Meet Connie Lo, Co-founder of Three Ships and a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Recipient in the WEKH Micro-Business category.

Connie Lo is a recipient of a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award category. With a life-long passion for entrepreneurship and natural beauty, Connie is the co-founder of Three Ships, a vegan skincare line based in Toronto.

My first job ever was… a café barista at the age of 13. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I didn’t want to feel like just a number in a large organization, and really wanted to see the direct impact of my actions on the world.

My proudest accomplishment is… surprising my mom for Mother’s Day this year during the COVID-19 lockdown with an at-home high tea, complete with pastries and desserts from her favourite spots across Toronto. Seeing her so incredibly happy and surprised is one of my proudest moments as a daughter.

My biggest setback was… imposter syndrome. I lived in constant fear that people would one day “figure out” that I was a total fraud, or that I wasn’t capable of running my own business.

I overcame it by… documenting every day what I did and how my actions contributed to our company’s success. By tying my effort directly to Three Ships’ growth, I was able to see that our success didn’t come down to luck or good fortune, but rather my hard work, intelligence, and resourcefulness.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I’m a huge wellness, fitness, and productivity junkie! I can spend hours procrastinating and researching healthy recipes, smoothie concoctions, workouts, and productivity hacks!

My best advice for small business owners is… you don’t need a lot of funding or any connections to build a company. We only had $4,000 in savings with absolutely no connections in the beauty or manufacturing space. With hustle and grit, we bootstrapped our business to where it is today!

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… creating a scheduled ‘end time’ to your work day. I probably achieve this 50% of the time! It’s hard when you love what you do but it’s so important to give yourself a break.

When starting my business, I wish I knew… to focus on staying in my lane, especially in the beginning days. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other brands that are farther along or have hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch their business. Focus on your mission and your company, and be proud of what you are accomplishing.

The future excites me because… we are at the cusp of huge growth at Three Ships. We’ve really hit our stride and I am so excited to share all the things we’ve been working on with the world!

Success to me means… living in alignment with your purpose, doing something that brings you and others joy, and being kind to everyone you meet.

Meet Laura Burget, Co-founder of Three Ships and the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Recipient in the WEKH Micro-Business category.

Laura Burget is the recipient of a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award category. As a life-long supporter of businesses with high ethical standards, her journey into entrepreneurship began at the ripe age of 9 when she sold handmade crafts and jewelry at her elementary school to raise money for endangered animals. Now, as the co-founder of Three Ships, she develops natural and effective alternatives to every-day beauty products. 

My first job ever was… as a lifeguard at the local YMCA.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I love the creativity, excitement and risk that comes along with being an entrepreneur. I thrive in fast-paced environments and get bored really easily. Being an entrepreneur means that no day is ever the same!

My proudest accomplishment is… launching Three Ships with just $4,000 and zero connections. At the time, it was all that we had to work with and so we didn’t see this as making us an underdog. Looking back though, I realize how uncommon it is to build a 7 figure business from nothing, and I’m extremely proud of the brand we’ve built and the impact that we have had in just 3 short years. 

My biggest setback was… failing a semester in second year university and having to repeat it. In order to stay in the program I was in, you had to maintain an average of 60% and I just barely missed this.

I overcame it by… realizing that I was hugely over-extended. I was running two companies, leading several clubs and managing a full engineering course load at the same time. It was way too much for me to manage and my grades ended up suffering. I came back and focused on consistently doing my work each day, allowing me to double my grade in several classes. I went from being in the bottom 10% my class to being in the top 10%.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson – everyone is capable of greatness. My outcome in what I take on in life is based on the sustained effort that I put in. My 3rd and 4th year marks were stellar and I definitely learned how to better balance work and social life. In the end, I’m grateful for this experience as I learned so much from it and it’s made me a more self-assured, balanced person. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I can solve a Rubrik’s cube in under a minute. 

My best advice for small business owners is… surround yourself with great partners and advocates of you and your business. These connections will serve you far more than you could imagine and will help to keep you sane.

The once piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… 

Don’t compare yourself and where you are to others and where they are! So much easier said than done. Especially in business, no team or company ever has things as “under control” or “figured out” as you think.

When starting my business, I wish I knew… more about how the venture capital space worked. Being properly funded is so important for all start-ups and it’s a space that we had to learn from scratch. Knowing more about how to raise money and structure a round would have saved us a lot of time. 

The future excites me because… we’re only just getting started with our mission at Three Ships! The world is so connected now that I truly believe that there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

Success to me means… knowing that even if you were to die tomorrow, you would have lived your life without regrets. No “shoulds”, “coulds” or “woulds”. We only have one life!

Meet Eno Eka, Founder and CEO of Eny Consulting and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Eno Eka is a recipient of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award. She is the Founder and CEO of Eny Consulting — a boutique consulting company — where she provides coaching and professional development services to help immigrants kick-start their careers in Canada. 

My first job ever was… an accounting intern after high school.

I decided to be an entrepreneur… because I always had that entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to own my business. I was the president of the Junior Achievement Club in my high school and we had to start several businesses as projects, and I enjoyed it. I then went on to start my little bookstore business at the age of 15, reselling my old books to my classmates.

My proudest accomplishment is… winning the Women of Inspiration Award for Mentorship in 2019 after 18 months of relocation to Canada.

My boldest move to date was… moving to Canada all by myself!

I surprise people when I tell them that… I have no family in Canada, have lived here for just 2 years now and I am under 30.

I knew it was time to launch my business when I… was approached with an opportunity and had to render my services as a business and not an employee.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… to just start, take imperfect actions because done is better than perfect.

My best advice from a mentor was… to focus on impact and the income will follow.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… nothing good comes easy and I do the work no matter how I feel.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… sleep in for another hour!!!

I stay inspired by… my mother, my mentors and the amazing students I get to coach in my programs.

The future excites me because… I know it is just the beginning— I am on a global mission to educate people all over the world.

My next step is… to expand my business into new countries and keep learning from the best business mentors globally

Meet Rogayeh Tabrizi, Co-founder and CEO of Theory+ Practice and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Rogayeh Tabrizi is a recipient of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award. In 2018 she Co-Founded Theory+Practice, an advanced data science company, where as CEO she has led the strategic growth of the self-funded private company that now employs 20 highly skilled people. 

My first job ever was… translating science articles for a university magazine geared towards highschoolers. Making knowledge accessible to those who previously didn’t have access to it was very fulfilling.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… it seemed like the natural path for me versus a conscious decision. I didn’t decide to be an entrepreneur as much as my desire to question the status quo and contribute to a better future led me to be an entrepreneur. It has been an iterative process.

My proudest accomplishment is… being at the ground-level of starting the African School of Physics (ASP) 10 years ago. ASP is an NGO dedicated to capacity development in fundamental physics in Africa and socialize learning on the continent. To date we have hosted 700 students from 17 countries, with 70% completing their PhDs or post-docs in North America and Europe, and 35% returning to their country of origin.

My boldest move to date was… switching from MSc Physics to PhD Economics with no background. I had worked to be a physicist for my entire life and it took a lot of soul searching and hard work to change paths. I went from being at the top of my class to having to basically start over. The move has paid many dividends and I am happy I had the courage to be bold at that time.

I surprise people when I tell them… I would jump the fence when I was in grade 9, walk a few kilometres by the highway and then jump the fence to sit in physics classes at the local university. I did that for two years and my poor parents were called to school often. Another funny surprise is that the Dalai Lama fell on my lap after he came down the stage! I had helped to organize his last visit to Vancouver.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… I left physics to pursue a career in economics as a way of applying my technical skills to more real-world problems. I was talking about this — with who would eventually become my co-founder — and it became clear that there was an opportunity to bridge the high-level theoretical knowledge and leading edge thinking researchers do in academia to the practical issues facing businesses and society today. It was then that Theory+Practice was born.

To constantly try to improve and that the journey is about working to make things better, but at the same time, you need to know when something is good enough for now.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… don’t be idealistic about the monetary benefits of being an entrepreneur. Commit to working, particularly when you feel stuck. Ground your decisions on your values and principles. Being an entrepreneur will challenge you in ways you can’t imagine. Persevere and stick to it, but also ask for help. You won’t be able to succeed on your own. Get advice from everyone you can and find mentors to help you reflect on your progress. Dig deep and find the strength in our heart.

My best advice from a mentor… came in the form of a question. One mentor asked me “are you a perfectionist?” and I proudly responded with a yes. With a straight face, he said to me, “Quit now, you would never finish anything.” I realized then that it is more important to strive for excellence than perfection. To constantly try to improve and that the journey is about working to make things better, but at the same time, you need to know when something is good enough for now.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… “I am not playing two dimensional checkers, this is chess in Star Wars!” I focus on what is right here, right now in front of me and remember the goal. I remind myself of the positive moments and how grateful I am for all the resources around me and that I am not alone. I ask for help and remind myself that I am working for my team and together we can and do manage through tough times. It is actually very rewarding and fulfilling to deal with and manage adversity.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… paint more. I would just grab a canvas and let the creativity take control.

I stay inspired by… my team. Every day I am inspired by the power of teamwork with diverse thinking and perspectives that accompany it. There is truth in the cliche, “The sum is greater than the parts.” At Theory+Practice we are often trying to solve problems that have never been solved before. We deal with a lot of complexity, but focus on simplicity. There is a magical moment when clarity emerges and a team becomes radically aligned. I crave these moments for myself, and for my team. 

The future excites me because… even with the vast disruption and impacts of COVID-19, there are endless possibilities for a better future. Never before have we had such an opportunity — in so many ways — to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

My next step is… to continue the journey that Theory+Practice has put me on and find new and bigger opportunities to impact the world around me, while staying open to change. It is about showcasing — big or small — what is possible and questioning the status quo. I am excited to continue to learn and share my experiences with others, and mentor young people to help them on their own journeys as well.

Meet Nadine Chalati, owner of Chalati Lawyer and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Nadine Chalati is a recipient of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award. She is a lawyer and the owner of the boutique law firm Chalati Lawyer, specializing in corporate and commercial law. As a firm advocate for accessibility in the legal system, Nadine regularly acts as an outside general counsel for small-to-medium sized businesses and assists not-for-profits and charities. Accentuating her practice on improving accessibility to justice and providing value to the community, Nadine also films daily legal segments on corporate and commercial law on Instagram. 

My first job ever was…  a lab technician at a pharmacy. It was my first experience in the service industry. It taught me how to communicate effectively with clients, provide outstanding service and resolve disputes. Additionally, as a lab technician, I learnt the importance of thoroughness, diligence, and revision of every action, even if they appear simple, such as counting pills. The skills I learnt then as a teenager are at the base of the skills I utilize today as a lawyer and entrepreneur.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I felt in me the desire to build something on my own. I was drawn to the idea of creating my own independence and relying on myself to make a living. Also, I craved the freedom to carve myself my own niche in law. I felt that I could only do that if I had total freedom to take the risks necessary to establish a practice that was totally customized to my interests.

My proudest accomplishment is… growing my business to the stage it is at now and consistently finding ways to leverage my skill set, my network and my drive to further its growth. I am endlessly grateful for it.

My boldest move to date was… starting from scratch. I was very young, fresh out of school, had no clients or a network. Looking back now, I am proud that I had the confidence to be so bold and take the risk!

I surprise people when I tell them… that I opened my firm at 23.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… I was at a crossroad. I was sworn into the Bar after an internship that was focused on litigation. Although I loved litigation, I discovered that it was a great source of stress in my life. I had to therefore decide if I wanted to continue pursuing the path of litigation, working in a firm, or if I wanted to shift towards building my own practice where I could tailor my business to suit my personality. 

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Practice. Practice. Practice, with the objective of performing with excellence. You show your worth by being excellent. The ability to provide quality work will help you build a solid foundation of clients. In turn, this will give you the inspiration to consistently evolve your business and most importantly, it will give you pleasure to work.

When I am struggling with an issue that is not straightforward, I pause, I study and I evaluate the elements at hand.

My best advice from a mentor was… Just post it! It does not matter if it’s not perfect. My website, my first video, first ad, first blog… they were far from perfect, but they were good enough. That first “good enough” gives you just enough momentum to start landing your first clients, building a network, attracting attention. Eventually, you look back and notice you have a bank of clients, skills and content that came from that first, “not perfect but good enough.”.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… that the business that I am trying to grow is not any kind of business. I am trying to grow a business as a lawyer within the boundaries of my professional order. When I am struggling with an issue that is not straightforward, I pause, I study and I evaluate the elements at hand. Often, I will go for a walk in nature or meditate to assess the issue at hand properly and in a sound mind.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… learn a new skill, kayak, paddle board, meditate, do yoga and enjoy the beauty and simplicity of life. I believe my creativity originates from the pause, from slowing down. Once I feel inspired and recharged, I can focus again on performance and development of my goals.

I stay inspired by… when I see a client leave my office with a smile and they are appeased by my work, it inspires me to keep doing good work and persevering. Seeing them happy brings joy to my day and is really the best part about the work I do.

The future excites me because… there is so much potential for change and transformation in the legal industry. Whether that be in the way that we service our clients, the products that we can create to better serve them or the platforms we can utilize to further disburse legal information to the public at no cost. The potential is limitless and I am truly excited to be able to play a part in this transformation. 

My next step is… to continue to grow Chalati Lawyer, to build an even stronger niche in corporate and commercial law and ultimately to be able to help more businesses with our services. Part of that process involves building new innovative products that both our clients and the community at large can use and to post more legal content on various social media platforms in order to make legal information widely accessible to the public at no cost. 

Meet Suzie Yorke, founder and CEO of Love Good Fats and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Suzie Yorke Love Good Fats

Suzie Yorke is a recipient of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award. A mom and a yoga enthusiast, Suzie developed Love Good Fats, a company that produces high-fat, low-carb, and low-sugar products, after she identified a gap in the marketplace and an opportunity to help others through food. With a background in marketing and deep passion for health, Suzie is on a mission to spread the word that fat is back, and sugar is out!  

 

My first job ever was… at Harvey’s at the age of 15. Part of my job was cleaning toilets. The following summer, I got a job at a hospital where again I cleaned toilets! A theme indeed! 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… from a very young age I always wanted to have my own brand. I remember telling my mom at age eleven that one day I was going to run my own company. I really had no idea what that was going to be but the idea has always excited and inspired me. It just took 40+ years to get there!  

My proudest accomplishment is… I’d have to say my kids! In regard to my business I’ve been blessed to hit some pretty amazing milestones. One of the biggest ones for sure was being picked up by every Whole Food market across the US so quickly.  

My boldest move to date was… starting a company at age 50! I finally took the plunge and risked my life savings. Being a single mom with 2 kids soon to be in university, this was a bold move — but it all worked out! Now we have one of the fastest growing food start-ups in Canada!

I surprise people when I tell them… I am an eleven-time Ironman finisher! Racing triathlons and marathons has always been both a passion and a lifestyle. Each race would require months (usually about 10 months) of being focused on that eventual race day and being ready. So a lot of little daily steps that lead to — come race day — both arms raised up in the air at the finish line! 

I knew it was time to launch my business when… after 20+ years on a low fat diet, I read a book, Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, and immediately changed my diet to more fats and cutting out sugar. I couldn’t find on-the-go snacks to support my new lifestyle so I’m leading the charge of change with a high fat/low sugar brand, starting with bars. 

I get very motivated with personal sharing, wins and stories. Connecting with people and chatting about their stories is always a go-to for inspiration.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… first, be brave and start — take that first step to commercialize your idea. Until then, it’s just an idea. Start! Second, don’t give up. My very first production run failed and ate up most of my investment and I had to make a decision to quit or go forward. We’ve had so many challenges — some of which could have been fatal — but we pick up pieces, reassess, learn, and forge forward. 

My best advice from a mentor was… not to look twenty years out but to look at the steps you need to do right now. The rest of the pieces will fall into place as you move forward. Trust that you’re on a journey and take steps in the right enough direction.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… to look at my past successes and take heart from what I have achieved. Although the success of the company has been a rocket ship, it’s been tons and tons of very hard work and lots of “scary” moments and big decisions. Nothing comes easy but with hard work, the right team and mindset, it will. 

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… definitely use it to work out. With COVID, I have been able to find a bit more time to run or bike or do yoga and that’s indeed a blessing. That being said, I’d still love more time every day to get the oxygen and adrenaline flowing — this is when I get the best ideas too! 

I stay inspired by… tapping into all the amazing people around me — I get very motivated with personal sharing, wins and stories. Connecting with people and chatting about their stories is always a go-to for inspiration. 

The future excites me because… there are so many opportunities for our Love Good Fats brand. Our bars and shakes have given us permission to introduce more low sugar/high fat products with clean ingredients.  

My next step is… growing Love Good Fats to achieve the mission of changing the way people eat. Until we’re well on our way there, this is my laser focus on the next step. 

Meet Jenn Harper, founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc. and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Jenn Harper

Jenn Harper is a recipient of the 2020 Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award. She is the founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics INC, a digitally native direct to consumer brand that is helping Indigenous youth see themselves in a beauty brand. Cheekbone Beauty uses the concept of a circular economy in the brands ethos and in developing their latest line of products, creating a new segment in the beauty industry—Sustainable Socially Conscious Beauty.  

My first job ever was… either the shampoo girl at the local salon or the dishwasher at a local restaurant, both the same year but I can’t remember what was first. The cleanest pots and scalps in Niagara! I have always been a hard worker no matter what role I filled.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to see Indigenous faces represented in beauty. I did not see anyone else trying to do this, so I went for it.

My proudest accomplishment is…overcoming alcoholism. To make a really long and painful story short, this still feels like I overcame a mountain — with lots of help of course! But I fully believe I can accomplish anything because I have overcome mountain-like obstacles with the right support team.

My boldest move to date was… not giving up.

Be consistent, keep showing up. You can’t lose if you keep trying!

I surprise people when I tell them… I have no experience in the beauty industry, or at least I don’t think I do.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… we had a website and a product, which was not perfect at all — but I decided to give it a go!

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… to be consistent, keep showing up. You can’t lose if you keep trying!

My best advice from a mentor was… to use a business advisory board — very practical and helpful.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… “Our youth need hope and help. These are actually my Brother BJ’s words; he said this to me before he took his own life just before the launch of Cheekbone in 2016. A very painful companion but truly the driving force behind Cheekbone.

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

I stay inspired by… getting out in nature, near water or lots of trees.

The future excites me because… of hope; believing the best is yet to come keeps me going!

My next step is… designing and developing new sustainable packaging that doesn’t exist yet! Exciting and very hard but it will be worth it!

 

Announcing the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Finalists!

We are proud to announce the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards finalists. In what has been an unprecedented year, this program continues to shine the light on the Canadian women entrepreneurs whose accomplishments are worthy of recognition and celebration. 

At Women of Influence, we are familiar with the challenges and opportunities that accompany entrepreneurship and innovation, and are honoured to celebrate the accomplishments of a diverse group of women  in a wide range of industries including healthcare services, engineering, beauty, technology, hospitality, law and beyond.

With over 8,600 nominations from across the country, we had the incredible task of selecting 18 finalists across six legacy award categories. In addition to that, five recipients were chosen to receive the Ones to Watch Award, which recognizes entrepreneurs who have launched businesses that have made an incredible impact in fewer than three years.

We are grateful to all of our partners whose contributions make this celebration of women’s entrepreneurship possible, especially the dedication and commitment of our Title Sponsor, RBC. 

“The unwavering resilience, creativity and passion of Canadian entrepreneurs has, and continues to be the hallmark of our economic strength as a country and business community,” says Greg Grice, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “Many of these businesses are led by inspiring women leaders who are important role models for the next generation of aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs. RBC is proud to work with Women of Influence to bring their stories to light, and celebrate their achievements and contributions to the Canadian business community through the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.”

We are honoured to celebrate the accomplishments of our 2020 award finalists. These entrepreneurs have displayed remarkable resilience over the course of the year, demonstrating exciting growth and innovation as they adapted their businesses to a new environment.

The winners will be announced and celebrated at the 28th Annual Awards Gala, on Wednesday, November 18, where all attendees will be digitally transported into the first ever Virtual Awards Gala. This immersive experience, which will be live streamed around the world, will shine a spotlight on all the amazing Canadian women entrepreneurs. Keynote remarks will be shared by Demetra Streda, Vice President, Commercial Financial Services Strategy, RBC.

For more information, view the press release.  |  Pour plus d’information, visitez le communiqué de presse.

The 2020 Recipients of the Ones to Watch Award are:

The 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Finalists are:

Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award
Start-Up Award
RBC Momentum Award
Social Change Award
Innovation Award
Excellence Award

How Geetha Moorthy began working with children on the autism spectrum — and built SAAAC Autism Centre to serve their needs

By Karen van Kampen

 

In 1983, two days after her wedding, 23-year-old Geetha Moorthy and her family fled Sri Lanka in the midst of a civil war, landing in Canada as refugees. Trained as an accountant, Geetha worked as a bookkeeper, but one job wasn’t enough to cover living expenses. So Geetha started teaching Indian Classical dance. “That’s my passion,” she says. 

As Geetha’s dance school grew, she says, “I wanted to give back to the community that accepted us. I was so thankful to Canada.” 

Geetha choreographed dance shows for different charities and non-profits and had an opportunity to work with children on the autism spectrum. Geetha learned that many individuals had never had treatment, and she also discovered a stigma associated with autism spectrum disorder. Some parents wouldn’t even say the word autism. 

“I thought, I have to do something about it,” she says. “I can teach them a little bit of math and English in my dining room, and I can teach dance in my basement.” In 2009, Geetha taught four students in her home. Today, with the help of 30 staff and more than 200 volunteers, Geetha provides programs for more than 400 families at SAAAC Autism Centre, an 11,000-square-foot facility in Toronto.  

As founder and executive director of SAAAC, Geetha was the 2019 winner of the Social Change Award, a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that recognizes an exceptional leader of a registered charity, not-for-profit or social enterprise that is dedicated to their unique brand of social change. The SAAAC provides the autism community resources, workshops and caregiver support while celebrating the strengths of those on the autism spectrum. “We want to see their positives and take them to the next level,” says Geetha. 

In the beginning, SAAAC helped mostly South Asian families with their own unique challenges. “The caregivers were facing a lot of barriers — from financial to language to the stigma in communities,” says Geetha. It was difficult to navigate services and information on autism for caregivers whose first language was not English. 

“They were suffering in silence,” says Geetha. People would blame the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, she says, adding that families felt “ashamed to include their children in community life.” When the SAAAC expanded to serve families outside the South Asian community, they found that common issues brought families together.  

In 2009, Geetha ran programs out of her home and in local parks. Within a year, she had 25 students with another 25 on a waiting list. Geetha realized that she needed more space as well as evidence-based therapies including occupational, language and speech therapies in addition to her arts programs. She held a fundraising gala and used the proceeds to hire a few part-time therapists. 

In the beginning, Geetha found it difficult to ask for donations. “I was very shy. I was afraid to ask for help,” she says. Looking back, Geetha encourages others not to be stopped by the same roadblock — even if you might get no for an answer.

 

“If you have faith in yourself, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.” 

 

A friend offered his consulting office to run SAAAC’s free programs after hours and on weekends. Geetha created a volunteer program in which volunteers were trained by SAAAC’s therapists. But Geetha knew that she couldn’t continue to run the SAAAC while also working full-time. “If one person doesn’t 100 per cent focus on something,” she says, “it’s not going to happen.”  

In 2011, Geetha quit her accounting job at a printing company and followed her passion to help others. For the next four years, Geetha volunteered full-time and didn’t get paid until 2015. “I’m a risk taker. I believe in myself most of the time. I think, I can do this,” says Geetha, adding that her passion was her driving force. While the SAAAC faced financial challenges, Geetha never stopped believing in her vision. 

The lessons she learned? Stay focused, invest in yourself, and gain knowledge in order to reach your goal. “You never know the limit to how much you can achieve until you take the next step and try,” she says.  

In 2012, the SAAAC received charity status. The organization’s funding includes reasonably priced fee-for-service, fundraising events and federal, provincial and city contributions. In 2017, the SAAAC moved to an 11,000-square-foot facility in Toronto where Geetha and her team run a dozen free and fee-for-service programs including ABA therapy, speech and language, and school readiness. 

In 2019, the SAAAC launched The Goodness Gift, a social enterprise that supports the employment of adults on the autism spectrum, training individuals on inventory, order processing, and making and delivering gift baskets. Geetha aims to have 12 employees by year three and plans to roll out the program nationally. “We want every single person on the spectrum to be employed,” says Geetha. “They have to lead a meaningful life.” 

Looking to the future, Geetha hopes to expand some SAAAC programs globally, training teachers to work with students and creating a model that could be used in rural areas that lack materials and facilities. 

And she hasn’t given up on roots as a dance teacher. Geetha dreams of doing a Broadway show with children and adults on the spectrum, highlighting stories that connect families. “We want to focus on the challenges that the families are facing,” says Geetha, “and then focus on the strengths and abilities of the children and adults on the spectrum.”  

 

Cinq minutes avec Brigitte Jalbert, Présidente de Les Emballages Carrousel — un chiffre d’affaires de 162 millions et comptant 375 employés

Brigitte Jalbert se dirigeait du côté de la photographie et des communications lorsqu’elle travaillait durant les étés pour l’entreprise familiale. C’est en 1986 qu’elle joint l’équipe à temps plein.  Emballages Carrousel a alors un chiffre d’affaires de 8 millions et compte 30 employés au grand total. Au cours des années qui suivent, elle occupera différents postes au sein de l’entreprise, particulièrement du côté des ventes, des achats, du marketing et des ressources humaines, jusqu’à ce qu’elle devienne actionnaire et vice-présidente en 1997.  La compagnie continue d’évoluer : usine de fabrication de sacs de papier, ouverture d’une succursale à Québec et acquisition d’une entreprise concurrente à Drummondville.  En 2011, Brigitte Jalbert est nommée présidente alors que son père, jusqu’alors président-fondateur devient président du nouveau C.A.  Aujourd’hui, Carrousel a un chiffre d’affaires de 162 millions et compte 375 employés. Nous avons échangé avec Brigitte au sujet de l’entreprise, de son parcours et de ses meilleurs conseils.

 

Commençons par nous familiariser avec votre entreprise : comment pourriez-vous la décrire en quelques phrases ?

Emballages Carrousel est une entreprise de distribution de produits d’emballage alimentaire, d’emballage industriel, de produits sanitaires et d’entretien, de machinerie d’emballage. Nous opérons également une manufacture de sacs de papier (principalement sacs à pain et sacs à pharmacie).  Carrousel est une entreprise familiale créée par mon père, Denis, en 1971. Nous allons célébrer le 50e anniversaire l’an prochain !

 

Vous avez commencé à travailler dans l’entreprise familiale pendant vos vacances scolaires. Aviez-vous dès le départ l’intention d’en prendre la direction ?

Absolument pas !  Je suis arrivée chez Carrousel en attendant de trouver ma voie.  J’étais entre deux années d’université et j’ai étudié dans trois domaines différents. Ça été bien difficile pour moi de découvrir mes forces et mes réels intérêts afin d’aligner ma carrière.  J’étais très loin de me douter que 34 ans plus tard je serais encore active chez Carrousel et encore moins que j’occuperais le poste de présidente-directrice générale.

 

Décrivez l’évolution et la croissance de l’entreprise depuis le début de votre leadership en 2011.

Carrousel a toujours eu une belle croissance au fil des ans, néanmoins, je réalisais que pour assurer sa pérennité, il fallait se doter de meilleures pratiques (principalement pour la logistique, la chaine d’approvisionnement et la planification stratégique) et ajouter certaines compétences qu’on n’avait pas à l’interne.  J’ai tout d’abord fait monter dans l’autobus d’excellents collaborateurs et ensemble, nous avons bâti un plan de croissance. Nous avons notamment changé nos logiciels et ajouté des nouveaux tels que gestion d’inventaire, gestion des routes de livraison, de prise de rendez-vous; nous avons développé de nouvelles lignes de produits, révisé notre mission et nos valeurs et revampé complètement notre image de marque pour ensuite bâtir tout le volet web et les commandes en ligne.  

 

Faites-vous une relation entre les choix faits pour monter votre équipe et le succès de l’entreprise ?

S’entourer des bonnes personnes est selon moi la clé de la réussite.  Chez Carrousel, la culture d’entreprise est forte et bien présente.  Lorsque nous devons ajouter de nouvelles personnes à l’équipe, au haut de notre liste d’aptitudes et d’habiletés se trouvent le respect, une attitude positive, le savoir-être, le leadership, l’écoute, la bienveillance.  Nous privilégions les candidats (tes) qui nous ‘’ressemblent’’ à ceux qui auraient peut-être tous les diplômes et l’expérience requise mais qui n’épouseraient pas nos valeurs.  C’est ce qui fait que nous ayons l’équipe la plus solide qui soit !

 

“Chaque être humain a une responsabilité face à la protection de notre planète. Une entreprise qui distribue des produits faits de plastique ou d’autres matériaux dommageables doit se donner une ligne directrice afin d’en minimiser l’impact sur l’environnement.”

 

En 1971, votre père à démarré l’entreprise en vendant deux produits. Aujourd’hui, vous en vendez environ 12 000. Que dire de cette croissance faramineuse ?

Notre modèle d’affaires a évolué au fil des ans, mais le fil conducteur est de faire de Carrousel un ‘’one stop shop’’ pour notre clientèle.  Et pour ça, il nous faut une offre de produits des plus diversifiée.  Graduellement depuis 1971, nous ajoutons des lignes de produits pour répondre aux besoins de nos clients et avons ainsi élargi le spectre de notre clientèle cible qui visait au départ les boucheries et épiceries de quartier. Aujourd’hui nous sommes en mesure de servir tant le fabricant de portes et fenêtres, le producteur de brocolis, le traiteur, le transformateur alimentaire, les cafétérias d’hôpitaux, d’écoles, de centres de détention, etc… 

 

Vous vous êtes fixé une mission écologique. Pourquoi avoir pris une telle décision ? Comment avez-vos rencontré cet objectif ? En adoptant quelles étapes ?

Chaque être humain a une responsabilité face à la protection de notre planète.  Une entreprise qui distribue des produits faits de plastique ou d’autres matériaux dommageables doit se donner une ligne directrice afin d’en minimiser l’impact sur l’environnement. Parce que Carrousel est leader dans son industrie, nous avons rapidement choisi de nous positionner comme précurseurs en adoptant certaines pratiques et en nous engageant à ajouter annuellement 500 nouveaux produits écoresponsables à notre offre, et ce, pour une période minimale de 5 ans.  Également, nous avons créé notre ‘’Catalogue écoresponsable’’ qui a circulé partout au Québec, tant sur les réseaux sociaux et sur notre site web que par le biais de notre équipe de vente.  L’écoresponsabilité, c’est aussi une question d’éducation.  Nos 370 employés ont été formés afin d’être en mesure de mieux comprendre les tenants et aboutissants, de faire de meilleurs choix et d’encourager tant nos clients que nos familles à contribuer à la protection de notre environnement.

 

En tant que leader, quels défis avez-vous surmontés ?

Il y en a eu plusieurs, mais je dirais que les plus marquants ont été de prendre conscience de mes forces et de réaliser qu’elles étaient d’une certaine manière, nécessaire à la pérennité de Carrousel.  Également, ça été tout un défi de réussir la transition entre la première et la deuxième génération (mon père a eu beaucoup de difficulté à lâcher prise), de bonifier le niveau de croissance et d’excellence tout en m’assurant de maintenir la santé financière à un niveau supérieur.  Et je dirais que ce dont je suis le plus fière, c’est que nous ayons réussi à préserver la culture qui est si signifiante chez Carrousel. 

 

Quel impact la Covid-19 a-t-elle eu sur votre entreprise ? Quelles mesures avez-vous prises afin d’y répondre ?

La Covid !!!  Heureusement, nous nous en sommes quand même bien sortis.  Nous figurons parmi les privilégiés car Carrousel fait partie des entreprises de service.  Si on ne compte pas le personnel d’entrepôt et nos livreurs, 95% de nos gens se sont retrouvés du jour au lendemain en télétravail (nous avons été surpris de constater que tous les postes s’y prêtaient finalement!).  Notre équipe aux achats a passé des jours complets et des nuits entières à chercher des masques, visières, gants, produits nettoyants, désinfectants, bornes sur pied,  produits que nous vendions déjà, mais jamais autant !   Un des enjeux majeurs fût aussi de revoir notre chaine d’approvisionnement.  Certains produits comme par exemple les plateaux pour traiteur ne se vendent absolument plus et en contrepartie, les produits à usage unique (sacs à bretelles, ustensiles de plastique, pailles, contenants pour emporter…) ont retrouvé une grande popularité.  L’environnement aura aussi beaucoup souffert de cette crise, car il est devenu impératif de limiter les risques de propagation en jetant le plus possible les produits d’emballage dont on se sert. 

 

Avez-vous des conseils pour les entreprises familiales souhaitant transmettre la propriété et la direction à la génération suivante ?

Oh oui, en voici quelques-uns !  

  • Préparer longtemps d’avance le processus de relève, en discuter régulièrement avec les personnes-clés de l’entreprise (pas seulement cédant-repreneur).
  • Impliquer dans les discussions des gens de l’extérieur en qui vous avez confiance, qui vous connaissent bien, qui ont un regard neutre et moins émotif (ex. votre comptable, votre 
  • banquier …).
  • Le repreneur doit s’entourer de personnes solides qui épousent les mêmes valeurs et qui ont des compétences complémentaires.  Un dirigeant n’est pas expert en tout, il est important de bâtir une ‘’équipe de relève’’. 
  • S’entendre d’avance sur un échéancier, une date de départ du cédant et s’y tenir.  Même lorsque c’est difficile pour lui de lâcher prise …

How Carinne Chambers-Saini launched the DivaCup — and brought menstrual cups to the mainstream

By Karen van Kampen

 

Fresh out of business school, 24-year-old Carinne Chambers-Saini set out to revolutionize the menstrual care industry. She teamed up with her mother, Francine Chambers, to create the DivaCup, a reusable silicone menstrual cup that collects rather than absorbs menstrual flow. 

“I thought, we are going to change the world with this,” says Carinne. “I had a completely unrealistic view of how things would evolve. No one would take us seriously.” It took a year to find a supplier willing to develop and manufacture the DivaCup, and another year for the approval process as a class II medical device. Then came the biggest hurdle: getting the product listed. “The retailers just laughed at us and said, we’ll never carry this,” says Carinne. “That was definitely one of the hardest blows because we were so excited about the product and we knew what we had.” 

In 2003, DivaCup was turned down by all mass-market retailers. But the mother-daughter duo never gave up. “You keep going, no matter what,” says Carinne. “That’s the grit that people talk about.” Years of patience and hard work has paid off. Today, DivaCup is sold in 60,000 stores in more than 30 countries, bringing the menstrual cup to the mainstream, and its CEO and co-founder is being recognized as an industry trendsetter. Carinne was the 2019 winner of the TELUS Trailblazer Award (now the Innovation Award) — a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, that is granted to an entrepreneur with outstanding leadership who has set standards for originality, quality and successful management. 

The daughter of two entrepreneurs, Carinne says the creating part of business has always excited her. In high school, she worked at her mother’s jewelry store in Kitchener, Ontario, helping with buying and creating custom pieces. In 1992, Francine saw an ad for a menstrual cup. “That started the whole journey,” says Carinne. Reflecting on their own experience with a menstrual cup, as well as customer feedback, Carinne and Francine set out to create an improved, modernized version. 

The initial setbacks with mass-market retailers proved to be a blessing in disguise. Carinne and Francine were running the business from home, assembling packages in their basement, and realized that they weren’t ready for mass market. They focused on the natural market instead, and gained a loyal following at eco shops, natural food and outdoor adventure stores. It took five years to get listed in every Whole Foods region in Canada and the U.S. By 2011, DivaCup was listed in 3,000 natural and niche stores in Canada and the U.S. 

 

“We had to change our story and show retailers how the DivaCup could bring profit into the category, and how it was a destination product that people would be looking for.”

 

Diva International began building its team, setting up its headquarters and taking the business to the next level. Carinne stopped doing sales meetings with her mom. “It’s hard to get taken seriously when you are your own sales team,” says Carinne. “You just don’t have the credibility.” Then came an opportunity that would catapult DivaCup into the mainstream.

In 2012, a company had pulled their ad from the jumbotron in New York City’s Times Square at the last minute. The rep trying to fill the space was a fan of the DivaCup and called Carinne with the opportunity. The ad would run four times an hour, 24-hours-a-day for a year. It was a lot of money, “but something in our gut kept telling us we have to do it,” says Carinne. “As an entrepreneur, your best asset is your gut and intuition.”

A new buyer for Shoppers Drug Mart saw the DivaCup ad in Times Square, and suddenly Diva International was viewed as a real player in the industry. “We had to change our story and show retailers how the DivaCup could bring profit into the category,” says Carinne, “and how it was a destination product that people would be looking for.” In 2013, they brought on Shoppers Drug Mart as their first national account. 

With Shoppers on board, they approached other mass-market retailers with their success story. But there was still a lot of work to be done. It took five years to bring on the remainder of the mainstream retailers — including CVS that in 2015 started carrying DivaCup in almost 10,000 locations. Yet being listed in the mass market isn’t necessarily the magic bullet that will solve all your problems, cautions Carinne. To succeed, “you have to build the demand and build the market for your product,” she says. For Diva International, this includes investing in education on women’s health and menstruation, which has become one of its core missions. 

The DivaCares program aims to expose the global issue of period poverty in which girls and women lack access to menstrual products. “It is happening in North America, right here in Canada,” says Carinne, who points out that one in seven girls in Canada has left or missed school due to lack of access to period products

DivaCares also fights discrimination around menstruation by helping to normalize the conversation. At home, Carinne talks openly to her daughter and son. “Boys need to be part of the conversation,” she says. “It should not be something that’s reserved only for girls. It just propagates the taboos and shame around it.” 

As a certified B Corporation, Diva International uses its brand as a force for good, says Carinne. As an entrepreneur, she says it’s important to “think about how your business can become a vehicle for contribution and change in the world.”

 

How Janet LePage built a $2.5 billion real estate empire in six years.

By Karen van Kampen

 

The night before Janet LePage was set to return to work after maternity leave, she sat on the floor of her daughter’s room and cried. She had a tough decision to make, one that would change the course of her life. Should she leave a good pension and steady paycheque to follow her passion and make a career out of investing in real estate? 

“I would be leaving everything,” she says. “It was terrifying.” The next morning, Janet quit her job and never went back to the corporate world. 

Six years later, Janet has built Western Wealth Capital into a global equity platform for real estate investment. With more than $2.5 billion in transaction value, the Vancouver-based company is the eighth largest private foreign buyer in U.S. multi-family real estate. As CEO and co-founder, Janet has garnered national recognition and accolades, including the 2019 RBC Momentum Award — a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that honours an entrepreneur who has created a responsive business that can adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth.  

When people ask Janet how she built her award-winning business, she’s open about the challenges. A new business isn’t profitable on day one, says Janet. This often means staying at your full-time job while building your next career in the evening and on the weekend, which Janet did for five years. “You work two jobs. My day job was from seven to five and then my next job started,” she says. “You don’t get a free ride becoming an entrepreneur.”  

The journey began in 2008, when Janet hired a coach to learn about the real estate industry. She then bought two single-family homes in Phoenix, Arizona. A year later, Janet devised a business plan to flip houses in Phoenix. But she needed $10,000 to get her idea off the ground. She presented the plan to her dad and he said, “if you beat me at crib, I’ll lend you ten grand at 18 per cent interest.” 

Over the next two years, Janet bought 58 Phoenix properties at auction, fixed them up and quickly sold the turnkey properties at the same price as neighbouring foreclosed houses. In 2011, Janet says the margins were becoming too thin. So she shifted her investment strategy and bought her first apartment building at auction, a 23-unit property near the University of Arizona. A year later, Janet purchased a 200-unit building in Phoenix. The $5-million cash close was the deal that propelled her career in real estate investment.  

With two young children, Janet knew that she had to choose between real estate and her full-time position as a senior marketing manager at a major North American construction company. “I was terrified that my children would derail my career, and they did the exact opposite,” she says. “They were hands down the best thing that ever happened in my success because they forced me to choose.” 

With her experience investing in real estate as well as some savings in the bank, Janet says she took a “calculated risk” and launched her business with partner David Steele. 

 

“You have to break every norm you thought possible of what a mother or a woman should be, you cannot fit a norm and be powerful. They don’t co-exist.” 

 

Her eight years in the corporate world “was a grooming on how business works,” says Janet, and her hands-on experience with corporate structure and controls provided a solid foundation to build her business. Western Wealth has created a strategy in which repeatability enables scalability. Once a property is purchased, a series of uniform interior and exterior upgrades are made. Keeping to the same colour palette and fixtures tightens the timeline for renovations and speeds up the process of listing units on the rental market. This creates wealth and reduces risk for investors. 

“There’s also probably some mom card being played throughout how this company was built,” says Janet. Property upgrades include lighting in parking lots to create a safe environment for women, and umbrellas at playgrounds offer a shaded place for kids to play. Every time a $600 washer/dryer is installed in a unit, this increases the market value of a property by $10,000. These upgrades also improve the lives of residents. 

While Janet says she is in the business of creating wealth for her investment partners, she adds, “you can create more wealth by doing good. That was the big ah-ha.” Generally speaking, the primary goal in real estate is to make money. Janet is working to change this outlook in her industry. “You can improve the lives of the people who work and live in your community while creating wealth,” she says. “It’s not an either/or.” 

Satisfied employees work harder and happy residents aren’t compelled to move. The less turnover, the less money it costs to operate a property. To date, Western Wealth Capital has acquired over 16,500 apartment units in Arizona, Texas and Georgia. The company employs 40 staff across its Vancouver and Tempe headquarters, 50 in-house property management and 400 employees across its third-party-managed properties. 

One day Janet was visiting a Phoenix property and noticed that many of the children boarded their school bus without backpacks. When the kids returned home that day, there were backpacks filled with school supplies waiting for them, and the “We’ve Got Your Back” program was born. Today, backpacks and school supplies are provided to all children living in Janet’s properties. 

With less than three per cent of women in executive roles in real estate investment companies, Janet often reflects on being a strong role model, especially for her kids. She talks to her daughter about finding success on her own terms. “You have to break every norm you thought possible of what a mother or a woman should be,” says Janet. “You cannot fit a norm and be powerful. They don’t co-exist.” 

How Jayne McCaw built an award-winning Muskoka luxury rental business

Starting with her own cottage in Muskoka, Jayne McCaw has spent six years growing her rental property portfolio to over 200 — taking on VRBO and Airbnb in the Muskoka luxury rental market. The 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Winner in the Start-Up category shares her journey.

By Karen van Kampen

 

Picture this. You pull into the driveway of a grand estate overlooking Lake Muskoka. A man in a white linen shirt is there to greet you. He helps you with your bags and invites you inside. There is a bouquet of fresh flowers in the entrance way. Sunlight filters into the great room that overlooks the lake. 

You peer down at the dock where you will have a private yoga session at sunrise. Your kids squeal and point at the massive water trampoline and kayaks they picked from a menu of concierge services. Your personal chef has champagne chilling. The fridge and wine bar are stocked.  All this is yours for the next two weeks, care of Jayne’s Cottages, a luxury rental and concierge company.  

“It’s like a mini version of the Four Seasons,” says Jayne McCaw, founder of Jayne’s Cottages. “Guests arrive, and it just happens.” 

Behind the scenes, there is a lot that goes into making a guest’s Muskoka dream a reality. With a staff of 75 cottage managers, cleaners, administrative and property personnel, Jayne’s Cottages works with every guest’s requests to create a personalized, five-star vacation in the woods. 

When Jayne’s Cottages launched in 2014, it was the first luxury rental company with concierge services in Muskoka. Now with more than 200 properties and a return rate of 50%, Jayne’s Cottages has become a trendsetter in the sharing economy, taking on VRBO and Airbnb in the Muskoka luxury rental market. 

The founder behind the eponymous brand is Jayne McCaw, whose success was recognized in 2019 with an RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Start-Up category, honouring a business that’s been showing profitable and sustainable growth during its three to five years in business.

Jayne built her award-winning business on her own Muskoka dream. When she bought her cottage on Lake Rosseau in 2010, Jayne’s realtor mentioned that the previous owners rented out the property for the month of July for $25,000. 

Jayne couldn’t believe her good fortune. “I’m so excited to have this cottage, and I can actually make money off it too?” she says. “It was a dream come true.” 

In 2011, Jayne began renting her cottage during the summer. The following year, Jayne rented out her property again and put the money toward a family trip to France. Finding a suitable place to stay in Provence was a challenge. Jayne was apprehensive about some of the properties listed on VRBO. 

Then she came across a woman named Beverly who managed a dozen properties in the Luberon Valley. Beverly’s company offered kayak tours and a personal chef while Beverly personally greeted her guests. Beverly gave Jayne “such a feeling of trust,” says Jayne. 

“That was the turning point,” says Jayne. “I returned home and I thought, there’s no Beverly in Muskoka.”  

 

 “Life’s too short not to realize your dreams, you’re losing years if you’re unhappy.”

 

In the summer of 2013 and 2014, Jayne rented out three cottages on Lake Rosseau, including her own. Then on Labour Day in 2014, Jayne quit her sales job at a technology company and launched her business. “I had turned 50 and I wanted to have more control over my life,” she says. 

Her goal was to rent out 15 cottages. “Then I could make it work financially,” says Jayne. “I just wanted to get out of the rate race in Toronto and spend more time at my cottage.”

She reached out to cottage owners, explaining how their properties would be safe in her hands. She would personally screen guests, take a deposit of 50% and have cottage managers and cleaners watch over properties by dropping in regularly. 

In 2015, Jayne had 25 properties for rent, 22 of which had never been rented out before. Today, she has more than 200 luxury properties that rent from $3,000 to $55,000 a week, which doesn’t include the menu of concierge services. Most owners continue to list their property with Jayne until they sell their cottage or decide to use their vacation property full-time.  

While she lists properties on VRBO as well as her website, Jayne says that 98% of bookings come from the Jayne’s Cottages site. Potential customers want to gather as much information as possible and talk to someone before making their purchase. 

Once guests have signed on with Jayne, their preferences and details are saved in the customer management system so that in the future, Jayne’s Cottages can review people’s requests, refer to their spouse by name or wish someone’s daughter a happy birthday. “Business today is about being more personal and providing the best customer experience,” says Jayne. 

Jayne has a full-time photographer and posts new content on her website several times a week. This engages potential customers while maintaining the company’s strong organic search results. When Googling luxury Muskoka rentals, Jayne’s Cottages is listed before VRBO and Airbnb.

With 22% of her visitors from the U.S., Jayne ensures her digital marketing efforts target non-Canadian as well as local clientele. This includes some conquest marketing in which she is targeting people looking at luxury properties in the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by promoting the safety and natural beauty of the Canadian wilderness, all paid in Canadian dollars. 

Several government and technology grants have also helped Jayne grow her business. Last year, she was awarded a $75,000 grant from the Ontario Centre of Excellence. With the help of Georgian College’s Big Data Technology program and graduate IT students, Jayne built an integrated technology platform to better serve her customers. 

Jayne’s goal is to continue drawing more people to Muskoka, the inspiration behind her business. “Life’s too short not to realize your dreams,” says Jayne. “You’re losing years if you’re unhappy.”

How Kelly Ann Woods built her beverage micro-business with a big impact

Starting with Gillespie’s Fine Spirits, Kelly Ann Woods has spent over five years growing her beverage brand portfolio — which includes the non-alcoholic Boozewitch Brands, and the cannabis-infused State B Beverage Company, which is soon set to launch in Canada and the US. The 2019 recipient of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award shares her journey. 

 

By Karen van Kampen

 

In 2014, Kelly Ann Woods set out to find a home for her distillery. After several false starts in Vancouver, she decided to broaden her search. A friend suggested she consider Squamish, B.C. “That little town you drive through on the way to Whistler?” asked Kelly, the co-founder of Gillespie’s Fine Spirits Ltd

Kelly discovered the mountain town on the Sea to Sky Highway was a welcoming place built on community. Famous for its beautiful scenery and outdoor activities, Squamish was also a foodie’s paradise in the making. “There was a zing in the air,” she says, adding that you could feel something big was about to happen. 

Kelly opened her distillery and cocktail bar on Progress Way, a fitting location for an innovator on the local craft scene. And after that? “A lot of magic happened,” she says, but much of it came from Kelly’s own efforts — she founded the Squamish Craft Beverage Association and helped launch the Squamish Craft Tasting Trail that has propelled the local food and drink movement. 

Adding to her beverage brand portfolio, Kelly created Boozewitch Brands, a line of non-alcoholic mixers, and State B Beverage Company (formerly Switch Beverage Company), a line of cannabis functional beverages that is soon set to launch in Canada and the U.S.  In recognition of her trendsetting efforts in the craft beverage industry, Kelly was the 2019 recipient of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award — a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that honours an entrepreneur who owns and operates a small yet impactful business. 

Building a drinks empire while working as an actor and raising a four-year-old boy is no easy feat, yet Kelly takes it all in stride. She developed a strong work ethic growing up on a hobby farm in Wakefield, Quebec, where she tended chickens and turkeys and tapped maple trees. Kelly remembers having to finish her chores before heading to the lake in the afternoon and lighting a fire in their log cabin at the end of a long day.

Although Kelly worked as a sommelier and mixologist for many years, she quickly discovered there were real challenges to opening a distillery. She hired a consultant to make sense of the archaic building codes that hadn’t been rewritten since 1941. She fought for zoning changes to operate a tasting room and lounge on-site. Through it all, Kelly never gave up. “I’m a doer,” she says. “I see a problem, and I go and try to fix it.” 

In the beginning, Kelly did everything from sales and bartending to social media and event planning. While she now has the help of six employees and a distribution team, Kelly still pops behind the bar when it gets busy at her speakeasy lounge, The G Spot, whose slogan is, “Have you found it yet?” 

As her businesses continue to grow, Kelly stays grounded in her roots in meditation and yoga, which helps maintain her focus. A Kundalini yoga teacher, Kelly believes that her business life can complement her spiritual life. “I’m able to do business in a way that’s true to who I am,” she says. 

 

“Get smart about finance and business. The things I had to learn as a businesswoman were all about money and getting comfortable with money.”

 

Self-care is also integral to Kelly’s success and happiness. She exercises, eats well and ensures she gets enough sleep. “Sleep is my magic weapon,” she says. “Getting a solid night’s sleep gives me the ability to pick up on certain things while letting other things go.” 

A self-taught entrepreneur, Kelly says it’s important to educate yourself and “get smart about finance and business. The things I had to learn as a businesswoman were all about money and getting comfortable with money.”

Kelly’s recent experience in a business incubator was invaluable. The Initiative, an accelerator program for women owners of cannabis businesses, was like her very own mini-MBA, an experience that had her “going through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship with a nest of amazing women who actually have your back,” she says. 

Mentors have also played a key part in Kelly’s growth as an entrepreneur. “I don’t think we can get anywhere without mentorship,” she says. 

If someone offers their time, Kelly suggests sending a thank you note. “We rarely get that tactility from a personal note,” she says, which is such a gift to find in a pile of bills. For Kelly, it’s all about treating people well. “It’s a long game. Be as good a person as you can along the way,” she says. “When you treat people with respect and kindness, that’s what they remember.”  

It’s been a year of accolades for Kelly, including Sin Gin’s silver medal at the 2019 San Francisco International Spirits Competition, and the momentum keeps on building. Kelly is set to launch State B in dispensaries across Canada and in California, the first of many U.S. states. Working with a master herbalist, she formulated five ready-to-drink products with different desired effects. Her current favourite is Sparkle — containing CBD and THC, it’s flavoured with raspberry juice, and “makes you feel sparkly,” she says.

Announcing the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Winners

Last night we celebrated the 27th annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, and today we are proud to announce the six winners of the 2019 awards. These award winners join the five recipients of the up-and-coming entrepreneur ‘Ones to Watch’ award category, which was announced in September of this year. This year’s winners and recipients span sectors that include finance, hospitality, technology, paralysis recovery, cannabis, packaging, fine spirits, and much more.

 

 


 

 

 

“Entrepreneurial trailblazers are defined by their relentless pursuit of innovation and excellence, and their perseverance and courage to challenge the status quo,” said Greg Grice, Executive Vice-President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “There are countless women entrepreneurs who have made their mark in Canadian business by exemplifying these qualities, and their journey serves as an inspiration to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Today, we’re proud to showcase and celebrate their stories and achievements as we recognize the winners of this year’s RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.”

Now in its 27th year, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards program recognizes the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. The judging panel of the awards program is comprised of 12 judges who are notably some of Canada’s top business leaders, including: Françoise Lyon, President & Managing Partner,  DGC Capital; Karen Brookman, Partner and Chief Innovation Office West Canadian Digital Imaging;  Karen Greve Young, CEO Futurpreneur and Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation.

The official announcement of the 2019 award recipients was made at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards gala, which was held on November 20th and hosted by Marcia MacMillan, Anchor, CTV News Channel. 

Following yet another record-breaking year of over 9,000 nominations, the 2019 award winners are:

  • Kelly Ann Woods, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits Ltd, Boozewitch Beverage Company, Switch Beverage Co., Squamish, BC, Diversity Institute / Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award 
  • Jayne McCaw, Jayne’s Cottages, Port Carling, ON, Start-Up Award
  • Janet LePage, Western Wealth Capital, Vancouver, BC, RBC Momentum Award
  • Geetha Moorthy, SAAAC Autism Centre, Scarborough, ON, Social Change Award
  • Carinne Chambers-Saini, Diva International Inc., Kitchener, ON, TELUS Trailblazer Award
  • Brigitte Jalbert, Les Emballages Carrousel Inc., Boucherville, QC, Syntax Strategic Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award

The Gala also honoured the recipients of the Ones to Watch Award: Bean  Gill, ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre; Melissa Kargiannakis, skritswap; Melinda Rombouts, Eve & Co Cannabis; Dr. Dina Kulik, Kidcrew and Lisa Ali Learning, AtlanTick Repellent Products Inc. 

“We are proud and honoured to recognize the incredible achievements of this year’s award recipients,” says Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO & Head of Events, Women of Influence. “As we embark on the start of a new decade in 2020, the success that has been achieved by this group of innovators and change makers is a strong testament to the bright future of Canadian business.” 

For more information on this year’s award winners, visit www.womenofinfluence.ca/rbc-cwea.

View the full press release in English or French for more information.

 

Meet Margot & Marion Witz of Elizabeth Grant International

Margot & Marion Witz

Elizabeth Grant International

Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award Finalist

 

For mother and daughter duo, Marion and Margot, the beauty business was a natural choice. Elizabeth Grant (the mother of the former and grandmother of the latter) is the original founder of the luxury skincare company Elizabeth Grant International. Now, the three women work side-by-side. A successful international beauty brand, Elizabeth Grant Skin Care boasts an A-list following, with fans such as J.Lo, Blake Lively, Rosario Dawson, and Petra Nemcova, among others.

 

My first job ever was…

Margot – I was a Camp Counsellor at Camp Wahanowin. My first job in the city was as a secretary for my dad. I was 15 for both. 

Marion – I started working while still at school when I was 12 – far below the working age but I looked much older and needed money. My first job was at Woolworths in South Africa. I started in women’s clothing, then worked at the candy counter, graduated to the grocery checkout, operated the elevators, was promoted to switchboard operator and ended up as a filing clerk. My first real job was teaching History and English to High School students.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

Margot – I became an entrepreneur because I had the passion inside of me to do something different, and I was used to my voice being silenced. For me, being an entrepreneur allowed me to have a seat at the table, without having to ask permission for it.

Marion – I decided to become an entrepreneur because it was time. I worked with my husband helping him build his business and after 20 years I knew it was time for me to do it for myself. The opportunity presented itself and I seized the moment.

My proudest accomplishment is… 

Margot – My work with LGFB. There was a time I was their youngest board member, and they were having a deficit. One of the years I was on the board, my dad was diagnosed with Cancer, and I was awake all night just wondering how I could help. I started The Big Give, which was a charity party that 100% of proceeds were donated back to LGFB on the condition it went to the workshops that were having the most financial strain. No one believed the party was going to be successful, but the first year on a Tuesday night, I had 550 people, $20,000. The second was a Wednesday night 650 people, $80,000. The third and so far final, was over 1000 people and over $100,000 was raised. The Big Give was to me the little engine that could, and 5 years after its finale, I am still asked when the next one is. 

Marion – how the success of Elizabeth Grant has positively impacted the lives of the people who work for the company.

My boldest move to date was… 

Margot – Joining Elizabeth Grant Skin Care. I was originally a high school English teacher. A lot of people may not realize how difficult it is to work in a family business, a) you never leave work and b) never really have time off. But the harder aspect is earning respect from your colleagues, ensuring your team values your work and that you earn the right to be there vs just there because of nepotism.

Marion – Leaving my steady job with my husband and starting Elizabeth Grant International Inc.

I surprise people when I tell them… 

Margot – That I am a “Living Infomercial”. It’s a fun icebreaker with people who I have never met before, and an unexpected surprise to most “What do you do” conversations. 

Marion – I’ve authored 2 books – Stand Up and Talk to 1000 People, and Enjoy It! And Elizabeth Grant – My Life – My Story and that I love knitting.

 

“Success to me is not merely a personal accomplishment – it’s being able to know that I have helped guide people around me achieve their goals and improve their positions.”

 

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

Margot – I have two pieces of advice: 1) do a SWOT analysis on yourself and your idea, learn the ins and outs about the risks and rewards of where your next step or opportunity can lead you, and after doing so, ask yourself: is it worth it? 2) Do not let anyone plant “a seed of doubt” in your mind. There will always be people in your life who want to give you advice on why something won’t work, or how something can be better, but unless they are in the trenches with you, it’s easy to give advice on what they would do, even if you didn’t ask.

Marion – Growing a business always requires capital – therefore it is critical to establish a good relationship with your bank. As banks require a good set of records my best advice is to employ a solid Financial Officer.

My biggest setback was… 

Margot – Feb 2016, when we almost lost the business

Marion – Feb 2016 when I almost lost the business

I overcame it by…

Margot – By open and honest communication with my staff. It’s one thing to restructure, and to get the finances in order, but it’s another to reduce any fear or “seeds of doubt” with remaining staff. I sat down and explained to each and every staff member individually what was going on, and also allowed them to have a conversation with me about any concerns they may have internally. I truly believe respect, honesty, time and communication lead to trust, and having incredible staff around me knowing that had job security was imperative. I knew we would turn the ship around, but if we didn’t have a team at the end of the rough waters, it could have led to a different challenge.

Marion –

  • Recapitalized the company improving and balancing the debt ratio
  • Improvement of gross profit – focused on reducing COG
  • Introduced a procurement department
  • Reduced permanent staff and hired from Agency when needed
  • Required Heads of depts to become more accountable

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… 

Margot – Focus on how customers are changing how they are shopping and being able to enhance /tweak what we are currently doing to improve our customer experience. In terms of the web and mobile applications, I would try to enhance the UI and UX. Finally, finding more of our customer forums via third parties to engage with customer questions and their experiences (I monitor these groups A LOT.)

Marion – Do more research.

I stay inspired by… 

Margot – My mother and my grandmother. These women are amazing in different ways, but they are so smart, experienced and passionate. More so, they are constantly redefining the world around them. My grandmother, the namesake of our brand, changed her narrative 70 years ago, my mother changed her narrative 21 years ago. It’s an unbelievable inspiration and education to know the power is in your hands to not only live the life you want to live, but to know the only person who can stop you, is yourself.

Marion – Attending seminars and always striving to be better.

The future excites me because… 

Margot – The future is exciting not because of the technological advancements, but because we have options. Knowledge is actually celebrated, women are encouraged, and we are becoming smarter in our global choices. If the future could be described in any way it would be: open and positive.

Marion – the company has turned around. I am excited by where Margot and her team will take it.

Success to me means… 

Margot – giving myself a strong foundation and opportunity of happiness. Monetary success comes and goes, but allowing yourself to add a strong foundation to living your best life means you are successful. Everyone’s wants and desires are different, and their definition of a strong foundation is different but for me, if I am not happy (and healthy) no amount of finances can curate a successful life. Also my customers, not in sales to them, but in connection to them. I have this whole network of people who I have never met in person, but online and on Instagram, we genuinely have a relationship, and it’s internationally. It’s amazing to me, that regardless of geography, language or age, I know about their lives, their family, their struggles, and their joy. The fact that people trust me enough to take the time to forge a relationship is truly humbling. 

Marion – Success to me is not merely a personal accomplishment – it’s being able to know that I have helped guide people around me achieve their goals and improve their positions.

 

 

Meet Brigitte Jalbert, President of Les Emballages Carrousel

Brigitte Jalbert

President, Les Emballages Carrousel

Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award Winner


Brigitte started working at the family business during her summer breaks, in the photography and communications department. In 1986, she joined the team full-time, and for 25 years, she worked her way up the ranks. In 2011, Brigitte was appointed as president of Les Emballages Carrousel, managing a company with a turnover of $110 million and 272 employees.

 

My first job ever was… A summer job in a convenience store located in Old Boucherville.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I felt a strong desire to ensure the sustainability of the company my father founded.

My proudest accomplishment is… The successful transfer of the company to the next generation while maintaining a human and mobilizing culture.

My boldest move to date was… Creating a VP Sales and Marketing position and having 2 sales managers who were also shareholders of the company report to that new position.

I surprise people when I tell them… That I did boxing and skydiving!

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… To surround yourself with good people, to practice true listening and to be confident.

My biggest setback was… I hired and tolerated for too long a person who proved to be harmful to the company.

 

“Surround yourself with good people, to practice true listening and to be confident.”

 

I overcame it by… Trying several approaches to improve his behaviour, including external coaching, but finally, our paths had to separate.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Do yoga, meditation, jogging, paddle boarding, gardening and cooking…with my daughters!

I stay inspired by…  Seeing the people around me fulfil themselves and gain self-confidence, especially young people.

The future excites me because… I still have so many beautiful and good things to accomplish.

Success to me means… Feeling fulfilled, free, happy and being helpful to people around me, making a difference in their lives.

 

 

Meet Carinne Chambers-Saini Founder of Diva International And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Winner

Carinne Chambers-Saini

Founder, Diva International

TELUS Trailblazer Award Winner

 

Carinne Chambers-Saini has led a 15-year journey to create and market the revolutionary product and brand, the DivaCup. As the only real innovation in feminine hygiene in decades, the DivaCup has completely disrupted the industry by providing the most eco-friendly, clean and comfortable way to address menstrual care on the market today. In addition to working towards her business dreams, Carinne is also a wife and mother of two kids, who continually motivate her to push for more.

 

My first job ever was… working as a fifteen-year-old at my mother’s retail jewelry kiosk in our suburban mall.

 I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was inspired by my mother and father’s entrepreneurial spirit—and I always knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

My proudest accomplishment is… creating a company that has changed the way people worldwide handle their menstrual experience.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I’m a dance mom, on the road on weekends to competitions with my 9-year-old daughter Maliya.

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… to be persistent and to push past fear, never allowing the naysayers to stop you from pursuing your dream.

My best advice from a mentor was… to celebrate the small victories, savouring each step along the way, even if it feels like your miles away from your goal.

 

“Surrounding yourself with a tribe of people who are just as passionate about your vision as you are will go a long way toward helping you stay committed.”

 

My biggest setback was… experiencing executive burnout during the same period I had two children in quick succession.

I overcame it by… prioritizing my health and self-care, while trusting the team around me to provide needed support.

I never go a day without… reminding myself how grateful I am.

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… take a Salsa class!

I stay inspired by… reading health, leadership, parenting and/or spiritual-based books that help me become the best version of myself

The future excites me because… when it comes to menstrual care, we’re creating An Inner Revolution for people everywhere, and we’re really just getting started!

 

 

Meet Jesse Finkelstein Founder of Page Two And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


 

Jesse Finkelstein

Founder, Page Two

TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

 

Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White have 35 years of combined experience in book publishing. The pair worked together at D&M Publishers until 2012, when the company went into creditor protection. With their backs against the wall, they choose to take a leap of faith and found Page Two — a company that helps non-fiction authors navigate all of their options for publication, and helps organizations with their publishing activities.

 

 

My first job ever was… camp counsellor at a bilingual camp. I loved helping kids build friendships with one another across a language gap, forging lasting bonds while they learned English or French and breaking down the “two solitudes” barriers we often experienced growing up in Quebec.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was convinced that there was a better way to provide an exceptional publishing experience to subject-matter experts, thought leaders, organizations, and other entrepreneurs, and I knew that no one else was doing it the way that I wanted to. I also saw an opportunity to build the company with the person I admired most in the publishing landscape: Trena White, who is Page Two’s co-founder and the best business partner anyone could ask for. The mutual admiration and respect that Trena and I have for one another is the heart and soul of Page Two, and I believe that it’s laid the foundation for our success. 

My proudest accomplishment is… learning to own my sense of accomplishment and ambition as an entrepreneur, and doing it while raising a family. When we launched Page Two, my kids were old enough to understand that I was doing something bold and new, as well as trying to earn a good living for our family, and I know they appreciate that even though I’ve chaperoned very few school field trips and always take my laptop to hockey practice. They see that I can take great pride in work and great joy in raising them, and those things aren’t mutually exclusive. That feels like a big win for me.     

I surprise people when I tell them… I used to be terribly shy and introverted. I worked hard to overcome that and now I love reaching out to new people and spending time among strangers who might become colleagues, clients or friends. This is a good thing because Page Two depended on my (and my business partner, Trena’s) ability to do that!

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… hold on to your vision, but not dogmatically. As a disruptor, you’ll face naysayers and others who resist the way you’re challenging their practices and assumptions. Listen to the thoughtful ones; their responses will help you refine your offering so that it’s even stronger than it otherwise would be. And of course let yourself be uplifted by those who believe in you from the beginning – they’re the wind in your sails.

My best advice from a mentor was… my mom told me that every problem will have its own solution (which I call faith), and my dad told me that people will respect me if I stand up for myself, even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient for them (which I call chutzpah). Those two pieces of advice have guided my life and career, especially in challenging moments. 

 

 

 

“Self-care is a big buzzword these days in business and only now am I realizing how critical it is for my own sense of peace and well-being. Sleep, exercise, healthy food, and downtime — they are not optional.”

 

 

My biggest setback was… working at a company that went through a bankruptcy process. It was heartbreaking to see the end of a beloved independent publisher and it was a time of great professional strife for all of us who worked there. 

I overcame it by… relying on the wisdom of a great mentor and role model, Anne Giardini, who phoned me as soon as she heard the company news. She told me that if I could hang on through the grinding months ahead as we dealt with selling assets and dealing with creditors while losing our jobs, I would find it to be an invaluable learning experience that would help me build more resilience than I even knew I had. She was right; I think that experience emboldened me and gave me the courage to become an entrepreneur.

I never go a day without… feeling grateful for the privilege of the loving, prosperous family into which I was born, and feeling grateful for my mental health and that of my kids. 

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… read for fun instead of for work! 

I stay inspired by… spending time among my female friends and colleagues. Their strength, resilience, and creativity are astounding and I love learning from them.

The future excites me because… Page Two has been very successful in its first six years yet I feel like we’re just getting started. We now have an amazing team who are poised to run the company so Trena and I can find new ways to build on and refine our offering. Recently, one of our employees said she feels that the possibilities at Page Two are “limitless” and it thrilled me to think that our team members feel that way too.  

 

 

Meet Trena White Founder of Page Two And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


 

Trena White

Founder, Page Two

TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

 

Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White have 35 years of combined experience in book publishing. The pair worked together at D&M Publishers until 2012, when the company went into creditor protection. With their backs against the wall, they choose to take a leap of faith and found Page Two — a company that helps non-fiction authors navigate all of their options for publication, and helps organizations with their publishing activities.

 

My first job ever was… working in a berry-processing plant in my hometown in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. It was mind-numbing work and physically tiring to stand up at a conveyor belt for hours on end, with the shifts ending in the early-morning hours. It taught me about perseverance and opened my eyes to my own privilege because I was just working there for a summer, not for a career. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had worked in book publishing for many years and believed that if we created a new model that engaged the author in a meaningful way from the very beginning of the publishing process, extraordinary things might result. I also met the right person at the right time, my brilliant now co-founder and dear friend Jesse Finkelstein, which made launching a company seem possible after years of my private dreams of starting something. Together we shaped the vision for what Page Two has become.

My proudest accomplishment is… building a thriving book publishing company while raising two little boys (now 3 and 6). That’s also been my biggest challenge, and I learned early on the best way to reduce my anxiety and guilt about whether the business or the boys were receiving my attention at any given moment was to create clear boundaries: for the most part, when I am with my boys I am unavailable for work, because I want to give them my full focus.

I surprise people when I tell them… that we started to build Page Two when my first son was two months old and I was still adjusting to motherhood.

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… to stay focused on solving your ideal customers’ problems with the status quo. We’ve refined our model and our offering many times over the years in response to feedback from our customers, both on our own services and on their other publishing experiences.  

My best advice from a mentor was… from my dad, who has emphasized over and over indirect advice to me and through stories from his own career the importance of building a team you can trust – and then supporting them however you can so they can do their best work. My mom always told me “You can do anything you set your mind to,” and I think I absorbed that belief in the power of determination and hard work.

 

“Self-care is a big buzzword these days in business and only now am I realizing how critical it is for my own sense of peace and well-being. Sleep, exercise, healthy food, and downtime — they are not optional.”

 

My biggest setback was… experiencing the bankruptcy of a company that I previously worked for. 

I overcame it by… starting to think about what my own business would like if I were to launch one

I never go a day without… feeling grateful for my co-founder and the unfailing support of my husband.

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… daydream more.

I stay inspired by… each conversation I have with an author about their big ideas. Publishing non-fiction books is humbling because I’m constantly connecting with people who are far smarter than I am. For me, it’s a great joy to be surrounded by leading experts with deep knowledge in their fields, and it’s a privilege to learn something new from each of them.

The future excites me because… we have made it through the chaotic start-up years and we have an incredible team who are exceptionally talented and creative and are bringing Page Two into its sophomore stage.  

 

 

Meet Natalie Voland Founder of Gestion Immobilière Quo Vadis And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

Natalie Voland

Founder, Gestion Immobilière Quo Vadis

TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

 

With a background in social work, Natalie Voland created a unique vision using real estate projects as a tool of economic development and urban regeneration, leading to the creation of over 3,000 new jobs. A Quebec leader in social innovation, Natalie works collaboratively with strategic partners to redevelop communities — earning her B Corp Certification based on her triple bottom line practices. A faculty professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, she has developed a new paradigm of real estate called Yield Development.

 

My first job ever was… my first official job was working at a video store where they also sold ice cream at a mall that was close to where I grew up.  I had many smaller jobs like babysitting and childcare since I was 11 years old. I wanted to work at the video store as I wanted to learn how to sell and be part of a vibrant community- everyone wanted to hang out at the video/ice cream store and I was in the full action.  I got to understand the preferences of the customers, and have suggestions for them when they came in. I learned the ropes on the paperwork, ordering, profit margins and “up sales”. I was 16, I was in a car accident that severely damaged my leg- my employers and the staff were super supportive during my surgeries and held my position for me until I was ready to come back to work.  I learned what loyalty was in business even in such an entry position, that when I came back to work early on crutches as I wanted to show the team my dedication to them. These valuable lessons helped me to become the leader that I am today- my team and their wellbeing is at the core of our company.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… entrepreneurship chose me.  I was a social worker in the health system for trauma and critical care, and my father fell ill and asked me to come to work in his Real Estate company. I agreed to come for one year “to help out”, as long as my social values would not change because I was going into Real Estate Development.  I had a pencil, calculator, and a stubborn will not give up. With zero training. I was not aware that companies I just took over were actually in precarious condition financially, that we had difficult staff and a negative partner, matched with being severely underfunded. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  The school of hard knocks almost knocked me out so many times, yet the loyalty of the staff and our growing client base made me get up every morning to show that socially responsible entrepreneurship is the solution to growing social and environmental crises. I chose to use my social values to push forward “re-inventing” that Real Estate and demonstrate that you can make a profit while serving the communities that we work in.

My proudest accomplishment is… hard to say what my proudest moment is; because there are many.  I have dedicated the last 23 years of my business life to lead by example and to make decisions that if reported back to my daughters, I would be proud of. I am proud that I choose to give my staff the room to be their own leaders and entrepreneurs in our company so we together that create a meaningful life in and out of the office.  However, when I teach or give speeches on my work, and someone comes up to me and says that my road has inspired them to work differently, or create their own company, or that in a dark moment, something I said to them made them get up and keep going to the path that they have chosen for themselves.  I could also add that I am proud when my two daughters see my example that life is not fair, that it’s hard but worth to stick what you believe in as my greatest accomplishment.

I surprise people when I tell them… that, even today, after all these years and leading a successful business that creates inclusive communities and new jobs, I count my accomplishment how many “no’s” I have turned into “yes’s”.  It always seems that people think you are an overnight success; that took 23 years in the making. It never becomes easy to be an entrepreneur; the very nature of being a business leader is that you must continue to innovate, adapt to continuing market conditions, so you are never “done”.

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… to understand your responsibility as a trailblazer or a disrupter.  You must understand the “why” of what you wish to use business to solve and then figure out the “how” along the way.  However, this concept that it’s ok to fail is a fallacy: pivot, don’t fail- one road does not work, try another. To compliment this point, my follow up advice is- “never disrupt without replacing a solution to what you have disrupted”.  When you disrupt and walk, you have left a vacuum to showing what does not work in an industry that can lead to instability. As an entrepreneur, it is our job to find other ways and solutions.

My best advice from a mentor was… Nelson Mandela said many amazing things, however, my favourite advises from him is the saying “ It always seems impossible until it’s done”.  When you think of that for a moment, you can realize that looking back some of the best solutions to challenges are obvious. However, when you are in the thick of a huge new innovation or disruption of an industry, many traditional forces will push back at you.  The more successful you are at moving the ticker a little, the more you will get push back from the industry leaders that stand to lose market share because of your ideals. Like for us in Real Estate, we are proving that you can make market-rate returns and have a triple bottom mandate that includes social and environmental leadership.  Traditional forces in Real Estate often would see the concept of “profit now” as their rule of thumb. Then they would set up a foundation to funnel tax credits to donate to the very causes that they have been partially responsible for creating through their industry decisions. Mission alignment in investment strategies are now bearing the time of day- market-driven consumer and employee choices are making many industries realize the impact that they could have that could be positive and lucrative.

 

“You must understand the ‘why’ of what you wish to use business to solve and then figure out the ‘how’ along the way.”

 

My biggest setback was… oh gosh, there are so many!  I would say access to capital and finance our Real Estate projects were my biggest setbacks in realizing our projects.  We do not fit in the box of “Mr. Credit” in underwriting, and if our projects don’t get funded, we cannot make the impact that we can make.  The biggest recurring challenge is to convince people that doing right in business is actually a lower risk than traditional industries. The social values we hold will also not allow us to fail.  So over time banks and lenders are starting to realize the value of the B Corp movement as an asset to reducing their risk to be paid back their loan.

I overcame it by… I had a three-tiered approach. At first, I used many awards to demonstrate the ability of my company to be a credible leader in the industry. Over time we were awarded accolades in building reconversions, to community development, to sustainable leadership strategies, to entrepreneurship awards to show that we are making a difference. These awards we won continued to grow in stature and scope and helped the bankers to realize that we were moving forward and would not go away. I also chose to have private investments, even ones that were aggressive because an interest-only, non-recourse loan is better than closing my company. The last approach was to be the best in the industry and get our occupancy rates to speak for themselves. We are currently holding a 165,000 square feet waiting list, all our 1.5 million square feet of our current portfolio are rented and we are in final stages to launch three new projects that are another 1 million square feet of socially inclusive, environmentally responsive constructions.

I never go a day without… having great conversations with my daughters.  They are my inspiration and my grounding force. They guide me with their world views and make me realize why I do what I do.

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… funny enough, if I had an extra hour in a day I would sleep!

I stay inspired by… teaching our work to others.  I teach in universities, speak to community groups, work with urban planners, and entrepreneurs.  These experiences often always teach me more just by forcing myself to stay current and challenged.  My speeches also allow me to see many other cities and I use those opportunities to learn new best practices in our field of Impact Real Estate that I can apply to my own work in my company.

The future excites me because… as we finally see the momentum of “Using Business As A Force of Good” as the motto of the B Corp movement.  We are finally not “crazy” but “inspirational”. We have an amazing and growing team, bankers and investors that have seen our success and are working with us to scale our work.  The phone is ringing off the hook for new projects and we can apply our knowledge to new challenges while our prior projects continue to prove through the test of time that our type of Real Estate makes great returns, loyal clients and staff and moves the ticker for social inclusion and making a statement to attack the growing climate crisis.  It’s a win-win-win-win proposition we are offering. We hope that our hard work for all these years will trailblaze the road for others to follow and inspire others to make their own way without having to leave their values at the door to their office. It’s a very exciting time for us!

 

 

Meet Geetha Moorthy Founder of SAAAC Autism Centre And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

Geetha Moorthy

Founder, SAAAC Autism Centre

Social Change Award Finalist

 

Geetha founded the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) in direct response to the growing need for awareness and support for South Asian families impacted by ASD and related developmental disorders. The centre began with two families, a handful of volunteers, and minimal resources. Today, it’s a full-fledged centre composed of a multidisciplinary team and more than 200 volunteers, serving 300 families impacted by autism.

 

My first job ever was… accounting Clerk at John Keels Holding Company in Sri-Lanka

I chose my career path because… my path to my current career was never really linear. Growing up I wanted to be a doctor, but that wasn’t in the cards so I entered into accounting. Being an accountant helped me provide for my family – but finding my passion came later in my life as my family life settled. I wanted to help families to be independent and making changes within our community was very rewarding. With that, SAAAC was born.

My proudest accomplishment is… is growing the SAAAC Autism Centre from just a handful of families and volunteers from the basement of my home to serving over 400 families and training 150 volunteers annually in our 11,000 sq. ft facility.

My boldest move to date was… quitting my job as a controller to run a not-for-profit organization, with no pay, and no experience in the field of developmental health services

I surprise people when I tell them… that I had no real knowledge about autism before starting the SAAAC Autism Centre, and that it was my classical dance organization that drove me to my first encounter with individuals with autism.

My best advice from a mentor was… my greatest mentors were my parents. Their generosity, hard work, and thoughtfulness have significantly developed my character. Their advice to me was that our actions matter – that even if you are helping just one person, that thoughtful action helps create a ripple effect that can be felt far and wide. Because of my parents, I know that the work we are doing at the SAAAC Autism Centre is not just helping children and youth with ASD, but also helping build a more supportive and inclusive society.

 

“Why are you doing this? If the answer you provide moves you to action, that is all you need to move forward.”

 

My biggest setback was… starting my life again in Canada as a refugee after fleeing Sri Lanka’s civil war. 

I overcame it by… relying on the support of my family and friends was one of the biggest ways I overcame the initial shock of arriving in Canada as a refugee. Also, the opportunities given by Canada made me a better and stronger person

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… dance more 

I stay inspired by… continually engaging with the children, families and volunteers at the SAAAC Autism Centre. Hearing their stories, seeing their growth, and helping them accomplish their goals, keeps me inspired every day. 

The future excites me because… I get to work collaboratively with incredible stakeholders to find solutions to help children and families living with ASD. There is a lot of work to be done within the ASD landscape in Canada, and working collectively with passionate, intelligent, and creative people to positively impact lives is incredibly exciting for me. 

My next step is… to help build our Centre’s capacity to begin international development work. There are many countries around the world that have little to no autism support capacity. It is my hope that the SAAAC Autism Centre can facilitate partnerships and help build meaningful services that can provide under-resourced communities access to critical ASD support. In addition, I will look to fuse my two passions: arts and autism support. In the coming years, I, along with my team, will look enhance our art-based programming to provide greater opportunities for artistic growth. The programs will look to highlight student development and skill through various public performances such as music and art exhibitions. Look for us on Broadway when we complete the first all-Autistic cast musical!

 

 

Meet Laurel Douglas CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

Laurel Douglas

CEO, Women’s Enterprise Centre

Social Change Award Finalist

 

Laurel Douglas is the CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC). WEC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women launch, lead, and scale their own businesses. Under Laurel’s leadership, WEC has become recognized as one of the leading business resources for women entrepreneurs in BC, and a best practice internationally. WEC provides business loans up to $150,000, advisory services, skills training, mentoring, and resources to women who are starting or growing their own business.

 

My first job ever was… selling vegetables at the Kitchener-Waterloo farmer’s market, starting at 6 am every Saturday morning. I was proud of my ability to pick up a handful of green beans and have it weigh exactly a pound! 

I chose my career path because… I like to help people and create lasting social value.

My proudest accomplishment is… raising my children. There is no real playbook for what you encounter as a parent. My kids are both in their early 20’s now and I’m very proud of each of them.

My boldest move to date was… when I was in my mid-thirties, I quit my job in the UK and moved to a 10-acre property I had bought in the West Kootenay region of BC, where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know how I’d make a living. 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I’ve ridden a bicycle across Canada (and it was uphill and against the wind all the way!)

My best advice from a mentor was… that being different can be a strength. When I was hired by the French company called Alcatel, I asked the Director why me- I was not an engineer, not French and a female. He said that’s why we wanted to hire me!  I’ve also learned to have a little fun every day, and remember to be thankful for it. In other words, embrace differences and cultivate gratitude.

 

“Model the behaviours and values you want from your people. Employ servant leadership. Always take the high road.”

 

My biggest setback was… probably when 6 people in my family died in a year, including both my parents. That derailed my life for a while, understandably… but I learned how resilient I am through that experience, and it helped me reevaluate my priorities and reinvent myself. 

I overcame it by… quitting my job and moving back to Canada, then changing careers. When your personal landscape is altered so dramatically, it’s time for reflection. I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life back in Canada (after living abroad for almost 10 years), and that I wanted a life that was better aligned with my values. I’ve been leading nonprofits in the economic development field for almost 22 years. 

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… exercise by taking a walk in nature more often.

I stay inspired by… studying the teachings of great leaders, walking in nature, practicing my faith and participating in a couple of study and leadership peer mentoring groups.

The future excites me because… life is an adventure and there is always something new to learn.

My next step is … a new adventure. Always.

 

 

Meet Pascale Bouchard Executive Director of Leucan And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

 

Pascale Bouchard

Executive Director, Leucan

Social Change Award Finalist

 

A member of the Quebec Bar, Pascale practiced law for a little over a year before heading into management. She joined Leucan in 2015 as Director of Family Services, and a year later became General Manager. Leucan is a nonprofit organization that supports children with cancer and their families with tailored services and assistance through every stage of the disease. Pascale is recognized for her dedication to the Leucan families, and her leadership and commitment to the wellbeing and development of her team.

 

My first job ever was… apart from babysitting, in a McDonald’s restaurant. I was at the “oil station”, preparing tons of McNuggets. It was a short but very formative experience.

I chose my career path because… I needed to feel that my work had a concrete impact on people, and I also am driven by challenges. After 15 years as an Executive Director of not-for-profit organizations, working with abused women and cancer-stricken children, I still get plenty of challenges and I see our impact every day.

My proudest accomplishment is… I’m most proud of my three children. They are beautiful teenagers, on their way to becoming sensitive adults, open to the world and very aware of all the social and ecological challenges that we face. I like to believe that I played a role in it 😉

My boldest move to date was… submitting my application for an Executive Director position in a women’s shelter at the age of 27, without any experience in not-for-profit organizations, domestic violence or psychosocial intervention. At the time, the move felt natural. I only realized later on just how daring it was.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I was a singer in a band in my 20s.

 

“Don’t let limited financial resources limit you. Leverage your situation to be creative, agile and innovative.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was… “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This quote from Richard Branson has really influenced my vision and the way I lead our organization.

My biggest setback was… my divorce.

I overcame it by… being well-surrounded and facing it one day at a time; some days, one hour at a time.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… start to meditate.

I stay inspired by… the families for whom I work: their courage, resilience and perseverance are truly a daily motivation and inspire me to give my best effort, no matter the challenges.

The future excites me because… I’m surrounded by a great team with whom I know we can achieve great things. They’re passionate, dedicated, competent and professional.

My next step is… convincing the Quebec government to fund our organization.

 

 

Meet Camille Jagdeo Founder of EDGE1 Equipment Rentals And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Momentum Award Finalist

Camille Jagdeo

Founder, EDGE1 Equipment Rentals

Momentum Award Finalist

 

Born and raised in Guyana, Camille moved to Canada in 1985 and attended the University of Toronto. Her defining moment in entrepreneurship was between 2014 to 2018, where she successfully defended her company’s name against US rental giant Hertz. Camille’s no-nonsense approach has earned her a reputation as a results-driven leader for her employees, as well as her clients. Today, her purpose and passion lie in mentoring her staff and giving back to her community.

 

My first job ever was… at Jubilee Industries. I worked in an empty warehouse at the age of 14 sorting donated clothing intended to be sold in third world countries. Providence Centre (geriatric care and rehabilitation facility). Shortly after my 16th birthday, I was hired at Providence Centre where I worked in food services.  After school and on weekends I worked in the cafeteria serving food to patients/residents.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… despite growing up with entrepreneurial parents, being an entrepreneur was not planned. An opportunity was presented to me.  I invested in an existing equipment rental company and shortly thereafter the person that ran the company passed away. I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and learn the daily operations of the business. Almost 20 years later I still love going to work and am still excited to learn new things every day.

My proudest accomplishment is… facing American giant Hertz Equipment Rentals in a legal battle over the name of my company that lasted over four years. My stance and fortitude in defending my company and telling my story were the most rewarding.

My boldest move to date was… selling the name of my company for a substantial gain, to my competitor and rebranding my company.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I run a successful company in a predominantly male industry, supervising predominantly male staff and that I am not administrative support staff.

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… plan properly for slow and controlled growth, and be prepared to dedicate your time and energy to your company.

 

“Plan properly for slow and controlled growth, and be prepared to dedicate your time and energy to your company.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was… at age 16 I met Catholic priest, Father John Donlin, while working at Providence Centre. He was the single most influential person in my life. The best advice from him was to always do the right thing and you will find success and happiness.

My biggest setback was… finding out after 20 years that my life partner had been cheating on me for years. It was and is the hardest thing I have ever had to overcome. I was left standing in a storm and working harder than I ever to rebuild my life.

I overcame it by… staying focused on my companies, treating the situation as a business transaction and removing the emotional devastation completely.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend my hour on the street with homeless people. I would talk to, walk with and hug a homeless person to reinforce that I see them, and they matter.

I stay inspired by… showing those that thought I could not succeed, that although I am a female in the construction industry I am successful. Getting to where I am today and being able to mentor people and bearing witness to organic growth in my companies.

The future excites me because… I am beginning to implement my vision of creating a company that I share with my employees. I have the most amazing team and truly believe if given ownership opportunities they will flourish.

 

 

Meet Janet LePage Founder of Western Wealth Capital And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Momentum Award Finalist

Janet LePage

Founder, Western Wealth Capital

Momentum Award Finalist

 

For the past decade, Janet has been focused on creating wealth through well-selected real estate investment. Under Janet’s leadership, WWC has placed more than US$ 408 million in private equity and acquired 58 multi-family properties, comprising more than 11,600 rental units, with a purchase value of more than $1 billion. Janet’s success has afforded her national recognition and several esteemed awards. She is also the co-author of Real Estate Action 2.0.

My first job ever was… I scooped ice cream in my small-town ice cream shop, I haven’t been a big fan of ice cream ever since as I ate a lot of it! It was called the ‘Ice-Creamery’ and it was in Christina Lake where my parent’s house was.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be available to raise my kids and do something I loved. I didn’t find that easy when I was working a corporate job that required me to be somewhere for 6 hours, and travel on their schedule instead of mine.

My proudest accomplishment is… I built a go-kart from scraps around a metal shop in grade 10, became an incredible welder and won (being the only girl in the class), auto mechanic of the year.

My boldest move to date was… Cutting the golden handcuffs and leaving my career with a one and two-year-old at home. I would have no medical, no benefits, everything that I thought was security, and just trying to start my own company.

I surprise people when I tell them… I grew up in a town with 10,000 people which only had one stoplight.

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… Bet on yourself first. Everyone else is going to tell you why it can’t work, and you need to rebound from that and decide that it is going to work. Even when you fail, you are going to choose to make it a success.

 

“You are going to fall 100 times for every time you rise. Strength and growth are what you learn from the fall. Don’t hate the fall, embrace it because you are going to learn something from it that will allow you to rise.”

 

My best advice from a mentor was… you are going to fall 100 times for every time you rise. Strength and growth are what you learn from the fall. Don’t hate the fall, embrace it because you are going to learn something from it that will allow you to rise.

My biggest setback was… the first time we moved into a new city and we hadn’t done enough leg work to set up the foundation to move at the speed I expected us to move and so, I felt very disappointed. It has not been an ultimate failure, but in that moment, it felt like it was.

I overcame it by… investing time and building the foundation so as we entered other markets, we did have the right tools in place and moved at a more excelled pace.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… read a book.

I stay inspired by… watching the lives around me become better by what we do. That includes my co-workers, the residents in my properties and my children in watching their Mom be passionate about doing something she believes in.

The future excites me because… I don’t know what it will bring, but I know that I have the skills and a village around that no matter what we’re going to do, it will be great. When we fall, we will correct it because we have done it over and over again. I have not always had that confidence, but that really excites me.

 

 

Meet Youlita Anguelov Founder of AgroFusion And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Momentum Award Finalist

Youlita Anguelov

Founder, AgroFusion

Momentum Award Finalist

 

Youlita Anguelov moved to Montreal from Bulgaria in 1993 with her six-year-old daughter, two suitcases, and $500. After a decade of working hard to establish herself, she launched AgroFusion. Back then, she was the business and the business was her — in a small warehouse where she would pack products herself. Today, Youlita has a well-stocked 35,000 square foot warehouse, a team of 21 people and nine production lines.

My first job ever was… when I was 12 years old, I was an actress in a play that took place twice a week. My part was only 10 minutes and I made more money than the regular 2-week salary in communist Bulgaria.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because…  I worked for 8 years for one company and then 8 months for another one. I was always exceeding the expectations and still taking the initiative to do more but even with all these efforts, I found myself receiving little or no recognition. That’s when I decided to work for myself.

My proudest accomplishment is… to be living and working in this beautiful country and to have raised my daughter.

My boldest move to date was… business-wise, my boldest move was to upsize to installations that were 3 times bigger, meaning 3 times more expenses but now we’re the only ones in our field to have our own rail site. In life, it was to move to Canada alone with my 6-year-old daughter and only 500$ in my pocket.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I immigrated to Canada alone with my 6-year-old child and only 500$ in my pocket, without knowing anyone here and to an inexistent Bulgarian community in Montreal in 1993.

 

“Having a business implies serious daily problems and unexpected challenges, just don’t give up. Everything you need is around you, customers, business opportunities and money.”

 

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… First, watch the expenses, especially the small ones that seem insignificant. Second, focus on the little things, the big things will come. Third, surround yourself with trustworthy people and delegate as much as you can. Fourth, jump in the water even if you don’t know how to swim.

My best advice from a mentor was… just build the monastery and the priest will come by himself.

My biggest setback was… to hire the husband of my best friend as general manager.

I overcame it by… letting him go and learning from my mistake that I should never mix personal with business.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… try to spend even more time with my daughter.

I stay inspired by… courageous people immigrating to North America with nothing and becoming leaders or successful entrepreneurs, especially women.

The future excites me because… of all the opportunities new technology can bring to help, optimize and simplify business.