Friday, November 28, 2008

Building a Better Future

Over the years I have met and enjoyed chatting to numerous women entrepreneurs, all at different stages in their business, but driven by a passion to succeed, but none can compare with the dream Terri Smith has for her social enterprise.

When I first met Terri she was opening a private school for teens who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t fit into the mainstream educational system. Commendable work, and with a successful campus launched and underway, it would have been all too easy for Terri to sit back and coast.

But no. She saw that there was a glaring need for alternative education for youth whose parents could not afford the high fees, for families that have only known poverty, welfare and disadvantage. She wanted those students to have an opportunity to shine.

This week I visited Terri’s latest campus, located in a humble area of Hamilton. I met some of the students who for the first time in their lives felt they belonged; that someone cared about them, and who were succeeding on their own terms.

Terri offers a wide range of programs, from LINK for new Canadians to Women in the Skilled Trades, a pre-apprenticeship program for young women considering a career in the trades. And she has big dreams – of creating a vocational school that offers students the opportunity to realize their potential – be it through culinary training, picture framing or other practical hands-on, transferable skills.

I left feeling inspired and in total awe of the task Terri has set for herself, but she seems undaunted and you get the feeling, no matter what, her dream will come true. To learn more about AAT School, and how you can help – check the website at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Down with Negativity

Surround yourself with positive people was one of the key messages in a recent talk given by Mac Voisin, President of M & M Foods.

“Get rid of all the negative focus in your business and personal life” he advised. “They take up too much negative energy, he claimed, and just pull you down.”

Voisin is clearly the ultimate optimist and when he, and his lawyer brother-in-law started M & M Foods, they really didn’t have too much to be positive about, but they always looked on the bright side. If asked how things were going, they would put a positive spin on it, even when they knew business was slow; and sure enough, the business grew.

Back in the 80’s the concept of buying ready-prepared food was a new one, but as more and more women entered the workplace, these time-starved customers loved the idea.

Today M & M Foods has over 400 franchises across Canada and is getting established in the US, under the name of My Menu. Voisin also attributes their success to:

 Hiring for attitude, training for skills
 Customer service
 Comprehensive training for staff and franchisees
 Listening
 Staying focused, not getting sidetracked
 Doing due diligence on locations, products, etc…