I was born an entrepreneur. I started my first business when I was nine (performing at birthday parties and being paid with cake), then at 16 came a self-development program for teenagers, a flop in my early twenties, then at 24, my best idea yet... the big one. My idea was to create the most innovative speakers' bureau in Canada. I wanted to assemble the most fascinating people I could find and book them to speak at events around the world. A big dream for a young girl with no background in the business (to be truthful, when I started I hadn't actually even seen a speaker yet!) But I was driven and ambitious... and ready. I named my business Speakers' Spotlight.
Early on, my husband Martin quit practicing law to join me. It all started in a tiny room in our apartment. We had no money, no clients, no experience, no staff and one phone to share. The business, our life, was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, scary at times and triumphant at others. For me, being an entrepreneur is exhilarating, a lifestyle that I need to live. We had nothing except a dream or, more precisely, a vision.
The business now has grown beyond my wildest dreams. We have arranged more than 17,000 speaking engagements in over 30 countries worldwide, and have been fortunate to receive many awards and accolades along the way. The business has become much bigger than I ever expected, and even more fun. Looking back over the last 20 years or so, I realized that one single trait has remained steady. In fact, I can look back even further... I can look back decades and find it there, in that little girl dreaming about her future.
I was always a "dreamer." Growing up in Winnipeg, I was always thinking about the life I wanted to lead. Constant images of my future would flash before my eyes and inspire me. I remember for years I would fall asleep seeing myself go to work as a grown-up. The elevator would open and I would see the name of my business in big letters. My desk would be all glass and there would be a view of the CN Tower. That vision stayed with me for years.
At the age of 17, I moved to Toronto by myself. I learned a lot about loneliness, work ethic and the will to become a success. I subsequently went back to school, eventually met Martin and started Speakers' Spotlight. But still I dreamed. I started to think about what the business would look like. Together, Martin and I created a vision that we didn't deter from. We wouldn't let stray opportunities get in our way, we wouldn't allow ourselves to go off on tangents, no matter how tempting. We stayed the course, staying true to the vision we were working towards. As we accomplished our vision, we created a new one, then another, and another always in the same direction as the last.
The power of having a clear, strong vision of where you want to go is crucial. It provides you with a map of how to achieve your dream. The best part of being an entrepreneur is that you can create your own vision, draw your own map, and make it happen.
Today, if you came and visited me at work, you would get off the elevator and see the name of my company in big letters. You will find me sitting at my glass desk and, yes, there is a view of the CN Tower.