How Toni Desrosiers found success fighting plastic pollution with Abeego, the first beeswax food wrap

When she first launched Abeego, Toni Desrosiers was met with skepticism — people couldn’t imagine giving up plastic wrap. She persevered through the challenge of creating a new market, and now the award-winning entrepreneur can boast years of explosive growth, and her reusable beeswax wrap can be found in more than 1,500 stores, 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of kitchens worldwide.

 

 

By Karen van Kampen

 


 

In 2008, when Toni Desrosiers launched Abeego with the first beeswax food wrap, “people literally laughed in my face,” she says. “They thought it was just ridiculous.” It was too hard to imagine replacing trusted plastic wrap with a reusable, all-natural alternative. 

“We all have an intimate relationship with plastic wrap, even if we don’t realize it,” says Toni. “It’s something that’s been passed down from your mother. Nobody questions it because it’s been so habitual for the last three generations.” 

Eleven years later, with food waste and the plastic environmental crisis looming, Abeego is successfully taking on the multi-billion-dollar plastic wrap market with its mission to “keep food alive.” 

The average household throws out 40% of its fresh food, “and it’s no fault of theirs,” says Toni. “It’s simply because people don’t understand how to keep food alive once it’s been picked, pulled or plucked. With Abeego, you get to eat the food that you buy,” explains Toni. “You eat it all.” 

Fresh food has always been an integral part of Toni’s life. Growing up in Olds, Alberta, Toni was given her own garden plot to tend where she grew strawberries and peas. Her mother was an herbalist who made tinctures, teas and natural remedies. 

At 24, Toni moved to Mexico, living in small beachside communities in a camper van with only the necessities. Toni shopped locally at small butchers and tortilla shops and fruterias. The experience “taught me to be fully aware of my surroundings, as risk and opportunity are around every corner,” she says. 

The following year Toni returned to Canada, enrolling in a holistic nutrition program at Ottawa’s Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Completing the two-year program in six months, she graduated in 2005 at the top of her class. Her next move was to Victoria, B.C. where she took a job at Lifestyle Markets. Working at the natural food store helped Toni realize that fresh food is the best supplement for good health. 

An entrepreneur at heart, Toni says “I was always thinking about what business I could create that would solve a different problem.” Her big idea came after asking herself, “If nature was going to wrap food in my kitchen, what would it look like?” Toni knew that plastic wrap wasn’t the answer. “There isn’t a single peel, skin or rind in the natural world that is air tight and transparent,” she says. Toni set out to make an all natural, reusable, breathable food wrap to keep food fresh. 

 

“We all have an intimate relationship with plastic wrap, even if we don’t realize it,” says Toni. “It’s something that’s been passed down from your mother. Nobody questions it because it’s been so habitual for the last three generations.” 

 

After extensive experimentation, Toni invented a formula of beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil that created a sealable barrier akin to plastic wrap while also keeping food fresh. In 2008, Abeego was born in Toni’s kitchen.

Offering advice to other inventors, Toni says, “You might have an idea that’s going to change the world. But if the market is not ready for your idea, it might take either a really long time and a ton of work — and if you believe in it, keep going — or it might never go anywhere.” 

Despite initial customer skepticism, Toni never gave up. In fact, meeting customers face-to-face proved to be one of her most valuable marketing experiences. Toni quickly realized that she couldn’t position Abeego as an alternative to plastic wrap. 

“Immediately I could see people put up their defensive guard,” she says. “They felt attacked, guilty, afraid.” So Toni created a positive marketing message by focusing on how people could make a lasting change. 

Starting a business is very challenging, says Toni, especially when you are creating an entirely new category. “It took a lot of storytelling, convincing, and trust from people who were willing to give it a shot,” she says. 

Around three years ago, customers began adopting a more open, environmentally conscious mindset. At the same time, competitors entered the market. “At first I was terrified,” says Toni. But Abeego was ready. With systems in place to scale quickly, they could easily handle the volume of new customers. 

“When you set yourself specific boundaries and then give yourself the freedom to build within those boundaries, you build something sustainable and scalable,” Toni says. 

Abeego has had 100% year-over-year growth for the past two years, and is on target to double again in 2019. Its reusable beeswax wrap can be found in more than 1,500 stores, 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of kitchens worldwide. The success has been recognized: Toni was the 2018 winner of the TELUS Trailblazer Award, granted to an entrepreneur who has identified and captured a new market while setting standards for originality, quality and successful management. 

For Toni, the journey is more rewarding than the destination. Looking back, she says, “I’d tell my younger self to enjoy the doing, because just trying to get to the end goal is thankless. It’s just too hard. You have to enjoy the things that you’re doing along the way, regardless of the outcome.”

Meet Victoria Sopik and Jennifer Nashmi, Co-founders of Kids and Company and Winners of the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship at the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

 

Victoria Sopik and Jennifer Nashmi

Co-founders, Kids and Company

Winners, Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, CENTRAL

 

When Victoria Sopik and Jennifer Nashmi cofounded Kids & Company in 2002, their aim was to disrupt the traditional way childcare had been offered by launching as an emergency back-up centre. Their success came after a crucial pivot, however: rather than working directly with parents they began to partner with organizations, positioning corporate-sponsored childcare as a unique employee benefit that could assist with recruiting and retention, as well as reduce unexpected absences. With an emphasis on flexible part-time as well as emergency or planned back-up childcare, Kids & Company continues to expand in size and services.

 

My first job ever was…

V – Working at McDonald’s!

J – I cleaned cottages and waitressed at a resort in Muskoka.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

V –  I wanted to be my own boss. 

J – I’m a creative person (especially for an Accountant) and like the ability to create a business vision and see it take shape.

 

My proudest accomplishment is…

V – My children.

J – Three beautiful, smart, independent, capable daughters.

 

My boldest move to date was… 

V – Having 8 children!

J – Leaving a good, stable, well-paying job to start Kids & Company with my business partner.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… 

V – That I am a grandmother to 5 beautiful grandbabies!

J – I’m an avid knitter.

 

“Never look back after making a decision.”

 

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… 

V – Not to overthink things.

J – Make a decision and don’t second guess yourself. Then don’t give up until you make it happen!

 

My best advice from a mentor was… 

V – To never look back after making a decision.

J – Be careful who you take money from. Know your partners well.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… 

V – Gertrude Bell. She was the first women to receive First Degree Honours at Oxford University, pioneering diplomat, intelligent officer, mountaineer, archaeologist, linguist, author, museum founder and adviser to kings. A courageous woman far ahead of her time who refused to bow to societal expectations and limitations. 

J – My grandmother. I miss her. She was a strong, kind woman.  

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… 

V – That the years and days fly by, try to live in the moment as much as possible! 

J – Enjoy life’s small moments more.

 

My biggest setback was… 

V – Constantly having small problems to deal with.

J – My mindset is that I constantly realign myself so I have no big setbacks, just new goals.

 

I overcame it by… 

V – Never looking back after making a decision.

J – Being confident in myself.

 

The last book I read was… 

V – The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine.

J – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

 

I stay inspired by… 

V –  Spending time with my grandchildren on a daily basis.

J – My business partner Victoria. We do our best to prop each other up.

 

The future excites me because… 

V – Things are changing and evolving each and every day. 

J – It’s constantly changing and there are a million things I want to try.

 

Success to me means… 

V – Having the respect of my children. 

J – Having the love and respect of my friends and family.

 

 

How Marjorie Dixon is redefining the journey of fertility

 

Marjorie Dixon knew from a young age that she wanted to get into reproductive medicine. It was her experience running a cycle monitoring centre — and going through three rounds of IVF herself — that led her to open her own holistic clinic, Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health. A recent winner of the RBC Momentum Award, her business has been growing rapidly, and redefining caregiving in the fertility space.

 

By Karen van Kampen

 


 

In grade 10, sitting in the library of her Montreal high school, Dr. Marjorie Dixon stumbled upon an article that would change her life. It was a story celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first baby conceived through in vitro fertilization. A story of hope, possibility, and the future of reproductive medicine. “I thought, this is me. This is my life,” says Marjorie. “Still to this day, when I think about what I do, I’m astonished.”

Marjorie’s career is its own story of inspiration. She has made it her mission to offer equal access to fertility care, regardless of a person’s orientation, identity, geography or socioeconomic status. Her company, Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health, uses the most advanced technology and a holistic approach to patient care. She has created a Canadian business with a global reach — with patients as far as Japan, Australia and Qatar — and an impressive track record of growth.

Her success has not gone unnoticed. As owner and founder, Marjorie was the winner of the 2018 RBC Momentum Award, granted to an entrepreneur who has delivered 10% or more year-over-year growth for at least three years while creating a flexible, responsive business that adapts to a changing market.

While Marjorie didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur, she says she always wanted to be a reproductive specialist. As a little girl, Marjorie spent countless hours in her dad’s laboratory where he taught high school reproductive biology. “I’m an obsessive learner,” she says. “I love to learn.”

After graduating from McGill University’s School of Medicine, Marjorie did postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Toronto. She then pursued a subspecialty in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Vermont. During a gynecology internship at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Marjorie earned the nickname Gyne Spice for singing in the operating room.

As a fertility specialist at Sunnybrook (where she is still an active member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology), Marjorie is known for belting out the tunes including Queen, Air Supply and Stevie Nicks. Marjorie also takes song requests from patients and has their favourite music playing when they wake up from anesthesia. And she gives women “fertility lucky socks” so their feet don’t get cold in the stirrups. One sock reads “hope trust” while the other reads “baby dust.”

Her thoughtful, patient-centric approach can partially be attributed to being a patient herself. After undergoing IVF three times, Marjorie knows first-hand how stressful the fertility journey can be. Her experience running a cycle monitoring centre also highlighted how the medical system was disjointed, with patients having to travel to a variety of fertility sites for different services. “Continuity of care is a critical thing,” says Marjorie, “particularly when you’re dealing with women’s health.”

 

“When you find your solid group of peeps, lean on them hard and use them. People say it takes a village. It totally takes a village.”

 

It was the start of her entrepreneurial journey. Marjorie envisioned patient-focused fertility care under one roof, delivered by the same team of care providers to create a calm, comforting environment, “because the journey of fertility can be disarming on the best of days and disenfranchising overall,” she says.

Marjorie was also determined to be a culturally conscious and sensitive provider so that everyone could identify with their caregivers. “The fertility journey is the ultimate equalizer,” she says. “If you look in our waiting room, we have people from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds, and they sit together with one thing in common: they just want a legacy of their own. A family of their own.”

In 2016, she opened Anova. Launching with nine staff, Marjorie had to learn how to manage her own practice. She hired an operations manager, set up an electronic medical records system and continuously set new goals and created new strategies to keep moving forward. Most importantly, she kept her thoughtful approach; for example, Marjorie gives each of her “baby graduates” a onesie that reads, “I’m so cool I used to be frozen. Made with a lotta love and a little science.”

She also relied on a solid business plan. “You can’t pull it out of the sky and say, I think this should work,” she says. Anova Fertility now has more than 80 employees, offering a range of services that include cycle monitoring, IVF, and diagnosis of menstrual disorders. There is also the Anova Integrative Wellness group of naturopathic doctors, massage therapists and acupuncturists.

The road to success “hasn’t been this Pollyanna-esque perfect path,” says Marjorie. To succeed, you need grit and determination — which she certainly has. (When Marjorie was a kid, her dad used to say, “If you want to get Marjorie to do something, tell her she can’t.”) And you need to recognize the demands of an entrepreneurial life, she adds. “You can’t have it all, but you can definitely design life the way you see best for you,” says Marjorie. “You can have a family and work and follow your passion and do great things. You just have to make a path. Nothing happens by accident.”

It’s also important to ignore the “propaganda,” warns Marjorie. “Your competitors will propagandize and deprogram some of your novel thoughts, and discourage as opposed to mentor and build you,” she says. “When you find your solid group of peeps, lean on them hard and use them. People say it takes a village. It totally takes a village.”

For Marjorie, it’s incredible to think that before she opened the doors to Anova Fertility, “there were no babies growing on the sixth floor at Yonge and Shepherd,” she says. “Now every day in their sweet way, little cells are dividing into people. It’s fantastic. It really is.”

 

 

 

A Seat at The Roundtable

Glain Roberts-McCabe left her secure, six-figure job at a consulting firm to pursue her idea for a group-based approach to leadership coaching. Ten years later, and The Roundtable has grown into an award-winning consultancy with a proven track record of fostering success.

 

 

By Karen van Kampen

 


 

In 2007, 39-year-old Glain Roberts-McCabe walked away from a secure job and six-figure salary to launch The Roundtable, a unique leadership development business that specializes in group and team coaching. “There are moments in your life where you literally hit a wall. You hit the wall hard and you have a choice,” says Glain. You can continue to power through and stay at a stable position, she explains, or take a career risk. “I’m a very independent person, and it almost wasn’t a choice for me,” she says. “I knew I needed to try self-employment.”  

Glain was also driven to fulfill a gap in the leadership development field. As former Managing Partner at a mid-sized consultancy, “I saw that the way we were developing leaders wasn’t working,” she says. “We were not helping people make the lasting changes they needed to be successful.” Leadership is not learned in a binder, says Glain, it’s learned by doing. It’s a journey where we learn over time.

Glain envisioned a community of ambitious leaders collaborating, connecting, and learning together, similar to CEO groups that have been around for decades. Twelve years later, The Roundtable has grown into an award-winning, innovative business that reimagines the traditional approach to consulting, and Glain is being recognized for her creative vision and hard work. As President and Founder of The Roundtable, Glain was the winner of a 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Micro-Business category, that honours an entrepreneur who owns and operates a small business with annual revenues of less than $1 million.

Yet success hasn’t come without sacrifice. When Glain set out on her own, her husband, D’Arcy McCabe, was a stay-at-home Dad to their four-year-old daughter, Nia. Overnight, they lost their entire income. “We had a lifestyle and a mortgage that was built around my salary,” says Glain. Then suddenly, “You can’t afford to take a vacation. You can’t afford a dinner out. I felt guilty. I had caused this strain because I had been unhappy at work.”

 

“When it comes to change, we focus on what we’re going to lose… we never think about the possibilities that are going to open up to us.”

 

The first year was financially stressful. A mentor offered Glain some advice: Go at it hard for 12 months. You can always go back to a job. “That was a really freeing piece of advice,” she says. In the beginning, Glain focused on “bread and butter money” to stay afloat. A former colleague offered her a consulting contract, which brought in $22,000. Glain used the money to hire a coach to help launch her business, and she and D’Arcy downsized their home — a hard decision.

“When it comes to change, we focus on what we’re going to lose,” says Glain. “We never think about the possibilities that are going to open up to us.” Glain and her coach worked on structure and process, focusing on Glain’s vision of a group-based coaching program.

In 2009, Glain gathered eight leaders together for her first cohort. “When I saw the magic in that room, I thought, this is it,” she says. In 2010, she was approached by PepsiCo Foods Canada while they were in the middle of several company transitions. The Roundtable program was delivered to high potential leaders from different divisions. The goal was to help these next generation executives navigate increases in leadership scope proactively versus through reactive ‘fix it’ executive coaching.

The program was a huge success and highlighted how Glain’s group-based coaching approach could not only grow leaders but also support shifts in company culture and increase peer networks in organizations (a huge driver of how work gets done today). Launching her ninth cohort with PepsiCo this year, Glain says the company opened doors to many other clients that include CAA Group, TIFF and RBC. More than 750 people from over 120 companies have participated in The Roundtable programs.  

 

When it comes to building communities of support, women have a distinct advantage, because we are so relationship-based.

 

Glain has found that leaders at all levels struggle with similar issues and that most of the stressors of leadership relate to personal beliefs and mindsets. Leadership can be lonely and issues of insecurity and “imposter syndrome” can affect leaders no matter their seniority. Group coaching allows participants to realize that they’re not alone, which builds confidence — something that Glain wishes she’d had more of in the early stages of her career. Reflecting on her twenties, she says, “I wish I had just trusted in my own abilities and not let that inner critic have so much power.” By sharing personal stories and examining mindsets and behaviours in a safe space, Roundtable participants are able to shift unproductive self-talk and uncover pivotal “ah ha” moments that boost both capability and capacity. Perhaps the most powerful outcome of group coaching is the deep and lasting relationships that develop through the process.

When it comes to building communities of support, women have a distinct advantage, says Glain, because we are so relationship-based. She encourages female entrepreneurs to start their own peer groups to share learning, leverage connections and open up conversations. “We are all struggling with the same issues,” she says, adding a key message of her program: “Let’s cultivate our learning together.”

In 2019, Glain and her team will build on this community-based philosophy by launching an alumni program for past members to support fellow leaders along their journey. Glain also has plans to launch a certification program to train coaches in her collaborative group coaching method.

One of Glain’s proudest accomplishments has been seeing the impact of her programs on people’s lives. Participants return years later, sharing not just their personal career success but stories of how their Roundtable experience continues to shape their leadership approach and personal engagement and satisfaction. As one graduate put it, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. “When you affect people’s lives in a lasting way,” says Glain. “There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”

Meet Melanie Normandin, Vice President of Arctic Consultants Inc., and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Finalist

 

Melanie Normandin

Vice President, Arctic Consultants Inc.

Finalist, Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, EAST

 

Arctic Consultants has been meeting the procurement needs of remote communities in Nunavik and Nunavut since 1984. Melanie Normandin took over the family business with her husband in 2009, and now works not only to ensure the day-to-day runs smoothly, but also to help guide growth on a strategic level. Combining four types of services — including wholesale food and general merchandise, expertise in the logistics of packaging and the shipping of products to Northern communities, and transportation — Arctic Consultants is aiming to become the leading procurement team serving communities North of the 55th parallel.

 

My first job ever was… babysitting kids.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… Turn of faith, my husband had his eyes on my father’s company. I decided to jump in. That was the best career move I ever made.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… balancing a family of three kids, marriage and a growing business. It’s a struggle in constant adjustments but it all works out.

 

My boldest move to date was… buying a triplex with my boyfriend now husband three months after we met. That was fun.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I dream of taking my family on a long trip around the world with only a packsack.

 

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… Surround yourself with the best.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… You only live once, don’t waste your time

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Ashevak Kenojuak, an Inuit artist from Cape Dorset that I find so inspiring. A soft, reserved petite women, yet strong and very independent. Her art is absolutely stunning. I wish I had the chance to meet her and talk to her eye to eye before she passed away.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Lucky you, all these wonderful years in front of you, enjoy.

 

“That year has turned out to be one of the most exciting, intense and fun year of my life. I am now a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.”

 

My biggest setback was… I had planned on travelling around the world with a friend for one year. When this plan felt short, I was lost and had no idea where to go from there.

 

I overcame it by… I found a job in the video games industry that opened up a whole new fascinating world to me. I then met my husband and it was love at first sight. That year has turned out to be one of the most exciting, intense and fun year of my life. I am now a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

 

The last book I read was… Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles from Katherine Pancol. Light and very well written.

 

I stay inspired by… Planning a trip or planning renovations then doing it.  

 

The future excites me because… It’s a mix of business and personal growth and confidence. My dreams and plans are getting bigger and bolder with time. It’s very exciting when I think of the future.

 

Success to me means… Freedom to live the life I want. Being independent, and in charge of my destiny. Surrounding myself with significant people and creating a great world for all my loved ones friends and employees.

 

 

Meet Mandy Farmer, President & CEO of Accent Inns Inc., and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Finalist

 

Mandy Farmer

President and CEO, Accent Inns Inc.

Finalist, Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship, WEST

 

When Mandy Farmer’s father started Accent Inns Inc. in 1987, he didn’t plan on having any of his children go into the business. But Mandy took over as president and CEO in 2008, bringing with her an innovative, lighthearted (and highly profitable) vision. With fun and unique amenities and on-property experiences, big brand personalities, Instagram-worthy decor, and a focus on keeping both guests and staff happy, she’s revitalized the family-owned chain (not to mention the exterior corridor motel market), growing it to eight hotels across BC under the Accent Inns and Hotel Zed brands.

 

My first job ever was… I was 14-years-old and a chambermaid in a small B’nB. I had to wear a full french maid outfit including a bonnet and a long black dress that came all the way down to my ankles. The worst outfit to clean a room in.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had a crazy idea I just couldn’t shake! After ten years of pitching business plans unsuccessfully my mentor finally told me to give up. This rattled me and I knew then that giving up was not an option, I just had to pitch it in a completely different way, which then lead to success and Hotel Zed was born.  

 

My proudest accomplishment is… getting said business plan finally approved and opening our first Hotel Zed.

 

“Hire people better than yourself. You really need to curate a team that inspires you.”

 

My boldest move to date was… launching “the Nooner” Valentine’s Day promotion where we invited people to give the gift of their sexy selves: check in time at 11am, check out at 2pm. It was a hit! Fox news picked it up which has a circulation of 42 million.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I’m an Honorary Captain in the Royal Canadian Navy.

 

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… hire people better than yourself. You really need to curate a team that inspires you. Then your business grows and you also have so much fun working together.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… being told to give up…man, did that light a fire of determination within me!

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Tony Robbins.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… You are in for an awesome ride! Buckle up!

 

My biggest setback was… I don’t really have one. I’ve been able to turn negatives into opportunities:

  • All our properties had leaky condo. Awesome! We get to change the look of the hotels and refresh our exterior!
  • An arsonist burned down one of our restaurants. We got out of our lease with a lack luster restaurant, scored the perfect tenant, built a better building and added a second floor with our gorgeous new Head Office on top.
  • Our properties have exterior corridors and realtors told me the valuation of our hotels was rock bottom. We turned around this “setback” by making motels cool again.

 

The last book I read was… Own The Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus

 

I stay inspired by… surrounding myself with the most amazing, interesting and smart people.

 

The future excites me because… we have the resources and that awesome smart team of talent for us to achieve our wildest dreams. I feel like we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. I don’t know what that is yet. Our team needs to sit down and figure out what it is, but I have an overwhelming feeling something great is going to happen.

 

Success to me means… loving what you do and having employees that feel the same. My New Year’s resolution was to build thriving happy communities for our employees in each of our hotels. I write this goal in a journal every single day.

 

 

Meet Elen Steinberg, President and CEO of SPP Marketing Services Inc. and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

 

Elen Steinberg

President and CEO, SPP Marketing Services Inc.

Finalist, TELUS Trailblazer Award, CENTRAL

 

SPP Marketing Services Inc. (SPP) had already been in operation as a promotions and experiential marketing agency for ten years when founder Elen Steinberg saw her winning opportunity: creating an innovative program using Canadian airports for marketing credit cards to the public. By overcoming challenges and bringing value to her bank clients, the company has been able to focus solely on premium credit card acquisitions since 1998. As the leading North American new credit card customer acquisition agency, SPP has enrolled over 5 million people for credit card products.

 

My first job ever was… Selling clothes in a boutique in Montreal. 

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… Full time jobs in TV journalism were scarce and I needed to pay the bills.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Having been able to give many people an opportunity to succeed – such as immigrant women and also raising two wonderful children while building a successful business.

 

My boldest move to date was… Switching the company into commission sales from being paid hourly as an event marketing agency.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That they may not know me personally, but I can almost guarantee that they know what I do.

 

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… Be open to opportunities. Be bold. Ask for the sale, the contract, the promotion. If you get a no you are not any worse off than you were before- if you get a yes, it changes your world.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Get up and make 10 sales calls before lunch.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Golda Meir. I believe she was the first female world leader.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Always trust your instincts and never lose that unwavering belief in yourself.

 

My biggest setback was… When we lost 90% of our business in 1997.

 

I overcame it by… Not taking no for an answer and finding a solution to turn it into a yes. We came back stronger than ever from near bankruptcy and increased sales by 500% from before the setback.

 

I never go a day without… Being grateful for the great people I work with and the opportunities and continuing support from our clients.

 

The last book I read was… David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.

 

I stay inspired by… Seeing the big picture, looking for opportunities for expansion into new markets and showing new clients our capabilities.

 

The future excites me because… I see more opportunities for the company. 

 

 

Meet Caroline Roberts, President and CEO of Thoth Technology Inc. and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

 

Caroline Roberts

President and CEO, Thoth Technology Inc.

Finalist, TELUS Trailblazer Award, CENTRAL

 

When Caroline Roberts co-founded Thoth Technology in 2001, she saw a market opportunity in Canada’s vibrant space sector, providing services to validate equipment for spaceflight. The space and defense company now has three divisions — Space Tracking and Navigation, Space Test, and Space Systems — with a headquarters at the Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO). It’s here you’ll find Earthfence, the world’s first commercial deep space radar, which utilizes a 1,500 tonne antenna to track satellites in a 50,000 km range — the equivalent of detecting an insect at a range of 50 km.

 

My first job ever was… working as a cashier at an Elizabeth Drugs Store in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The store was one of a chain of drug stores that my grandfather owned. He was a medical doctor, a very successful entrepreneur, and a great inspiration to me. “Invest in banks,” he often said. “If the banks aren’t making money, nobody is.”

 

I decided to be a space entrepreneur when… I visited the European Space Research and Technology Center in Nordwijk, the Netherlands. The facility features massive thermal vacuum chambers for testing spacecraft, and I could see an opportunity to create a commercial company in Canada specializing in qualification services to validate equipment for spaceflight. We were the fourth country in space and the first to fly a domestic communications satellite. Canada has a vibrant space sector, and I foresaw a market to provide space-test services to large companies in need of overflow capacity as well as small companies who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this specialist equipment.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… having developed the world’s first commercial deep space radar. Earthfence utilizes a 1,500 tonne antenna to track satellites in geostationary orbits up to 50,000 km and is virtually undetectable. An equivalent performance would be to detect an insect at a range of 50 km.

 

My boldest move to date was… taking over the Algonquin Radio Observatory in Algonquin Park. The Observatory features a 46 m diameter radio telescope – the largest fully steerable antenna in Canada and one of the largest in the world. At the time it was transferred to my company, Thoth, it had just suffered major bearing failure. The refurbishment of it was a mammoth undertaking requiring around 20 person years of effort.

 

I surprise people when… they see me riding a powered unicycle. Professor Ue-Li Pen, Director of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, introduced us to it. It’s very fun and really turns heads. The best reaction we’ve had yet was from a little boy who saw us riding and asked his brother, “Are they robot people from the future?”

 

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… believe in your big, bold visions.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… from Allan Carswell, who advised me to have kids. Allan is the founder of Concord-based Optech, makers of Canada’s first lidar instrument on Mars. I was 36 at the time and debating whether to have children. I was and still am very career focused. To convince me, Allan said, “Caroline, my son now runs the Company.” It was what I needed to hear at the time.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… my business partner and husband, Ben Quine, and I happily do most nights.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self to… keep up the good work! Also, in addition to banks, invest in technology companies, and start contributing to that RRSP!

 

My biggest setback was… the failure of the British Beagle 2 Mars lander mission. Thoth had secured rights from the prime contractor, EADS Astrium (now Airbus), to sell the lander technology in North America. When Beagle 2 did not return a signal, it was a blow.

 

I overcame it by… taking the opportunity to improve the lander design with fewer moving parts and greater robustness. We also studied everything that went wrong with Beagle 2. One of the mission’s biggest problems was communications, so when the opportunity to take over the Algonquin Radio Observatory materialized, we seized it, as it is the only asset in Canada capable of interplanetary communications. We are working on a private Mars mission called Northern Light and have all the elements apart from the launch. I am hoping Elon Musk can help us out with that. Elon was a student at Queen’s University when I was there too.

 

I never go a day without… being thankful for my job, my family, friends, and life in Canada.

 

The last book I read was… Canoe Country: The Making of Canada by Roy MacGregor.

 

I stay inspired by… looking up! I am fortunate to live and work in an area with very dark skies. Some nights at the Observatory, you can read by moonlight and see your shadow cast by the Milky Way. With our optical telescopes, we can see Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons. It is inspiring and humbling.

 

The future excites me because… of the tremendous opportunities we have thanks to the internet. Everything is at now at our fingertips because of a technology that I feel is still in its infancy.

 

 

Meet Toni Desrosiers, Founder and CEO of Abeego and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

 

Toni Desrosiers

Founder and CEO, Abeego

Finalist, TELUS Trailblazer Award, CENTRAL

 

In 2008, Toni Desrosiers was looking for a natural way to store her food — and ended up discovering a way to disrupt the fully mature, billion-dollar industry of plastic wrap. Through extensive experimentation (and looking to lemon peels, cheese rinds and onion skins for inspiration) she developed Abeego Wrap, the first breathable, reusable, beeswax food wrap. It aims to “keep food alive” by protecting it from air, light, and moisture while allowing it to breathe — so it remains fresher longer than airtight plastic wrap. The self-adhesive wrap can last over a year with proper care (hand washed with cold water).

 

My first job ever was… not a regular job. I started multiple businesses and my most successful childhood business was a yard maintenance company which I ran with my friend Ricki when we were nine years old.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… it’s the work that aligns best to my natural big picture, innovative and inventive thinking style.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… inventing beeswax food wrap resulting in a new category of food storage that is trending around the world.

 

My boldest move to date was… to force myself to overcome my fear of public speaking by immediately saying “yes” if anyone asked me to be a speaker.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I never studied the properties of plastic wrap when I invented Abeego, instead I looked at lemon peels, cheese rinds and onion skins to develop food wrap that keeps food alive.   

 

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… don’t study the model you are trying to disrupt too closely because you might unknowingly incorporate the same problems into your new idea.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… you don’t have ADHD and you’re not distracted. You’re a visionary and your unique entrepreneurial thinking style is valuable.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be... National Geographic Explorer, Elizabeth Lindsay. Her statement, “When an elder dies a library is burned and libraries throughout the world are ablaze” motivates me every day.

 

“There are many problems to solve and for an inventor like me that means endless opportunities.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… it’s all building to something bigger than you anticipated. Keep moving.

 

My biggest setback was… making the heart wrenching and critical decision to lay off almost my entire team two weeks before they went on Christmas holidays after a particularly tough winter season.

 

I overcame it by… surrounding myself by radically generous women who helped me get up emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually to come back stronger than ever. My sincerest thanks to all SheEO Activators that had my back.  

 

I never go a day without… telling my daughter that I love her to the moon and back.

 

The last book I read was… Meaningful by Bernadette Jiwa.

 

I stay inspired by… looking at every problem as an opportunity in disguise.

 

The future excites me because… there are many problems to solve and for an inventor like me that means endless opportunities.

 

 

Meet Heather Modlin, Provincial Director of Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

 

Heather Modlin

Provincial Director, Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador

Finalist, Social Change Award, EAST

 

Heather Modlin established Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador (KANL) in 2009 to provide therapeutic family-based care (foster care). Their mandate has since expanded; in partnership with government, KANL offers residential care and support services to young people and families with complex needs, as well as working to influence policy and practice. Creating safe, nurturing, therapeutic environments designed to facilitate growth and development for children and youth with emotional, behavioural and mental health issues, KANL is helping those who are unable to successfully reside in a traditional foster home.

 

My first job ever was… at McDonald’s. I started there as a crew member when I was 16 (I loved working drive-thru) and stayed until I finished university at 22. I developed my work ethic at McDonald’s. During my time there I was promoted to Crew Chief, Training Coordinator, and Swing Manager. And I was Provincial French Fry Champion in 1982 ☺

 

I chose my career path because… I have been interested in working with “emotionally disturbed” children since I was 10 years old and read the book A Circle of Children by Mary McCracken. Originally I planned on becoming a child psychologist and did an undergraduate degree in psychology. My first job upon graduation was in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. This was my introduction to residential care and I was hooked.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… it’s not really my accomplishment, but I am most proud of my daughter Sam. She is 31 years old, well educated, a successful business owner, and a kind, thoughtful person with a social conscience.

 

My boldest move to date was… leaving my last job, after 18 years, to start Key Assets.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I used to be extremely shy. And still am, in some situations.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… be patient and persistent.

 

My best advice from a mentor was…  have received so much valuable advice from so many mentors! One thing that sticks with me, from a former professor, is that having a healthy organizational culture does not mean that there will never be problems in the organization – that is not possible. Rather, the sign of a healthy organization is that it can withstand problems without having them rock the entire organization. In dysfunctional organizations, on the other hand, problems tend to shape the culture. I always remind myself of this whenever we are dealing with difficult situations.

 

“Stop worrying about what others think of you, and stop being so hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect to be okay.”

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… any of my mentors and colleagues from around the world. I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many intelligent and interesting people.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… stop worrying about what others think of you, and stop being so hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect to be okay.

 

My biggest setback was… when we first started Key Assets in Newfoundland and Labrador, it took a long time (over 4 years) before we were approved by government to provide family-based care. There were moments when it felt like it would never happen and it was difficult not to get discouraged by the lack of progress.

 

I overcame it by… responding to the needs that existed in the community at the time, and being flexible in our service delivery. And staying positive.

 

The last book I read wasEducated by Tara Westover – it was fantastic! I am a bit of a bookworm – I usually read at least 2-3 books a week.

 

I stay inspired by… going to work. I am inspired daily by our staff, carers and young people. The obstacles they have to overcome to sometimes just make it through the day, and the strength and resilience they display, is incredible. I am also connected to many amazing people in the child and youth care field and through Key Assets International, and they inspire me with their ongoing commitment to improving the lives of young people, families and communities.

 

The future excites me because… there is so much left to do.

 

My next step is… continue to grow, learn, and get better.

 

 

Meet Latha Sukumar, Executive Director of MCIS Language Solutions and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

 

Latha Sukumar

Executive Director, MCIS Language Solutions

Finalist, Social Change Award, CENTRAL

 

When MCIS Language Solutions was incorporated as a non-profit in 1995, its mandate was to provide interpretation services for victims of domestic violence in Scarborough. Latha Sukumar was hired as Executive Director in 1996, expanding the mission to improving access to critical information and services for all vulnerable persons who faced language barriers. Now, MCIS offers 50 different language services in over 300 languages, serving over 800 organisational clients, while sticking to its mission of improving the safety, wellbeing and security of its primary beneficiaries — vulnerable people experiencing language barriers.

 

My first job ever was… as a telemarketer.

 

I chose my career path because… I wanted to address gender inequality.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… building an organization with newcomer talent to address language access and equity issues.

 

My boldest move to date was… taking on our first large public sector project which doubled our volume and required us to ramp up service capacity overnight.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I love building a business as much as making a social impact – and marrying the two represents the best of all worlds for me.

 

“Show up for work every day no matter what and work towards incremental improvements, while embracing disruption.”

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… that you are in for the long haul and need to be consistent and work towards small wins to keep yourself motivated.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… to show up for work every day no matter what and work towards incremental improvements, while embracing disruption.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… George Carlin.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… no setback is as bad as it first appears .

 

My biggest setback was… losing my father suddenly to cancer.

 

I overcame it by… practising meditation.

 

The last book I read was… Journey to Ithaca by Anita Desai.

 

I stay inspired by… reading about disruptive innovation and technology.

 

The future excites me because… there has never been a time like now when you have to keep innovating and changing, to stay ahead of the curve.

 

My next step is… to shift our organizational culture to embrace and execute MCIS’ strategy of continuous growth, influence and impact.

 

 

Meet Ching Tien, Founder and President, ERGC and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

 

Ching Tien

Founder and President, Educating Rural Girls in China

Finalist, Social Change Award, WEST

 

As the founder of Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC), Ching Tien’s deepest belief is that educated women have educated children — so providing education opportunities to women has a long lasting ripple effect and is a fundamental way to change people’s lives for the better. Since 2005, EGRC has been helping girls and young women — 842, to be exact — that live in impoverished rural regions of Western China to receive high school and university educations. Their students achieve over a 99% graduation rate, despite the fact that most of the girls have experienced hardship, discrimination and even abuse.

 

My first job ever was… working in a factory in a poor region of Western China.

 

I chose my career path because… I did not have the opportunity to finish my education in China. I believe education, and educating women is the fundamental way to build better societies.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… The help I have been able to offer to nearly one thousand young women. This aid has changed their lives and they are now able to lift their families out of poverty, and to give back to their communities.

 

My boldest move to date was… Founding EGRC when I had not much experience, funding and few connections.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… How much of a difference one person can make to the lives of many.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… Do what you love. Trust yourself when things get tough. Keeping the expenses low is the key, especially when you’re just starting out.  Stay focused on your goals and be flexible when circumstances change. Always be goal and impact focused.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Start thinking and plan a way forward, have in your long term vision of a plan for succession.

 

“Dream big, follow your heart, and put ideas and thoughts into action.”

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… My mother who passed away too early.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… To dream big, follow your heart, and put ideas and thoughts into action.  Learn the skill of listening.

 

My biggest setback was… Fortunately I’ve not experienced a big setback. My biggest challenge has been to find the right people with passion, skills and experience to work side by side with me.

 

I overcame it by… I am still working on it.

 

The last book I read was… Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

 

I stay inspired by… The young women and girls I have helped: seeing firsthand the difficulties they have endured – how hard they’ve worked since from young age, and how much they have achieved.

 

The future excites me because… The world has realized the importance of empowering girls through education.

My next step is… To focus on the longevity of my organization

 

 

Five key steps for startup success

 

We often hear how entrepreneurs made it big — but how did they first get that little idea off the ground? We asked the five recipients of the Ones to Watch Award presented by Freshco.ca, a category added this year to the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. These stellar new business owners have all demonstrated incredible potential through their innovative ideas and solid plans for future profitable growth. And even though their ventures are very unique, we discovered a few similarities in their key steps so far.

 

Start with a problem that needs a better solution.

“I wanted to solve a problem that I couldn’t solve any other way,” says Jessica Ching, co-founder and CEO of Eve Medical. Her company’s product is The Eve Kit, a home-based screening system that remotely connects users, doctors and labs for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) testing. Launched in 2017 as Canada’s first at-home HPV screening system (and now offering Chlamydia & Gonorrhea testing as well), the Eve Kit is simple to use and private, improving access to screening in a patient-centred way.

Many people assume Jessica’s background is in healthcare, but she actually studied design — which may be why she was able to spot the problem and come up with a unique solution. And she’s not done yet. “There are so many opportunities to make things better,” says Jessica, and that’s what excites her about the future.

 

 

Have a detailed plan.

“The best exercise before leaping in is to complete a full-sized business plan,” says Kate Latos, CEO, EcoFence and Decking Ltd. Her business is giving new life to previously discarded waste, using 100% post-recycled plastic to create decking materials that are resistant to moisture, mold, mildew, bugs, and weather — and divert on average over 6,500 plastic jugs from the  landfill. And it all started with a business plan she created for the University of Alberta’s Business Alumni Innovation contest, which she ultimately won. “After endless research and late nights I realized I had a really good idea with great potential. The practice of the detailed business plan helped me lay out each of steps that I needed to take to make our business successful over the next five years. I also shared my business plan with trusted advisors to get their feedback and suggestions based on their expertise.”

 

 

Ask for help. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask other business owners for help,” says Sonja Mills, co-owner of the Port Rexton Brewing Company (PRBCo.), a microbrewery and taproom located in the small coastal town of Port Rexton, Newfoundland. Neither Sonja nor her partner, Alicia MacDonald, have a professional background in brewing — Sonja has a law degree and MBA, and was working as a Nurse Practitioner — but they’ve turned their passion into a very successful business. In less than two years, they have tripled in production capacity, brewed and released over 33 different beer styles, begun canning their product, and opened a retail shop in St. John’s. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without the mentorship and advice from many other businesses,” says Sonja, “both from the local tourism sector as well as other microbreweries across the country.”

 

 

Use your strengths.

“I have no professional experience or education in baking or cooking,” Thao Nguyen, the founder of Montreal-based Bonbon Collections, confesses. “But, I had a solid 15 years experience in marketing and product development.” Thao has put this experience to work and created a brand that serves exactly what her community — one that includes her own family, who have dietary restrictions — needs. The bakery, which offers an extensive range of breads, desserts, and takeaway meals for the health conscious and those with diet restrictions, has grown to three locations and a production facility in under 18 months, proving the power of focusing on your strengths, rather than your weaknesses. Another strength in her arsenal? An entrepreneurial spirit that was cultivated at a young age. I was 3 years old and as new immigrants, I was dipping rice sheets in warm water in order to make spring rolls that my mum would sell to moms and pops stores.”

 

 

Don’t fear failure.

“I always like to quote Winston Churchill’s ‘Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm,’” says Humera Malik, the CEO and Founder of Canvass Analytics. It’s a fitting mantra: Humera had originally put all her money in her first business, which was building and running a chicken farm. She found success on a very different path with Canvass Analytics, which is using AI to to take a radically different approach to data-driven decision making. Not only has she secured Google as an investor, she’s also part of the Pan-Canadian AI strategy, a key innovation initiative of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Still, she’s been through countless “twists and turns” with her new business, but she credits the genuine people she keeps around her with helping her through the challenges. “These are the people that are there to celebrate the wins, give me the confidence when I get knocked down, and challenge me to aim for more, even when I just want to sleep!”

 

 

 

Meet Jennifer Hamilton, CEO of Oxygen Yoga & Fitness, and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Award Finalist

 

Jennifer Hamilton

CEO, Oxygen Yoga & Fitness

Finalist, RBC Momentum Award, CENTRAL

 

When Jen Hamilton opened her first Oxygen Yoga and Fitness location, her goal was to create an environment where any person could come, regardless of age, gender or level of fitness, to channel their energy and focus back on themselves. Their mission for members — to realize “I Love my Life” — guides their business philosophy as well. Offering a wide variety of both yoga and fitness classes has attracted a broad clientele, and their unique FAR Infrared rooms sets them further apart from the competition. With a comprehensive franchise model, Oxygen Yoga and Fitness has grown to 68 locations across Canada — and more on the way.

 

My first job ever was… at A&W.  I was actually under age to be working and I wrote a letter to the government asking permission for me to get a job and started working at 14 years old.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I don’t know if I decided to become an entrepreneur I think it happened naturally, I have always been very ambitious and have learned to trust in myself. I think when I gave up my security of my job with the school district that’s when I really took the plunge and trusted myself to become an entrepreneur. That was in 2006.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… my three beautiful children. 

 

My boldest move to date was… choosing to become a single mother with three children as I started a business. I was completely terrified but trusted in myself to make this very big move.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I have 68 locations sold across Canada and have built this business from the ground up since 2011. Selling my first franchise location in 2012.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… grow their business is to make sure they are passionate about what they are delivering. Then, secondly, to have a team that is able to be as passionate as the leader in their area of expertise.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… to learn to delegate more and use their time and energy where best needed to support the growth and development of the company.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Princess Diana.

 

“Trust in yourself and don’t let your ego get in the way of decision making processes.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… to trust in yourself and don’t let your ego get in the way of decision making processes.

 

My biggest setback was… sometimes letting my emotional side get too involved, rather than the logistical side of understanding that there is a yes and sometimes a no answer when making business decisions.

 

I overcame it by… making an advisory team to help in decision-making processes.

 

The last book I read was… The Greatness Guide by author Robin Sharma

 

I stay inspired by… being accountable to myself and surrounding myself with like-minded people. I continue to re-write and re-establish goals for myself and celebrate those accomplishments.

 

The future excites me because… I feel completely grounded with my children, my business and significant other. I have been successful in finding balance with these three areas in my life, as I am creating more time to be present.

 

My next step is… to support my Master Franchisers in the growth and development of more franchise locations across Canada. My goal would be by 2019 to have 100 locations sold in Canada. 

 

 

Meet Francine Brûlé, Founder, Les enfants terribles brasserie, and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Award Finalist

 

Francine Brûlé

Founder, Les enfants terribles brasserie

Finalist, RBC Momentum Award, EAST

 

Brasserie Les Enfants Terribles is a family-run restaurant group guided by a “just like home’’ concept, with a welcoming atmosphere and a menu featuring local products and unique spins on more traditional dishes. Francine Brûlé opened her first location at 53 years old — after 35 years in fashion, without knowing anything about the restaurant industry — and over the last decade has grown the brand to include five locations serving more than 13,000 clients each week, creating more than 500 jobs in Quebec. What’s next? Five more locations over the next five years.

 

My first job ever was… I started working at the age of 14 in a clothing factory in Montreal, in the pressing department.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to follow my own vision, work at my own pace.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Without any doubt, my family. I have three beautiful, talented and successful sons that inspire me every day. 

 

My boldest move to date was… opening a restaurant at 53 years old, after 35 years in fashion, without knowing anything about this industry.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… the truth.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… Follow your heart, live your passion. Stay focused on your main goal, work hard and don’t let yourself be distracted by the many roadblocks that will come your way.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Give my 150% in everything I undertake.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Coco Chanel.

 

“I learn something new every day and that’s what keeps me going.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Have fun, enjoy every second of it and do everything with your heart. We say it often, but it’s true. Life is short, time flies, we must enjoy every moment.

 

My biggest setback was… having three kids in five years while running my own business and working more than 60 hours a week.

 

I overcame it by… working smarter. I knew I had to do more in less time, so I had no choice but to organize myself and find ways to be more efficient. And I made sure I had employees I could rely on at any time.

 

The last book I read was… Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and I am just starting the second part, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

 

I stay inspired by… the successful accomplishment of intelligent, creative and passionate pioneers that surround me.

 

The future excites me because… it’s a surprise every day. I learn something new every day and that’s what keeps me going.

 

My next step is… to open five new restaurants in five years and grow my catering business.

 

 

Meet Marjorie Dixon, Founder of Anova Fertility, and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Award Winner

 

 

Marjorie Dixon

Founder, Anova Fertility

Finalist, RBC Momentum Award, CENTRAL

 

Founded in 2016, Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health is committed to making the right to family accessible to everyone. As a doctor in reproductive medicine who had been through the system for assisted fertility personally, Marjorie Dixon saw inequality for different segments of the population, service that was lacking in providing care to women, and gaps in innovative, evidence-based treatment options. She knew it could be done better. Currently reporting twice the Canadian standard rate of success per cycle, Anova’s growth has been substantial: from a clinic of 8 employees to a full-IVF centre with a team of over 80.

 

My first job ever was… I was 15 years old and I was working for the city of Dorval (Quebec) in the parks and recreation department. It required me to work equally in French and English and allowed me to hone both my organizational and communication skills. After 1 year, I was promoted to District Supervisor. This job ultimately taught me to work with budgets, plan out the summer season and prioritize on a daily basis. I also learned a lot about being innovative with marketing materials and the promotion of special events through the city. This was the beginning of my zeal to improve upon what had been done by others before me.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because…

I also was part of a program in high school called “Junior Achievers of Canada”. I loved our bi-weekly meetings and planning

Page | 1 of 3 strategies for growth and the ultimate success of our T-shirt company. We began the process by selling shares and “pitching” our idea to friends and family. I was elected VP marketing by my peers and along with the president and VP of production developed an affinity for running a company as a team with shared vision. In fact, we were the only company that was profitable for our school sector in Montreal and I went on to win the VP Marketing of the Year for all of Canada. I was offered a summer position at KPMG, but regrettably declined the position—I had accepted a position at Merck Frosst in their clinical research department as I was focused on entry into medical school. My entrepreneurial spirit was put on hold, but I longed to figure out a way to marry both of my interests.

The above experiences gave me much to digest. Then I went to train in the USA for my fellowship program for three years. Upon my return to Canada, there was a sharp contrast where it came to science and medicine and the delivery of top tier patient care. In Canada, I surmised that we were being somewhat complacent when it comes to developing cutting edged technology and science in medicine. My goal then became clear: I aimed to create the ULTIMATE combination of global standard care, research development and innovation in Canada BY a Canadian (woman) FOR Canadians. Alas, the idea of Anova Fertility was “conceived” and was crystallized.

My vision with Anova Fertility was to create and provide an environment for fertility health, that was innovative, that offered individualized, compassionate and evidence-based medical care for all patients; no matter their marital status, sexual orientation, ethnic or religious background. Essentially, I knew this new amalgam paradigm of innovation and patient-centred care would ‘shake up’ the industry.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… I am proudest that I am able to be a voice for women and patients who for so long have not been able to advocate for themselves due to the stigma and shame that is associated with infertility. I have spoken up and made a difference AND managed to grow my business in concert. I should also add that a big perk has been to include my family and young children on this journey. I am certain that the “teachable moments” that I have shared will serve to educate and inform them for their future life paths. They have actually already asserted that they too share my entrepreneurial spirit!

 

My boldest move to date was… opening my dream center, even when it seemed as an insurmountable task! I am a firm believer that there is a solution to every problem. Furthermore, I know that one cannot experience the true exhilaration of success without first appreciating the abyss of the failure that has preceded it. My mantra to live by is: Out of adversity comes opportunity!

 

I surprise people when I tell them… my alternate career choice was in the entertainment industry; piano and vocals are my things! I sang back-up for Michael Bolton during his “Time, Love and Tenderness” tour in the 90s. I always sing for my patients…

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… You must find your passion and follow it unwaveringly: finding the right fit is key. Your support system is important; this may include your friends, family or close acquaintances. Never forget where you came from, as those close to you will help you navigate through the hard times and keep you true to yourself and as you reach your end goals.

It is beneficial that you find a good mentor and set goals. Nothing happens by accident. Goal setting is a healthy way to determine if you are living up to your own ‘measuring stick’. If certain goals aren’t achieved as prescribed, it gives you the opportunity to redirect or adjust your plan.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Do not undersell yourself. As women we have this strange concept built within us that we should be driven by humility as opposed to being bold, affirming and celebrating our successes. It’s about learning from the past, enjoying the  present and creating/ pushing the envelope forward for the future for your industry. Know both where you came from and where you are going. Dream big!

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… Rosa Parks. Woman, defiant, courageous, women’s advocate, blazing a trail without fear – and never caring what people would do to overtly intimidate and undermine her. She was willing to risk it all to make way for other women to have a voice. I am referring to Rosa Parks pre-Montgomery bus strike. She stood her ground, insisted that she deserved to be respected and wanted to be that impetus of change for justice and equality for black women everywhere. I stand on her shoulders today as a female business owner of colour and have immense gratitude for the risks that she took to allow me to be here today. I would ask her where and how she mustered the strength to be fearless and use her voice and pen as a narrative of truth to overcome adversity.

 

“Attach yourself to a mission greater than yourself. It is what will get you out of bed when the going gets tough, and keep you fighting when you feel like you have no fight yet.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self…  Don’t allow yourself to be propagandized; do your research and push your own envelope. When you have an idea and plan in place to bring it to fruition, remember that you do not require approval from everyone that you respect. The very people that present constant obstacles (aka the ‘haters’) to your ideas are the very ones that will drive you to succeed. Thank them for that gift. Remember: nothing ventured, nothing gained!

 

My biggest setback was… understanding and realizing that the very people I have idolized may not be as they appear and may actually disappoint us hugely. This can even include our mentors. I have learned that this life is a very long, novel–full of chapters; there will be unhappy and happy moments. People can play a role for different amounts of time and then move on… and I have learned to be alright with that!

 

I overcame it by… realizing that my vision could not be clouded by anyone, if it’s not to be done, I would make it happen. I had to come to a full understanding of every aspect of my business, from small operation to a multi-departmental center. I understood the role of making new regulations, advocating for patients, what could (and should) be done in private and public sectors. I set out to create a model for women’s healthcare. When people tell me that I can’t, watch me go!

 

The last book I read was… The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. (I love a good “girl-power” novel).

 

I stay inspired by… constantly critically appraising the scientific literature on fertility, interpreting new data from our state-of-the-art center and continually striving to exceed standards. Also, knowing that the extended Anova team has played a critical part in helping patients to achieve THEIR goal/dream of becoming a parent –THAT inspires me every time. It is why I became who I am today.

 

The future excites me because… This is a hard question, as I would like to do so many things. Right now, I am intent on opening up more Anova Fertility Centers in the next five years in a “hub and spoke” model. The main fertility center will serve as a hub and other subsidiary centers will act as spokes. In fact, we have just collaborated to open a satellite center in Sudbury–again increasing access where it is otherwise limited. Contributing to growing families with the help of modern science is something that I am truly passionate about! 

I want to bring the science of fertility medicine in Canada to global standards and further offer it to Canadians from a Canadian source. My pet peeve is that Canadians can be woefully complacent where it comes to science. I am proudly Canadian, this country is a fabulous place to be and it provides its residents with access to healthcare universally. I believe this should hold true in the field of women’s health and fertility. I want to put Canada on the map in that global space and I plan to be there to lead it into its next, phenomenal iteration.

Throughout my years in school I was told that women would be the next doctors, astronauts and leaders of future generations. I am a woman’s woman; if I can find another young girl/ woman to motivate, push, inspire to become the innovator and show that we too possess the drive to exceed all expectations in business– then I’m all for it!

I have been very blessed on this journey in that I am living both my business and professional dreams with zeal and passion! I will continue to lead the field with global sights in mind, combining the science with exciting new technology. Though this vision may be daunting or unbelievable to some, it is what excites me most– what’s next for Anova!!!

 

My next step is… To continue providing and exceeding the standards for top tier fertility care on a local, national and international levels. Access to care is also primordial to my mission, so I will ensure that we do not overlook those in remote areas.

 

 

Meet Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO of Knix, and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Staples Start-up Award Finalist

 

Joanna Griffiths

Founder and CEO, Knix

Finalist, Staples Start-Up Award, CENTRAL

 

Knix is a direct-to-consumer women’s intimate apparel company that is reinventing intimates for real life. Having launched in 2013 with leak proof and absorbent underwear, their assortment now includes comfortable wire-free bras and tanks, t-shirts that block sweat, loungewear, a line for teens, and more. Founder Joanna Griffiths credits authenticity, a focus on empowering women, and size inclusiveness (they offer up to a size 22) for building a trusted relationship with their community of over 250,000 customers from around the world — leading to a Knix item being sold every 10 seconds.

 

My first job ever was… Unofficially, I swept hair of the floor at a hair salon when I was 12. Officially, I worked as a camp counsellor at a sleepover camp from age 15.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I believed in my capacity to make the world a better place.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… changing everyday. Today, it’s having a built a company that empowers women all over the world, makes game changing products and employs over 40 people and has ships 35,000 packages a month. Tomorrow will likely be the same, just the scale will be different.

 

My boldest move to date was… pivoting our business to be direct-to-consumer. It meant shutting down our largest revenue driver (wholesale) that had been three years in the making, reorganizing the entire company and basically starting from nothing but it has lead to so many great things.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I get intimated leading meetings. I can comfortably speak in front of a room of hundreds of people, but leading team meetings still makes me nervous.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… Make something that people need. Life is so much easier when you are selling something that a large number of people need. We started with leak proof underwear. Was it a sexy idea? No. Was it needed by millions and millions of people? Yes. Make sure that you are creating something that the world needs.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Attach yourself to a mission greater than yourself. It is what will get you out of bed when the going gets tough, and keep you fighting when you feel like you have no fight left. At Knix we fight everyday to empower women to be unapologetically free. Not only has it been my shining star when the days were dark, but it’s also attracted an incredible group of people to work for the company.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… right now it would be Sara Blakely from Spanx. I have so many questions for how she did what she did.

 

“Attach yourself to a mission greater than yourself. It is what will get you out of bed when the going gets tough, and keep you fighting when you feel like you have no fight left.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… to learn how to ask for help. You don’t have all the answers, nor should you. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

 

My biggest setback was… Oh there are setbacks every day. It’s hard to think of one particular one. The thing about being an entrepreneur is that every day there is a new obstacle that you have to come or some mistake that you made that you had to make them right. What would have felt like a huge set back three years ago, now feels like a small bump in the road. As you grow, your ability to navigate setbacks gets easier and easier. Last week, I had a financing deal that I have been working on for the past several months fall through two days before closing. It was meant to be our first external capital raise since 2015 and we had $10 million lined up. I had a quick cry, and then popped a bottle of Veuve or “failure champagne” to toast all of the things that I had learned from that terrible experience. Three years ago that would have been catastrophic, today, it’s a brush off your shoulders, take stock of what you can learn from it, and move on.

 

I overcame it by… realizing that my resilience is my greatest strength.

 

The last book I read was… Artemis by Andy Weir. I’m a massive sci-fi nerd.

 

I stay inspired by… being connected to our end customer. Right now my biggest “fix” is reading through the comments of our Instagram profile. There are so many examples of women supporting women through the community we are building. It’s one of the most beautiful places online and it’s impossible to have it inspire you to keep going.

 

The future excites me because… I feel like we are just getting started. We have so many amazing products in store, so many incredible experiences to offer our customers and we have the people and the platform (our combined reach is now over 1 million strong) to really have an impact and change the way that women feel about themselves and their bodies.

 

My next step is… to hire a CMO and a COO. You are only as strong as the team that surrounds you. I’m excited for the next chapter where everyone I work with is smarter than me and knows more than I do. I’m excited for the learning that will come from it.

 

 

Meet Jennifer Denouden, President and CEO of Avana Homes, and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Staples Start-up Award Finalist

Jennifer Denouden of Avana Developments

 

 

Jennifer Denouden

President and CEO, Avana Homes

Finalist, Staples Start-Up Award, WEST

 

When Jennifer Denouden first started in real estate investing, she was looking to replace her income as a Private Banker so that she could spend more time with her children. Just over four years later, the Avana Group has built or acquired over $60 million worth of real estate and over 20 corporations. Avana Homes is one arm of the business, focused on building revenue producing real estate — from single family homes to multi-unit buildings, as well as commercial and industrial buildings. The company also offers high-end custom home building, and works with the provincial and federal government to produce affordable housing.

 

My first job ever was… as a gas jockey at the XTR in Milestone, Saskatchewan when I was 13.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to live a life that I designed, on my schedule and with the power to make a real impact.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… how many businesses I have been able to diversify into by capitalizing on my success in Avana. I have been able to help some really passionate, hardworking, amazing people see their entrepreneurial dreams come true by investing in them.

 

My boldest move to date was… leaving my Private Banking job at age 26 to start a home building and property management company, which I knew absolutely nothing about and had zero experience in.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I have four kids under the age of 5 and I am only 30.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… put on your seat belt and get ready for the wildest ride of your life. Write down your goals, break it down into steps, and work harder than you ever knew you even could. If you do this day in and day out, you will see success. Be stubborn with your goals but flexible with your methods.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… sacrifices in your early adult years will pay off in dividends for the rest of your life.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my grandfather, George. He was my role model and had the strongest influence of anyone else in my childhood.

 

“Write down your goals, break it down into steps, and work harder than you ever knew you even could.”

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… to keep your standards high, believe in yourself and follow your intuition.

 

My biggest setback was… regulatory changes. Since starting my business four years ago, there have been several mortgage rule changes, income tax changes, PST changes in my province, increasing interest rates etc. These are all beyond my control, and it takes a lot of time and money to navigate through it all.

 

I overcame it by… relying on my professional team of advisors, doing a significant amount of research and diversifying into different sectors.

 

The last book I read was… Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter.

 

I stay inspired by… I am truly focused on making my community and this world better than when I found it. I feel that I have built a strong network and I plan on continuing to use my network to make positive, meaningful impact.

 

The future excites me because… I am so excited to see what my future holds. I have several businesses that I am very passionate about, the best team of employees and business partners, and an absolutely amazing family. I have a one, two, three, and five year old and that excites me more than anything else.

 

My next step is… growth and diversification.

 

 

Meet Ella Choi, Founder of Playtime Pediatric Dentistry and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Staples Start-up Award Finalist

 

Ella Choi

Founder, Playtime Pediatric Dentistry

Finalist, Staples Start-Up Award, WEST

 

Before starting her own clinic, pediatric dentist Ella Choi had worked at three different dental offices, learning a lot about how the business should be run. In 2015, she founded Playtime Pediatric Dentistry to bring her own vision to life: a nurturing place for children and their families, fostering both a child’s trust and positive feelings about dentist visits and oral care. She now owns two Playtime Pediatric Dentistry offices in Lower Mainland, BC, as well as a general dental practice under the name Encore Dental, located in Port Coquitlam.

 

My first job ever was… working at a tea cafe in Toronto. As a high school student, getting complimentary bubble tea sounded like a good deal. From that experience I learned the importance of customer service and how front line staff can really make the difference between an excellent experience and a bad experience for a customer.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur when… I was looking for a clinic to work at three years ago and I found it very difficult to find a place with treatment philosophy that aligned with mine. I wanted to create a nurturing environment for patients and staff using experience and knowledge I gathered working as an associate dentist for five years. I also wanted to make sure that I could provide patients with the latest technology and offer different options by tailoring each treatment plan to different patients. The best way to provide the treatment I believed in was to create a dental clinic of my own.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… balancing motherhood and the career that I spent so many years building. It is still work in progress and I may not find the perfect balance, but I am so fortunate to be a working mother. I feel energized by my work and when I am with my child, I am very present.

 

My boldest move to date was… acquiring two dental clinics within a month in 2016. There was a lot of due diligence, staff training, and transitioning that had to happen in a short period of time. I learned so much from the previous owner dentists and was able to integrate the positives of each clinic to make all of my dental clinics more successful.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I took two months off for maternity leave. The short maternity leave is the biggest downfall of being a self-employed mother, but it is inevitable as an entrepreneur.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… make sure you surround yourself with excellent and experienced people who are invested in helping you become successful. I really enjoy working with people who are experts in their field, hardworking and sincere.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… that if you are a good clinician, you will be successful no matter how competitive the market is. In 2016 the opportunity for me to acquire a pediatric dental clinic in Vancouver came up. I was at first hesitant at the thought of running another business in a highly competitive market. I trusted that if we provide the superior service to parents who demand specialized care for their children, people will seek us out. It was a calculated risk and it has paid off. We are projecting 20% growth this year.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my late father. My father passed away from cancer when I was 17 years old. One piece of the advice he gave me is that life is a marathon, not a sprint. When challenges come up, I remind myself to keep my eyes on the long term goal and not to be weighed down by the daily grind. I wish I could get more life advice from him.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… not to trust other people’s words without fact, check for yourself. When I was younger and inexperienced, I would hear other people’s suggestions and advice and gullibly trust them. It is important to gather your own facts and make an informed decision.

 

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When challenges come up, I remind myself to keep my eyes on the long term goal and not to be weighed down by the daily grind.”

 

My biggest setback was… when a competitor opened its doors next to me shortly after I opened my dental clinic.

 

I overcame it by… focusing on my own goals and worked on differentiating ourselves by focusing on patient care and quality of dental services.

 

The last book I read was… Scott Adam’s How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Written by the creator of Dilbert, it is an entertaining story of his failure and success and I really enjoyed it.

 

I stay inspired by… my husband. He is a constant thinker and reader. He enjoys reading biographies of great people in history, and keeps a journal of his inspirations, goals and dreams, which I think is a fantastic habit. A lawyer by training, he is logical and systematic in his approach. He has taught me to be more careful in decision making and he is proud and supportive of my career achievements.

 

The future excites me because… I am just starting my career. I am honing my skills and waiting for the next opportunity to grow and expand my business. I am constantly learning and challenging myself to be a better entrepreneur.

 

My next step is… to grow each dental clinic to reach its maximum potential and prepare for further growth and expansion.

 

 

Meet Glain Roberts-McCabe, founder of The Roundtable and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Micro-Business Award Finalist

 

Glain Roberts-McCabe

Founder, The Roundtable

Finalist, Micro Business Award presented by Diversity Institute & Magnet Export Business Portal, WEST

 

Launched in 2007, The Roundtable is reimagining the traditional consulting firm model through an approach where participants share knowledge through group and team coaching programs. Founder Glain Roberts-McCabe designed the program to increase individual and collective impact, foster collaboration, and drive better business results. With more than 750 graduates from more than 120 companies across the country, over 80 per cent of The Roundtable clients are repeat customers, and their business continues to grow organically through word of mouth referrals.

 

My first job ever was… placing mailing labels on copies of the Castor Review, my village of Russell’s local newspaper. I was paid $5 for a couple of hours work. Ironically, my first job after graduating school was with the Ottawa Citizen designing retail ads. The Citizen paid much better.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that my need for flexibility and autonomy was so high that I was essentially unemployable. I’m a big believer in working to your strengths and making sure your values are aligned with your work, so self employment has been a wonderful fit for me.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… the relationship that I have with my daughter Nia. We are very close and I learn so much from her empathy and insights. She has a wonderful strength and belief in herself that I just didn’t have at her age. She makes me very proud.

 

My boldest move to date was… leaving my full-time job while my husband was a stay at home Dad to our then three year old daughter. Taking the leap into entrepreneurship at that time was incredibly scary since we were relying on my income alone. I am grateful for my husband who supported me unconditionally in making that move.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I was born in England. I think people still expect to hear an accent.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… When you focus on the financials, your business will grind to a halt. Instead, keep your focus on serving your customers and doing great work. When you do that the numbers will take care of themselves.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… give yourself 12 months and give it your best shot. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, you can always go back to employment. I’ve taken this to heart and each year I step back and evaluate how I’m feeling about things in my business and whether I want to keep going. So far so good.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my grandmother on my father’s side. She was the first woman to graduate from a university in Wales with a Masters of Science. I would love to hear what her journey was like and what motivated her to keep going despite the sexism and taunting she faced from the male pupils.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Believe in yourself and trust yourself more. And don’t take things so seriously. Kick back and have some fun. Travel more. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself at work.

 

My biggest setback was… Before I quit my full-time job, I had been on a very solid upward career trajectory. I made a six figure income and we were able to live a comfortable life. When I quit, the financial pressure it put on our family was heavy. I felt like I was back in my early twenties but this time we were struggling to pay our mortgage instead of rent and had a three year old to worry about. The first-year of self employment was incredibly hard. We rapidly went through our savings and each month we struggled to pay for the basics. It was tough emotionally and mentally.

 

Want to celebrate Canada’s top female entrepreneurs in person? Get your ticket to the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Gala!

 

I overcame it by… recognizing that in order to really focus on building my business something had to give. We ended up selling our house and buying one in a less upscale area. I took as many ‘cash flow’ jobs as I could to help bridge the financial gap and I hired a coach to help me build a solid plan to grow The Roundtable business. I can honestly say that, although the choices we had to make as a family were tough, I have zero regrets. It’s often so easy to focus on what we think we’re losing that it’s hard to see all the possibilities and potential that come with change.

 

I never go a day without… taking a deep breath and thinking of three things I’m grateful for in my life. It keeps me centered and happy especially when the entrepreneurial journey can be so uncertain.

 

The last book I read was… Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I’m in a book club where we actually do read the books and I love it because it gives me a break from all the leadership books I read.

 

I stay inspired by… continuously learning new things. I am currently obsessed with learning about how our energy drives results and the neuroscience of coaching. Learning feeds my creativity and helps me continuously innovate the work we do at The Roundtable.

 

The future excites me because… it’s always changing and dynamic. I love the seasons and chapters of our lives and how, as women, we grow into our power more and more as we get older. I really believe women are finding our voices in a way that is authentically powerful and is going to take our world to a new level of evolution. It is our time.

 

 

Meet Luann Baker-Johnson, founder of Lumel Studios and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Micro-Business Award Finalist

 

Luann Baker-Johnson

Founder, Lumel Studios

Finalist, Micro Business Award presented by Diversity Institute & Magnet Export Business Portal, CENTRAL

 

It took four years of struggle, perseverance, and long conversations with safety authorities for Luann Baker- Johnson to build Lumel Studios, a Yukon glass blowing and hot glass facility that offers lessons as well as Northern-inspired glass creations. But Lumel is not just a glass gallery or a teaching studio — they are creating social connections within the Whitehorse community for locals and visitors alike. With the goal of making glass blowing accessible, they are teaching individuals of all ages and from all walks of life, including special programs for seniors, the homeless, those struggling with addiction, and more.

 

 

My first job ever was… mowing lawns for $0.10 a lawn.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… there was a dream to be fulfilled.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… I am a world traveler, marathon runner, mother of 6, skydiver, carpenter, welder, potter, glass blower, business owner, Governor Generals award winner, outdoor adventurer, but if I really think about it, my proudest accomplishment is surrounding myself with happy people.

 

My boldest move to date was… turning down the proposal from the love of my life to go off and travel across Africa (I said yes a year later).

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I get power tools for Mother’s Day presents.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… dream big – the worst thing that can happened is that you fail, and there are worse things than failure.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… My high school drama teacher told us, “Clean the excess paint from the rim of a paint can before closing it.” This advice covers so much …always do a good job…always clean up…always be aware that present activities influence future efficiencies. He was a cantankerous man, but in my memory his practical wisdom outweighs his grumpiness.

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my daughter Rondi, she died in 2006 and I would like to tell her that we were very proud of her and that we still love her dearly.

 

Want to celebrate Canada’s top female entrepreneurs in person? Get your ticket to the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Gala!

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… eat ice cream (I tried it for the first time when I was 26).

 

My biggest setback was… the death of my daughter, Rondi.

 

I overcame it by… I don’t think I can overcome Rondi’s death, but I keep busy, push onward, and create incredibly wonderful moments within the fracture.

 

I never go a day without… laughing out loud.

 

The last book I read was… I reread The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly – an amazing book.

 

I stay inspired by… spending my days with inspiring people of every age.

 

The future excites me because…it is unfathomable.

 

 

Meet Kathleen Quinlan, founder of Fiore Botanica and 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Micro-Business Award Finalist

 

Kathleen Quinlan

Founder, Fiore Botanica

Finalist, Micro Business Award presented by Diversity Institute & Magnet Export Business Portal, EAST

 

After a life-threatening illness, over 20 years ago Kathleen Quinlan made the decision to limit her exposure to the dangerous chemicals that can be found in personal care products. This eventually led to the online launch of her Fiore Botanica Natural Skin Care line in 2009, incorporating the traditional aromatherapy she had studied with 100% natural, ethically-sourced ingredients — all hand blended in the company’s own facility, and offered at an accessible price. Their first retail store opened in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia in 2013, and within five years they’ve outgrown three different locations in town, and are looking to expand again.

 

My first job ever was… making pies. I learned how to make great pies and butter tarts from my mother. To save money for university I started my first business, The Pies the Limit, when I was 13 years old. Every nickel I earned making and selling my pies went towards my education. I continued my business throughout my college years in Toronto.

 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I’ve always been “the bucks stops here” kind of person, wanting to control my destiny both financially and professionally. While working towards my dream of Fiore Botanica, I was a very successful self-employed Massage Therapist working in the major motion picture industry and in private practice. I love the hustle and creativity that being self-employed requires, and the transition to entrepreneurship was logical for me.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… being the finalist for the East in my category! I feel that this happened as a result of the careful growth of Fiore Botanica, never taking on more than we had the capacity to deliver. Particularly when moving into the amenity market, it would have been easy to have given into the enormous demand. My methodical and rational approach to growth has allowed Fiore Botanica to be built on a solid foundation of trust and goodwill in the marketplace.

 

My boldest move to date was… leaving my successful and established Massage Therapy practice in Montreal, Quebec, to move to rural Nova Scotia to focus on growing Fiore Botanica full-time.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that my business has flourished in a small rural community. In-store and online, Fiore Botanica is proving that dedicated marketing, active customer engagement, and thinking nationally (and internationally) can translate into success. With online conversion rates running 5-6% above industry average, international exposure at the Golden Globes, and a repeat customer rate of at least 55%, Fiore Botanica has proven that success can be achieved in a rural setting.

 

My best advice to people starting their business is… know your business, but also know about business. Like the three “Rs” all industries share fundamental principles that need to be mastered to create a solid foundation upon which to build. Mentors, experienced business owners, and teachers abound that can be invaluable in teaching you, formally or informally, the skills you need to develop in order to start on the right foot with clear-eyed determination. All you need to do is ask.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… to really listen, whether to others or, what is sometimes harder, yourself. I have learned so much just from paying attention to people. Being in the moment with others helps you learn to be present with yourself. By cutting out the noise, this ultimately helps you learn to focus and make better decisions.

 

“Mentors, experienced business owners, and teachers abound that can be invaluable in teaching you, formally or informally, the skills you need to develop in order to start on the right foot with clear-eyed determination.”

 

If I could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, it would be… my father, he was my very first mentor. His guidance, advice, and support are touchstones I rely on even today. Through his words and his example, I learned the importance of integrity, honesty, hard work, service, and community. His lessons have taken me far in my life and govern me every day.

 

I would tell my 20-year old self… Your life is going to have many twists and turns taking you down roads that weren’t in your plans. But at one point you will come to understand that your plans weren’t meant to be made, but rather discovered. The most difficult roads will lead to the most beautiful places and you are going to learn that you have strength you never knew you had.

 

My biggest setback was… my own doubts. When I was in my thirties, I realized that this was what I wanted to do, but I constantly second guessed myself, undermining my own dreams. I thought that a dream that began in a kitchen, with just a humble spoon and a bowl, was far too modest to grow into a serious business.

 

I overcame it by… engaging with successful women. I heard their stories, many with the same humble beginnings, and recognized myself. Their determination, work ethic, and passion resonated with me and I realized that I had those same qualities that I could give to my business.

 

Want to celebrate Canada’s top female entrepreneurs in person? Get your ticket to the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Gala!

 

I never go a day without… feeling and embracing joy. Whether it’s connecting with family or friends, dancing by myself to my favourite music, laughing without restraint, or just marveling at the very fact that I am living my dream, taking the time to immerse myself in happiness and feel gratitude helps me keep everything in perspective.

 

The last book I read was… my journal. I have been chronicling my days since I was 16. This narrative of my life helps me take a step back and reflect, and the poems or quotes I have gathered over the years provide inspiration and grounding.

 

I stay inspired by… working on new formulas in my lab. It’s my happy place, where I feel the most creative and alive. When you spend years working on a formula, and see it go on the shelves, that’s gratifying. When people take time out of their day to call or write to say that my product has impacted their life for the better in large ways or even small, there’s no words to describe that feeling.

 

The future excites me because… I see my business as part of a future when completely natural products will be the rule, not the exception. Fiore Botanica has differentiated itself as a company that has always been 100% natural, right from inception. Our current clients and the new “green” wave of consumers appreciate and respect that commitment.