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CWB Member Profile Archive


At Home in the Business of Caring


If there’s one thing you need to know about Georgia Lloyd, it is that she loves working with people. “I love when I know I have taken care of someone…it just makes me feel golden.”

It makes sense, then, that Georgia Lloyd is the proud founder and president of one of the largest independent, non-franchise owned home care companies in metro: Always Home Homecare. It is a company that provides non-medical home care services to clients in their homes. “I have to say I am proud of the fact that I started a company from nothing, and I didn’t even know the homecare industry,” she says. Always Home Homecare is now a multi-million dollar company.

After obtaining a Bachelor of Public Relations from Mount Saint Vincent University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Dalhousie, Georgia ended up in the world of sales. She was in outbound sales for about 20 years, and trained reps around the province, winning awards for top sales every year. Her success in the sales world is accredited to her passion and commitment to working with people. With both of her parents owning businesses for most of her life, Georgia’s dad always encouraged her to start her own business, because he knew she could be successful selling for herself. She began to explore the idea, and researched the top 10 selling franchises in the world, finding that homecare was always on the list.

So, in May 2004, she jumped on a plane to Philadelphia to buy a franchise called Senior Health Care by Angels, and flew back to Halifax to meet with a lawyer so she could get started. When meeting with the lawyer, he asked Georgia what she was getting for $27,000, and Georgia replied with, “a week training, and a manual.”

“The lawyer says,  ‘Listen, you can get a lot of consultant work done here for $27,000 - it’s not like you’re buying a Tim Horton’s or a McDonalds, you can start your own.’”

And so began Georgia’s journey into entrepreneurship.

“I decided to take the summer to develop a name for my company, while continuing to work at my job - because I have three kids and I had a big job, a big salary, and you can’t really replace a big salary.”

September rolled around, and Georgia won Presidents club at this company, which recognizes the top 10 per cent of the employees, and they are invited to attend a prestigious event to receive an award.

Georgia remembers so clearly the day everything fell into place. “I was called into the office, and I was told that my job was no longer in Atlantic Canada, one week before I was going to President’s Club,” she says. “My boss looked like the colour of that paper, white, but inside I was doing a major happy dance because I knew I was already starting a company, and this meant I was going to get a full package, and get paid for a long time.”

It is important to remember that if you put the hard work in, in the end it will pay off and the kinks will work themselves out. “It was like a horseshoe turned up the right way. It worked out perfectly - God was on my side,” Georgia says.

This was just the beginning, but with her parents support, and her dad’s encouragement to, “just do it”, Georgia jumped over all the hurdles that were thrown at her, with hard work and determination.

“Persistence is key. I really believe in hiring the strengths you don’t have, and never, never, never, never, give up; if it’s something that you want to do, you will always find a way to do it if you just continue to work at it” she says.

There will always be challenges along the way, but it is how you handle them that makes the difference, she adds.

“I don’t think inside the box - I think about ways to get around problems. I come up with solutions that nobody else has really thought about, because I think about a way to go around it at a different angle. There is never just one path to a problem, and that creates opportunity,” says Georgia.

While trying to discover what holes were in the marketplace, she found that a lot of people in the industry talked about transportation being an issue, so she responded by purchasing a van and hiring two drivers.

“It became very apparent that although it was a need in the marketplace, there wasn’t really anybody that wanted to pay for those services.  Was it a failure? No, I wouldn’t say it was a failure, but it certainly wasn’t a success either. I think that everything has been guiding us to where we are now, and I know now that you just have to focus and do what you’re good at, and that’s what we’ve learned.”

Through her journey she may have taken some rough paths, but it is what’s led her on the straight road she is on today, where she goes into work with a smile on her face every day, grateful to be a part of such a giving industry.

She’s created countless unforgettable memories at Always Home Homecare. “The work I do revolves around giving and I love knowing that I am putting back into the community with the work that I do every day.”

"One time we had this woman that lived alone and didn’t have any family, and we became her family. We would throw birthday parties for her; we are really invested in each and individual client. We bought her gifts, and brought her cake, and it was just really fun,” she says.

Always Home Homecare used to have a day centre, where seniors could come for the day. There was a chef on staff, a recreational therapist and activities for the seniors to participate in.

“We had a Nintendo Wii and there were two veterans of the Second World War playing a boxing game - it was so fun and so precious to see them enjoying themselves so much.”

Clients are the focus at Always Home Homecare, but Georgia also invests a lot in her employees, and it shows.  “Just recently I had a couple of staff leave after being with me for a number of years, and they came back and said they missed us so bad that they never want to leave again. So that’s wonderful, and that’s very rewarding.”

Being an entrepreneur also gives Georgia the opportunity to connect and network with women entrepreneurs and professionals. 

“I love the Women’s President Organizations because it allows me to have those deep discussions with other like-minded women, and they have shared experiences that can definitely help.”

Through the Women’s President Organization, Georgia met Laurie Sinclair, a Business Development Officer at the Centre. “Laurie Sinclair is one reason I joined the Centre, because I think she is amazing.

She’s very, very knowledgeable and that gave me the confidence to join, because I thought that if this demonstrates the kind of skill set the Centre for Women in Business offers, it’s awesome.”

Georgia joined the Centre last year and attended Professional Development Day in November. “I liked when the women all sat up on stage, and each person said a few words about they learned through their business. I wrote everything down, because I could relate to all of it.

“Sometimes you get so caught up in your own world that it’s nice to take the time to sit down with all types of business owners and hear about their world for a change.”

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Are leaders born or made? Some people believe that leadership is a quality that we are either born with, or aren’t. But with hard work and determination anything is possible, and Suzanne Bachur is the perfect example of this.


McDonald’s, age 15, Hull, Quebec: that’s where it all started for Suzanne, who is now the  President of Premiere Executive Suites/Atlantic Limited, a provider of long and short-term fully furnished accommodations with franchises across Canada.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and while working at McDonald’s, Suzanne developed skills she never knew she had, and it gave her the opportunity to learn about herself.

 “McDonald’s culture was one that I very much respected and attributed to helping develop my confidence, as prior to joining them, I had been a rather quiet and reserved teen,” says Suzanne. 

While Suzanne was enrolled in a  computer programming course at Cegep de l'Outaouais, a college in Gatineau, Quebec, she began to reconsider her future when she was offered a management position within McDonald’s. “By this point it was very clear to me that  hospitality was my passion,” says Suzanne. 

When her future husband, Ron, who also worked for McDonalds, was transferred to Toronto, Suzanne moved with him and found herself working at AMJ Campbell Van Lines. “I was immediately enthralled by the energy and passion of entrepreneur Tim Moore, President of AMJ Campbell,” says Suzanne. 

With Tim Moore’s full support and encouragement, Suzanne and Ron made the decision to accept a franchise opportunity with Swiss Chalet, and left Toronto to begin their life as entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia. Suzanne took a very hands-on approach with the franchises-from management to financials. 

But when Tim Moore, presented her with an opportunity to partner in a new venture, Premiere Executive Suites, she agreed without hesitation. 

“And so began a labour of love and adventure in learning that has in 15 years grown from a handful of fully furnished condos in Halifax, to what is now a Canada wide franchise with over 1450 fully furnished, extended stay properties,” said Suzanne. 

Fast forward to 2014. Premiere Executive Suites has been recognized as one of the 10 Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada for six consecutive years. In 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Suzanne was named one of the Top 50 CEO’s in Atlantic Canada by Atlantic Business Magazine and also made the Top 50 Fastest Growing Women Lead Companies in North America during the Women Presidents Organization Conference in Dallas in 2013.

She calls her leadership style “energetic and very open.” 

“I share our quarterly financials with the entire team so that they are aware of the company’s position. I believe that nothing should come as a surprise.”

Through the trials and tribulations, and between moving provinces, Suzanne’s had her fair share of challenges, but whatever is thrown at her, she focuses on the positive. You have to treat every situation as a learning opportunity and make the most of what is in front of you, she said.

“The path to success is not reached without challenges and valuable lessons learned by way of errors in judgment or decision making. I prefer not to use the term “failure” as to me it doesn’t sound positive. Making mistakes is inevitable, but it is what you walk away with that builds strength and confidence,” said Suzanne. 

 As we all know, there will always be ups and downs along the way, and barriers that have to be broken down. Five hundred of the country's largest companies by Women's Advocacy group Catalyst found that 17.7 per cent of senior officer positions were held by women in 2010. The majority of the top leadership positions are still filled by men, but this does not phase Suzanne. Many people are always looking at the disadvantages women have when in leadership positions, she said, but she isn’t scared to admit these challenges and utilizes them to the best of her ability. 

“I find that the most difficult challenge for me, being a woman in a leadership role would have to be trying to control emotions,” said Suzanne.  “I am not afraid to acknowledge or suggest that most men tend to like excitement, change, challenge, uncertainty, and the potential for huge returns on a risky investment, whereas women tend to prefer predictability, continuity, safety, roots, relationships, and a smaller return on a more secure investment, and that is a maternal instinct that can be difficult to diffuse at times.

Relationship building is very important to Suzanne, and she believes that the foundation of the company was built around creating open and honest relationships. “Making sure that you have happy, talented staff representing your service is as imperative to success as is the promotion. I believe that it is the ability to earn trust that determines the quality of the relationship,” said Suzanne. 

“I truly believe that it had been my experience with McDonald’s that has been most influential in molding my management style. McDonald’s training programs and culture instilled my enthusiasm for creating and providing excellent customer service and employee retention,” said Suzanne. 

Suzanne also learned a lot from Jackie Stewart, Corporate Sales Manager for AMJ Campbell Van Lines, and Tim Moore, founder of AMJ Campbell Van Lines. 

“I learned important lessons during my time with AMJ Campbell Van Lines. Namely Jackie Stewart’s dedication to nurturing relationship with corporate accounts; networks; and fostering friendships and Tim Moore’s philanthropic spirit and the importance of giving back to the community,” said Suzanne. 

In addition to having open and honest relationships important with employees and co-workers, she considers it “vital” to build relationships with other entrepreneurs and a-like business women, and the Centre for Women in Business offers just that. Suzanne has attended a number of the Centre workshops and events. “I always walk away reenergized and motivated to put my new lessons into action.” 

Leaders come in all different shapes and sizes, so take a risk and step up to the challenge. You might find out that you are a great leader, but you may find out it’s not for you. 

“Do not be intimidated by people who they perceive to have more knowledge or experience. Always remember – we all get out of bed and pull on our pants the same way every day and there are no doubt many more similarities,” she says

“There are no mistakes; it is what you walk away with that builds strength and confidence.” 

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A 360 Degree Look into the Design of a Successful Business Partnership

Design 360 business partners Keri Koch and Melissa Cummings enter their ninth year as business partners and are here to share with you their journey and advice to a happy and successful business partnership.


We have all been in a relationship at some point in our lives: whether it be a family relationship, a friendship, or an intimate relationship. In order for any relationship to work there has to be trust, honesty and open communication, and a business partnership isn’t much different. Melissa Cummings and Keri Koch, founders of Design 360, a Halifax interior design company, share the eight year journey of their business partnership. 

With their joint expertise and divergent backgrounds, Design 360 has a lot to be proud of.  The company has worked on many recognizable projects around the Halifax area, with two of the more high profile being the Chronicle Herald offices on Joseph Howe Drive, and White Point Beach Lodge after its post-fire reconstruction in 2012. The Chronicle Herald was one of their first big projects, and it really put the name Design 360 on the map in Halifax eight years ago shortly after they opened the company.  

Eight years may seem like a long time in terms of the length of a relationship, considering 33 per cent of first marriages end in divorce, according to a Statistics Canada report from 2013. So, if a business partnership is like any other relationship, you may ask, what makes their partnership so successful? 

“We joke about this all the time,” said Keri. “Your business partner is like your work spouse, you spend that much time with them.”   Both agree the first step to a successful partnership is choosing the right person.

“Believe me, there are going to be good times and bad,” said Melissa. “Don’t chose lightly. Chose somebody that you feel like you can be with, in the good and bad times.” 

Keri adds, “You have to have a lot respect for each other, you have to have different skill sets, and you have to be able to communicate very well.”

Keri and Melissa realize they may look like the perfect business partners from the outside, but like any other relationship, they had to work really hard to get to where they are today, and it took them some time to find each other. 

“I knew that I always wanted to do interior design, I wrote it in my yearbook when I graduated from high school,” said Melissa, who grew up in Saint John’s Newfoundland. She moved to Barry, Ontario to study interior design.  

Keri, a native of Regina, was set on becoming an architect.

“For me, from the time that I was about eight years old, I wanted to be an architect,” said Keri, who studied philosophy at the University of Regina and architecture at the University of Manitoba.

“I always thought, like most people, that interior design was interior decorating and I didn’t understand that there was a difference until I really started researching.  Then I realized that it was really interior design that I was interested in,” said Keri. 

After  finishing their degrees, both women moved to Toronto to practice for large interior design firms. After a few years, Melissa decided she wanted to move back to Newfoundland, and Keri was en route to the East Coast as well. On her way back home, Melissa decided to stop in Halifax, and it’s a good thing she did, because it is where Design 360 began.   

“My sister was in Halifax going to Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, my friends were here, so I said you know what, this is a great opportunity to search around and see what is available here in the field of interior design,” said Melissa.  

Melissa started working for the biggest interior design company in Halifax, where she finally met her would-be business partner, Keri. Keri was a contractor, so they worked on multiple projects together and their relationship started to bloom. Melissa and Keri were in similar stages in their careers and they both wrote their professional exams at the same time.  

“We were like study buddies, so we got to know each other very well,” said Keri. 

Where both had worked in the highly competitive interior design market in Toronto, it gave them a unique view of interior design in Halifax. Their Toronto firms were extremely cutting edge and collaborative, and they found that this just wasn’t happening here. 

“I think we just saw new opportunities, and saw things differently than other people. We have the same passion and same drive,” said Keri. 

The two fused together so well, that they even found themselves finishing each other’s sentences.  

Their interior design philosophy is also the same, and that is what makes their partnership work so well. They both believe that design is about the business of the client and understanding their needs and wants to help their businesses thrive. 

“With the whole business perspective cut out of the design process, I don’t know how to design. So, when someone says that (aspect) is not important, just design, well how can you do one without the other? It’s like saying create without eyes, ears, arms… it’s very difficult,” said Keri.  

Melissa and Keri both saw these issues in the market and the potential opportunity in Halifax, and with their passion and drive combined, Design360 was well on its way.  

“You see other things could be happening in the market, and realize that there is no one else out there doing it, and the only way you can fulfill a dream really is if you do it yourself,” said Keri.

“Melissa is exceptional at the details and can dig down into the details and figure out how things work, how things need to be constructed, every little minute detail is fully resolved. I tend to look at the broader picture, the strategy, that’s where I excel,” said Keri.     

Keri and Melissa are not just passionate about interior design, they are both passionate about ensuring that their clients get what they need. 

The name Design 360 really represents what Keri and Melissa encompass; the full package, encircling everything at every point around the circle. They are constantly looking for the next best thing, whether it be new products or a new way of doing things, to ensure that their clients are offered the best service. It is their fresh approach to design, and their level of commitment to their clients.

That means educating some on what interior design really is and the impact it has. It can positively impact how people work, move through space, how they experience it, how they are inspired, engage, communicate, collaborate - the list is endless. 

“There are people who think it’s as simple as choosing colours and putting paint on the wall,” said Keri, who refers to their work as problem solving. 

“It’s about taking different puzzle pieces from clients and putting them all together to create spaces.”

Both say the most rewarding part of their job is the relationships they build, and being able to go into a space they’ve designed and see people really enjoying the vision they’ve made come to life. All the positive feedback they receive from clients afterwards just validates what they do and pushes them forward every day. 

“We’ve had clients tells us that people are flooding in with resumes, or that people about to retire decided to stay on a few extra years because of the work we’ve done,” said Keri. 

Through all the positive praise and feedback Melissa and Keri still remain humble. They understand that there is always room for improvement and growth, and have found that the Centre for Women in Business has helped them with this, despite only being brand new members. 

“But in that short period of time we’ve been out to two amazing events and made connections through them already.  Were very fortunate for that,” said Keri. 

“If you’re just starting out, if you’re in the middle of your career, whatever stage you are at, you don’t know all the answers. You don’t have them all, you never do. Every day is a new day, every challenge is a new challenge, so it’s just great to have that support system, and that network,” said Melissa. 

That brings us around the circle, the full 360 degree journey of Keri Koch and Melissa Cummings and their business partnership. To see more of their work, please visit their website.

Lori Kennedy: Staying True to Your Roots While Reeling in the Big Fish

Lori Kennedy Headshot

Throughout the past 30 years, Lori Kennedy has built Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd. into an international business success story. Find out how she was able to prosper in the fishing industry as an innovative business leader, while also keeping her company close to home.

Imagine waking up one morning and realizing that you are the co-owner of a brand new seafood company, despite a lack of experience in business management, or even  a high school diploma. This might have been the way Lori Kennedy started out with her business, Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd., but after working at a fish plant for over a decade, Lori knew she would be able to start her own fish processing company and steer it in the right direction. That business now includes 14 vessels, four processing plants, and a committed team of employees. Lori has also created a global empire for her seafood products, which are exported throughout Canada, the U.S., the UK, Japan and several other countries.
Global success is a long way from the company’s humble beginnings three decades ago.

“I was working days at the local fishing plant and then doing the books for our own business at night,” Lori reveals. “At some point I asked for a leave of absence from my job at the fish plant, because I had to go back to school and get my GED. Unfortunately, the fish plant wouldn’t give me leave of absence. I left anyway.”

Lori went on to successfully graduate from an adult educational learning centre and then decided to get more education.

“I went to business college for a year and that was just to learn the basics,” she says. “Then as the business started to grow, I realized I would need more education, so I went to university and got my business accounting major and graduated in 1996."

Although her formal education days are over, Lori has strong connections with Cape Breton University and other research and development facilities.

“We work closely with the universities and with academia for research and development,” she says. “We also share our research with the community and right now we are actually researching under-utilized species like slime eels and different types of seaweed.”

Furthermore, Lori strives to be on top of new developments in everything related to the fishing industry, which includes new technology and innovative progression.

“You have to think about the technology that’s here today, because 20 years ago the seafood industry definitely wasn’t the same, and in another 10 years there’s going to be a lot of new technology that isn’t here today either,” she explains.

“We look ahead and network with scientists and key people within the industry. We talk about how the fisheries will change, which includes looking at climate change and global warming and how it will affect us. Will the oceans be healthy?
Will there even be fish in the oceans in 10 years? Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what will happen, but that’s why we’re always researching, and we take our own research and then collaborate with our world leaders and scientists.”

Along with being on the innovative front of the fishing industry, Lori has built strong ties within the Cape Breton community, which is an important part of Louisbourg Seafoods mandate.

“Our company is a family and community oriented organization, so we invest in our community,” she says. “For instance we started a breakfast for learning program, so we adopt a school every year and provide breakfast for students every morning. We also support our local sports teams by supplying uniforms and equipment. Finally, we identify the needs and wants of the children in our community who have medical complications, so we can make life a little bit easier for them.”

For Lori, making connections is a huge part of her daily schedule and it is an important addition to her company. Moreover, networking has become an essential building block for Louisbourg Seafoods over the years as Lori has been steadily building a “global network.”

“I am part of the Women’s President Organization (WPO), which promotes the acceptance of women in all industries,” she says. “I am also a part of the World Ocean Council, which is an international organization and their main purpose is to address ocean health, global warming, plastics in the water and other issues. Along with that, I work with the Global Partnership for Oceans, and we address certain areas in the ocean that need immediate attention.

And even though being at the helm of operations results in a busy schedule, Lori still finds time to be involved at the Centre for Women in Business.

“I’ve been connected to the Centre through WBE Canada as well as WPO, as the Atlantic Chapter is run by the Centre’s Laurie Sinclair,” she says. “I am also one of Laurie’s clients and she is an exceptional mentor for me.”

As a mentor herself, Lori has a wealth of business knowledge and entrepreneurial experience that she gladly shares with those taking their first steps in the business world.

“My advice to women entrepreneurs and business owners is to develop a great business plan, find a mentor and connect with someone who has access to funding to help your business,” she reveals. “Also, make sure that when you come up with a business idea that you are in love with it! If you have worked in a certain industry for a while and want to open your own business within the same industry, then do it, or if you come up with a business idea and you can’t stop thinking about it, than that is an opportunity that you should also take.”

She strives to offer only the best to her customers, her community and her fellow entrepreneurs.

“I believe in delivering quality products to all of our customers; I believe in building and giving back to our community, and finally I believe in supporting other entrepreneurs, because as a business owner I have learned a lot from my fellow entrepreneurs and I want to pass on my insight to anyone who needs it.”   

Natalie Frederick-Wilson: Dream Big, Train Bigger


A few years ago, Natalie Frederick-Wilson could not have envisioned herself as the owner of House of Auto Details, but when the idea began to take form, she knew she had to see it to completion. After seeking out the very best training in North America, Natalie was able to take that idea all the way: read all about it here.

For many people, the phrase “auto detail garage” conjures up images of simple mechanic buildings with cars in various states of repair, where dirty-clothed technicians work to make them fit for the road.

But at House of Auto Details, the standards are being raised to the next level. Owner, Natalie Frederick-Wilson, and the staff at this Bedford-based business make it their priority to make sure every client feels at home when they come into the shop, which includes a professionally decorated sitting area, free Wi-Fi, and coffee.

“Our goal at the House of Auto Details is to have a garage that prides itself on its service, but doesn’t have the look, smell, or feel of a typical garage,” Natalie says. “We are the exception to many other garages, because we want our business to look as nice as a car dealership.”
 Moreover, Natalie wants clients to know exactly what her team will do to spruce up their cars.

“It’s important to have a thorough knowledge of the skills needed to successfully run your business, because your clients will trust you a lot more if you have the right knowledge, and if you share it with them,” she says. “For instance, I know how to use all the tools and products correctly, and I can also give accurate advice to my customers about anything relating to my business.”

House of Auto Details celebrated its first year in business last February but a few years ago Natalie would have never thought she’d be a business owner, let alone working in the auto industry.

“My main career goal was to become an executive chef, but I had really bad hand problems, and I ended up having hand surgery, so that closed the door on my culinary career.” 

However, Natalie decided to take her career in a different direction, so she moved from her native hometown of New York City to Halifax with her husband, David, co-owner of House of Auto Details and their first daughter, Dihlan, and began working as a dean at a private school.

“I had been at the private academy for five years when David was laid off from his job,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t going to continue working at the school for much longer, because it was a very full-time job; you had to live onsite, and be very committed to everything school related.” 

Soon after leaving her job, Natalie accompanied David to a job bank information session, and that is where the idea for House of Auto Details began to take form.

“The lady that we spoke to suggested that we open our own business, because when she looked at our resumes, she noticed that David had a lot of technical automotive-based skills, and I had management skills from working as a dean and also as a business manager at a dental surgery office in NYC, ” Natalie says. “We also heard about CEED, so when we met with representatives there, they told us to get into the self-employment program. In the end, we didn’t even think about starting our own business until someone else suggested doing that.”

Opening an auto detail business was quite a career change for Natalie, and she knew if House of Auto Details was going to succeed, she would have to get the right training. 

“Both David and I have been trained as master detailers by Renny Doyle; he is the official detailer for Air Force One, which is the plane Barack Obama flies on,” she says. “We chose to train with him, because we wanted someone who had the right knowledge and experience, while also having access to the latest innovations in the detailing industry.” 

Natalie is busy: she is completing the Executive Education program at Dalhousie University, plus she and David have two daughters Dihlan, 6 and Nia, 2.

“Balancing home and business has been a struggle,” she says. “For a small business owner, that is usually always an issue, but for us, owning a business and also having two children can make it quite hard at times. We don’t have any family in Halifax, so we have to depend on ourselves to make sure that we spend enough time with our children, but at the same time make enough money to cover everyone’s paychecks at work.”

As with many entrepreneurs, Natalie has encountered certain challenges with her business, but having a positive mindset has definitely helped her work through various issues.

“I am a person who is very proactive in my life, and I also have high expectations of life,” she says. “I have also learned from my mother and my aunt to be resilient and to think things through. Their advice has definitely helped me get through unideal situations and enjoy the life I have created for myself despite the hardships.

Natalie is a devoted  Seventh day Adventist Christian, and says she has greatly benefitted from the support of her church group. She is also a member at the Centre for Women in Business, and draws strength from other women business owners.

“I feel like I belong to a community at the Centre,” she says. “I have had so many opportunities to connect with other women business owners, some of which have become my networking buddies. I have also met so many amazing women business owners who had similar problems when they started their businesses as I am having now, but they overcame those challenges and now run successful businesses, which makes me hopeful for my business’ future.”

Natalie has learned several things in her journey as a business owner, and as such there are certain things she recommends to other female entrepreneurs.

“One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for women thinking about opening a business is to not be afraid of doing something you’ve never done before, because if you have the passion for something, but not the skills, then you can always take that leap of faith and get the training needed for you to open your business,” she says.

“Another piece of advice I have is to find the right information needed to run your business, so go to the source, like the Centre for Women in Business, and don’t be afraid to ask for the right information. And last but not least: share! It takes a village to do everything these days. If you learn of something great that will help you in your business, don’t keep it to yourself, tell another small business owner so their business can grow and improve too!”

Steff Adair: Use Your Passion, Fill a Need

Steff Adair 3Steff Adair, owner of the Atlantic Academy of Animation, explains why after many years in the animation industry, she decided to take the plunge and open her own animation school.

Ever wonder why certain individuals open their own businesses? How do they know their business will make it in the real world? What is the secret to a successful business?

These were questions Steff Adair asked herself many times before opening the Atlantic Academy of Animation, located in Dartmouth, where she is both owner and instructor.

“If you’re passionate about something, and if you want to pour all of your energy into something you love to do, then it will pay off eventually,” Steff reveals. “I always say ‘go for it,’ because I have never been happier since opening my own business!” 

Steff’s love for animation started when she was a child, and she knew from a young age that her career was going to be in the animation business. 

“From the time I knew Mickey Mouse wasn’t real, and I knew someone had to draw him, that’s when I knew what I wanted to do,” Steff says. “The day after I graduated from high school, I moved to Ontario so I could go to Sheridan College for their animation program. I was just completely following a dream.”

Unfortunately, Steff says that when she moved back to her hometown of Dartmouth, 20 years ago, the animation industry was almost non-existent in the Maritimes, so she decided to do her part to ensure  it did not stay that way for long.

“I ended up getting into the film and television industry,” she says. “I got my start at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative and got into the film crowd. I also taught animation through (AFCOOP) and when one of the filmmakers found out that I did animation, I started doing more freelance projects, so that was when I got my official start in the animation business.”

From there, Steff went on to open her own business Adner Animation Productions. At the same time, she also worked as the general manager of another animation company called Helix Animation. Finally, after deciding to take a break from being a business woman, Steff led the animation department at the DaVinci Institute in Halifax, and also worked there as a classical animation instructor.

“After working at the DaVinci Institute, I took a year off and then had my son, so I kind of got out of animation for a little while,” Steff reveals. “Then, when I was laid off from my last job I thought, ‘I am going to go back to school,’ and I ended up going to NSCC for public relations.”

With an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations now in her hands, Steff decided it was time to start another animation business, but instead of working in animation production, she was going to fill the position of animation instructor once more.

“The idea for the Atlantic Academy of Animation has been brewing since I came back to Halifax 20 years ago,” Steff says. “When I started my business—Adner Animation Productions—there was no animation being done here in the Maritimes, so I thought if animation is going to start here than you have to train people.”

“I also have friends in the animation industry who are all saying the same thing: recent graduates are not properly trained. And largely—at least from the animation side—they are lacking those classical fundamental skills, so I’m stepping up to the plate, because I love to teach and what I’m good at is teaching those basics. There is a need for proper training and I am filling that need.”

The Academy has now been open for a few months, and Steff has already set out future goals for her institution.

“My first goal for the Academy is to change the way people think about training for animation and related industries,” Steff says. “That is why I decided not to become a registered school, because even though students will not get a diploma, they will learn employable skills. That is my mandate.

Steff also plans on training youth and young adults, while also offering courses for individuals who want to “refresh” their skills.

“My goal is to teach those fundamental skills, and make sure everyone has them, so I would offer those classes to anyone from high school students to those looking for post-secondary training, to individuals who are currently in the industry,” she says. “Then, after the first year or two, I would like to branch out and offer 2D and 3D animation classes.”

And with so much determination and passion for animation and teaching, Steff has decided not to let anything stand in her way.

“There have been certain challenges with my current business, like not getting enough funding and not teaching as many students as I would like, but those things just make me work that much harder,” Steff says. “It might take me longer to get where I want to be, but I plan on successfully getting through those challenges.”    

Recently, she became a member of the Centre for Women in Business, because she knows it is important to have support, and to make connections with other entrepreneurs who share some of the same challenges, and are passionate about what they do.

“When I teach animation and my students end up doing amazing things, it drives me,” she says enthusiastically. “There is nothing else I would rather do; If I won a million dollars tomorrow, I would still continue teaching animation, because it’s what I love and what I’m meant to do for a career."

For more information about the Atlantic Academy of Animation, please visit:

All the Right Reasons

LeBrun Shelley (2)

For Shelley LeBrun, helping others is always the main goal whether it be through providing small business advice to customers, community outreach projects, or personal volunteering initiatives. Find out here how she makes a difference for many individuals.

Every morning, most of us wake up anticipating another work day. You get to the office, reply to a few (sometimes many) emails, devise a game plan, then delve into an endless to-do list. 

This is how TD Canada Trust Corporate Member, Shelley LeBrun, begins every morning as the Area Manager for Business Banking. Simply put, she’s busy traveling throughout Nova Scotia and PEI to meet with clients in the office or in their place of business to discuss their financial needs and provide them with tailored advice, and assist her fellow employees with their workload, which entails, “improving product knowledge for the teams, as well as enhancing Small Business Banking Credit acumen with advisors and branch leaders.” She has been doing this for six years, but when you love your job as much as Shelley does, you enjoy the pace and always put in the extra effort.

“I think the most memorable [parts] are when you have helped a client or a colleague,” Shelley remarks. “I recently had an old client come up and hug me for helping her through a very stressful time in her life. She said she wouldn’t have been able to get through it without my help…that’s memorable.”

Shelley grew up in the small community of Arichat in Cape Breton, where she worked at her family’s grocery store, LeBruns IGA. Throughout her time there, she learned to deliver exceptional customer service, and to also treat everyone with respect.

“We had a family business, so I have been working since the age of 13,” Shelley says. “It was a grocery store, so customer service was key. I [also] learned work ethics from an early age, like hard work, reliability, honesty, and integrity.”

She further developed a strong work ethic during university as a sales associate at Fashion Forward.

“I definitely learned your day doesn’t end until the job is done,” she states. “I worked all through university in a retail clothing store and the owner left me in charge a lot, so I learned how to make [ethical] decisions.”

Shelley continued living in Halifax after she graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, and began working at TD Bank as a management trainee.

“After I graduated from university, I thought I would just try out banking for a few years,” Shelley admitted. “If nothing else, [working there] would teach me how to handle my personal finances, and 26 years later I am still here.”

With years of experience under her belt—as well as many relocations—Shelley has gained a lot of wisdom and insight, which repeatedly benefits her fellow employees and clients.

“I continually observe leadership styles and encounters and try to incorporate that into my interactions,” Shelley says. “What I believe works the best is demonstrating a positive attitude, professionalism, and teamwork with customers, colleagues, and other TD members.”

Being involved in the community is also an important part of her professional and personal life.

“I am involved in the community through participation and leadership in community business groups, initiatives and fundraisers,” she states. “[At the Halifax Cornwallis Progress Club], we are a group of women from different backgrounds and professions who want to get involved and make an impact in the community we live in. We have three focuses: volunteerism, fundraising, and fellowship. Our signature event Progress Women of Excellence Dinner has raised over one million dollars for Phoenix Youth Programs. We also volunteer at different community events; this year the Club has accumulated over 1000 community volunteer hours.”

And on top of all that, Shelley is a board member, active participator, and benefactor—through TD—at the Centre for Women in Business.

“Not only do I sponsor events and workshops, but I also participate in them,” Shelley explains. “I always learn something to assist in my own personal development. I am also able to assist clients, as the Centre provides great advice and knowledge; I am able to recommend the Centre to my clients, which helps in their success as well. It has been a great way to make invaluable connections and just as importantly some great friendships!"

TD also sponsors the Centre’s monthly Women Business and Breakfast event, held the first Thursday of each month.

“We love this initiative as we are able to assist in members making valuable connections with each other.”

Throughout her years at TD, Shelley has become an expert in assisting entrepreneurs and local business owners and their companies, and has a few tips every business owner should take advantage of whether they are “just starting a business or have been in operation for a while.”

“A comprehensive business plan is essential for your company’s success and growth and can help you: identify your competitive advantages, set your goals, and manage and grow your business,” she says. “Once it’s complete, you’ll have an important source of information about your business that you can share with your small business advisor, business partners, potential investors, or suppliers.”

Shelley also knows first-hand that banks provide numerous services for business owners that deal with more than just the financial side of a business.

“Banks are more than a source of capital,” Shelley says. “We provide advice and services that can make your day to day life simpler. It’s important to talk to a small business advisor first, because the right banking services and accounts can help small business owners save time and money.”

Finally, there are also a few do’s and don’ts Shelley lives by - things that every entrepreneur should know whether they are pitching their business ideas to a business advisor or banker, or if they are ready to go ahead with their business idea.

“You need to know your competitive advantage and your market. You should also know the size of your market area and customer base. Get advice from the experts. Talk to a lot of people in your individual business for advice. Then try your product or services out with customers. Furthermore, you need cash flow. It is one of the most important aspects of your business and it should be one of the first things that a new business establishes. On the other hand, don’t make expensive decisions and don’t try to do everything yourself. Setting up a business is complicated.”

For many people, putting in extra hours at work is second nature, and the same could be said for Shelley, because getting to work early is just another way she can help clients and employees make it through their day.

“When you have assisted them in some way, made their lives a bit easier in a stressful situation, whether it’s helping [them] start their dream or solve a problem.. those are the times that I feel proud that we do make a difference.” 

Passion, Success and the 70% rule

VFoulger Headshot smallerOver a decade ago, Victoria Foulger made a decision to end her career in nursing and move halfway around the world to begin a new life as an entrepreneur. This fall, she will bring her hugely popular Italian café, Pavia, to the new Halifax Central Library. Here, the secret to her success.

Follow your passion. That’s what everyone will tell you when you are trying to find the right path in life. For Victoria Foulger, many different passions were pulling her in many different directions. One of them was Italy, and it was this passion that led her to co-found Pavia Gallery Espresso Bar & Café in Herring Cover with her partner, Christopher Webb.

A contemporary art gallery and Italian style café, Pavia was recently awarded a ten-year contract to operate two locations within the new Halifax Central Library on the corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street. The state of the art, $57-million library will feature Pavia on the ground floor, and a smaller café on the fifth.

“We will be in one of the most culturally significant buildings, which is right in the heart of downtown Halifax,” Victoria says. “Anybody and everybody could be passing through the doors.”

“It is a huge deal for us; we started right from the bottom. We borrowed money, refinanced homes and we gave up our secure jobs. It required a lot of time and finances, but it has been worth it.”

It is a long way from where Victoria started her career as a cardiology nurse in London, England. 

“I worked in a very conventional hospital setting,” says Victoria. “While there I began to realize that there is more to healing than just medicine. I wanted to offer a place where people could go to feel good.”

After a number of years in nursing, she went back to school and studied Philosophy in Complimentary Health Studies. Soon after, in 1998, Victoria made the move from England to Canada, first working in Toronto as a medical writer for a number of years, then moving on to Halifax.

Within days of arriving in Halifax however, Victoria became a single parent. Having to regroup and re-define herself, she founded her first business, Ocean Breeze Health & Wellness Centre. Victoria says she founded the centre because she wanted to move away from a clinical setting and offer services to people seeking alternative medical practices.

Ocean Breeze Health & Wellness Centre  is located on the floor just above Pavia in Herring Cove. It offers acupuncture, registered massage therapy and aesthetics using all organic skin care products.

She is the first to admit that being passionate about so many things, she tries to incorporate all of them into what she is doing. For example, she and Christopher also lead group tours of Italy each year, where they introduce Nova Scotians to Italy’s most picturesque regions and enjoy an extended stay in a villa in Tuscany.

“We call it the Italian Art and Cultural Excursion,” Victoria explains.

“We love sharing our passion for this amazing country with others, and it is wonderful to see how great people feel while they are on the tour.”

Victoria says their mutual love for Italy and Christopher’s Italian heritage were the inspiration for the tours, as well as the gallery and café: Pavia is the name of Christopher’s grandmother, Maddalena (Pavia) Asprey.

“The café is packed from mid-week through to weekends,” Victoria explains. “Often times there are people waiting for tables. We plan to expand the building to solve this problem and establish a world class art gallery.”

Many regular customers would agree that it’s well worth the wait; with an Italian inspired menu featuring pastries, sweets and coffees, Pavia uses local products from across Nova Scotia. Although Pavia has its drip coffee beans roasted locally, their espresso beans come directly from a small, family owned micro-roastery in Florence, giving customers a true taste of Italy. The art gallery shows the works of 12 established contemporary artists, including Christopher Webb, himself a successful visual artist.

Victoria explains that both she and Christopher have been working non-stop for three years to get Pavia exactly where they wanted it. When they first opened, they did everything themselves along with the help of a few staff and family members. They worked behind the counter preparing food, serving customers and cleaning up at the end of the day.

Victoria says she could not have guessed that after a career in nursing she would be drawing on skills she learned from a waitressing job when she was 17-years-old.

“We are hands-on business owners, meaning that all of our businesses are owner-occupied,” Victoria explains.

Victoria is a member of the Centre for Women in Business and says that having a support system specifically for women entrepreneurs is very important.

“There are so many women accomplishing so many good things that deserve to be recognized.”

As for Victoria, she will tell you her biggest accomplishment has been her ability to develop a vision and “see it through, even on the days when I thought, 'I just can’t do it anymore.'”

She attributes this to the, “70 per cent rule” that she and Christopher adhere to.

“If you are only 50 per cent sure about something, then you are probably sitting on the fence and intuitively, it is for good reason. This means it needs more thought or research,” Victoria explains. “Likewise, if you wait until you are 100 per cent percent about something, chances are you have already missed an opportunity. If you are about 70 percent, then there is probably enough there to make it work and take a chance.”

And, given her track record, if there is a 70 per cent chance that she will do it, there’s a 100 per cent chance that she will make it a success.

The Halifax Central Library featuring Pavia is slated to open in fall 2014; for more information on Pavia and Ocean Breeze Health & Wellness Centre, both located in Herring Cove, please visit:

The Key to Survival


It’s mid-March and in the heart of Las Vegas, the large convention centre is buzzing with excitement.

Exhibitors fill the room, demonstrating all different kinds of new products. Six thousand participants from over 30 countries around the world are in attendance at one of the largest trade show conferences in North America - the 2014 Exhibitor Show in Las Vegas. Bright lights surround exhibits and extension cords crisscross the floors, taped down so people don’t trip. At one exhibit though, there are beautiful lights, but there are no extension cords.

Shelley Simpson-McKay of Halifax co-founded LED SGS Solutions Inc. In business for about a year, LED SGS Solutions is a company that aims to provide innovative solutions in the trade show industry. They have recently launched their premier product, the Showbattery™. The Showbattery™ is a portable power solution for LED lighting at trade shows. It allows exhibitors to generate their own power for their displays, cutting the cost of power and eliminating the need for extension cords. With the Showbattery™ set to launch, Shelley travelled to Las Vegas to the 2014 Exhibitors Show to officially launch the product.

Competing against participants from all over the world, the Showbattery™ was awarded the Buyer’s Choice Award. The award is presented to a product that has an innovative design, multiple functions in multiple industries, and addresses an industry need or issue. 

“We’re very excited about the award,” Shelley exclaims. “So far it’s our biggest accomplishment. It makes all the hard work up until this point very rewarding.”

With the award under their belt, the company is now focused on taking over the North American marketplace.

“Initially we’re focusing on conquering the North American market,” Shelley smiles. “With the potential to expand into Europe in the future, we want to walk before we run so North American market is first.”

Exhibitor 2014 Booth Pic

Shelley is an innovator. From the beginning, her passion has been around innovation and technology. To her, innovation could have many different meanings. It can be a new product, service, or new technology. Innovation may not even be technology driven: it could be a new process as well. No matter what form it takes, to Shelley, innovation is everything and without it, your business can’t grow.

“Innovation gives you your competitive advantage. If you’re not being innovative, you can’t grow,” she explains. “As we move towards a knowledge based global economy, innovation will be key to the growth and sustainability of our businesses. You’re not just competing in your own little marketplace, you’re competing on a larger scale and so you have to continuously be innovative to survive.”

A successful entrepreneur, it was Shelley’s passion for innovation and technology that inspired her to found Primsa Management Consulting in June 2011. Prisma is a unique consulting business that works with businesses and organizations to help develop their model for innovative growth.

“Primarily, we focus on innovation,” Shelley explains. “It’s all about helping small businesses either create innovative strategies for growth, or innovation for competitiveness, or the commercialization of new technology. We are very different from regular consulting companies.”

Her interest and engagement in different aspects of innovation motivated Shelley to share her passion with other women business owners. She founded Prisma Management Consulting to do just that.

“Not seeing other small businesses in innovation and in particular not seeing women entrepreneurs in innovation, I really wanted to do my part to support and create something I would be passionate about. I firmly believe innovation is the next frontier for women entrepreneurs, enabling them to break barriers, take their businesses to the next level, and to grow at a rate comparable to their male counter parts.”

For 10 years, Shelley was the Executive Director of the Centre for Women in Business. Being a part of the Centre then, and now as a member, has helped Shelley grow and develop her businesses. Being a part of a community of entrepreneurial women gives her incredible amounts of support, she says.

“I tend to always find myself in male dominated industries. That’s part of the reason why I love the Centre. It feels like finding your tribe, having other women business owners that have been there and done that. You really get that sense of community and support.”

In addition to feeling like part of a community, taking advantage of member benefits and participating in events hosted by the Centre has enabled Shelley to become the successful entrepreneur that she is today.

“There’s always something of value,” she says of the Centre’s events. “There’s always new perspectives for your business, new connections and a sense of community with other women business owners.”

Not only does she work within her own businesses, Shelley works with other economic development agencies to help innovative entrepreneurs bring their technology into the marketplace. She works with the Centre for Women in Business, the Saint Mary’s University Business Development Centre and Entrepreneurs Forum. She explains that even though she is working for different organizations, the focus is always on innovation and commercialization.

“I’m always working on the same things, just in different ways,” she says.

Most of Shelley’s learning has been experiential. With her vast experience, her knowledge is practical. With the knowledge she has gained working in the industrial manufacturing and technology fields, and founding her own businesses, Shelley has a lot of advice to offer. She emphasizes that women business owners need to seek support and draw on the resources that are available.

“You need to get out there and get the support that you need,” Shelley urges. “Find your tribe for support, draw on those resources to help you build your business and go for it. A lot of times, women business owners tend to hold back or maybe not ask for the help that they need. I say, be shameless in asking for the support you need.”

Shelley also explains that failure is not a negative thing. She encourages women business owners to take chances, leave their comfort zones and pursue their passions.

“We have a real thing about failure and a real aversion to it,” she describes. “Failure is not a negative thing, it’s just a learning experience that pushes you forward. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and believe that you can accomplish things beyond what you ever thought possible. Having that belief in yourself, you can really accomplish amazing things.”

No Small Job: Tammy Buchanan's triumph in the trades

Tammy B- Small Jobs

Tammy Buchanan is a female plumber.

Not only does she work in a trade that is very much dominated by men, she successfully runs her own business within it.

In December 2013, Tammy, with the help of her business partner Sherri, launched Small Jobs Plumbing. Even though Small Jobs is a new business in the plumbing industry, Tammy is thrilled with the enormous amount of positivity she has received from her clients.

Small Jobs Plumbing has only two employees: Tammy and her business partner, Sherri.

Tammy is the plumber while Sherri takes care of the administrative duties, scheduling clients, updating their social media pages and establishing marketing initiatives to increase their client base. Together Tammy and Sherri have created a strong reputation for Small Jobs, and have quickly gained many loyal clients.

Tammy hasn’t always been a plumber. After high school, she went to university and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. She then worked an office job for 19 years before admitting to herself that she wasn’t fully satisfied. At the time, her brother was looking for an apprentice for his plumbing business. Knowing she enjoyed hands-on jobs, Tammy decided to give it a try and she was instantly hooked. After testing the waters in the trade, she went to the Nova Scotia Community College and became a Red Seal certified plumber. Upon graduation, she got a full time job working as a plumber, but that still wasn’t enough. Tammy wanted more, so she decided to step outside her comfort zone and start her own plumbing business.

“I’m a person who likes my comfort zone,” Tammy smiles. “So starting my own business was a big risk for me. I was nervous, but it didn’t take long for my fears to be overshadowed by confidence."

Although her business is small, Tammy’s work load is very full. Employed as a full-time plumber while running Small Jobs on evenings and  weekends, it is not uncommon for Tammy to work 12-hour days. She recently signed up with a contracting company that has brought even more work to Small Jobs Plumbing. With her business growing rapidly, Tammy has decided to take the final leap and devote all of her time to her business. Starting March 7, she will be working with Small Jobs Plumbing full-time.

For Tammy, breaking into a male dominated trade was not easy. There were many challenges that would have turned other people away, but she wasn’t discouraged. She explains that one of her toughest challenges has been finding steady work.

“Plumbing is usually seasonal work,” Tammy explains. “Many people renovate in the summer, so we sometimes get laid off during the winter.”

Being a female was another challenge for Tammy. With only a few females in the trade, it was harder for her to gain a reputation with her employers and clients. She worked hard to not only prove her capability to her clients, but to also gain their trust and establish a relationship.

“Working as a plumber requires your employer and clients to have a lot of trust in you,” Tammy explains. “Since you are entering clients homes and repairing their plumbing issues, it’s important to gain their trust and confidence in your capabilities. It is also equally important for me to know that I can offer them a level of comfort working in their home.”

Even though finding work was hard in the beginning, once Tammy established her reputation, gaining clients at Small Jobs Plumbing was much easier. A large part of gaining new clients and launching her business was because of the support of her previous clients.

“It’s all in who you know,” she says. “Networking is very important in any business, but especially being a woman in the trades. It’s easier for people to trust me if they feel they know me personally. People will refer you to their friends if they trust you and are pleased with your work. I have been incredibly fortunate to have previous customers refer me to people they know. That has been a huge help in getting my business off the ground and helping me build my reputation.”

As a new member of the Centre for Women in Business, Tammy’s busy schedule hasn’t given her the opportunity to take part in many programs or events hosted by the Centre. Even though she hasn’t had the opportunity yet, she feels very welcome and involved with the Centre.

“The Centre acts like a family of support,” she says. “I already feel like I can open up to the Centre and other members to get advice and just share common experiences. Knowing they’re there for me is very comforting, especially when I’m just getting started with my business. They are incredibly helpful and I look forward to attending their events in the future.”

She hopes to get to a point where she can offer employment to other females in the trades.

“Ideally, I would like to have two other employees working with me,” Tammy describes. “I would love to be able to train and educate another woman and to mentor someone the way my brother mentored me.”

When it comes to starting a business, Tammy encourages people to have a good plan and stay organized. Developing "good connections and strong relationships" are also important, and she emphasizes the value of having someone to talk to that you trust.

Tammy says she wouldn’t be where she is today without the passion she has for her work. She loves what she does and she isn’t afraid to show it. She overcame all the obstacles and worked her way into a gendered industry, and that was no small job.

 Swap to the Top

Katelyn Bourgoin has created what may be the next big internet sensation – one that could help skill-rich, cash-poor entrepreneurs rise to the top.

Katelyn Bourgoin2

Just because you’ve founded one business doesn’t mean you have to stop there. 

In 2010, Katelyn Bourgoin founded RedRiot Branding, a public relations and marketing agency in Halifax. Recently named a High Flier, an award that ranks her as one of Nova Scotia’s 15 top young entrepreneurs, her entrepreneurial success has skyrocketed and she has now launched venture number two: Swapskis.

It all began when she and her husband purchased their first home. They were interested in hiring a carpenter, which sparked a thought from Katelyn: she could use her marketing skills to negotiate an in-kind exchange with a local carpenter. Surely if the carpenter was just getting started, they would happily swap a day of their time for a shiny new website or spiffy brochure.

Katelyn recognizes that most young entrepreneurs are skill-rich but cash-poor. They have excellent skills in their field but are on a tight budget. They are the entrepreneurs who are trying to kick-start their career and plant their feet firmly on the ground. They are eager to start making a living. Katelyn wanted to help, so the idea for Swapskis was born. Katelyn has proved that perseverance mixed with determination and a lot of passion, creates a recipe for success that can be used to do anything you can imagine. 

Set to launch in early March 2014, Swapskis is an online bartering website where users swap services with each other. Sounds familiar, right? Wrong: Swapskis is unique because unlike classified websites like eBay or Kijiji, Swapskis users swap services without exchanging cash. Time and services are used as currency. Swapskis is limited to services, no goods can be swapped through the site. What also makes Swapskis so unique is that the site is exclusively for women. 

Right now, Swapskis has over 500 pre-subscribers anticipating the launch of the site, and is urging more to subscribe for “elite” access when Swapskis launches. Katelyn hopes that the pre-subscribers will grow to over 5,000 users before the official launch.

Swapskis will be based on a “freemium” model. This means users can use the site for free a set number of times each month. After subscribers exceed their monthly limit, they will have to pay a fee to use the site on a subscription basis. The website will also use an auction model. Users will “host an auction,” claiming how much they think their services are worth compared to another specific service. 

For example, an accountant can host an auction to swap services with a hairstylist, but the hairstylist would have to put in more hours for the accountant, as accounting tends to be a more expensive service in comparison. “I wanted to create a place where people can exchange their own services for services that they need,” Katelyn explains, “Without having to exchange cash.” 

“The version of Swapskis that is going to launch in March is very different from the Swapskis I had originally envisioned,” Katelyn says. “I listened to my customers and adjusted my business plans according to their needs and wants. If you don’t pay attention to what your customers want, they may never use your services.”

After interviewing a range of potential customers, Katelyn concluded that women were more keen on the idea of swapping services rather than men. She even found that some women were already swapping services with each other. Based on her results, she decided to focus Swapskis exclusively on women.

With the plans for Swapskis moving along, Katelyn became a member of the Centre for Women in Business. From the Centre she was able to get helpful insight on developing her business plan and take part in their workshops, events and services. 

“The Centre for Women in Business has been a huge help to me,” Katelyn says. “I was able to meet with a business development officer who gave me lots of feedback on my business plan which earned me some investor interest and even some funding.”

Getting Swapskis up and running wasn’t easy for Katelyn. As manager of RedRiot Branding, her biggest challenge has been juggling her busy schedule and putting in long hours. She doesn’t let that bother her, though. Her passion for both businesses has driven her to success.

“Although the conflicting schedules and long hours have definitely been my biggest challenge, it’s a challenge that I am happy to take part in,” Katelyn says with a smile. 

With Swapskis in its pre-launch stage, Katelyn describes her biggest accomplishment so far as being able to put together a team that is as passionate about the project as she is. That team consists of a social marketing and community builder, a graphic designer, vice president of technology and a few interns that help deal with public relations tactics. She is so confident in her idea for Swapskis that she even swapped services with her graphic designer to design Swapskis. 

As a woman who has founded two businesses, Katelyn has lots of valuable advice to offer to fellow entrepreneurs. She strongly encourages others to pursue their dreams no matter what they are.

“It is very important to pursue something that you are passionate about,” she explains. “There was no way I could have juggled both Swapskis and RedRiot Branding if I wasn't passionate about both businesses.” Her determination and confidence in both herself and her ideas helped her get where she is today, with one business already thriving and another one on the horizon.

“It is also very important to know exactly what it is you want to do,” Katelyn says. “Use the ‘starting lean’ model, do some customer exploration and build a tailored product your ideal customers will love."

Important to any venture, Katelyn stresses the significance of networking, especially when creating a new business. “Networking is essential, especially in the startup phase, not just with Swapskis but in any business,” Katelyn explains. “You have to attend as many events as possible and connect with a variety of people to get your name and your business out there.” 

Katelyn explains that she was able to connect with a few female run organizations across the region. “By promoting Swapskis to organizations in different cities, they are able to share Swapskis within their community, helping it expand across the Atlantic provinces,” says Katelyn. In early March, Swapskis will launch in Halifax, Fredericton, Charlottetown and Saint John. Katelyn’s goal is that one day Swapskis will be available in the United States as well as Europe.  Once Swapskis is up and running, Katelyn hopes to be able to step back from RedRiot Branding and focus more of her time and energy on Swapskis. 

Swapskis Logo

“My main goal for Swapskis is world domination!” Katelyn explains with a laugh. “I think Swapskis has the opportunity to change lives. It will hopefully allow women to gain experience, make more contacts and become successful entrepreneurs. This kind of a system should let the hard workers rise to the top, and that’s the way it should be.” To pre-subscribe for Swapskis, please visit

All the Right Questions

Mildred Royer, president of Royer Thompson Human Resource Consulting, says grilling your mentors and asking tough questions about staff and leadership roles within your organization can make or break its success.


Ever see someone successful in their professional life and just wonder exactly how  they do it?

 What specific formula or tools did they use to get where they are today? Instead of pondering to yourself, why not ask them directly?

 That’s the sort of advice you would receive from Mildred Royer, president of Royer Thompson Human Resource Consulting.

“Women business owners should not be afraid to seek out guidance from those who’ve been successful in their careers,” says Mildred. “It’s a great way to receive first-hand advice and learn from the experience of others.”

Mildred, a Mount Saint Vincent University alumna and Dalhousie grad, has had her fair share of guidance throughout her human resource career. She started as an in-house legal counsel to unions, and later became a director of human resources in municipal government, and then the deputy of human resources in provincial government.

In 1999, Royer joined Thompson Associates as a senior consultant and later advanced to a managing partner. In 2006 she took ownership of the firm and renamed it Royer Thompson.

With expertise in psychology and psychometric assessment, governance, financial planning, project management and human resources, Royer Thompson is an HR and management-consulting firm with an extensive and growing client base in both the public and private sectors.

As a small business owner, Mildred wants to make sure she can assist all business owners and professionals by creating several options to fit different needs and budgets.

“Some small business owners can’t afford hiring a full-time human resource individual, and taking on the HR responsibilities themselves can take a lot time away from other obligations,” says Mildred. “That is why we offer reasonable and financially obtainable options like a retainer, where we will provide a level of service for a fixed fee.”

Options like a retainer are provided to clients because Mildred and her consultants have recognized the positive impact human resource management has on an organization.

“Whether it’s a small business, a large corporation or not-for-profit, the quality of the staff and of leadership does determine the success of an organization,” says Mildred. “Our highly experienced consultants are committed to assisting any organizations with their challenges because we want them to succeed.”

Like other small business owners, Mildred finds herself balancing the everyday responsibilities that come with business ownership, but she still finds time to meet with clients herself, and to offer them her personal expertise.

 “We like to focus on providing the best client service we can. I like to have direct involvement with our clients on a regular basis,” says Mildred. “My days are usually really busy, but I spend most of it with my clients, listening to their challenges and offering advice.”

Through the advancement in her career, Mildred Royer hasn’t forgotten the people in her life that have helped shape the person and business owner she is today.

“I didn’t have just one person I considered a mentor: I was fortunate enough to have several mentors in my life who were very supportive,” she reminisces. “In the public sector, I worked with some amazing people who were in leadership roles, and they taught me a lot about leadership, and presented me with many opportunities for growth.”

From her mentors Mildred Royer had realized the benefits of seeking advice from professional experts and advises women business owners to do exactly that.

An opportunity for business owners and professionals to receive advice from experts will be the focus of the Centre’s upcoming professional development day, The Essential Business Toolbox, on January 29. The event will feature a keynote by Sleep Country Canada founder and president Christine Magee, and an opportunity to sit down and chat with her and other regional and national business leaders during facilitated round-table discussions. Each business leader will be offering up advice on their area of expertise, or business tool, including franchising, finance, marketing and human resources.

For Mildred Royer, helping women business owners and professionals is close to her heart and is something that is being incorporated into Royer Thompson’s future goals.

“We value women in leadership roles and women entrepreneurs at Royer Thompson,” says Mildred, who took out a corporate membership at the Centre for Women in Business last year. “ I would like to see the firm provide opportunities and guidance for women in business.”

To learn more about Royer Thompson, please visit:

To learn more about our upcoming professional development day, The Essential Business Toolbox, or to purchase tickets, go to:

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