Caroline Sullivan, co-founder and co-director, the Child, Adolescent and Family Centre of Ottawa

Caroline Sullivan
Caroline Sullivan
Editor's Note

Each year, OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce choose 40 of the region’s top young entrepreneurs and business executives and recognize them for their professional achievements, expertise and community service.


In these profiles, OBJ highlights some of this year’s recipients – their impressive accomplishments, what drives them and how they like to spend their downtime away from the business world.


See the full list of recipient profiles here and be sure to check out OBJ’s coverage of the 2018 gala here.

Birthplace: St. John’s, Nfld.

Company: Provides bilingual multidisciplinary mental health services to youth and families.

Education: PhD in clinical psychology, Concordia University (2007)

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

Charitable involvement: Manor Park School Council; Bettye Hyde Co-operative Early Learning Centre

Biggest biz achievement: For a long time, I’d dreamed of creating a space that would address all of the barriers that I saw as facing children and their families when they sought mental health treatment – namely, those of language, environment, wait times and level of care. I honestly didn’t think that I would be able to check off all of the items on my dream list, but I’m incredibly proud that my business partner, Dr. Julie Desjardins, and I have managed to make CAFCO into a warm and bilingual facility staffed by an amazing team of professionals where families can quickly find quality services backed by the latest research.

Biggest biz obstacle: It was never my dream to juggle what amounts to three jobs, between co-directing CAFCO, helping patients in private practice and teaching full-time at the University of Ottawa. In addition, Julie and I started our clinic without having any real experience or training in the business world. Learning to manage all of these responsibilities while still prioritizing my own family has been a struggle at times, and has made me realize that there is no such thing as work/life balance. Rather, I have become a strong proponent of work/life integration.

Biggest influence: Although I’ve had many wonderful professional mentors that I am incredibly grateful for, I have to say that my family has been my strongest ally in all of my endeavours. My mother has always been a great example of strength through adversity, my children ground me with a daily reminder of what’s truly important and without my husband’s unrelenting support, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have so far.

Biggest lesson learned: The most important lesson I’ve learned in creating a business is that ideals can also be opportunities. From the beginning, we founded CAFCO based on a set of ideals that we wanted to stick to, one of which was providing services to the most in-need and at-risk families in our community. It soon became clear, however, that the demand well outstripped our abilities. In order to address this issue, we began to seek out contracts with third-party organizations that fund treatment for these same families. Today, these contracts make up a sizable proportion of our business.

First job: I worked as a page at a municipal library in Montreal.

Advice I’d give the younger me: Slow down; it’s not a race.

What’s left to do: In my personal life, I’d like to show more of the world to my children, now that they’re old enough to appreciate it. Professionally, I’d like to see CAFCO continue to grow, with satellite offices and more service provision out in the community, specifically in terms of education and prevention.

Favourite pastimes: Exercising outside or relaxing at home.

I’m currently reading: Wonder by R.J. Palacio, because my kids said I had to read it before we could see the movie. I’m also reading Screen-Smart Parenting by Dr. Jodi Gold to better help my clients raise children in the digital world.

Favourite movie: Oh, this is a tough one. Maybe Pitch Perfect, because the music makes me happy.

Favourite song: Anything by Walk Off the Earth

Favourite local pro sports team: Ottawa Senators

Favourite local summer event: Ottawa Bluesfest

Preferred social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram

Twitter handle: @CAFCO_CEAFO

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