On April 20, the Women’s Business Network will honour 12 of Ottawa’s leading women entrepreneurs at its Businesswoman of the Year gala. The nominees are divided into four categories: Emerging entrepreneur; established entrepreneur; organization; and professional. OBJ will profile each nominee leading up to the event.
What is your proudest business accomplishment?
Building our new retreat and spa at Strathmere. After 35 years in business specializing in group functions (weddings, meetings and events), the 6,000-square-foot retreat with spa services, daily yoga, a “field-to-plate” licensed cafe, outdoor hot tubs, fire pit and nature trails allows Strathmere to finally offer unique experiences for individuals who have wanted to return to Strathmere and never had the opportunity to do so.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My staff and family, including my executive chef, chief operating officer and wellness manager, and my kids and husband who are always bringing me their creative ideas. Also, the many places I visit on my travels give me great inspiration.
What is the biggest professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Cash flow has always been my biggest challenge. I have developed the property over many years, always putting the profits back into the business to build it, so being severely undercapitalized through development has been difficult.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
When discussing business challenges with my father (our chairman and my mentor since Day 1), I would tell him what I need in terms of staff, but I would add, “We can’t afford it.” He would reply, “But Mary, you can’t afford not to.” Following this advice, I hired my first wedding co-ordinator 30 years ago to take the pressure off me (a one-woman show at the time) so I could be freed up to focus on moving the business forward. This decision allowed me to grow the wedding business to more than 150 weddings a year for many years. We employ six wedding co-ordinators today! Best advice ever, Dad!