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Big ideas, big world, small businesses

How Whistler's female entrepreneurs are taking their passions into the world, and making a living in the process

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We’re not in infomercial territory here. Most Self-Employment program participants are not motivated so much by the prospect of making megabucks, as the chance to wrap their lifestyle around their needs and professional goals. When a person hits the wall of working seasonal or entry-level jobs, being sent home when things are slow or the weather is not complying, starting their own business puts some of the power back in their hands. It’s not as if they can make themselves immune from the effects of a slow economy or bad weather. But at least they have new options – working from home, being their own boss, creating opportunities to remain in the corridor.

Current president of the Chamber of Commerce, and an entrepreneur in her own right as a coach and consultant with Focus Forward, Bernie Lalor-Morton, echoes this lifestyle motivation. "What I see people doing is really just figuring it out. Home-based business. Seasonal work. Whatever you need to piece together, if you love being here, people are doing what it takes to stay."

For Leach, the impetus came with the looming expiry of her maternity leave. "Teaching is such an emotionally exhausting job, and when I went back to school after having Ben, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job as a teacher, and I wasn’t doing a good enough job as a mom."

In her own business, Leach sets the rules. To juggle family and career in a way that doesn’t feel as if she’s selling everybody short. This means intentionally keeping her business small while her children are pre-school age. She has carved out a chunk of her life that can be given over to Organomics, a chunk that will get larger as her family requires less attention, but for now means a dedicated two days a week for consulting and site visits, and a narrower geographic client-range.

"Part of the reason I’m not totally focusing on developing a corporate clientele right now, even though that’s more lucrative, is that it would mean spending more time in Vancouver, and I don’t think that would be good for the family."

Knowing your core values is an important touchstone for the self-employed, and staying true to them is one of the reasons that people are increasingly attracted to this option.