I’ve spent the last few years sending out interviews to Canadian leaders and entrepreneurs across the country to get insights into how their days work and what keeps them pushing forward. I’m consistently pushing out information that can be used by rural young entrepreneurs and leaders, either through here or by sharing resources/opportunities developed by others. But, besides the very vague “About” section, I don’t generally reveal too much of myself to the outside world if you don’t know me inside and out (and there’s only 1 or 2 of you besides myself- HI MUM!), and even then, it’s situationally dependent. Sometimes I’m the leader, sometimes I’m a follower, and sometimes I’m off on a solo trek.
So, welcome to who I am!
Question 1: Describe yourself in 3 words only.
Passionate community engager.
Question 2: Tell me more about your business(es)? What kind are they?
I am the founder of Youth Beyond Enterprises, the online resource for rural young entrepreneurs and leaders in Canada. I am primarily focused on fueling the inherent creativity of young people by showing them how they can take their ideas and turn them into viable businesses & social solutions that are sustainable within rural communities across Canada. All blog topics and information come from my own personal research and experiences as a professional and leader who grew up in rural Ontario. The information here can be used to either help youth launch a business venture or help them to identify community problems/issues that they believe need resolving and the solutions needed.
In my day job, I work as a Pay & Records Administrator at the Regional Cadet Support Unit at CFB Borden. I’m responsible for the administration needs for the units in Northern Ontario (i.e. ensuring that they get paid on time and that their personnel records are up-to-date). I am also the Commanding Officer for Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Barrie.
Where does your drive come from? What are your sources of inspiration?
My drive comes from my true passion for community and youth engagement. I’ve seen what happens when communities turn an eye away from the people already living there and then have to do a mad scramble because they didn’t listen to those who were speaking the truth the whole time. I’m actually living it right now! I consider myself to be lucky to have been dealt poor hands and good hands, as they help keep me pushing upwards and forward. Be it because I don’t ever want someone to be in the situations I’ve put myself in that I didn’t think I would honestly escape from or because I had really great opportunities and work to provide those same opportunities to those coming up behind or alongside me.
My sources of inspiration? Ha, this one will prove just how much you know me! Personally, it’s my youngest niece & nephew, the members of all three of the Cadet units that I’ve worked with in my career (851 Squadron in Picton, 608 Squadron in Belleville and RCSCC Barrie in Barrie), my Mum, brothers (and their SOs) and honestly everyone out there who is smashing through the barriers/hurdles that have been placed in front of them. Professionally, it’s my peers in the CCO, fellow members of the CAF/DND team, and people who are working to make a positive difference in the lives without the expectation of any recognition or reciprocation.
No two days are often the same for anyone with a busy schedule, but what does a typical day look like for you?
In order to keep myself sane and be able to handle changes, I have a set order to how I do things in the morning and at night. Morning is up at the crack of stupid (4:45AM) to get ready to go the gym (huzzah for free memberships!), pick up coffee/breakfast and/or gas on the way, hit up the gym for either treadmill work, strength training or even a run/walk outside if it’s been too long since I spent decent time outdoors, and then getting ready for work. If I had a late night the night before, I’ll go for a walk in the morning and then do more intense work at lunch time. Once I’m at the office, it’s time to check in with my colleagues and get down to business with work tasks or professional development courses.
After work is where I really come into myself that day (sounds weird, but bear with me). Generally, after work or on weekends I’m sprinting off to the Corps to work in/on the program for this year and next. That or I’m starting to build up my networking connections in this area. Because this drive is about 60-minutes round-trip, I typically listen to audiobooks or do some thinking about the direction I want to take YBE in the next few years plus how I’m going to do it. Even if I just work from home that night, I’m still doing work on the numerous tasks/projects I have coming due soon. I try to stop around 8:00 to shower, make lunch for tomorrow, and either read or Netflix (depends on my mood). Lights out by 9:45!
What do you do daily to grow as a person?
I am an avid learner and constantly gobbling up new information or resources. I aim to learn something new or reinforce a skill each day. It keeps me grounded and focused on both just how far I’ve come and how much further I want to go. I honestly don’t think that you can learn enough or be connected to your surroundings, so I am always doing a course or research on new practices/policies to apply to different parts of my life.
What tricks have you discovered to keep you focused, productive and achieve a decent work/life balance?
I am the definition of an ambivert! Sometimes I need to re-charge on my own by disappearing into a book or project, or do some deep thinking about the direction of my life & career. Usually, this happens at home or at a coffee shop with a book in hand. However, sometimes I absolutely crave being around other like-minded people or just people in general. Sometimes this is solved by being at a Corps event, attending a business/political community event (i.e. a Council meeting in the area or networking event), or deliberately going to areas of high activity such as the Barrie waterfront or community activity. I find this balance helps me keep centred because I don’t feel like I’m always sitting at home alone nor do I always feel like I’m always needing to be “on”.
As for staying organized, I rely heavier on my phone/email reminders than I care to admit to. For awhile, I loved the idea that one gadget could have all of the information that I need at my fingertips and could be instantly accessed day or night. However, now that I’m older and more cognizant of my actions/choices, I am actively trying to not be so attached and disconnect when I can (keeping in mind that I am far away from family). I even bought a physical planner so that I don’t have to constantly have beepers going off all the time dictating my schedule. So far, it’s helping to reduce my anxiety over missing things!
What popular advice do you agree/disagree with?
Agree: “If you never ask the question, the answer is always ‘no”. Lately, I’ve been asking questions that lead off with “What if?” or “Why?” A LOT. While I seem quiet and reserved, I am constantly questioning things, be it out loud or to myself, which propels me to find the answers. We don’t know what’s going on in your head and heart, only you do. I used to rely heavily on others to help me get ahead, but it really is all on me, though I will make use of resources, collaborations and connections to find the solutions to problems. If I know I need to grow more in a certain area (i.e. my day job or just as a person in general), I am not afraid to ask others for growth opportunities, even if they never materialize.
Disagree: “Everything happens for a reason”. Sorry Mum, I know that this is your favourite advice, but right now I disagree. To be blunt, sometimes things happen/don’t happen because you missed the opportunity or because someone decided to keep the information you didn’t know you needed away from you for whatever reason, or you didn’t prepare adequately.
What’s your favourite quote to describe leadership?
The one that goes along these lines: “Never aim to be the smartest person in the room. If you are, you’re in the wrong room”. As a leader, yes, you need to have the access to the necessary make the correct decision, but that doesn’t mean that they need to come from you directly (unless it’s policy or an emergency). You will not know everything about everything, nor should you. To hold all of that power means that you aren’t utilizing the people around you who are better versed in a particular area. If they don’t feel valued, they won’t be willing to contribute as much and may even seek out external opportunities to use their skills/knowledge. Plus, you become stagnant because if you already “know everything”, there’s not much room to grow as a professional and leader.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced? How did you succeed in getting over it and moving forward?
I’m trying ridiculously hard not to dwell on the past, because I can very easily get stuck there, so I won’t reflect on my past/present personal issues. Probably the toughest for me for YBE was when I decided to no longer pursuit it as a full-time business and take a salaried position. My Dad was sick and Mum needed a hand, so opening a business was far too risky and more instability than we needed then. So, I made a trade-off to still pursue my passion for community and business development with the salaried job while giving my family better peace of mind. That lasted all of three months before I couldn’t ignore the nagging in my head that I couldn’t just completely abandon YBE and the young entrepreneurs/leaders in rural Canada. This is when I decided to launch virtually and work on the organization when I wasn’t at work or with my other youth groups.
Not included in the question count: if someone wants more information, what is the best way to contact you?
Do you want to be featured in an interview series that mixes local and national entrepreneurs who provide words of wisdom to the entrepreneurs and community builders that follow my blog? Send me a message via the Contact page! This series is getting more popular with every post & share!