Meet Sara Austin, Founder & CEO of Children First Canada.

My first job ever was… working as a babysitter, and then my first formal jobs were working as a summer camp counsellor and as a receptionist in a doctor’s office when I was in high school.  

I chose my career path because… advocating for children is what I was born to do and it’s the perfect combination of my skills, passion and purpose. I believe every child has the right to have a safe and healthy childhood and live in a family, community and country that respects their rights. It’s an enormous privilege to get up every day knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of millions of kids all across Canada, and to have spent my life improving the lives of kids all around the world.   

The part of my role that I love the most is… being able to work directly with children and youth and watch them be so bold and brave in advocating for their rights, whilst at the same time work towards achieving systemic change that will dramatically improve the lives of every kid in Canada. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am an adrenaline junkie. Whether it’s trying the flying trapeze, white water rafting, traveling off the beaten track, or speaking in front of the UN – I am driven to get out of my comfort zone. It’s both terrifying and exhilarating.  

My best advice from a mentor was… take more risks. Her advice helped me to see that while I had been brave and pursued a lot of big risks in my life that led to some great rewards, I had gotten comfortable in my role and plateaued. It led to a pivotal shift in my mindset that spurred enormous growth and ultimately led to some major changes, including moving across the country with my family and ultimately launching Children First Canada. 

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… do your due diligence to figure out what already exists and whether there is a void that needs to be filled. There are more than 170,000 charities and nonprofits in Canada, many of which are doing amazing work. Your research and networking might lead you to join an existing organization, or it might clarify what the gaps are and lead you to start something new. We need less competition and more collaboration, so put your skills, passion and experience to use where there is the greatest need. 

I stay inspired by… working with amazing young change makers. Kids aren’t just the leaders of the future; they are leaders today. I get to see these kiddos achieve incredible things at a very young age and watch them grow up and reach even greater heights. Often when they join Children First Canada, they are learning about their rights for the first time, and its amazing to see this light come on inside of them and to see their creativity and passion to make a difference on issues like mental health, racism, climate change, and reconciliation. We provide them with knowledge, skills and mentoring, along with a platform to speak directly with key decision makers at the highest levels of government and to Canadians through national media. They have an enormous sense of urgency to address the problems because its very real for them. Every single day matters in the life of a child, and I’m inspired and motivated by their sense of resolve that we can’t afford to wait.  

Success to me means… every child being able to achieve their full potential. Canada’s future depends on the strength of our children and youth. What we do now, or fail to do, will change the trajectory of children’s lives and the future of a nation. As a society, our most sacred and solemn duty is to ensure that every child not only survives, but also thrives. The health and wellbeing of kids in Canada has declined dramatically over the past decade: Canada has fallen from 10th to 30th place amongst wealthy nations, and the pandemic has had a devastating impact on their mental and physical health. We need a big bold plan to improve the lives of all 8 million kids in Canada, and to make this the best place in the world for kids to grow up.

Meet Dr. Janét Aizenstros, Founder & CEO of Ahava Digital Group.

Dr. Janét Aizenstros is the Founder & CEO of Ahava Group Global — a modern media parent company compromised of Ahava Digital Group, LOVE Lifestyle Publishing Group, Twelve Twenty One Illustration, Luxe House Publishing, and Ahava Entertainment. An award-winning businesswoman, her company was 12th on Canadian Business’ 2020 Growth List — making her the first Black Canadian woman sole founder to be featured in the top 20 on the list. Through her leadership, Ahava Digital Group’s consultancy has swiftly grown into a 9-figure organization globally. 

 

 

My first job ever was… I worked at Zellers as a cashier. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to create sustainable impact. Also, I wanted to set a standard that you can forge opportunities as a Black person in sectors that traditionally have not had many Black faces. 

My boldest move to date was… working with underdeveloped countries to help stimulate economic growth with new technologies.

My biggest setback was… the setback was actually a setup for creating a legacy-initiative to empower women leaders to live harmoniously.  

I overcame it by… having healthy support systems surrounding me along with a solid sense of self.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… anything about me other than my business achievements and philanthropic efforts. Online is just touching the tip of the iceberg. 

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… stay disciplined, committed and consistent. Focus on your lane only. 

A great leader is… someone who continues to grow, inspires others to grow and helps elevate others in their growth.

The future excites me because… it’s wide open. Open to endless possibilities.

Success to me means… peace and seeing a vision come to fruition.

Meet Ratana Stephens, Founder & CEO of Nature’s Path Food.

Ratana Stephens founded Nature’s Path Foods with her husband Arran in 1985. As CEO and co-founder, she has grown Nature’s Path to become North America’s largest independent certified organic breakfast and snack food company, while remaining firmly committed to the mission of leaving the earth better than you found it. Ratana remains at the center of every development within the company, which operates on the triple-bottom line of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and financial viability, in that order. Since 2008, Ratana and Arran personally, and additionally through Nature’s Path, have committed to donating almost $40 million to various philanthropic and community service efforts.  

 

My first job ever was… College lecturer in Literature

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I saw a need for something different in the market, be it owning a vegetarian restaurant, or creating an organic cereal. It was also in my blood, my father was also an entrepreneur

My boldest move to date was… Marrying my husband Arran and moving to Canada from India in 1969.

My biggest setback was… We all have setbacks and challenges from time to time. Nothing is insurmountable, you must be resilient.

I overcame it by… I am a person of action. I try to overcome challenges by putting one foot in front of the other, and slowly but surely making progress. Sometimes you must be patient but know that you will eventually get there.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am a voracious reader. I studied literature in university and have carried my passion for reading throughout my life. 

When starting my business, I wish I knew… How to establish a cereal manufacturing facility! Instead we learned this through extensive trial and error.

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… Try to retain as much control as possible, which sometimes means growing at a slower pace than you would like.

A great leader is… Someone who leads with empathy, and by example.

The future excites me because… The future excites me because there is so much to look forward to – the end of the pandemic (god willing), the world opening up again, travel (which I love), new possibilities for our business. But truly what excites me the most, are young people. Their commitment to the environment, their purpose-driven attitude and outlook give me great hope for a better future!

Success to me means… Spending time with family and friends. That is when I feel the most successful.

Meet Andrée-Lise Méthot, Founder & Managing Partner of Cycle Capital Management

Andrée-Lise is the founder and Managing Partner of Cycle Capital, an impact investor and the Canada’s largest cleantech private investment platform. She boasts more than 25 years of experience in venture capital, management and engineering. Today, Cycle Capital manages four funds in North America and one in China and has more than half a billion dollars under management. In addition to serving on portfolio companies’ boards of directors, she is the Founder and Chairperson of the Ecofuel Accelerator and the Co-Founder of the Ecofuel Fund. 

 

My first job ever was… As a teenager, I was a swimming instructor at the local public pool.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized, as an ecologist, that the best way to make a leap forward on the climate change is to become an entrepreneur in finance and support climate tech enterprises and entrepreneurs.

My boldest move to date was… to become an impact investor dedicated to ecological transition and inclusion, specifically for women.

My biggest setback was… not detecting people with toxic personalities on time.

I overcame it by… educating myself on toxic profiles, how to detect them and how to be a positive support for kind people.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… my private life

When starting my business, I wish I knew…  that human skills, especially emotional intelligence, is as important as business plans, market studies and numbers.

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… to take the time to know your business partners and discover their level of emotional intelligence.

A great leader is… someone who can bring others to the top with them.

The future excites me because… after 15 years in climate tech and cleantech, I feel that now, things have a chance to move forward.

Success to me means…  that my company, Cycle Capital, will survive me.

Meet Lourdes Juan, Founder of Leftovers Foundation.

Lourdes Juan is a Calgary-based entrepreneur and Urban Planner, with a Masters in Environmental Design, who oversees dozens of staff and hundreds of volunteers at the diverse companies and non-profits she has founded including Soma Hammam & SpaHive DevelopmentsLeftovers Foundation and Fresh Routes. Shocked at how much unsold bread a single bakery in Calgary had at closing time, Lourdes founded Leftovers in 2012. Today, the large charity works with hundreds of Alberta restaurants, bakeries, and grocers to keep tons of edible food out of landfills annually, by repurposing it through partnerships with local businesses, or redirecting excess food to hungry Canadians who need it the most. Leftovers currently operates in Alberta and Manitoba with plans to expand globally.

 

My first job ever was… I was 14 and I started working at an architecture company. I did everything from making blueprints on an ammonia printing machine to gluing carpet samples on presentation boards.

I chose my career path because… For the Leftovers Foundation, I saw a lot of food about to go to waste and I was compelled to offer a solution. I wanted to help as much as I could and that meant mobilizing the community. 

When starting out, I wish I knew   that good things take time and that’s ok. Small steps each day add up to powerful strides. 

The part of my role that I love the most is… working with teams that are equally passionate about community work, people, and the planet. 

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… Non-profits have limited resources and the problems we tackle are huge, so even though we are making a difference, I wish we had the capacity to do more.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… how much I love Star Trek. 

My best advice from a mentor was…  Keep a close group of subject matter experts as mentors to help make decisions and problem solve. 

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… Work alongside the community, listen first and solve problems together. Non-profit work should be the most collaborative work you ever do. 

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… how to contribute meaningfully to solve complex problems.

I stay inspired by… Being witness to community members working together. I love to see it! 

Success to me means… waking up excited to take on the day!

Meet Cindy Crowe, Executive Director of Blue Sky Community Healing Centre

Cindy Crowe is a band member of the Lake Helen First Nation, Robinson-Superior Treaty Area, located an hour East of Thunder Bay. In 2004, she launched her award-winning Indigenous consulting firm, Cindy Crowe Consulting, specializing in community liaison, engagement and development. In 2005, she founded the charity Blue Sky Community Healing Centre, which utilizes the principles of Indigenous worldviews, and encourages understanding and respect for all individuals through an open dialogue in an interactive learning environment. The multi-layered and comprehensive training sessions assist the participants to experience a safe environment to discuss these topics with ease and allow a sense of curiosity from the participants.

 

My first job ever was… working as playground supervisor in Val Caron, Ontario for two summers in a row. I can see now that my leadership skills and my great desire to include everyone in activities was already strong in my early teens.

I chose my career path becausemy heart desired to mentor people and illustrate the value of entrepreneurship. I have a gift that promotes individuals to be the truest versions of themselves. The vision of keeping the circle strong drives me to serve community.

When starting out, I wish I knew that listening to myself would have been the best thing that I could have done for myself and the people that I serve.

The part of my role that I love the most is… being me, leading by example, loving people openly, welcoming everyone into the circle, illustrating that if I can be successful – so can you!

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… keeping the faith that the financial matters will all work out.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that my greatest messages that provide my divine guidance come from Mother Earth, especially the birds and animals.

My best advice from a mentor was… always bring gifts with you when attending a new community or business i.e., bannock, amethyst, beaded jewelry, or other handmade items. It’s a show of respect for the people you are meeting for the first time.

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… to follow their inner guidance and truly listen to themselves. That compass will always take them in the right direction.

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… there is great value in doing the work to benefit individuals rather than earning a profit.

I stay inspired by… ensuring that I am taking care of myself. I know that through self-care, my ancestors and descendants also benefit.

Success to me means… doing what I love and loving what I do. This isn’t a job. It’s a passion. Watching the impacts of our work on the youth and other individuals continues to drive me and recharges my batteries.

Meet Dr. Lloydetta Quaicoe, Founder & CEO of Sharing Our Cultures.

Dr.Lloydetta Quaicoe

Lloydetta Quaicoe is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sharing Our Cultures. She established the organization in 1999 in response to the findings of her research, “Psychosocial needs of new immigrant and refugee school children.” She holds a PhD in Education from the University of South Australia, Division of Education, Arts, and Social Sciences. Her areas of specialization are newcomer children’s education, acculturation, and belonging. She is passionate about providing opportunities for school children to be heard, seen, respected, and valued. In addition to being an award-winning leader, she is the creator, executive producer, and host of a multicultural television program on Rogers TV, the Chair of OMNI East Advisory Council for Ontario and Atlantic Provinces, and Co-Chair of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police NL Black Engagement Steering Committee. 

 

My first job ever was… with the national Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service. I was hired as a television announcer and read the news when the scheduled newscaster did not show up for work. Shortly after, I convinced the studio manager that I could produce and host a weekly television program, with children and for children, which I did for five years.  

I chose my career path because… I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and that made a positive impact on the lives of children and youth. I enjoy what I do, and I can do it for hours without getting bored or tired. The skills and experience that I gained hosting a children’s television program in Sierra Leone sparked my passion to continue working with school children, which I’m still doing today in Canada.

When starting out, I wish I knew… that the work would grow easier with time. Twenty years ago, developing networks in the community was challenging and time consuming. Now, I have leveraged those social networks and collaborative relationships with community leaders to increase the efficiency of my organization.

The part of my role that I love the most is… creating environments for school youth to nurture friendships and develop a sense of belonging. I am energized by conversations with youth as I encourage them to share their challenges and successes. I am inspired by observing newcomer youth overcome social isolation to develop self-confidence, friendships, and leadership skills.  

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… the lack of core funding. This leads to spending significant time writing proposals and the uncertainty of whether you will have sufficient funds to execute the necessary programs and projects as envisioned.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I like listening to Motown music and watching figure skating, even though I don’t know how to skate! Seriously, whenever someone shares with me that they are being treated unfairly or if I discover that they are experiencing systemic barriers, I feel compelled to help them find appropriate long-term solutions.

My best advice from a mentor was… “To your own self be true and you would not be false to anyone.” This has encouraged me to be my authentic self in my daily interactions. 

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… to get lots of sleep before starting! Value the importance of building community networks and nurturing collaborative relationships.  

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… flexibility, inclusivity, and community connections. The lack of core funding that some not-for-profits experience fosters an environment of nimbleness and the need to rely on a variety of partners to be successful.  

I stay inspired by… the remarkable resilience of newcomer school youth I am privileged to work with every day.   

Success to me means… advocating for social change that results in positive outcomes for vulnerable individuals, particularly newcomer children and youth.

Meet Carolann Harding, Executive Director of SmartICE Sea Ice Monitoring & Information Inc.

As Executive Director of SmartICE, Carolann Harding is leading a diverse, award-winning team providing the world’s first climate change adaptation tool to integrate traditional knowledge of sea ice with advanced data acquisition and remote monitoring technology. As a social enterprise, the company embraces a business model that aims to expand opportunities for economic and social development in northern markets while preserving local cultures and lifestyles. In addition to her role at SmartICE, Carolann is currently the Chair of FoodFirst NL and a director on the Women in Resource Development Corporation Board and a member of the ICD NL Chapter Executive.

 

My first job ever was… a sales representative at Radio Shack. I was 14! I cut my teeth in customer service and learned a completely new language of electronic parts, stereo equipment and coaxial cable. Before I knew it, I was doing daily reports, inventory, opening, and closing the store. Little did I realize at that point that it was setting the foundation for my career.  

I chose my career path becausewell…I didn’t quite choose this career, it choose me! The accumulation of all of my experiences have led to me to this social impact role, it feels like home! 

The part of my role that I love the most is… twofold. Firstly, building the team of like-minded individuals that all strive towards the same goals and in my case where I work with many young people, setting the environment where they can flourish and become the leaders of tomorrow.  Secondly, I love the fact that we are enabling change.  Whether we are working with youth specifically or communities in general, we always strive to build local capacity that will empower. 

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… positioning the organization as a game changer. This could be anything from external and internal communications, continuous cultivation of relationships and revenue generation and diversification.  As well, like most sectors these days, talent identification, retention and fit to organization is critical. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that in 1990 I won the Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award for Newfoundland and Labrador. Too long ago for coverage to show up on the internet!  

My best advice from a mentor was… never bury your head in the sand when a problem arises, face it head on, be honest with yourself and your banker!  Ask for help, there are smart capable around you that can contribute to the solution – together is better! 

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… have a rock solid vision, mission, mandate and values. Take the time to find people that align and build a team of smart people to help you execute. Set milestones and celebrate when reached. Commit to continuous engagement with: staff, board, stakeholders and community. 

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… having a social mandate brings people together. There is more than just building up stockpiles of profit.  Sure, build the profit but share the wealth by making many people’s lives better.  Ultimately, the organization will grow, develop, and become more sustainable. 

I stay inspired by… knowing that what we are doing at SmartICE is helping people become the best versions of themselves and that they see a hopeful future. 

Success to me means…that what I do or contribute to assists the greater good and affects people’s lives for the better.  Waking up each morning and wanting to go to work where my passions can come to life is success to me!  

Meet Katherine Hay, President & CEO of Kids Help Phone.

As President and CEO of Kids Help Phone, Katherine (Kathy) Hay drives the strategic direction, innovation imperative and culture of Canada’s only national, 24/7 bilingual e-mental health service for young people. In 2020, Kids Help Phone’s team of counsellors and crisis responders made over 4.6 million connections with youth in every province and territory — with an ever-growing mandate to always be there for youth when, where, and how they need mental health support. Prior to joining Kids Help Phone, Kathy was President and CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation where she advanced the health of women across Canada and achieved record levels of support. 

 

My first job ever was… Looking back, my first job was washing cars in a car wash bay at my dad’s car dealership. First job outside of school, however, was as a bank teller at CIBC. 

I chose my career path because… My career has definitely not been a linear one. I knew that I wanted to work with people, while making a difference. As I moved from the world of banking to the not-for-profit sector, I felt more gratified by raising $1,000, than by closing a million dollar deal. The not-for-profit sector has truly created awareness of the impact of my actions. You don’t necessarily know the change or who you are directly impacting, but you have to believe in it. 

When starting out, I wish I knewThat it isn’t all black and white or linear. Some of the richest experiences are on the edges of the ebbs and flows and curves of your career path.

The part of my role that I love the most is… That I am able to help shape and shift the landscape of mental health in Canada while supporting the courageous heroes on the frontlines.

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… Grasping how complex a not-for-profit is. While it may not look so, you can get mired down in its complexity.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… 

Most obvious: The most important things in my life are my two children, my grandson and my family.

Least obvious: That I did not receive my university degree until 15 years after leaving university and that it was completed through distance education while living in Brazil.

My best advice from a mentor was… As you are leading an organization, it should not be black and white. There should be a time every single day where you put your head in your hands and say you don’t know what you are doing – then you put your head up and keep leading. 

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… Strategy dictates and that people are your best asset, so take care of them.

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… The not-for-profit world is highly innovative and manages to do so on a shoestring budget. We do this because we need to change the landscape of the world. For example Kids Help Phone is the first and remains the only not-for-profit using AI machine learning to triage suicidality in our texting service, ensuring a person at risk gets crisis response within 40 seconds.

I stay inspired by… Spending time with our frontlines and hearing the stories from the young people on the frontlines who need us the most.

Rencontrez Isabelle Côté, PDG Coffrages Synergy.

Femme d’action et de défis, Isabelle Côté connaît tous les rouages du domaine du coffrage. Depuis 2006, Isabelle a grandi dans l’entreprise. Passionnée par la construction depuis toujours, elle a occupé avec brio différentes fonctions au sein de l’organisation : réceptionniste, estimatrice, gérante de projets, responsable du marketing et du développement des affaires, directrice construction, jusqu’à occuper la position de Présidente Directrice Générale. Visionnaire et déterminée, elle a su faire sa place dans la grande industrie de la construction. Son équipe passionnée, son désir d’innover, et sa volonté à toujours viser l’amélioration continue, ont su mener Coffrages Synergy au rang de grande entreprise.

Mon tout premier emploi était…Monitrice de planche à neige au Mont St-Bruno. J’ai fait partie de la 1ere cohorte de femmes monitrice de planche à neige à cette montagne. La preuve que mon désir de foncer et de faire les choses différemment était présent dès mon jeune âge.

J’ai décidé d’être en affaires parce que… je voulais faire une différence. Aller au bout de mes idées! L’expression « Think out of the box » me représente bien 😉

La réalisation dont je tire le plus de fierté, c’est… En tant que maman, ma famille est ma plus grande fierté. Mais je suis aussi très fière d’avoir créé cet esprit de noyau familial au sein de mon entreprise. La famille Synergy, c’est plus de 1300 passionnés qui s’unissent chaque jour pour faire de chaque projet notre plus grande réalisation.

Mon plus gros incident de parcours fut… d’avoir pensé qu’il y avait une seule façon de gérer. Que tout le monde réagissait de la même manière.

J’ai surmonté le tout en… comprenant que chaque individu est différent et évolue différemment aussi. Qu’aller chercher le meilleur de chacun ne se fait pas de la même façon. Il faut être à l’écoute et développer ses « softskills ». 

Si vous me cherchez sur Google, vous ne saurez sûrement pas que… je pratique l’apnée sportive et la chasse sous-marine! C’est un sport que j’adore et qui me fait beaucoup penser à l’entreprenariat : dépasser ses limites, rester en contrôle malgré le stress environnant et les risques. Envie de me voir en plongée? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKpbz_o07o8

Lorsque je me suis lancée en affaires, j’aurais aimé savoir que…  être en affaires ce n’est pas juste un job, c’est un mode de vie. Mais quand on fait quelque chose qui nous passionne, ça devient une seconde nature.

Le meilleur conseil que je pourrais donner à ceux et celles qui veulent faire croître leur entreprise, c’est : de toujours mettre ses employés au premier plan. Les décisions d’entreprise doivent être prises aux bénéfices des employés. Si Synergy est devenue la grande entreprise qu’elle est aujourd’hui c’est surtout grâce à l’implication de nos gens. Pour moi, la confiance envers les membres de mon équipe est primordiale. Ce sont eux les ambassadeurs Synergy!

Un grand leader est une personne qui… être un bon leader ce n’est pas d’être le meilleur, c’est de rendre les autres meilleurs.

J’entrevois l’avenir avec enthousiasme, parce que… nous avons su faire grandir une culture d’entreprise forte. Notre équipe possède la sagesse et l’expertise pour s’enraciner et devenir encore plus forte. 

Pour moi, avoir du succès, c’est… voir les gens qui m’entourent évoluer. Avoir la chance d’inspirer les gens et de leur permettre de réaliser leur plein potentiel, c’est ce qui me « drive » le plus à être une bonne leader!

Meet Anna Sainsbury, Chairman & Founder of GeoComply.

Anna Sainsbury, former Commercial Director of TST, has over 10 years experience in regulation and compliance across both the land-based and online gaming industries. Anna has worked with regulators, operators and vendors throughout North America, Australia, Asia and Europe. More recently Anna has taken up the challenge of developing and delivering a reliable geolocation solution for the U.S. Intra State market. As Chairman of GeoComply, Anna is now working with some of the first movers in the emerging U.S. online gaming market to harness the latest technologies to ensure compliance with UIGEA and other governing laws.

My first job ever was… At a coffee shop in West Vancouver. I used to memorize every regular customer’s drink of choice and start making them before they arrived. Customer service work is a masterclass in staying involved with all sides of the business while maintaining focus on the clients, which is a balance that I continue to strive for at GeoComply. At the end of the day, whether in a coffee shop or at a tech company, the person consuming our products should get the biggest slice of our attention.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was always creative and loved solving problems. The flexibility that being an entrepreneur affords me is a big plus as well. To be honest, my younger self was probably drawn to the independence of it, but over the years teamwork has become more and more important to how our business operates.

My proudest accomplishment is… Outside of my family, launching my company! We were truly an underdog in unknown waters, but 10 years later I am so proud of how we not only survived, but thrived amidst various challenges. There is no better feeling than seeing your passion come to life.

My biggest setback was… Having dyslexia. Writing is incredibly challenging for me: oftentimes, the ideas in my head seem incoherent on paper. This has been a real difficulty in business, where written communication is often key to persuasion and success.

I overcame it by… Emphasizing my strengths in verbal communication, prioritizing succinctness, and being personable in all settings. I’ve also found AI-powered grammar and editing tools especially helpful, and in my work, I collaborate with effective writers to bring ideas to life.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I love yoga! It keeps me centered every day. I recommend everyone to find a pillar for consistency and wellness in their own lives. It certainly doesn’t have to be yoga, but staying active and mindful is essential.

When starting my business, I wish I knew… How to code. 

Meet Robin Kovitz, President & CEO of Baskits.

Robin Kovitz is the President & CEO of Baskits, which designs, manufacturers, and delivers unique and luxurious gifts to over 40,000 customers across Canada and the US. Leading one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, Robin is a sought-after speaker and commentator on entrepreneurship through acquisition and digital retail, and she and her company have been featured in a number of leading publications including Forbes, House & Home, Elle Canada, Canadian Business, HuffPost, Style at Home and on Global News and Your Morning. 

My first job ever was… My first “official” job was working on the factory floor/assembly line of my family’s meat manufacturing business in Calgary, Alberta, when I was 14 years old.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had just given birth to my first child and wasn’t sure how I could continue working downtown, in the office, for 60+ hours per week as I had for the prior 10 years. Essentially, I wanted to work from home 10 years before covid made it commonplace and I believed entrepreneurship was the only way to do that.

My proudest accomplishment is… Becoming Mom to Jill and Jake and wife to Sam. Second proudest is the incredible team we have built at Baskits Inc.

My biggest setback was… As an entrepreneur, I face setbacks every single day. 

I overcame it by… Having a “never give up” attitude. As an entrepreneur, you will be knocked down time and time again and you must be able to get back up quickly, brush it off and keep going.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I was a competitive soccer and volleyball player growing up!

When starting my business, I wish I knew… How difficult it is to attract, recruit, lead and retain world class people!

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… To really understand your target market and how it relates to your value proposition. Also, my advice is to remember that profitable growth is what matters.

A great leader is… Someone who can rally a team around a vision to execute something larger than themselves. Someone who is able to motivate people to give their very best. 

The future excites me because… I am an eternal optimist and see endless of opportunities everywhere. As an entrepreneur, I guess you kind of have to be. 

Success to me means… Having positive and lasting impact on the people around me. Creating opportunities for my team and kids and supporting my community. 

5 personal branding secrets every business leader should know.

Monique Bryan

By Monique Bryan

Landing those dream clients, referral partners, speaking opportunities, publishing deals and media coverage doesn’t happen by happenstance. Some of us fail to understand that the success we see of some of our online business idols was the result of years of consistent effort, backed by strategic marketing and personal brand management. 

As PR expert Nicole Dunn says, “In establishing yourself as a brand that people trust, you’ll be able to price your goods and services at a premium, attract more media attention, be viewed as an authority in your industry and create a long-lasting platform.” 

Today, it is not enough to be an expert at what you do. It’s your job as the leader and visionary of your business to learn how to be heard and seen amongst the noisy oversaturated online arena so it’s easy for people to choose you.

Here are 5 key ways to start positioning yourself for the opportunities you want:

Secret #1: Own Your Lane And Stay In It

As the saying goes, “A confused customer never buys.” Being multifaceted and multi-passionate are great attributes to have, but we can’t expect to be top of mind for our audience in all areas at the exact same time. People don’t have the bandwidth to figure out what we do. It’s your job to tell them and then become known as the go-to in that space. The mistake some entrepreneurs make is that they diversify too soon, failing to establish credibility and trust.

Here’s a goal: Pick a lane you want to own, then be prepared to own that lane for at least five years before you start diversifying into other areas. Be good, and keep getting better. 

 

Secret #2: Clean Up Your Digital Houzz 

Think about the last time you hired someone for something really important, what drove your decision? Nine times out of ten it was a referral, their reputation or how they looked online. According to personal branding expert, Giuliana Tranquilini Hadade, there are over 1 billion names Googled every day, yet only one in four have any positive information on Google. It is your responsibility to ensure your online presence aligns with how you want to be perceived.

Here are some easy ways to get started:

  • Remove out-of-date and unprofessional photos, websites, and content from the internet. If you don’t own the content, reach out to those who do and make the request to have it removed or have yourself untagged.
  • Replace unprofessional and out-of-date profile headshots. (See Secret #3 for how to do this.)
  • Update your social media bios so they are clear and concise. They should tell people what you do, whom you help, and how to contact you with ease. 
  • Create a personal website where you control the message going out about you. This is online real estate that you own unlike your social media profiles, which could be shut down at any time without warning.
  • Create new content and post it online on a regular basis. This will push irrelevant and old content you may want to erase to the later pages of Google.

And remember, every piece of content you put online is either adding to your brand — or taking away from it.

 

Secret #3: Have A Good Headshot

Headshot with tipsWe all judge a book by it’s cover, no matter how brilliant the author; however, you don’t have to be the most attractive or photogenic person to seal the deal. You do need to look trustworthy and credible. Often people are deciding if your words can be trusted based on how credible you “look.”

They have a split second to choose you over someone else, and usually, all they have to base their decision on is a small one-inch profile photo they found on your social media, so it’s your job to put your best-polished foot forward. Hop over to your profile and ask yourself, “If I were seeing me for the first time, would I hire me, based on what I see?”

 

Secret #4:  Show Up On Video And Share Free Content 

According to industry experts, “…no amount of sophisticated technology can ever take the place of real, live, in-person events. That’s when you can look into a person’s eyes, read his or her body language, and sense their energy. But, the very next best thing is video, and especially live video.”

This is especially important if you sell one-to-one services, or you have aspirations for interviews by the media. If you are stepping out on your dream and you want people to decide to choose you over someone who does exactly what you do, you have to let people see the face behind the message. And the best way to do that is to create long and short-form video content and distribute it across your social media channels. 

Here are a few tips on how to get started:

  • Only speak on the topics you want to be known for (remember Secret #1: Own Your Lane.)
  • Plan what you want to say in advance. Fumbling around is not good for you or the listener
  • Focus on delivering value first. Always think about, what does my audience want to hear? 
  • Have a take-a-way for the listener, such as key action steps, a resource, or a call-to-action.
  • If you are nervous about showing up on video, ask a friend to interview you on camera versus going at it alone.
  • Wear something that makes you feel confident and like the expert that you are.
  • Be yourself and speak like you are talking to a friend.

Secret #5: Build Your Network Of Thought Partners 

“It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you” will become your mantra as you build your personal brand and your influence. Therefore it is essential that you grow and nurture a strategic network of people who can help get your name out there. And as LinkedIn has shown us, we are usually just 1-3 connections away from everyone we want.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Make a list of the “types” of people you think could propel your credibility, opportunities, or proximity to the things you want if you had them in your network.
  • Look at your LinkedIn connections or contacts list on your phone and see whom you are already connected to and add them to your list.
  • From these lists identify which of these people you think would be comfortable putting your name forward or introducing you to your dream contacts.
  • Reach out through a thought-out direct message, video message, or email and reconnect.
  • Acknowledge them for their great work and offer them your help, expertise, or a connection you think they could use. Always give before you ask.
  • If they are active on social media, go one step further and make them look good by highlighting their accomplishments and sharing their content.

These are just a few of the essential components to brand yourself and start building a reputable personal brand.Your ability to build an authentic online reputation and social media presence that people, companies, organizations and even your future book publisher can get behind is critical. When you learn that your personal brand is essential to your ability to build your thought leadership, your platform, your audience, your bank account, and your dreams, you will plan, market and show up in a whole new way.

Monique Bryan

Monique Bryan

Meet Monique Bryan, a speaker, personal branding expert, online course creator, podcast host and triple positive breast cancer survivor. Monique helps women-identified coaches, consultants and seasoned professionals package and sell their genius, build a noteworthy online presence and build their confidence as they step into the spotlight. Book a Brand Discovery Call with her team to learn more or visit moniquebryan.com.