The Women's Business Network of Ottawa has named nine of the city's top female industry leaders as finalists ahead of its awards gala on April 17.
From left, Marilyn Henschel, Rebecca Page and Bronwyn Mondoux are the 2013 finalists in the entrepeneur category of the Women's Business Network of Ottawa's Businesswoman of the Year awards.
The finalists are divided into three categories: profressional, entrepreneur and corporate businesswoman of the year.
These finalists are significant shareholders in their businesses and have taken entrepreneurial risks.
Marilyn Henschel: From ball games to bookkeeping
Marilyn Henschel used to spend her days hurling softballs at batters in the hopes of racking up strikeouts. Her talents attracted the attention of a college in Long Beach, Calif. that offered her an athletic scholarship.
Health problems got in the way, however. With diagnoses of lupus and Addison’s disease, Ms. Henschel chose instead to sell art on a First Nations reserve in Nanaimo, B.C. for 13 years.
When she wanted a change, she packed her possessions in a Mazda pickup and drove across Canada, doing cold calls along the way. She reached Ottawa in 1998. Here, she met a friend from Edmonton who told her he was going to do his bookkeeping.
“I saw him take out a couple of scribbles, and I said, ‘That’s not doing books,’” Ms. Henschel recalls. “So I did that.”
Her work for the friend quickly generated another client, and business grew from there.
Henschel Business Services Inc. now has 19 bookkeepers working for outside clients – making it one of the largest such companies in Canada – and is on target for $1 million in revenues this year.
When hiring people, Ms. Henschel eschews resumés and focuses on asking recruits about matters such as their funniest moment at work. She looks for team compatibility, which is especially important as the business needs to run without her if she falls ill.
“I’m not that reliable, so I structured a business that was the most reliable,” she says. Each client’s file, for example, is known to at least two bookkeepers. If one employee is out of the office, the other can take any urgent questions.
Her employees bond over charity work. In December, several bookkeepers went to the annual gift wrapping fundraiser for the Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
This urge to help is beneficial for the business as well, Ms. Henschel says.
“The people we hire have this fit. They want to help people, and want to help other organizations.”
— Elizabeth Howell
Bronwyn Mondoux: Creative inspiration
“I think balance is so important, and a lot of times, women in the corporate world have to do it all and give their all to everything.” - Bronwyn Mondoux
Coming from an artistic family, Bronwyn Mondoux always knew she wanted to pursue a career in the creative field. But she was also drawn to teaching.
To fulfil both of her goals, she started her own design company, Cinnamon Toast, Creative + Strategy.
“I decided owning my own business would be the best merger of both worlds,” says Ms. Mondoux. “In the business world, teaching is all around you. You teach and you grow with staff, and you develop relationships.”
Ms. Mondoux’s agency specializes in creating brand identities and helping companies build a presence in print, online and other forms of media.
“Ask for help when you need it, but don’t always listen to other people’s advice. If you have a vision of what you want to build, you need to stay focused on that.” - Rebecca Page
Cinnamon Toast’s staff members are the reason she and the company have remained so successful, Ms. Mondoux says.
“I picked the right people. They’re so dedicated and we have so much fun,” she says. “I like to show them off. I’m proud of them and they make Cinnamon Toast whole.”
In addition to the inspiration she draws from her team, Ms. Mondoux says she also benefits from strong female role models in her life, including her mother, stepmother and other women in the corporate world.
“Growing up, I was surrounded by strong-willed women who worked damn hard,” Ms. Mondoux says. “I look up to women who maintain power, respect and leadership, but who are also kind and have good hearts.”
Ms. Mondoux adds that entrepreneurs must find the motivation within themselves to move up in the corporate world and find success.
“If you don’t have drive, I don’t think it happens for you,” she says. “You have to give it your all. If you really want it, you will rise to the top.” — Kristy Strauss
Rebecca Page: Finding her inner franchise
When she began working as a teen at a Druxy’s Deli in Toronto, Rebecca Page had no idea she too would be the founder of a franchise one day – and that, years later, she would find herself sharing a table with Druxy executives Harold and Peter Druxerman at an award ceremony where Ms. Page’s franchise, Concierge Home Services, was being fêted by the Canadian Franchise Association.
Concierge – an aggregator of home services including house cleaning, pet sitting and home checks – was established in 2001 and has since expanded to four Ottawa locations and one in Toronto. Negotiations are in the works for additional Ontario locations, including the Halton Hills region and Thunder Bay. But Ms. Page intends to cross the province’s borders soon, establishing Concierge franchises across the country.
Even with aggressive expansion plans, Ms. Page prefers not to set targets for how many franchises will be opened annually. A common mistake for emerging franchises is launching in the wrong market or with the wrong person, she says.
Managing the company while raising three daughters hasn’t been easy, but it became possible after realizing it can’t be done single-handedly, Ms. Page says.
“As an entrepreneur, your job isn’t to do every single task that needs to be done … You need to be able to give away pieces of the business and focus on the overall leading,” she says.
In addition to running Concierge, Ms. Page is vice-president on the board of Harmony House, a women’s shelter in Ottawa. It’s a commitment only made possible because she can set her own hours; the same flexibility that allows her to pick up her children from school at 3 p.m.
“As a business owner, I can make the time for that,” she says. “I don’t have to ask my boss for permission.”
— Courtney Symons