s speaking with Bradley Sensabaugh, BDC’s own Senior Advisor, Diversity and Inclusion, on addressing gender bias at work.

 

When you go to work, are you showing up as you, as in your true, authentic self? 

Many of us can say yes — without realizing how much of a privilege it is. For the LGBTQ2S+ community, and transgender and non-binary people in particular, it’s simply not that easy. There are still practices, beliefs, and systemic barriers that make the workplace a challenging or even unsafe place for expressing who they really are.  

And these challenges can be present whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur. According to a survey conducted by CGLCC (Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce) and Deloitte Institute, of the approximately 28,000 LGBTQ+ -owned companies in Canada — who have total revenues of more than $ 22 billion and employ more than 435,000 Canadians — one in two had purposely hidden the fact that their company has LGBTQ+ ownership, and three in 10 had faced discrimination. 

To further explore these issues and uncover potential solutions I sat down with BDC’s own Senior Advisor, Diversity and Inclusion, Brad Sensabaugh. Brad only joined BDC a few months ago, yet in a short time he’s had a big impact on our diversity and inclusion strategy. A transgender man who is committed to raising awareness around the challenges his community faces, he’s spent nearly a decade making the workplace more inclusive for all marginalized groups as a Diversity and Inclusion specialist.  

Brad shared his insights on why showing up as your authentic self can be more challenging for some, how storytelling can play a role in changing that paradigm, and how we all can be better allies going forward. 

 

Laura: I’m sure for some people, it’s difficult to understand the concept of not being able to bring your true self to work. Can we start by exploring why some individuals, such as members of the transgender community, face barriers just being their authentic self in the workplace?  

Brad: I think for trans, non-binary and other gender diverse people, the concept of coming out is really big. You can imagine how, in the workplace, this presents challenges. In many ways, we can be outed without our choice. 

For example, our ID might not match our gender presentation — as in a transgender man might still have an ID that lists him as female. The extremely mundane and simple act of legally identifying oneself can be an intimidating process, sometimes with consequences such as loss of business or opportunity, and sometimes compromised safety as well. 

And sometimes it can manifest in really simple ways — such as not being included. For Non-Binary people, there is a sense of literally being non-existent when we hear people talk about gender parity meaning 50% representation of women and 50% men.

 

“Imagine trying to provide a reference, and having to explain why that reference would not know you under your present name or gender. There can be the same difficulty providing transcripts or diplomas. All of this can culminate in a sense of not being forthcoming with someone, which can further enhance the scrutiny being placed on a trans person.” 

 

Laura: What about for entrepreneurs? According to one Canadian study, about half of LGBTQ+ business owners choose not to disclose this part of their identity.    

Brad: To begin with, it’s often about feeling safe. While there are many rights and protections offered here in Canada, many still fear transphobia and homophobia and choose not to be completely honest or transparent for that reason — worrying that it will impact the success of their business, or worse. Other entrepreneurs have to worry about doing business in countries or jurisdictions — even parts of the US — where those rights and protections do not exist at all. That reality can be even more concerning. 

For people within the transgender community, they may have to navigate around gaps in their employment, credit, or housing history. Imagine trying to provide a reference, and having to explain why that reference would not know you under your present name or gender. There can be the same difficulty providing transcripts or diplomas. All of this can culminate in a sense of not being forthcoming with someone, which can further enhance the scrutiny being placed on a trans person. 

Those are just a few examples. Everyone within the community has their own lived experiences which contributes to their comfort around sharing their story. 

Laura: I know you’re comfortable sharing your own story, and I’d love to hear more about it. How did you get started down a career path of Diversity and Inclusion?  

Brad: Advocacy for others and a strong sense of justice have always been part of my life — they’re values my parents instilled in me at a young age. And then, with my own journey as a trans identified man, I experienced firsthand some of the challenges, barriers and issues that can confront trans people in professional work environments. Still, I saw it as the truth of my life; it wasn’t something I was going to try to hide. I welcomed the opportunity to open the discussion around what it means to be a transgender man. 

I supported the trans community for a long time from the side of my desk. Then about 10 years ago I moved into the diversity and inclusion space professionally, and learned a great deal about other communities as well. My focus turned toward becoming a Diversity and Inclusion subject matter expert, with a focus on inclusion. Because while diversity is measurement, inclusion is impact — and that’s where I think we can really make the greatest difference across organizations. These beliefs and values align really well with working for a purpose-driven organization like BDC, and I’ve felt extremely welcome since I arrived a few months ago.  

Laura: That’s great to hear. How would you say your own experience has shaped your approach to helping other marginalized communities? 

Brad: What I’ve learned throughout my transition relates to the concepts of privilege and stereotypes. Many trans people are visibly trans, a term which I would say no longer applies to myself. By that I mean, if we met randomly, you wouldn’t likely perceive me as trans, you would likely perceive me as a cisgender man. This is a privilege I carry, which others in my community — and in many other visible minorities as well — do not. I am not stared at or mocked or threatened because of my visual appearance. 

This wasn’t always the case for me and not the case for many trans people. It is for this very reason that I feel compelled to be out and to remind everyone that you don’t always know when someone is trans just by looking at them. Sharing my personal story is one small way to contribute to changing the narrative on this, and so many other misconceptions. 

 

“There’s a huge educational component to storytelling; that’s how we broaden horizons and open minds. The growth and understanding we experience as a result can be very powerful.”  

 

Laura: As you know, we’ve added a storytelling component to our Diversity and Inclusion strategy at BDC, featuring employees’ and clients’ stories during Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Indigenous History month, and many others. How do you see storytelling playing a role in inclusion? 

Brad: There’s a huge educational component to storytelling; that’s how we broaden horizons and open minds. The growth and understanding we experience as a result can be very powerful. The more we listen and become comfortable asking questions and the more we can honestly admit the things we do not know and request more information, the better informed we all will be.  

Every entrepreneur has a story and that contributes to their business in some way, as does every employee. And no one is on their journey in isolation. When I began my transition, what I realized was that my story wasn’t just mine. My parents had their own journey, becoming the parents of a trans son, and my brother who once had a sister, now had a brother. So, while I knew my experience, my story, and my truth, they had their own journey as well. You can never expect to know anyone else’s experience absolutely. 

What increases acceptance and understanding is when we give others the benefit of the doubt, allow them to experience their own journey, and look to find ways to be better colleagues, friends, and allies along the way. 

Laura: For those who are not non-binary or transgender, are there any resources you can recommend that can help with increasing our understanding, so we can become better allies?

Brad: There are some great organizations that not only offer support to non-binary and transgender individuals, they also have resources — from FAQs to shared stories to specific guidance — to help individuals and organizations increase their knowledge and understanding.

I’d start with The 519, which is a Toronto-based community centre with lots of corporate resources. Pride at Work Canada is great for entrepreneurs to tap into, and Pflag Canada is helpful for individuals and families. Finally, there is a great French language resource based out of Quebec called Gender Creative Kids

 

“True allyship requires action, not just empathy or sympathy. Sometimes this may make you uncomfortable, but it’s better to act and learn from it, then to not act at all.”

 

Laura: That knowledge and understanding is so important. What about taking action? Do you have advice on how an ally can offer support? 

Brad: I like the idea of asking yourself “Why?” five times before you start asking the community questions. What I mean is, you say you want to be an ally for this community: Why is that? The answer you come up with may give you some actions you can take. Then ask “Why?” again and again and you’ll hone in on specific things you can do or focus on. Often asking others, “what can I do?” without giving it any thought on your own can come across as lazy. Instead begin with an idea, “Here is what I would like to do,” and then ask, “How would you feel about that?”

True allyship requires action, not just empathy or sympathy. Sometimes this may make you uncomfortable, but it’s better to act and learn from it, then to not act at all. Often it just takes one person to break the ice, to stand up for someone, to take action — and that’s enough to get everyone talking about it. We want to get to that open dialogue, that conversation, in order to see change come about. 

Laura: What’s one change you would like to see, when it comes to gender? 

Brad: I want us to start thinking about gender parity by understanding that women and men don’t always look or sound or behave in “typical” ways. Trans women are mis-gendered a lot, over the phone, and in person. But to be honest, so are cisgender women. I think as a society we have a lot of expectations for how a woman should look, sound, and behave, and any variation is a trigger for us.

I would like us to think more about the diversity within women, men, and non-binary people. Gender isn’t the only thing that defines us, or makes us who we are. But no matter what intersecting experiences and identities shape us — we all deserve to live and work as our true selves. 

Q&A: Sade and Rachel Baron, founders of Sade Baron, built a personal care brand that taps into the power of natural ingredients.

Sade and Rachel Baron

Meet Sade and Rachel, the mother-daughter duo behind the personal care brand Sade Baron. Sade’s personal experience with eczema and the natural body care her grand aunt used to help treat it shaped Sade’s understanding of the power of natural ingredients — and it stuck with her throughout her life, even while she spent 35 years working as a midwife and nurse. Growing up with a mother who had a natural remedy for many skin and health ailments, Rachel had a deep understanding of the power of natural ingredients as well, and struggled to find skincare products that were natural and effective in her adulthood. Aware of the need for vegan, high-performance, gentle products, Sade and Rachel started their business in 2016, and used their understanding of botanical ingredients to craft products that contribute to our skin’s long term health.

 

How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic? 

We definitely focused our cash flow on more activities that can get us in touch with our customers online. We focused our efforts on social media and email marketing which had been the best tools in staying in touch with our customers. The government programs have been a massive relief in keeping our business open and being able to adapt to the changing environment and purchasing habits of our customers. 

 

Has your approach to sales and marketing changed? 

We had a very different approach pre-COVID with our marketing strategy mix, and as it was changing, we adapted to making more efforts in social media, online marketing, and email tools, which were once secondary and became primary. We spent more time updating our website and improved the flow, usability, and overall product experience (descriptions, images, video). 

 

“Staying positive was something we had to focus on more — it’s hard to watch businesses you have known for years just shut down. We received a lot of support from our past customers, and some also sent notes to us to encourage us, which was super helpful.”

 

How has technology played a role in your business during this time? 

We upgraded some of our tools, such as inventory management to be able to forecast better. In e-commerce, we added a few more apps to monitor and understand the data, and to translate that into what’s next. We spent on creating more unique ad content, stayed away from outdated ways of looking at ads, and reached new and old audiences. 

 

How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?

Staying positive was something we had to focus on more — it’s hard to watch businesses you have known for years just shut down. We received a lot of support from our past customers, and some also sent notes to us to encourage us, which was super helpful. We spent some time regrouping and figuring out what we needed to work on better, and to improve our workflows. 

Sade and I did a lot of walking and optimizing our business over the last year. From email sequences, to personalized notes, calling our customers to engage on social media posts and Instagram Lives. We also identified things that we are not strong in — we outsourced or hired a contractor on a project basis so we didn’t turn our wheels out. 

 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today? 

A big motivator is a quote by Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up,” which is something we really took to heart as businesswomen. The second was to pivot, which made it easier to move quickly and listen to the customer and market. That made it easier for us to stay in business and make necessary changes within days versus months. We also created better workflows. For example, our shipping usually took two to five business days. We reduced it to one business day, so customers knew if they ordered things, it got there faster. 

Q&A: Catherine Dahl, founder of Beanworks, is disrupting the accounting industry with her venture-backed software company.

Catherine Dahl

Catherine Dahl is the co-founder and CEO of Beanworks, an automated accounting software company that is disrupting modern methods of accounting. Leveraging her 25 years of operational accounting and management experience, Catherine built Beanworks into an industry-leading software company that is widely respected in the Fintech industry. Catherine and Beanworks have also been awarded by highly respected organizations, most notably by CIX as one of Canada’s Most Innovative Tech Companies in 2020, moving on to represent Canada at the Startup World Cup finals in 2021.  

 

How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic?

We are a venture-backed company and when COVID-19 hit, we decided to take more funds through internal investors only and shored up our cash position, just in case. We qualified for a couple of government programs, payroll assistance, and one program through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). With all of that, we managed very well. We did revise down our financial forecast and played out various scenarios to ensure we were ready to alter our spending course if need be.

 

Has your approach to sales and marketing changed? 

We altered our marketing message to reflect the benefits that our software provided in a pandemic. We automate payables workflow, so when our customers suddenly went remote, it made the demand for the software even higher. We already sold and implemented our system remotely; we are a fully cloud-based company and always have been, so we did not have to change much in our day-to-day functions.

 

How has technology played a role in your business during this time?

We moved our staff to home-based working, and so we did have to adjust who we interacted with. To ensure our strong culture was maintained with everyone, we organized online events and tried to ensure people interacted regularly.

 

“Culture has always been at the forefront. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That means without a strong cultural base, as a business we will not survive.”

 
How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?

As CEO, my mindset has always been one where company culture is at the heart of everything we do. I obsess over it. Culture has always been at the forefront. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That means without a strong cultural base, as a business we will not survive. And during a pandemic, this was more important than ever. We added more mental health support. We worked through the management teams, both formally and informally, to ensure burnout was not occurring anywhere. We did regular employee surveys and focused on their work-life balance. 

Personally, I ensured I kept up my workouts with my trainer, and just moved them online. I continued with my mental health support, also online, and eventually got back to my weekly massages — it’s the best thing I do for myself! Taking care of yourself is key. I was worried in the early months, perhaps for the first 60 days, then as people do, we found a way through this strange time. Never just accept, always question is there a better way?

 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today?

My industry is tech, and in tech, things are never easy, and always interesting. What I have learned is that our industry is resilient and very creative. My advice to most people is never give up. Keep searching and you will find a way. The old saying, “where there is a will, there is a way,” is very true. Someone out there is better off than you while someone else is in a worse situation. Don’t take your life for granted, but know that you can find a solution to whatever problem is in front of you. Ask for help, build or leverage your network, and help others where you can. I have found that this approach to life was even more productive during the pandemic.

Q&A: Colleen Imrie, founder of The Nooks, is reimagining retail for Canadian artisans.

Colleen Imrie

Colleen Imrie is founder of The Nooks, a retail business incubator for Canadian artisans and entrepreneurs. Colleen created her business to help others build their own successful creative businesses and follow their dreams. With eight retail locations and an online marketplace, The Nooks is one of Canada’s go-to shops for handmade Canadian goods for customers, and with continued, community-based business support, it is also one of Canada’s go-to retail spaces for vendors.

 

How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic?

COVID-19 provided me with the opportunity to re-evaluate our budgets and where the leaks were in the business — leaks we possibly might have not known existed. We dug deeper into the data of the marketing, social, digital, and operational costs it takes (and does not take!) to not just sustain, but to substantially scale The Nooks business and our vendors during a global lockdown. 

I decided early on that The Nooks was not going to take on any government funding, line of credits, or debt to sustain itself during the pandemic and beyond. Instead, I looked at our cash reserves, our growth strategy, and where money could be cleaned up and budgeted for two years without compromising what we stand for, or taking on money we did not raise ourselves. I released a formal COVID-19 response immediately to our customers and vendors, outlining how we are protecting our vendors and their participation with us no matter what — and the steps we were taking to do so. We protected our vendors and their investment in their business with us. No one would be burdened with paying membership fees during lockdown, and no one was going to be left behind. 

I took our 18-month growth plan and condensed it into eight months, and this was the best thing for my business. Collapsing time tested and strengthened my vision, trust, and leadership. COVID-19 challenged the business to either step up, or step aside — and we’ve successfully positioned The Nooks to be in a league of our own, dominating and leading our retail industry. 

Part of collapsing the growth plan timeline was building systems and technology, and focusing heavily on the relationships within the business. We increased membership prices by 10 to 15% before 2021, implementing both paid and free programs for my internal vendors to help continue to grow their business with us while our stores were closed, and we also hosted a virtual music festival. I continued my commitment to showing up daily for my vendors via email, phone and through our private Facebook group. The business strategy changed during the pandemic —  our integrity did not. 

 

Has your approach to sales and marketing changed? 

Our stores have always been a social hub for customers and vendors to connect as well as a retail experience, introducing our communities to the local, handmade businesses we represent. When COVID hit and our eight retail locations were closed for months, we quickly turned to our newsletters, our mobile app, website, and of course, our vendors, to keep the connection alive with our customers. We didn’t add any new channels, just enhanced our efforts towards existing digital and social outlets! We saw COVID as an opportunity to also share elements of our business that weren’t as known, and share our expertise in other areas beyond retail — like our nookSTART business program. 

 

“The biggest shift in my business has been the practice of alignment. Doing the work of understanding my Human Design, the blueprint of who I am, and how I “work!” I encourage anyone who feels the only way to success is with hustle, sacrifice, and “working harder” (and maybe not getting anywhere doing all those things!) to connect with their design.”

 

How has technology played a role in your business during this time?

Since December 2019, the development of our custom software to automate our business had been in the works. When COVID hit early March 2020, we had some components of the development ready to “test” internally with our vendors, while our retail stores were closed. While the development of our software continued, we launched The Nooks mobile app in December 2020. This allowed us to further connect with our customers and share our makers’ products, stories, and promotions in an entirely new way! Over 300 of our vendors now live on our customers’ phones countrywide! 

We had plans for an app, but the timelines didn’t make sense anymore, and we saw the opportunity to launch it during holiday, while “shipping” was the norm for getting anything — especially during the biggest gift giving month of the year. COVID helped us cut to the chase with Beta testing for our software — we did not wait for it to be perfect and pretty until we moved on to the next phase and strategy of development. The Beta testing and building co-existed at the same time. Using the “down time” some of our vendors had supported the testing, and getting quick feedback helped make adjustments and carry on without some of life’s pre-COVID distractions. 

 

How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?

I have been studying Human Design, my energy type, and other self-development methods for over a year and experimenting with how I work best, lead, and how I am to be “seen” by others — and how I see myself. This practice and alignment has helped me put my needs first so I can show up best for my relationships, my community, team, and business. 

To recharge and reconnect I have early morning quiet time by myself in my home office with a coffee. This quiet time involves a mix of reading a chapter in a book, listening to a podcast, spiritual reflection, catching live lectures from some coaches I work with, researching new ideas, and playing in Canva! I take time to reflect and journal out my thoughts and feelings so I can read the wave of my emotions and get clarity on my next step. I do not need hours at the spa or “days off” to rest — I have daily, mini practices that work best for my life and business, and allow me to carry on doing what I love, no matter what comes up! 

 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today?

The biggest shift in my business has been the practice of alignment. Doing the work of understanding my Human Design, the blueprint of who I am, and how I “work!” I encourage anyone who feels the only way to success is with hustle, sacrifice, and “working harder” (and maybe not getting anywhere doing all those things!) to connect with their design. Not only does this practice and learning of Human Design continually blow my mind, it’s had a huge impact on my energy and clarity, and showed me the best way to lead myself and others. I’ve grown and continue to grow a wildly successful business for myself and for others to succeed. 

Sylvia Parris Drummond is making change and building community for Black Nova Scotians — through education, opportunities, and celebration.

Sylvia Parris Drummond

By Karen van Kampen

 

At the age of 16, Sylvia Parris Drummond discovered the importance of learning in order to teach others. She got a job overseeing a summer camp program in her community of Meadowbrook Hill, Nova Scotia, which provided her firsthand experience and insight into the education process. “If you give something of yourself, then you can help others benefit,” she says. “I recognized my passion to work in education and with the community.” 

Sylvia’s lifelong dedication to learning, community building, and social change has made a profound impact. She is CEO of the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, that is committed to creating academic change and opportunities for learners of African descent while celebrating the accurate history, heritage, and contributions of Black/African Nova Scotians. In 2020 she was recognized for her accomplishments with the Social Change Award, a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that honours an exceptional leader of a registered charity, social enterprise, or not-for-profit that is dedicated to their unique brand of social change. 

Community has always been an integral part of Sylvia’s life. She remembers families in her neighbourhood being generous in sharing their praise and expertise, which included baking soft molasses cookies. Childcare was provided for neighbourhood children as a part of community support. 

As the second youngest in a combined family with 15 children, Sylvia understood the importance of taking care of family and kinship. “There was always that accountability that the older one took care of the next younger sibling,” she says. “That learning is rooted in you, and you don’t even realize how much it might show up in different things until you have the opportunity to think it through.” 

Sylvia was in grade nine when her father passed away. Two years later, her mother died. “No matter your age, you are an orphan when your parents are gone,” she says. “For me, it was so important to continue taking care of my younger sister.” Sylvia’s parents had taught her the importance of faith in her life, and during this time she found strength in her faith. 

“The intertwining of our humanity is so important, and the recognition that if you are successful, I am successful. Our hearts, our souls, our resilience, and our existence are still within our locus of control.” 

She moved with her sister to Antigonish where Sylvia attended St. Francis Xavier University, earning a science degree and teaching degree while her sister attended high school. Sylvia had a couple of part-time jobs during university and says, “It was a gift to be able to take care of my sister.” She had the benefit of caring people in her life, including professors at the university who kept an eye out for Sylvia and her sister. 

Sylvia continued her studies, earning a Masters in Curriculum at Saint Mary’s University. In 1995, she got a job at the Department of Education in Halifax where she worked in policy and diversity. She gained experience in the provincial and municipal government, which gave Sylvia a strong sense of how policy was developed, applied, and implemented. In 2010, she completed a Masters in Africentricity Policy Leadership at Mount Saint Vincent University. “It’s such an opportunity to be able to have studied and lived experience for your work,” she says. 

In 2015, Sylvia was appointed CEO of the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute. Today, she continues to work with the Department of Education as well as Regional Centres for Education, Labour and Advanced Education, and community organizations serving Black/African Nova Scotian communities to ensure there is genuine access to accurate information on the contributions of Black/African Nova Scotians. 

“We draw upon the diversity within our diversity and our uniqueness, but also the common thread within us,” says Sylvia, explaining that the essence of Africentricity is “the centring of our voices and our needs in terms of community, with a recognition that getting this right will benefit everyone.” 

The institute’s research, education, and policy activate the African philosophy Ubuntu and its belief in “I am because we are” and the universal bond of humanity. “The intertwining of our humanity is so important,” says Sylvia, “and the recognition that if you are successful, I am successful. Our hearts, our souls, our resilience, and our existence are still within our locus of control.” 

The organization’s reach and impact on individual and community pride continue to grow along with its Africentric publishing program, dedicated to sharing stories of the 50-plus Black/African Nova Scotian communities. Books include The ABC’s of Viola Desmond in both English and French and Black History: Africa, The Caribbean, and the Amercias that is used in African Canadian Studies courses.  

Reflecting on her experiences and lifelong journey of learning, Sylvia offers some sage advice: “Continue to value and respect those who went before you and all that they have done, because none of us get where we are by ourselves,” she says, adding that we also need to recognize our own strengths and accomplishments, and take time for self-reflection. 

“Your body and mind will tell you when to think about where you are at and what you are doing. Are you still going where you wanted to go?” asks Sylvia. “Have a vision, hold to that vision, and work for that vision.”

How to build a lasting legacy through trusts.

Lydia Potocnik

 

Many of us consider wealth and estate planning as a way to ensure that our family is well taken care of — but with the right plan in place, your money can also go towards causes that are important to you. Having the ability to leave the world just a little bit better is a powerful and very attainable goal, no matter how much money you’re leaving behind. 

Lydia Potocnik, Head of Estate Planning & Philanthropic Advisory Services with BMO, has spent decades working in the field, and uses her expertise to help guide families through the opportunities and strategies that exist to create a legacy that’s meaningful and lasting, with an impact that carries on through generations. She believes that aligning your estate with your personal values and beliefs is an important wealth planning priority. 

If you’d like to support your charitable values beyond your lifetime — passing the torch to the next generation, so to speak — establishing a trust or private foundation allows you to do just that. We asked Lydia to share her advice on getting started. 

Let’s start with a high-level understanding of estate planning. What is the difference between a will and a trust and how do you know when each is needed?

Both wills and trusts are useful estate planning tools that serve different purposes. One main difference is that a will is a legal document that directs who will receive your property at death and appoints a legal representative to carry out your wishes. By contrast, a trust can be used to begin distributing property — which can include cash, investments, artwork, real estate, and more — before death, at death, or afterwards. It is a legal arrangement through which one person who’s called a trustee, which can be a family member, a friend, or a trust company, holds legal title to property for another person who’s called a beneficiary. Depending on who your beneficiaries are and what their financial needs are, most of the time people will create a will that has a trust within it. 

When would someone typically establish a trust?

One reason a person would want to establish a trust is to provide for children under the age of majority — which is 18 or 19 in Canada, depending on the province you live in — by providing  a monthly or annual income. Trusts are also often created to protect the assets a person wishes to leave to someone with special needs to cover medication, medical expenses, or a monthly allowance for example. They can also provide for flexible distribution of assets to beneficiaries who are unable to effectively manage money or can’t be relied on to make sound financial decisions. It’s worth noting that trusts also offer greater privacy than wills because they don’t go through probate and therefore there would not be any public disclosure. In order to determine the best type of trust for your estate goals, consider the age of your beneficiaries, their financial needs, and their ability to manage their inheritance. 

Beyond providing for their families, many people establish trusts to ensure their philanthropic goals are carried out after they’re gone. How does someone go about setting that into action?

Typically, a trust will be in the form of a written, legal document. To set the process in motion it’s best to meet with an estate planning lawyer who will help draft the terms of the trust. While a trust can be used to benefit individual family members, it can also be used to benefit a charity or several charities. To do this, many clients create a private foundation, set up as a trust structure with a trustee managing the money for various charitable organizations. In this format, the charities will get a set amount of money paid out to them each year from the trust. 

Is there a benefit to setting things up this way, rather than just making a large one-time donation to a charity or charities of your choice? 

Most of the time people create a charitable trust or a private foundation as a trust structure because they want to create a legacy and ensure that some of the causes that are important to them when they’re alive will continue on when they’re no longer here. Think of it as a formal structure to give meaning to their wealth. 

A private foundation is established and operated exclusively for charitable giving purposes and can be structured as a trust or a non-share capital corporation. The individual will often be the trustee themselves while they’re still alive and will determine which charities will receive a grant each year and how it will be used. Before the individual passes away, they can appoint another trustee to step in and carry out the terms of the trust and ensure that the trust deed appoints an alternate trustee. In doing so, the charities will continue to receive a financial benefit year after year.

For many, the desire to pass along charitable beliefs and values to their children and grandchildren is important. How can a trust be used to accomplish this?

Establishing a charitable trust or private foundation is a wonderful way to pass on philanthropic values to the next generation. Most of the time, if a trust is created today by parents or grandparents, they will appoint their children or grandchildren to be successor trustees. That way, the family values and the vision to support certain causes — whether it be the environment, mental health, or supporting marginalized groups, for example — will be carried on through future generations with the trust. 

How does the trust work so that there’s always money available to give?

Typically, the money in the trust will be invested by a professional. Someone like a family member can invest the assets, but if you have a professional investment advisor one of the goals may be to grow the capital by investing it prudently and then disperse the annual income. If it’s a private foundation set up as a trust you do have to disperse 3.5% every year to charities in Canada. So, the goal is to make sure you’re generating at least that much income to meet the minimum annual disbursement requirement 

How do families decide on which causes to support and do they have to give to the same charities every year?

To help families through the process, we encourage them to meet as a group and establish a mission statement for their trust or foundation. We guide them through this process by finding out what is important to them as a family and what has impacted their lives. For example, if someone in the family has been impacted by mental health, they may choose to support mental health projects in their community. Families often accept proposals from various charities and then decide as a group which proposals they want to fund with the revenue generated by the trust or foundation. This can change. Often a family will support a specific charity for five years or so, and after that time they’ll reassess whether they want to continue to make grants to that sector or revise and update their mission statement and support another sector. 

How important is planning and goal setting when it comes to estate planning and establishing philanthropic aspirations?

For women who want to make a meaningful impact in their community, the first step is setting goals around what kind of impact you want to make and factor in your own values and what’s important to you. The second step is to meet with a wealth advisor and put a wealth plan in place. 

The wealth plan looks at everything from retirement needs, to tax planning, estate planning, business succession planning, and philanthropic planning. It allows a woman to assess how much money she has today and ask herself: can I afford to start taking a more strategic approach to my philanthropy today or do I need to hold off until I retire, or does it have to happen through my estate plan when I pass away? 

A wealth plan also allows a woman to make a thoughtful decision around philanthropy and what tools she’ll use to meet her goals. You can’t make any decisions until you understand how much wealth you have, who are the other beneficiaries you want to leave money to, and what are your own personal financial needs. It’s important to note that most trusts are irrevocable, so once you transfer assets to a trust, you can’t get that property back out. Therefore, consulting with a tax and legal professional is critical to ensuring that a trust is appropriate based on your own unique personal circumstances.

 

How the pandemic inspired this entrepreneur to shift from her 9-5 and build her business.

Maria Poonawala

By Hailey Eisen 

 

In the midst of Ontario’s COVID-19 stay at home order in early 2021, Maria Poonawala was conflicted between a job she loved and becoming an entrepreneur. Making this sort of high-risk decision in the middle of a global pandemic was challenging, but Maria says working a 9 to 5 job, and running her start-up from 5pm to 1am was taking its toll.

“Feeling mentally worn out and triggered by the stay at home order, I realized that I was young and didn’t yet have a family, plus it was difficult to have a social life during the pandemic — and with that extra time it seemed like the perfect storm of circumstances coming together to take a leap of faith and try something like this,” she recalls. 

In officially launching Connexa, Maria was poised to offer small and medium sized businesses a customer service platform that would help them maintain a human connection with their customers through a centralized inbox that saves them time while leveraging machine learning to provide customer feedback insights in an analytics dashboard. 

She’d built the idea into a functioning high-fidelity prototype in the months prior with a team of women in STEM apprentices. The premise for Connexa came from observations and experiences Maria accumulated during the five years she’d worked in the technology sector prior to venturing out on her own. But, as she explains, her interest in technology came about almost by accident, leading to a career journey she probably wouldn’t have imagined for herself. 

“I went to Ryerson to study international business,” Maria recalls. “And while I was looking into strategy consulting for my third-year internship, I kept hearing that digitization was the way companies were going and that technology was where I should be focusing my attention.” 

Maria credits Ryerson with being an entrepreneurial minded school with great incubators and an atmosphere in which students were encouraged to pursue ideas as student group leaders and start their own businesses. “That’s where the entrepreneurship seed was planted,” she says. “And while I’d never before considered technology, I decided to apply for internships in that space.” 

While she faced many rejections, as a result of her inexperience, Maria says Cisco took a chance on her, offering her an internship and an opportunity to build her skillset. “I fell in love with tech that year,” she recalls. 

Upon graduation, Maria took a consulting job with Ernst & Young (EY) in their Technology Advisory practice, where she had the opportunity to work on a number of projects and dive into Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation, and Virtual Agents (Chatbots). “Things were moving fast, I was learning on the job, and I just knew that it would be technology that would change everything – I wanted to brand myself as someone who was an expert in AI application, and I sought out opportunities to do that.”  

“Feeling mentally worn out and triggered by the stay at home order, I realized that I was young and didn’t yet have a family, plus it was difficult to have a social life during the pandemic — and with that extra time it seemed like the perfect storm of circumstances coming together to take a leap of faith and try something like this.”

Maria came across her next career move while doing a vendor assessment for a project she was working on with EY. “I was evaluating this small company against some big vendors, and when they pitched to me, I fell in love with what they were doing.” The company was Wysdom.AI, a conversational AI optimization platform and service that delivers chatbots. 

“I went from a 4000-person company to a 40-person company,” she says. “Being part of an AI start-up was a really interesting, fascinating opportunity, and I was eager to learn as much as I could.” 

Maria dove into her work at Wysdom, and within a few years, was promoted twice and became a people manager to a team. “I learned a lot about leadership and developed the confidence to know that if I ever started my own business, I’d be able to manage a team,” she says. “I’ve never loved a job more than I did working with them. Being part of a growing start-up is magical.”

This made Maria’s decision to start Connexa all the more difficult. But in late 2020, her entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with a calling and a strong desire to give back, propelled her forward. 

“I’m an empath by nature, and during the pandemic, I really felt devastated for small businesses and also for the students who I noticed had a sense of hopelessness, facing limited career prospects,” she says. Feeling fortunate in her job and her ability to work from home, Maria says she wanted to employ a mentorship model with her start-up where she could help women in STEM and provide access to experience. 

The idea for Connexa had been planted years prior when Maria worked in customer service automation and saw the need for a system that was easy for agents to interact with — and that handled the data analytics they often struggled with. “The goal was to reimagine customer service while letting the platform do the hard work,” she says. The platform would help those small and medium sized businesses that were already struggling because of the pandemic. Finally, she saw a way to build her platform while also providing opportunities to women in STEM who were looking for experience to build their resumes. “I wanted to give them the opportunity I’d been given in tech early on,” she says. 

“The barriers to entry have never been lower to become an entrepreneur. As such, I think everyone should measure the cost of inaction, recognize failing is part of the process, and avoid spending too much time on decisions that can be reversed.”

Thanks to an encounter with another woman founder and Tech Undivided alumnae, Maria was pointed in the direction of the Female Laboratory of Innovative Knowledge (FLIK), a program that connects female founders with student talent from around the world in an apprenticeship model. “I put out what I was looking for with Connexa, looking for help to build this company, and overnight my inbox was filled,” Maria says. “Over the December holidays in 2020, I booked 30 interviews in a week and ended up having the most incredible conversations with women from around the world who I was so impressed with and inspired by.” 

Maria put together a team of 6 people in functional roles to begin with virtually, and maintained the goal of creating an inclusive, supportive environment where an all-woman team would thrive. She then began to build out her business in the hours she wasn’t working at Wysdom. 

A few months later, with the support of her mentors at Wysdom and her family, Maria says she was ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship full-time. Since then, Connexa has continued to grow, building relationships with investors, and getting the platform in the hands of initial users. “We are delivering a simple platform that’s intuitive and affordable.”

Recently Connexa was selected as one of the women-led start-ups to be part of the third cohort of ventureLAB’s Tech Undivided program. “Female founders are typically over-resourced and underfunded in North America. I was looking for an accelerator program that would centralize these resources, provide mentors to reach out to with targeted help, and a cohort or community of peers to lean on,” she says. Tech Undivided is designed for founders building breakthrough technology solutions. It draws on the expertise of strategic mentors and partners to help founders refine their product-market-fit, amplify sales, and hone their pitch for customer and investor meetings. “Being a woman founder can be lonely at times, and having others who are going through the same things at the same time can be really helpful.” 

As Maria looks at Connexa’s growth ahead, she says she would love her company to be the next great Canadian success story, like Shopify. She’s committed to creating a culture that’s supportive, inclusive, and that values all of its employees. She’s also eager to advise other young women entrepreneurs, sharing advice she’s been given along the way. 

“The barriers to entry have never been lower to become an entrepreneur,” she says. “And, as such, I think everyone should measure the cost of inaction, recognize failing is part of the process, and avoid spending too much time on decisions that can be reversed.” Her advice for anyone with an entrepreneurial inclination: “Take action as soon as possible.”

Q&A: Jolene Laskey, founder of Wabanaki Maple, is adding a twist to an Indigenous tradition.

Jolene Laskey of Wabanaki Maple

Jolene Laskey is the founder of Wabanaki Maple, a maple syrup company based in Neqotkuk (Tobique) First Nation in New Brunswick. In 2018, inspired by her Wolastoqey roots, Jolene began her journey as an entrepreneur, sharing and reconnecting people and communities with a piece of Indigenous culture through Wabanaki Maple’s syrup products. For centuries, Peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy (Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq, Penobscot, Abenaki, and Passamaquoddy) have harvested the sap from the sugar maple tree — Jolene is carrying on the tradition with a twist, by providing signature flavours of barrel-aged whisky, bourbon, and toasted oak maple syrups. 

 

How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic?

Initially it was scary and challenging to face the onset of this pandemic. I was very skeptical about how we would survive financially as a new company, especially since one of our biggest barriers as an Indigenous business located in a First Nations community has been securing funding for working capital. It hasn’t been easy to manage financially, but fortunately, I’ve been able to bootstrap over the past couple of years. I’ve also sought out other opportunities for securing business grants and financing for things like capital costs, which was very helpful in managing cash flow for the business. 

Similar to many businesses throughout our nation, we were negatively impacted by this pandemic. Though the Government of Canada reacted quickly by providing various funding opportunities and programs like CEBA, there were still barriers for businesses like Wabanaki Maple. We discovered too often that for one reason or another, we did not meet certain criteria or eligibility for these programs. lt felt hopeless at times, and I often wondered how we could manage financially. Thankfully, these gaps were addressed for small businesses, and eventually we were successful and qualified for financial assistance through a program called the Regional Recovery Relief Fund (RRRF). Receiving this funding allowed us to face the hardships of COVID-19 with more resistance and resilience! l’m happy and proud to say we are now a thriving, young company looking forward to more success in the future.

 

Has your approach to sales and marketing changed? 

For the most part, our sales approach has remained the same throughout the pandemic. Since we already developed a great customer base and were very familiar with who our target segments were for both B2C and B2B, we thought it best to put more focus on our social media content on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. However, in some ways we were required to transition and shift our sales approach, since one of our main revenue streams was our in-person sales at various trade shows and events. Additionally, we had to pivot some of our marketing strategy and focus more on online opportunities. 

Normally, we would have been participating at various trade shows and special events across Canada, but with the COVID-19 cancellations and restrictions, we had to adapt — so we moved to signing up for online virtual shows and venues. This really worked out well for us; we gained some traction and generated more sales through a lot of organic reach. lt also proved to be beneficial in other ways; it decreased some of our business expenses like travel and accommodations, and for the most part, the cost of fees and registrations were lower at the online events versus in person. On another note, I do believe having developed a website with a user-friendly e-commerce platform was a significant factor for our continued sales and overall growth of the company during this pandemic.

 

“If I were to only choose one important piece of advice to give to any entrepreneur in any industry, it would be to surround yourself and build meaningful relationships with like-minded, positive people.”

 

How has technology played a role in your business during this time?

Since starting this company, technology has played a very important role for us. For pretty much everything we do in our daily activities and operations, we rely on technology. I have a small but mighty team who work remotely, so in order to communicate effectively, we started adding more digital tools to our operations. We use tools like Asana and Trello which help us stay organized with various projects and events. We also use digital tools for tracking, traceability, and inventory, just to name a few. I’m always willing to try new things that may help with organizing and managing the company! 

It’s been extremely important to utilize what we have in place for Wabanaki Maple, such as our website, online store, and our social media platforms. With these tools and platforms, we can take a quick glance at any given moment to check out our analytics, financials, or any other important information. The use of technology has been a great way to communicate with both my team and others outside the business. Web meetings have helped bridge the gap throughout the pandemic. In the beginning stages of starting this company, I wasn’t much of a fan of digital tools, due to a lack of use and knowledge. I’ve definitely had a change of mindset in adapting to the digital world. Overall, incorporating various digital tools into my daily practices and managing the business has been of great value for me, the team, and the company. 

 

How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?

For me, staying positive and productive on a daily basis can often be challenging. Personally, I’m one who appreciates routine in in my life, but operating and managing a business is just the opposite! With having to address so many different business matters both internally and externally, I’ve found that shifting from one role or another can be exhausting at times. However, I still try to maintain a certain level of routine throughout my day.

l tend to start work very early in the morning — usually at 5:30am — because I know I’m most productive during the first several hours in the morning. And if  I’m experiencing a difficult or challenging day, I remind myself, “this too shall pass.” I’ve realized that stepping away and taking time for myself to reset and recharge is what works best for me. Stepping away for me often looks like taking a long walk or hike through our nearby forests and trails with my four dogs, or simply working in my flower and vegetable garden, which I love and consider my own ‘therapy,’ so to speak. Connecting with Mother Nature helps to keep me grounded, energized, and is my self care. 

We are a small team at Wabanaki Maple, but I think that communication is key when it comes to managing our mindset. We use a number of communication tools and meet on a regular basis so we can have important social interaction with each other. We try to keep our conversations open and often have fun with them, and I also encourage my team to reach out to me if ever they need to chat. I think it’s probably been the most challenging to not have daily, in-person interaction with each other throughout the pandemic. Thankfully, we are now moving towards business as usual with many of the restrictions being lifted in our area!

 

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today?

If I were to only choose one important piece of advice to give to any entrepreneur in any industry, it would be to surround yourself and build meaningful relationships with like-minded, positive people. In other words, a strong network of friends, mentors, coaches, or other business owners that will support you — and vice versa. They can be an invaluable asset at any stage of your business. I personally have a wonderful circle of friends, family, and mentors who I know I can count on to share their knowledge, guidance, and experience with me. There’s been countless times I’ve connected to them for their support in finding solutions or navigating through a business obstacle. Sometimes, through my experience of simply just having a conversation, I’ve gained more insight, perspective, knowledge, and confidence about entrepreneurship and business practices as a whole.

Rencontrez Siobhan McManus, femme entrepreneure et championne de la diversité de la clientèle à BDC

Siobhan McManus

Il y a cinq ans, Siobhan McManus s’est jointe à la Banque de développement du Canada (également connue sous le nom de BDC), la seule banque qui se consacre exclusivement aux entrepreneurs, après avoir travaillé dans une grande banque commerciale à charte et consacré du temps à la philanthropie dans le secteur de la santé. Elle met à profit son expertise pour accompagner les entrepreneurs dans toutes les étapes du cycle économique. Siobhan McManus a travaillé en tant que partenaire dans de nombreux secteurs et avec des entreprises de toutes tailles, pour les aider à accéder au financement et aux conseils dont elles ont besoin pour réussir. Elle est fière du soutien qu’elle procure aux entrepreneurs grâce au leadership qu’elle démontre à titre de championne de la diversité de la clientèle et de championne de B Corp (entreprises bénéfiques). Tout en appuyant la stratégie nationale de BDC en matière de diversité et d’inclusion des clients, Siobhan McManus travaille en étroite collaboration avec les femmes chefs d’entreprise afin de leur fournir les ressources et les outils dont elles ont besoin pour prospérer, et comprend les défis uniques auxquels elles sont confrontées ainsi que leurs forces étonnantes.

 

Mon tout premier emploi…. J’ai créé et géré une petite entreprise de nettoyage de bureaux commerciaux alors que j’étais encore adolescente. 

Ce que j’apprécie le plus dans mon rôle à BDC Être témoin de la réussite de nos clients et y contribuer. Nous avons pour mandat de générer un impact, et nous disposons de ressources étonnantes pour aider nos clients à réaliser pleinement leur potentiel.

Les réalisations dont je suis la plus fière Un parcours professionnel ayant un impact positif, la collecte de millions de dollars en tant que bénévole et professionnelle, la traversée du Canada à vélo en 2010, et la participation en tant qu’athlète semi-élite au Marathon de Tokyo 2018.

Je surprends les gens quand je leur dis « Je n’aime pas le bacon ». 

Le meilleur conseil que j’ai reçu d’un mentor Courez votre course; cela s’applique à tous les domaines de la vie!

Le meilleur conseil que je puisse donner aux femmes entrepreneures N’ignorez rien de votre situation financière et demandez de l’aide. Tout le monde souhaite appuyer votre réussite!

La meilleure leçon que j’ai apprise des femmes entrepreneures Trouver le juste équilibre entre les risques et les récompenses. 

Mon plus grand regret Ne pas avoir changé de carrière plus tôt.

Je l’ai surmonté En me montrant plus courageuse, en prenant plus de risques, et en ne manquant aucune occasion de progresser et d’aider les autres!

Le seul conseil que je donne et que j’ai du mal à suivre moi-même Prenez le temps de profiter du moment présent.

Si j’avais une heure de plus dans la journée Je lirais davantage.

Si vous me googliez, vous ne sauriez jamais À quel point j’aime voyager! Découvrir de nouveaux endroits et de nouvelles cultures est un privilège que j’ai la chance d’avoir.

Mon conseil aux entrepreneurs potentiels Demandez de l’aide. On ne peut pas tout savoir et il n’est pas nécessaire de réinventer la roue; vous serez surpris de constater que vos défis ne sont pas uniques et qu’il existe de nombreuses solutions judicieuses!

Je suis toujours encouragée par L’étonnante résilience des entrepreneures dont je suis témoin.

Le futur m’enthousiasme parce que Les consommateurs expriment de plus en plus leur choix en fonction de leurs intérêts financiers et veulent soutenir des entreprises diversifiées, innovantes et éthiques. Je suis ravie de voir ce nouvel intérêt pour la diversité, l’inclusion et le commerce éthique!

Ma prochaine étape Continuer à soutenir les entrepreneurs dans le cadre du mandat de BDC en matière de diversité et d’inclusion, afin que l’économie canadienne reflète vraiment le tissu diversifié et riche de notre pays.

 

The benefits of reciprocal mentorship.

Mentor and mentee talking.

By Chantal Brine

It is well known that ‘who you know’ matters. Often, what I find missing is the context for that. Connections and relationships matter; not the quantity of those alone but rather the quality and intentionality of those relationships. Connecting with the right people at the right time/stage in your career (and life) is transformational. 

This is the lens through which I look at mentorship and why I’m on a mission to bring it to 1 million people with EnPoint. The inspiration, support, and perspective gained through mentorship, whether as mentee, mentor or both, opens doors for personal and professional growth.  

By learning as a mentee, a mentor can help you grow your career and business in a few different ways:

Deepen your self-confidence. 

Many find that increasing self-confidence is something that may be hard to do on your own. However, finding a mentor who believes in you is a huge help. 

Mentorship supports what we refer to as “beneath the iceberg stuff”: self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, which we all may struggle with at many points in our life. Often, this twinge of self doubt may appear in small ways such as attending a networking event or in big ways such as if you’re pitching your business or an idea.  Consider how does your confidence allow you to portray who you authentically are, or how does it inhibit you from doing that? I’d argue that the inner work on “self” that you achieve through mentorship is some of the most transformative along with things like coaching and other experiential learning opportunities. Whether we know it or not, self-confidence is gained or drained each day.

For women in particular I believe this is one of the most compelling reasons to find a mentor and build a relationship that uplifts you. As a female founder and entrepreneur in tech, I’ve found mentorship to be a remedy for the widely known “imposter syndrome”. My journey to confidence building with a life-changing mentor can be found here.

Get out of your own way. 

Your mentor can help you get out of your own way by helping you gain clarity and understanding of who you are and how you’ve been putting on the brakes for yourself.  Lack of experience, limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, bad experiences of our past can compound.  They can create a heavy load to carry on your own and can unconsciously skew the way you view opportunities within your career. 

I often refer to this with the analogy of buying a pristine, beautiful, and unique mirror you love. You hang that mirror up, you use it everyday, it gets scratched, maybe a little dusty, a little dirty, maybe even foggy, making it hard to see the “real” you. Now imagine, you have someone who is polishing and buffing that mirror every day, it shines just as bright and clear as the day you bought it, allowing you to see everything

Mentorship is that mirror. As you develop the relationship(s), the mirror becomes clearer, and you will begin to get a sharper picture of yourself and your path. You are equipped now with someone who enables this regularly. Mentors help you stand firm and be proud of what you excel at through celebrating your strengths. But, they can also help ground you by shedding light on your weaknesses and blind spots in a safe environment. By doing so, your mentor can motivate you to freely explore what your interests are and where you choose to invest your time.  

Creating a plan then having a mentor hold you accountable and provide you feedback on progress is critical. Remember the mirror analogy? The mirror can get cloudy again, allowing you to get distracted and stray from who you really are, and your goals. Having someone who can help you buff the mirror every once in a while- so you don’t lose your vision- is key. We all need that help.

A competitive advantage for the ‘Future of Work’.

Mentorship can provide a critical competitive advantage -something which can be difficult to find in the ever-evolving labour market. Your relationship with your mentor can help you stand out in the workforce with their support of you owning your “unique value proposition”. As we live through the future of work, the reality of an aging workforce, and a long-awaited focus on equalizing opportunities for groups that have faced systemic barriers to employment, career journeys will continue to look different than before. Mentorship is a crucial tool that can be used to ensure you have access to the right networks and skills you need to excel in your profession. Mentors can  facilitate introductions or referrals to relevant stakeholders, help you understand the gap in your skills, and teach you the critical skills that you require within your industry. 

Bridging the Gap contributor François Bertrand, Director of Research and Innovation, Polytechnique in Montreal explains, “we need to cultivate the ‘C-Generation’ of collaborators, communicators and critical thinkers, that bring these power skills to every job.” Mentorship offers opportunities for “foundational skill” development, such as adaptability and communication skills, two things needed to successfully navigate the workforce.

Building relationships that matter.

Women in careers have faced systematic barriers that still exist today and have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. According to a report published by McKinsey & Company, while all women have been impacted by COVID-19, three major groups that have experienced the largest challenges are working mothers, women in senior management positions, and Black women. The increase in automation and digitalization further complicates women’s reentry in the workplace due to the need to reskill or find new career paths.

When we look at the impact of people working from home and having to take care of children and/or parents, they likely do not have the same time available to invest in career building networks. Peer groups like Young Presidents’ Organization and Women of Influence that are focused on supporting individuals in their career in intimate settings may not be opportunities that they can leverage despite knowing the advantages that come with these groups matter. As human beings we habitually look within our rolodex to  source talent, content, service providers, almost everything.  For some, not cultivating or engaging with a “network” may mean unequal access to opportunities and access  to compete.

I’ve discovered that having an intentional networking and relationship building strategy is something women in particular struggle with. To some, it often feels contrived and inauthentic, or too many pressures coalesce and the network drops. When looking at male-dominated industries, women have often been excluded from relationship building or “bonding” activities such as golf trips or sporting events, for years and are still dealing with this disadvantage. It is at these events where the connections form, informal conversations happen, and people get to deepen their understanding of who their colleagues are outside of work. 

It is critical to invest in relationships as a core pillar in your career management plan. Whether you are starting, building, or rebuilding your career, launching a business, or growing a business, relationships matter. Mentorship is an efficient gateway to other relationships. It is a vehicle to expand your network intentionally, in a manner aligned with the time you can commit, and in a way  that is career (and time) aligned. As your relationship with your mentor flourishes, they will have an intimate understanding of you, your interests and your goals. As a result, your mentor becomes your biggest advocate to those who do not yet know you. They will support in cultivating the right kind of relationships with people who they feel would be relevant to your career acceleration. 

While not every mentor can support in this way, finding mentors that can and are willing to help you build and facilitate the right network for your career goals are pivotal. 

On the flip side, being a mentor is just as beneficial for your career as it is for mentees: 

Being a mentor to help you grow.

As a mentor, you have the opportunity to share learning experiences and impart wisdom that your mentee may not have necessarily been privy to. 

Sharing these experiences with your mentee can not only help others learn and evolve in their careers, but is also a chance to self-reflect on your journey to success, how you have overcome challenges and what you may have done differently. Sharing your career journey can both deepen your relationship with your mentee and open you up to new learnings about yourself. Being in story telling mode is an active reflection for you as a mentor. Use this time to strengthen your relationship with your mentee, re-examine your career goals, celebrate the wins to date, and re-learn your own personal or professional “truths”. 

Impact another life and grow together.

No matter how long you have been in the workforce, you are never too old to learn something new, and never too experienced to learn something from someone less experienced than you. Your mentee can broaden your perspective and uncover any blind spots that you may not even be familiar with. For example, if your mentee comes from a different industry and background, they can offer insight on how different their experiences may be and shed light on their career journey to date.  This is an opportunity for you as a mentor to practice curiosity and check any assumptions you have about the world around you. As well, this mutual knowledge exchange allows you to reflect critically on current trends and social issues. Your mentee can help you diversify your perspectives and in some cases, unlearn any practices. This again will deepen your connection to your mentee.  

Strengthen your ‘relationship building’ muscles.

Particularly for someone who is building a team, mentorship is a great way for you to develop your skill set on how to build people up.   As a mentor you can learn from your experiences outside your workplace and then bring them into your organization and/or different relationships. As a mentor, your goal is to hold a mirror up to your mentee, help them see their strengths and who they authentically repeatedly. You support them by ensuring that your mentee is focused on their goals and objectives. 

Mentorship provides us with learnings that are applicable to all areas of our lives. In being a mentor it’s important to reflect on the question of “how do we show up in our other relationships as a positive force that builds people up, as opposed to tearing people down?” 

Mentorship is not a one-sided relationship. It is a dynamic and evolving, mutually beneficial relationship. Whether that’s a relationship between two people or a small group of individuals, ultimately there is cross functional and experiential learning in the mentee and mentor roles.  Throughout our career and our lives, we may take on both roles, transitioning between mentee or mentor depending the circumstances. I wholly encourage everyone to intentionally mentor and be mentored.  

Chantal Brine

Chantal Brine

Chantal Brine is a builder — of people and businesses — a believer in experiential learning, a proponent for mentorship, and an active advocate for women. As founder and CEO of EnPoint, Chantal and her team help clients create and maintain effective mentorship programs using their easy-to-use, customizable and fully automated platform. A sought-after speaker, she often talks about the importance of living an authentic life and on the impact of mentorship in advancing in one’s career.

Meet Michelle Stilwell, Paralympic gold medalist turned politician turned director of rapid COVID testing.

Michelle Stilwell

Michelle Stilwell’s athletic accomplishments are impressive: she’s a six-time Paralympic gold medalist in both basketball and track, nine-time World Champion, and the world record holder in the 100m, 200m and 800m wheelchair racing events. Before retiring from competitive sports in 2017, Michelle had already started serving as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of BC for the riding of Parksville-Qualicum. In that role from 2013-2020, Michelle held several key cabinet portfolios as Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, Government Caucus Chair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for Seniors, and was a member of the Cabinet Committee on a Secure Tomorrow as well as the Treasury Board and Deputy Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth. After leaving politics, Michelle joined the LIFESUPPORT Group of Companies, becoming responsible for CVM Medical’s Rapid Antigen Testing portfolio, where she’s helping to ensure the safe return and reopening of business, industry and sport across Western Canada.

 

My first job ever was… working for my parents at their hotel. I started bussing tables, then waiting tables, and finally moved to the front desk. That was my first glimpse into how hard entrepreneurs work to serve and support their communities.

My proudest accomplishment is… never giving up no matter what the circumstances are. We all face obstacles every single day of our lives and I’m proud that I continue to pick up and move forward.

My boldest move to date was… moving away from home and leaving my family and friends when I got married at 23 years old.

Competing in the Paralympics taught me… that anything is possible when you believe in your abilities.

I decided to go into politics because… I felt that using my voice to impact change would benefit my community and those I care about.

“My best advice to people transitioning their career is don’t be intimidated. Trust your instincts. You have your lifetime of experiences to draw from.”

My best advice to people transitioning their career is… don’t be intimidated. Trust your instincts. You have your lifetime of experiences to draw from.

My best advice from a mentor was… “Own your mistakes, but don’t let them define you.”

My biggest setback was… experiencing a cerebral spinal fluid leak. I’ve had a variety of health challenges but nothing compares to the symptoms associated with a cerebral spinal fluid leak.

I overcame it by… not only seeking proper care but allowing myself the time to heal without putting the pressure on myself to always be accomplishing something.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… to slow down. You don’t always have to be busy or accomplishing a task. Take a breath.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… journal.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I am an introvert and I recharge when I am alone. Most people wouldn’t think that I’m an introvert at heart because of my public background.

I stay inspired by… reminding myself that you only have one life to live. Make the most of each and every day. Stay focused and positive.

The future excites me because… things are always changing. There are more doors to open, and some I will choose to walk through while others I will walk away from.

My next step is… to write my book. Time is a limited resource, so best to get out there and make things happen!