The 2016 National Mompreneur Award top 20 finalists have been chosen and include two women from southeastern Manitoba.
Nominations opened two months ago and 124 nominees were named. Votes were then cast to choose the top 20 finalists in five categories and over 60,000 votes were submitted. Cindy Grenier from St. Pierre Realty is a finalist in the Mompreneur Award of Merit - Consultant, Franchisee, or Broker category and Colleen Dyck from GORP Clean Energy Bar is a finalist in the Mompreneur Award of Excellence - Canada's Mompreneur of the Year category.
Grenier says it's inspiring to see how many women have started businesses from scratch across Canada and notes it's important to recognize their efforts and accomplishments.
"It's important because I find it's very difficult for moms to become an entrepreneur. There's so much education you need to go through and then you need to schedule everything around your children and having children, especially when you have newborns at home," says Grenier. "There's a high level of stress that's involved with it as well. So recognizing these women who are putting their lives out there and doing everything around their children and building something from scratch is very important."
Grenier explains she started in real estate in 2007 and worked in Winnipeg but after a couple years stepped away to start a family. She says they moved to St. Pierre and in 2010 she started working for her grandfather's realty company and became a broker in 2014. Grenier notes in the last two years she has built a website, ramped up marketing and is looking to hire more agents to continue growing the business.
Dyck says she started making energy bars for herself eight years ago while training for a triathalon and the appreciation for the product grew and spread from there.
"It actually started out of necessity. I was just needing to make bars for myself because I was training for triathlons. I spent a lot of time in the car, spent a lot of time going through drive-thrus that I should not have been going through," notes Dyck. "I started eating energy bars and what I found on the labels of a lot of them was just really poor. So I started doing my research and I came up with the recipe and expected that I would just be making them for myself. When I started bringing them to practices all my training mates started asking for them and pretty soon family and friends were putting in orders, and I was just making it out of my home kitchen for friends and family. I thought, okay, maybe there's something to this."
Dyck adds she took entrepreneurial courses in college and always knew she would start a business, but never thought it would be energy bars. With the success has come challenges and Dyck says one of the first challenges was getting the finances together to purchase the equipment needed to make the product. Fortunately, she notes, she was able to get a loan through the Women Enterprise Centre.
Both Dyck and Grenier say one of the biggest challenges about being a mom and an entrepreneur is balancing family life with business life. Dyck notes she is naturally quite competitive, driven and could work all hours but has learned it's necessary to shut things down at 4 p.m. when her children come home from school.
"It's meant that I haven't been able to get places as fast as if I would have had all the time in the world, but it's actually a pretty easy decision at the end of the day. It's going to take longer but I'm not going to have regrets when it comes to taking the time to be with my kids. Just making sure when you're in your down times you're making it quality time with your kids and you're not letting your work stress leak out onto them."
Grenier says a great skill to develop as a mompreneuer is time management.
"I wake up very early in the morning, prep everything for my children before they go to school. Then I can sit down and respond to the little emails and just try to intertwine my business life and my family life and break it up so I'm not sitting on my computer for six hours straight. If you have a plan at the beginning of the day and you have a to-do list you'll find you'll accomplish much more."
Dyck and Grenier say their children have become involved in the business from going to events, seeing how to deal with difficult people, to understanding what it takes to run an effective and successful business. Dyck adds it has created opportunities to bond with her children and teach them business life skills while also allowing them to watch their mom chase her dream.
The 2016 National Mompreneurs Conference winners will be announced on March 5.