Women in Business

THE EQUITY is pleased to profile a number of prominent women as part of our special International Women’s day feature.
We thank you for all the work you do to contribute to the community, whether through volunteering, being mothers, running
businesses, being involved in politics and every other way you enrich everyone’s lives. Thank you!

Karri Munn-Venn

What is your business?
I own and operate Fermes Leystone Farms in partnership with my husband Trefor. Leystone is a regenerative wool farm and vineyard that cultivates, creates and curates products and experiences that delight and inspire. Home to more than a dozen varieties of chickens, an adorable - and growing - flock of Southdown Babydoll sheep, and a guardian llama named Loretta, Leystone is a mixed agricultural operation. Not only can you get colourful eggs, raw honey, and luscious yarn at Leystone, we also have rows of grapevines available for rent, offer on-site knitting lessons, and host an annual artist-in-residence program. We’re founding members of the Luskville Farm Hop and excited to soon be joining the Aventure Outaouais farm tour.

What motivated you to
start your business?
I spent most of my career in the social justice/public policy/climate action space. I’ve also been an avid knitter for many years. The move to the farm was, in part, about creating a more grounded, deliberate life for our family. Becoming a full-time farmer was an extension of that, and also a way to bring together my passion for sustainability and climate action - all things sheep, wool, and knitting - and nurturing community. Ultimately, the career I left and the career I’m building are both focussed on making a positive difference in the world. And did I mention that I love sheep?!

Why did you start your business in the Pontiac
It makes our kids roll their eyes when we say this, but the Pontiac found us. When we visited our property for the first time, nestled on the edge of the Gatineau Hills overlooking the Ottawa Valley, we knew we were home. There’s something understated and also very special about the Pontiac. Moving here was the best decision we ever made. We’re grateful to call the Pontiac home, and so happy to build our business here.

What has been the toughest part about starting your business?
Fundamentally, I think it was that “we didn’t know what we didn’t know.” Still, we came to our farm business with a lot of relevant business experience, as well as a profound sense of curiosity and willingness to learn, and we were met by a generous community that was happy to share their knowledge and encouragement, and to help us along the way.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect?
It is all so good! I think the biggest thing, though, is being outside. It is being connected to nature and to place. To be doing meaningful work in a beautiful place, surrounded by a caring and supportive community. It has also been pretty exciting to bring the experience and skills that we developed outside of agriculture and to blend them with some steep on-farm learning to develop a unique and creative approach to building a farm business.

What advice do you have for
young women wanting to
start their own business?
Go for it! Trust yourself and be clear on your “why.” Don’t let what society tells you you “should” do get in the way of what your heart and spirit call you to do.

What are your goals for
your business?
We have a number of plans in the works: to produce vinegar, to process wool pellets, to host honey tastings and ultimately, to create a fibre arts destination. In many ways, however, these plans are secondary. This is because, at Leystone, we are guided by a desire to nurture. We seek to nurture the soil, the plants, the animals, the community, our family, and ourselves. And, it is our hope that through this nurturing, we will create an environment (and build a business) that attracts people seeking the same kind of simplicity and groundedness that first drew us here.

Jodi Armstrong

What is your business?
I am a Marketing Executive in the high-tech industry and co-owner and operator of Astra Estates in Bristol, Quebec.

What motivated you to start
your business?
I wanted to create something that made me feel fulfilled while bringing joy to people around me. I have been marketing and promoting products and services in the tech industry for 25 years and am now fortunate enough to apply my expertise in my own business. I also have been fortunate to have a wonderful female role model and mentor in my mom, who owned and operated multiple businesses in the Pontiac throughout her life.

Why did you start your
business/career in the Pontiac?
My partner and I have always been entrepreneurial. When we saw an opportunity to revitalise a historic golf course in this beautiful area we jumped at it.

What has been the most
fulfilling aspect?
This is a long list! Reconnecting with people from my childhood and meeting new people along the way has made this journey very fulfilling. In addition, having the opportunity to learn new things about business and getting to experience the thrill of accomplishments, both big and small. There have been so many “firsts” for me; Opening and operating a restaurant, events centre, golf course and convenience store! I have learned that I am strong, adaptable and I can actually survive on very little sleep.

What has been the toughest
part about starting your business?
The toughest part about starting a business is navigating through the multitude of rules and regulations that surround owning and operating a business.

What advice do you have for young women wanting to start their own business?
Go for it! It is not easy, but nothing worth having is easy! Do your research; you will require both a great product and demand for that product in order to be successful. Hard work, having a good support system, being willing to listen, learn, and pivot (and then pivot again). Savour your success (even the smallest wins), learn from mistakes and don’t be too hard on yourself. Do everything you can to make your customers happy! And most of all laugh, sing, dance… Take time to enjoy the ride.

What are your goals for your business?
My goal is to remain customer focussed, and to keep learning and improving. It is also very important to me to inspire young women, like my two amazing daughters, to pave their own path and to know that they are capable of anything. Astra Estates and the Norway Bay Golf Course offer many future business opportunities… Stay tuned for what the future holds!

Natalie Thompson

What is your business?
We are a home based gardener florist business. At Les Fleurs Thompson we create beautiful unique arrangements from flowers that are mainly grown in our gardens and on our property. More than 80 per cent of what we grow is started from seed here at home.

What motivated you to start your business?
A few years ago I started having health problems and I decided it was time for a change in my life and in my career. I have always been a driven person and I wanted to see what would happen if I invested all of my hard work and energy into something I was passionate about.

Why did you start your business in the Pontiac?
I have moved many times in my life and have always seemed to make my way back to the Pontiac. The Pontiac has always felt like home to me no matter where I was living. I started my business here because I felt that there was an opportunity to create a successful business here at home.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect?
The most fulfilling aspect would be hearing people tell me how beautiful my flowers are. I work very hard to grow and harvest my flowers and I take great pride in delivering a quality product so it is definitely very satisfying to get that positive feedback from my customers.

What has been the toughest part about starting your business?
I had to really think about this one. I face many challenges in my business and if I had to pick one that really stands out for me it would have to be learning how to set boundaries between my work and my personal life. There just never seems to be enough hours in the day to be both a good boss and a good mother. Mom guilt is real y’all!

What advice do you have for young women wanting to start their own business?
I think the best advice for young women wanting to start their own business is best said by Michelle Obama:
“There is no magic to achievement. It’s really about hard work, choices and persistence.”
And I think I would add consistency. Show up on the good days, show up on the bad days, just be consistent in showing up for yourself and your business and you will see results.

What are your goals for your business?
My goal is to make a living off doing what I love. I feel like we are meant to do more than just work and pay bills. If I could work at something over the years that pays the bills and brings me joy then that would be the ultimate goal for my business.

Chelsea Stevens

What is your business?
I am a Registered Nurse who specializes in Advanced and Diabetic Foot Care, I am the proud owner of a Foot Care business called “Happy Feet” located in the Pontiac.

What motivated you to start
your business?
My passion lies strong within helping others and taking initiative to promote good health, provide comfort and wellbeing all whileprioritizing important health education. After working at the Shawville Hospital for two years, it was evident that Foot Care was much needed within the Pontiac. Considering the Pontiac is an aging community, my goal was to provide an accessible service within the region, especially to those battling diabetes, to avoid travelling to surrounding areas, such as Gatineau.

Why did you start your business
in the Pontiac
When I was a student at Heritage College, my community provided me with helpful resources and support to ensure my success in the Nursing program. My goal was to return to the Pontiac and work as a Nurse and provide an essential health care service to assist in the health care shortage, to express my sincere gratitude.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect?
The most fulfilling aspect has been experiencing the overwhelming support from my community and receiving the abundance of positive feedback and testimonies that I have received over the past eight months since the opening of my business. No amount of success can compare to their gratefulness, happiness and satisfaction of being able to provide this much needed service to them.

What has been the toughest part about starting your business?
The toughest part about starting my business was the fear of the unknown. As much as Diabetic Foot Care was needed in our community, the fear of failing or being unable to gain trust in the quality of my service always drifted through my mind. With strong motivational skills, devotion, dedication and numerous efforts made, I could not be more satisfied with where I am in my business today and the trust that I have gained from the community.

What advice do you have for young women wanting to start their own business?
The thought of becoming a business woman in a small rural town can seem overwhelming, however, the support within a small community is astonishing. Take the leap, follow your dreams and remember your community will always provide support. Despite the fear of the unknown, your hard work and dedication will create a rewarding outcome. Remember to not get caught up in thought of the finish line, but to focus on the journey itself and take it one day at a time.

What are your goals for your
My career goal is to continue to learn and excel in advanced and diabetic education and to continue to provide stellar foot care within my community. My goal as a business woman is to continue to express my caring, outgoing, positive, respectful and compassionate personality and ensure that both you and your loved ones will receive desirable care.

Christine Francouer

Christine Francoeur is the mayor of Fort-Coulonge. She was elected in 2021 after serving as a councillor. She is the first elected female Mayor of Fort-Coulonge.

What motivated you to run for mayor?
I was a councillor for one term and then our mayor decided not to run for reeclection.. It was really it was a tough decision. It’s something that my husband was encouraging me with my whole family, everybody was encouraging me to go into it. And I just decided at the last minute, the last day I said, Yes, I’m going to try this. I’m going to do this. I can do this.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect of being mayor?
It’s just working from my own town. I find it so important. I find people should get involved so much more with their own town. We live here every single day. So I mean, if people started working together to get this town going, we could have such a great town. And that’s really what is fulfilling because I do meet people that will tell me, ‘you know, what, maybe have you ever thought of doing this?’ And I’ll say, ‘oh, you know what? No, I never did. This is a good idea.’ So I’ll bring this up to council. It’s fulfilling. It’s being able to help the people of Fort-Coulonge bringing back to town back to life.

What has been the toughest part about being mayor?
The toughest part is not being able to please everybody. Unfortunately. Yes, we do get a lot of complaints. I wish I could resolve everybody’s problem. But unfortunately, it’s not always possible. I do listen, to what the people are telling me. Then I go and I inquire, what can be done about this? Why is this not done this way? Why do we have to do it this way? And sometimes, unfortunately, it just can’t be done any other way. So I find that’s the hardest part not being able to satisfy everybody.

What advice would you have for a young woman who wants to get involved in politics?
Become a candidate for a counsillor. Because when you’re a councillor, that’s when you learn about the politics. Because when I started out, I had grand ideas. ‘This is not working in town. I’m going to be able to do this. I’ll be able to do that.’ You think that you can solve everybody’s problems and but there is a reality to that. There are so many rules and politics to follow and it’s a rude awakening at the beginning. But as you stay in the councillor’s position, that’s when you realize, ‘okay, so this can’t be done this way. But this can be done that way. So let’s try it this way.’ And you do have to realize that being in municipal politics, it doesn’t move quite as quickly as we all think that it does.

What some of the unique challenges
of being a female mayor?
There still is people that think, well, you know, what does she know about fixing roads? What does she know about the water system? What did she know? We still have people asking questions like that, a lot less than 20 years ago, but there are still people that are asking questions like that.
You just have to let them know that you are learning every single day. It’s true that when I did becomSe mayor, there were things that I did not know, but if there’s a water breakage somewhere you’ll see Christine there, because I’m gonna go check it out, see what it looks like, see what they’re doing. Asking them okay, well, why are you doing this? Why is it done this way? Why can’t it be fixed this way? So, this is the way to learn. You need to ask questions, and that’s what I’m doing and that’s how I am learning. And I do have a good team behind me. So they are helping me a lot.

What are your future goals as mayor?
To continue to do the best that I can. I will continue to learn I will continue to try and help the people as best as I can. I am a people person. So I like to speak to everybody. Even if you’re coming to me with problems, there is no difference. I just want to keep on helping my town to grow. I know we need to do this and I think I’m the person to do this right now.

Patricia Pringle-Moffat

What is your business?
Patricia Pringle-Moffatt Bookkeeping and Payroll Services.

What motivated you to start your business?
I had been a bookkeeper for other people for 20 years and I didn’t want to commute to my old job after my daughter was born, So I decided to take the chance and hang out my own shingle.

Why did you start your business/career in the Pontiac?
Primarily because that’s where I lived and I wanted to help the people around me.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect?
I love being able to set my own rules, set my own hours, do my own thing, not answer to other people, not work for somebody else. It’s been great with a young child, being able to work around her schedule.
What has been the toughest part about starting
your business/career?
I missed the regular paycheck. When you’re an entrepreneur or working for yourself, sometimes especially in the beginning, the pay isn’t regular. And you’re also obligated to tax wise pay your own QPP your own QPIP. So you are hard hit att tax time and you miss the regular paycheck.

What advice do you have for young women wanting to start their own business/career?
I would say, research. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you jump in. But if it’s your passion, if it’s what you love, do it. And there’s always people out there willing to help to give advice and support. Surround yourself with supportive people.

What are your goals for your business/career?
My goal is going forward to continue to provide a good service to the clients I have and any future ones as well.

Lorraine Harris - no photo

What is your business?
Our business is K & L Dairy dairy products. We have two trucks on the road and we sell here. We also have our deli, St. Albert’s cheese and frozen vegetables. Quite a variety.

What motivated you to start your business?
My husband wanted to start it and I really didn’t want to and now you can’t get me out of it. I love it. We really enjoy serving each and every one of our customers is a valued customer. We started in 1978.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect?
We enjoy working with out customers.

What has been the toughest part about starting your business?
When the prices goes up, it’s hard to put it across to our customers, but that’s the worst part of it is things changes every year and whatnot. So you just have to go with the flow and hang in there.

What advice do you have for young women wanting to start their own business?
She has to be very motivated and long hours hours dealing with the public.

What are your goals for your business?
Just keep on going and our grandson Kyle is going to be taking over and we are soon going to be slacking down a little bit in the hours. Keith already has and I don’t know what it will take to get out of here because I love it.


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