Director of Research, NBIF (Current until July 31, 2018)
Lawyer, Connors Stilwell (Starting September 1, 2018)
Owner, Bowman’s Pharmasave
By day I’m a passionate advocate for science, the arts, knowledge, education and innovation. By night, weekends and to be honest, very early mornings, I’m a Pharmacy owner, champion of women in tech and business, tourism blogger, activist, volunteer, partner, advocate for social justice, and 50% (but in my humble opinion, the favorite) caregiver to a growing heard of rescue cats and two unexpectedly large dogs.
In 2003, after three fabulous years at St. Thomas University, I headed to Edmonton, Alberta to attend Law school at the University of Alberta. I was young, angsty, and keen for change, challenge and something different. I was quick to pronounce I’d never return to New Brunswick.
My years in Alberta provided everything I’d hoped they would. I met some of my best friends, men and women I admire and root for, I worked for an organization and leader that inspired and set the direction of my career, I was exposed to ideas and ways of doing things that I never would have seen in New Brunswick, and I met and married my partner.
And then the opportunity to return to NB presented itself.
Eight years in New Brunswick have turned us into some of this province’s biggest champions. We’re not pollyannas. We get frustrated by taxes, healthcare wait times and the fact that our bottle redemption netted us a lot more in Alberta than here. But the opportunities…oh the opportunities.
Indulge me an analogy.
I come from a really small town. Really small. There were only like 49 kids in my graduating class. What I often tell people was that the best part of a small high school was that you could STACK your resume. I played on every sport team, on student council, drama club, band, every club. Why? We needed people, folks. Two feet and a heartbeat qualified you for our softball team. I rolled into University scholarship applications looking like a proper overachiever next to the gal from FHS that only made the cut for one club. Not to mention the things I’d learned and the opportunities I’d had.
I think that’s a great analogy for New Brunswick.
New Brunswick has presented me opportunities that I would have never had in Alberta. With an open, curious mind, and a willingness to work with anyone, the doors are wide open here. We’ve got to take advantage of these opportunities. We’re a small, friendly province. Put your hand up folks.
I’ve built a professional network in six years in New Brunswick that might have taken me an entire career in Calgary to build. My first office at a New Brunswick University consisted of me and my boss. We had to know every professor on campus. We had to have a pretty good understanding of their research. I learned more about chemistry and fine arts than I had in 19 years of school. Had I been working at the University of Toronto, I would have never had the opportunity to learn so much, so fast.
In my next job, I was it. I was the only person representing my organization in New Brunswick, and in turn, the only New Brunswicker representing New Brunswick scientists, engineers, researchers and the industry that needed their expertise to my national organization. I had to sell the expertise that exists in New Brunswick to industry CEOs, government and national organizations….in two languages. I now find myself as the bridge between research and venture capital. (Another indulgence – I do that with liberal arts degrees – for goodness sakes, we need to stop diminishing the value of a liberal arts education).
I now get to see some of the most exciting things innovation wise happening in Canada, and particularly in New Brunswick. Folks, if you had told this little St. Thomas grad 11 years ago that she’d be able to talk coherently about the impact of artificial intelligence on healthcare delivery, we’d have laughed, and laughed and laughed and then returned to our beers. Be curious and always be learning.
An aside and a tip: Never be afraid to ask questions. Ever. I’ve never met all the qualifications of any job I’ve held. Don’t worry about that. Be curious. Research. Ask questions. Do the work. My first boss out of law school once advised me that I’d get myself in much more trouble pretending to know something I didn’t know than I would by just asking the question. Actually – he shouted at me saying I was going to get my ass disbarred before I even got called to the bar if I didn’t admit when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – and honestly, I probably deserved that.
A year ago, my partner and I opened our first business, a pharmacy. That’s not as random as it sounds. He’s actually a pharmacist. I’ve never had a more stressful or satisfying year. Nothing I’ve done professionally has been as personally satisfying as the growth of our business. Running a small business is so tough, but when you strategize, and implement your ideas, and see measurable impact immediately…oh, the feels. We’ve celebrated more small wins over $16 bottles of Prosecco than we’d care to admit this year.
Our experience running a business in Fredericton has been so different from the experiences we’ve witnessed in other jurisdictions. We embraced the fact that we’re a small city and that everyone knows each other. They didn’t know us yet, but we were game to change that. The first few calls to local companies to ask if we could sell their product in our store were terrifying. The first outreach to a local influencer was nerve wracking. The first Chamber event was pretty awkward. Then everyone said yes. Not only said yes, but really enthusiastically said yes. And then they started rallying for us and partnering with us.
The relationships we’ve formed with other Fredericton small businesses, influencers, government leaders, business advocates and other health care professionals have made all the difference in our business. It may not be obvious to those inside of New Brunswick, but you just don’t make those kind of relationships in larger centres. You just don’t.
We (especially women) need to grab the opportunities New Brunswick presents. New Brunswick is a great place to start a business. The low cost of living alone mitigates the risk so much. We would have never been able to live off one salary in Calgary. Further, supporting local has never been more popular and most small businesses will rally to support other small businesses. I love this collaborative vibe. You’re not on your own. There are folks that will help you get your business plan prepared, help you find financing, help you with sales, and growth, and marketing. Not to mention, other business owners. We’ve had so many great conversations with other owners around marketing, hiring, inventory, and professional services. These have been amongst the most helpful.
Not interested in a business but interested in spurring a movement? Starting a festival? Organizing for a cause? I argue it’s a lot easier to do that here than in bigger centres. People want to help. Local governments are keen to try things. You can actually chat with your mayors in person and online. People are clamouring to volunteer, to give back, to feel useful and have purpose. Believe it or not, there’s even companies (small and large) looking for meaningful partnerships (that’s fancy for give you money).
I’m excited for what the next few years hold both personally and for New Brunswick. In September, I’m returning to the practice of law. I’m beyond excited for new challenges, and new opportunities to work with other entrepreneurs passionate about their craft and making NB a better place. There is great momentum for women entrepreneurs, women politicians and women leaders. We can make a tremendous impact here in New Brunswick. There are a lot of women with some fabulous ideas, and the drive to really change things. Join us.
Entrepreneur, Lawyer, Advocate, Passionate, Proud Frederictonian, Animal Lover, Connector, Learner