I recently had the honour of being invited to speak to master’s students at Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship & Technology Centre, in Waterloo, Ontario. As I was preparing for my presentation, I started to think about why I am an entrepreneur today and ended up taking a trip down memory lane. I ended up thinking a lot about my mother.
I was raised at the knee of an entrepreneurial mother who, although only five feet tall (if you stretched her when she was wet), thought she was eight feet tall in her own head. She was an amazing woman and when I was younger, I believed she had nerves of steel. Later in my life only served to confirm that I was right. I hadn’t thought about this in awhile, and it brought back lots if special memories.
- Lost her mother at twelve-and-a-half
- Shorty after was pulled out of school to work in the family store
- One year after her mother died had the step mother from hell show up
- She fell in love with my dad, got married, built a house, sold it and emigrated from England to Canada with only the clothes on their backs and four suitcases
- Worked at The Bay in accounting (which she hated) to bring in money
- Ended up graduating top of her class from a Montreal based dress making school
I can remember:
- Going to school with sequins stuck on my you know what from all of the tutus she made for the local dance school recitals in her basement workroom
- Her little red car roaring up the road six days a week for the hour drive (each way) to get to her sewing business in town
- Her sewing at home in the evenings and on Sunday to keep up and make extra money
- Her winning one of Canada’s top rainwear design competitions
- Four of her evening gown designs being featured in an international Wonder Bra advertising campaign
- Five failed business ventures
- Money being tight
- My father supporting her no matter what
- Family fallout over a failed partnership
- Her picking up and moving to a new city with my dad for his new job
- Her going back to work because she had left everyone she knew behind
- Her making my wedding gown and bridal party dresses
- Her making my sister’s wedding gown and bridal party dresses
I vividly remember when:
- My father called to tell me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer (what her mother died from)
- We went to another doctor for a second opinion only to have him confirm the first
- I walked into the hospital room and saw her for the first time after a radical mastectomy
I fondly remember her:
- Opening her sixth and most successful venture three weeks after surgery
- Telling my father when he retired he better find something to do because she was still working
- Finally deciding to retire at age 68
- Moving halfway across Canada to Victoria because it reminded them of England
- Being given a breast cancer free checkup at the fifth year
I will never forget:
- When she was subsequently diagnosed with liver cancer
- Her continued belief that she would beat this one as well
- My father having a massive stroke and dying two months before they would have been married for 57 years
- The morning she lost her battle with liver cancer one year and ten days after he died
My mother was my hero, and I do not use that word lightly. I know she would be uncomfortable with me doing so today but loving, tough, caring, fearless, wonderful, scared, human, compassionate, quick witted, smart, a great listener and a role model for both me and my daughter are some of the other words that come to mind when I think of her.
She was a true entrepreneur and no matter what life tried to throw at her to deter her from that path, her spirit, belief, passion, faith and her family kept her coming back time and time again.
Stay tuned for FROM WANTREPRENEUR to ENTREPRENEUR (Part Two) to find out more about the influence my mother’s life has had on who and where I am today and also some of the things I shared with the master’s students about being an entrepreneur.
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