Jane Nicholson

Founder & CEO, AIRO | Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity

I came to Canada as a six-year old with my Dad, Mom and three younger brothers. We landed at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with three trunks and a cardboard box. That was in 1956. My parents left everything behind them in England to start a new life in Canada, so "belonging" and "succeeding" in our new country became an overarching family goal.

I've worked hard my whole life because that's my nature, and I've been a volunteer for over 50 years, because I was taught to give back. In Grade 12, I decided university was not for me; I wanted to be a hairdresser. That's what we called them in 1967. But my guidance counselor - a woman - told me I was "too smart to be a hairdresser"...I needed to go to secretarial school instead. So I did. It took me years to realize that "hairdresser" was really a metaphor for "transformation".... making something better. So that's what I do now.... I make things better for small entrepreneurs in Annapolis Royal and Annapolis County by lending them start-up money....the kind of money a bank will never lend....the kind of money my parents never had, but I do.

What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?

I'm proud of many things I have done as a professional communicator:

  • writing great radio commercials at CHNS in Halifax, and quitting in 1975 to finally go to university as a mature student
  • winning a national public relations award on behalf of the Children's Aid Foundation in Toronto as a volunteer
  • writing the first plain-language insurance policy in Canada as a consultant
  • moving projects forward...always forward.

What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?

I founded AIRO in 2016 because I was worried sick about the future of rural Nova Scotia. I read "Now or Never", then "We Choose Now", and figured it was time to "step up", as Ray Ivany exhorted, and do something to make a difference in the place I know best... Annapolis County. We have a huge opportunity in Atlantic Canada to move forward as a region, but it takes a leap of faith combined with action. I am motivated to act.

What was your greatest stage of growth?  What made it a shift for you? 

I "retired" at 50 to work on transformative projects that were personally meaningful to me... restoring heritage buildings in Annapolis Royal; opening a vintage home decor store with my sister; working with the Annapolis Royal Wharf Association to provide more boating access to the Annapolis River.

What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?

I have such deep respect for the clients I help at AIRO. They are hopeful for the future. They want to make a difference in their own lives and in the community. I have learned never to underestimate them and their passion to succeed.

 Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?

My parents, my husband, my children...and my women friends. They are the truth-tellers. 

What would you have done differently?

I was born in 1950....I have lived through the "wars" and come out on the winning side. I wouldn't change a thing. 

What are the principles you live by?

I am passionate about what I do. I help people to help themselves because I believe we all have to be - in one way or another - our brother's keeper.


Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Community Volunteer, Heritage Advocate, Dancer

Jane Nicholson