On a rainy Thursday evening, over 100 attendees filled the room on the 36th floor of the RBC Tower in downtown Vancouver to join us for our annual Women in Entrepreneurship speaker panel session.
This year, we were fortunate enough to secure three panelists from diverse industries, unified by their passion for their business.
Sonia Strobel – Co-Founder of Skipper Otto Community Supported Fishery
Patrice Mousseau – Founder of Satya Organics Inc.
Lee Brighton – Founder of Argotian and Virtro Entertainment Inc.
We began the panel exploring the reasons why these women chose the path less traveled – why entrepreneurship?
Lee compares the entrepreneurial journey as choosing a different path to cross the river; one could safely walk across the bridge overtop, or they could choose to skip across on the slippery stones, sometimes covered with moss, to achieve the same objective.
Patrice and Sonia both shared that for them, it was seeing a problem, seeing that no one else was bothering to solve it, and taking it upon themselves to find a solution.
One of the fears for aspiring entrepreneurs is getting started – most would defer to the excuse that they don’t know where to begin. Speaking to this point, Sonia says that “You don’t have to have all the answers. You need to know there’s a problem that has to be fixed.”
Sonia’s teaching background and interest in sciences led her to take on a hypothesis-based approach to starting and building her business. “I have a hypothesis. There’s something I want to try. When you hit on the thing that works, then it takes off.”
The panel also agreed that while it is important to hustle and work hard, self care is of utmost importance. Patrice says that we shouldn’t “race to the suffering”, comparing achievements like not having slept for days, or not having eaten properly for a week…Sonia added onto this point by saying that if you are not properly taking care of yourself “you won’t HAVE 100% of yourself to bring to work.”
How about dealing with ‘rainy days’? Where the business isn’t doing well or the stress is simply overwhelming. Patrice shares that the entrepreneurial journey is a very isolating one, but it is important to find and establish a supportive network that can ‘tell you straight’ and ‘be ok with you having a bad day’.
Looking from the outside in, observers would have said that when Satya Organics was featured in a Montreal newspaper, had just shipped a large shipment to Hong Kong, and been featured on Dragons’ Den was a great period for Patrice, but it was also when she was facing inventory and cash flow problems resulting from the ‘success’. The point is, the entrepreneurial route may look glamorous on the outside, but you must be prepared for the hard work and roller coaster that entrepreneurship is.
When asked ‘when and how do you know when you want to commit to entrepreneurship full time’, Sonia shared that she had once thought about giving up on Skipper Otto because she was torn between her interest in teaching and her passion for supporting the families and changing their work environment in the fishing industry. Her mentor had asked her ‘imagine a world where you stopped doing Skipper Otto, someone else will come along, because they will since it’s such a great idea – how would you feel?”
Her response was immediate in that she knew she had to tackle this problem and it was on her to make the difference.
As the conversation moved into how the speakers recruit and retain talent, Patrice simply said ‘pay a living wage’. Patrice also creatively engages stay-at-home moms to work with her on her business, because stay-at-home moms are ‘a huge untapped potential workforce.” Doing this gives moms an opportunity to work flexible hours, and also helps Patrice grow her business in a sustainable way – a win-win solution only a creative problem solver would be able to come up with!
The room was abuzz with energy as aspiring entrepreneurs, fresh graduates and seasoned entrepreneurs listened and nodded in unison to the authentic conversation on stage. The lesson is entrepreneurship is hard, it’s not for everyone, and you don’t have to start out with all the answers. The most important thing is to take care of yourself as you are striving to build your business – always take care of number 1!
We want to thank our Venue and Catering sponsor RBC for generously donating the space for this event, and our speakers for taking time out of their busy schedules to be with us on a Thursday evening. To all those who joined us for the panel, a big thank you for coming out and we look forward to seeing you at our next event in November!