When Entrepreneurship Begins Young
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Many people know me as the Co-Founder & CEO of our tech startup FanSaves. The public sees me pitching our business on stage or getting nominated for cool awards but I recently realized that most people don't know how entrepreneurship has been part of my life since I was a kid. That this passion and drive you see is a fire that was sparked decades ago.
You see, I have always had a knack for business which I can absolutely contribute to my Mom, who was an entrepreneur herself. She started her own business when I was nine years old and as a child, I watched her kick butt as a single Mom while she grew her international freight forwarding company; in an industry brimming with men.
I grew up believing that I could be anything I dreamed of and I never felt that I couldn't do something because I was a girl. So it's no surprise that my life's path led me to running my own business and empowering people, especially other women, any chance I get. I saw my Mom hold her own with powerful men with grace and grit which in turn rubbed off on me.
When I was ten years old, I remember gathering rocks from the street I lived on and painting them with nail polish (remember, this was the mid-90's before Pinterest so I can attest they were super ugly, literally just stripes of colours) and then setting them up on a table outside of my house and selling them. Ha! Never underestimate a cute blonde kid with a goal!
At the beginning of grade 9, my Mom had been working really hard and bought us a new computer and it had a BURNER! For any of my Gen Z readers, know this was a huge feature. A burner allowed me to take the songs I had downloaded from Napster, Kazaa and Limewire (Millennials, you'll remember these programs) and burn them on to CDs. I didn't set out for it to be a business and didn't even realize it was one at the time, but you bet your balls that I would receive handwritten lists from people, burn them their customized CDs (writing all the songs and their order in nicely coloured gel pens on the cover) and charge them $5.
When the school administration caught wind of it and tried to shut it down, I remember the lists were passed to me more discretely and the CDs exchanged hands undercover but I kept hustling and made a decent buck. Looking back, I realize this probably wasn't the most legal thing to be doing but hey, better than dealing drugs right?
Not that I indulge in childish illegal activity nowadays but that CD business taught me a lot about tenacity and not giving up. Something I also learned from my Mom. She overcame so much in her life and taught me so many lessons and I am proud to be her daughter through and through. So, when she suddenly passed away at the end of 2015 after successfully receiving a double lung transplant a year earlier, my world stopped.
My heart has never been whole since and my life forever changed that late October day. Losing my best friend, my confidante, my person was the hardest things I have ever experienced in my life. I'm an only child and my Mom raised me with the help of my grandmother who had passed away, as well, five year earlier. Nan was also a strong woman who taught me about perseverance and the importance of a good sense of humour. Needless to say, my extreme loneliness took a toll and most days I felt like I was floating alone on a dingy in the middle of the ocean with no life jacket and no land in sight.
I tell you this because it's an important part of my entrepreneurial journey as it was about six months after her passing that I tried to go back to work (I had previously been working at an Ad Agency in Toronto but decided to move back to my small town after her passing). I got hired for a new job and within days I just knew I wasn't ready. I would spend my lunch breaks driving to my best friend's work and bawling my eyes out about how much I hated it.
I quit. Fortunately, within a week of quitting I felt that entrepreneurial spirit reignite in me. My Mom's voice told me "Do it yourself". I knew in my small town it would be hard to find a marketing job comparable to the ones I held in Montreal, Calgary and Toronto and I realized I had a whole bunch of experience just waiting to be unleashed. This time around it wasn't a CD burner my Mom gave to me, it was the realization that everything I needed to be successful, I already had within me.
So I started my first real business, Rhoice Marketing & Events. Named after my Nan (Rhoda) and my Mom (Alice), Rhoice (pronouced like choice with an R) gave me purpose again. It gave me a reason to get out of bed in the mornings and I could feel my Mom guiding me through it. To this day, I still feel her cheering me on and I hear her voice answering questions I can't seem to figure out. I feel her wrapping her arms around me and I feel how proud she is of me. But I am just as proud of her because her biggest goal in life was to equip me with the tools I needed to be successful. She sacrificed many things to ensure I could live the life I did and learn the lessons that have come to propel me forward.
It was my Marketing & Events company that led me to a contract with the new minor professional hockey team that came to my hometown in the fall of 2016. It was this contract and position with the team that threw me into the arms of my now boyfriend and FanSaves co-founder Kris (more about that in another post). It was this first business that lifted me out of the gutter and taught me the ins-and-outs of running a company, which has directly translated to the success we've had with FanSaves in the last three years and allowed us to grow to what it is now.
All of this to say that my path has been sprinkled with entrepreneurship my whole life and I often ignored it, believing I needed a career in the corporate world to find success. It hurts my heart that I had to lose the most important person in my life to realize that owning my own business was my destiny this whole time but I am so grateful for the lessons she taught me from a young age. Those days in her office making photocopies and organizing file folders meant something. Hearing her on the phone closing a deal and celebrating the small wins meant something. Watching her struggle on the hard days and teaching me the value of a dollar and hard work meant something. All of these things and more are what happens when entrepreneurship starts young and I feel so incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up immersed in the life that I have now chosen for myself.