5 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Who Found The “Silver Lining”
2022 is officially in full swing! Whether you’ve been steadily chipping away at your goals or are in need of a bit of a kick start – we’ve got you covered with all the motivation you need.
We know the last two years have been tough. Maybe “tough” is an understatement. The pandemic has undoubtedly been one of the most impactful tragedies of modern times. But, amongst the chaos, many of us have learned to slow down and realign with our core values – and find the silver lining in these unfamiliar and downright devise times.
So, we talked to some very inspiring entrepreneurs that have done incredible things during the pandemic. Folks who didn’t take no for an answer, chased their dreams and just went for it. Here are their stories and best advice to help others achieve their goals.
*Before we get into it, we’d like to gently remind everyone that surviving these last two years is impressive enough! These stories are meant to inspire, and we hope you can take something positive away from them.
1. Turn a challenge into an opportunity
When the world shut down, and gyms closed, personal trainers had to pivot and figure out new ways to support their clients. The fitness community has been impacted severely over the last two years, with many facilities unable to reopen due to rigid provincial regulations.
But Matthew Vautour, the founder of Get Off Your Ass Training Club (also known as GOYA), found a way to make his home workouts catch on and has garnered a cult following throughout the pandemic.
“I felt like it was important to come together as a community and move frequently, and boost the mood in such stressful and uncertain times,” Matthew said. “It was something for people to look forward to every day – we spread the good vibes and get sexy at the same time!”
From Instagram lives, to on-demand workouts and challenges, Matthew has cultivated a blooming and warm online community. But just as interesting, he’s also created a niche for himself as a personality – not just a trainer – and a shared appreciation amongst clients for his sunny, fun, and tell-it-like-it-is attitude.
“It was so heartwarming when I would meet individuals on the street, and they would tell me how much of a positive impact I had on their covid experience,” Matthew said. “It made what I do so very worth it.”
Prior to 2020, Matthew would often dream about having a few months off to focus on his own brand. He was at a low point in life and needed a change, and he certainly received it.
“I knew I had to make GOYA work or else I would be back to being so unfulfilled,” he said. “I am so, so grateful for the timing of things and that they worked out the way they did.”
Matthew was able to take a huge challenge and make it into a glowing opportunity. And he has some advice for anyone facing challenges or sitting at a crossroads.
“Take a leap and trust the universe because there is no refund on time or life, so you need to make mistakes and get messy,” Matthew said. “I had no idea or intention of becoming a home workout QUEEN, but here we are. Growth happens when you’re uncomfortable, so let’s go.”
2. Speak up against injustice – and hold space for others to do the same
People worldwide were shocked, outraged and completely devastated by the events of May 25th, 2020. George Floyd, a 42-year old Black man and father, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer. The murder sparked protests across Canada and the U.S and was the catalyst for an entire movement to end systemic racism.
Many took to social media, some pledged to continuous unlearning, and others turned inward. But Amy Sylla, an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion professional and dancer based in Toronto, was determined to take her anger and frustration and use her voice to make a positive impact.
After seeing a need and interest for education, Amy launched Brown Sugar Talk in the summer of 2020 – a platform and online community covering race and cross-cultural topics while amplifying marginalized voices.
“So many marginalized communities deserve to be understood,” Amy said. “And this was the time to unravel the layers of being a person of colour so that we could all better understand, listen and support each other.”
Amy originally had the idea to create the platform in 2019 but her busy schedule working full-time, dancing, and modeling made it challenging to dedicate the time necessary to build the community. That all changed when the pandemic hit, and she seized the lockdown as an opportunity to find a new purpose.
“With people stuck at home due to lockdown, Brown Sugar Talk became a place of connection and a time for people to educate themselves,” Amy said. “The goal is to increase participants’ level of comfort to have raw and honest conversations about uncomfortable topics, and motivate them to share advice learned during the discussions with the community.”
Now, Brown Sugar Talk will be back for Season 3 in March 2022! And Amy has some great advice for anyone thinking of launching something on their own.
“Don’t take advice from someone who hasn’t been where you want to go. Take the time to build a solid plan for launching your project, seek guidance from professionals, and don’t be afraid to invest in your skills and project development,” Amy said. “I guarantee you it will be worthwhile and come back tenfold.”
3. Start the business
Many of us were forced to completely slow down during the lockdowns and experienced total lifestyle changes. This time allowed us to take a deeper look at what really matters to us, and find and focus on our purpose.
Kiersty Fairbairn, a Toronto-based entrepreneur, said her life has done a complete 180 since the start of the pandemic because she was able to take the time to realign with her values.
“On the outside looking in, I was living a very fast-paced lifestyle working in Toronto’s lucrative service industry, and the late nights took a toll on my mental health,” Kiersty said. “I was depressed, and I lacked any kind of creativity.”
The pandemic gave Kiersty a chance to hit the pause button and begin to build a foundation for her future. She had always wanted to start her own business, and when she lost her scent due to covid, it became the catalyst for launching La Mémoire – a sustainable home fragrance brand.
“For about eight months, I didn’t have any smell or taste,” Kiersty explained. “And after many visits with specialists, I had no hopeful solutions, so I took matters into my own hands.” ;
Kiersty used olfactory training to retrain her brain cells, and after four months of daily practice, she finally got her smell back. But she had now become a bit of an essential oils aficionado and had also learned how to make her own candles in her downtime. Through her illness, sacrifices, and need to find a silver lining in all of this – La Mémoire was born.
“It has become a creative outlet for me, but I’ve also been able to use my loved ones as my muses,” Kiersty said. “And that’s been such an incredible experience, bringing that vision to life, and working with individuals that I’m very close to – it’s meant a lot to me personally.”
When asked what advice she’d give to entrepreneurs struggling to get started, Kiersty offers some genuine guidance.
“Just start because no one knows the road ahead and you’ll always find a way to maneuver around obstacles,” she said. “Choose yourself and let go of what doesn’t serve you.”
La Mémoire’s “The Origin Collection” is available now for pre-sale, with its official launch set for April 2022.
4. Make something yours
When the pandemic started and many employees transitioned to a fully-remote work environment, being close to the office didn’t matter quite as much. Many folks flocked away from large cities searching for more space, and hopefully, a more accessible housing market.
Jemicah, a Toronto-based content marketer and creative jack-of-all-trades, actually did the opposite, and it ended up working out perfectly in her favour – even if the road to homeownership was slightly rocky.
“It was a financially sound decision for me,” Jemicah said. “But it was fast-tracked because I was seeing someone, and we had broken up, and I was living with him at the time.”
After deciding to move back in with her parents, Jemicah’s mom gave her some good advice (as moms typically do). She told her to do something for herself, make something hers, and channel all of her energy into that. A week later, Jemicah found the condo she now calls home.
“The funny thing is that a lot of people we’re moving out of the city, but I love the city, so I moved into it,” said Jemicah. “It’s everything I needed for myself – it’s downtown, and I live in a studio, but everything is integrated.”
With people exiting the city, and the uncertainty of a lengthy pandemic, the condo market had dipped and inventory flooded the market with more available in her price range. The timing of it all – and going against the grain – paid off for Jemicah, but taking care of her mental health in her new space has become her #1 priority. She set personal goals for her well-being, and professional goals (that she met) and focused on the creative projects that fulfill her.
“It’s so easy for us to be down in the dumps, and I’ve gone through so many heartbreaking life transitions in the past two years,” Jemicah said. “It’s all about perspective – I’m not saying you’re not allowed to have negative thoughts, feel what you need to feel, process it, and then find a way to empower yourself in those tough moments.”
5. Make the move
Most had to hunker down at home when the pandemic started. But for someone who didn’t have a “home” in the traditional sense – that was a bit of a challenge.
Mike Valenti, a former Torontonian now based in Park City, Utah, is way ahead of the curve when it comes to working remote. In 2019, Mike joined Remote Year – a program designed for remote workers and entrepreneurs to travel the world while keeping their jobs.
“Going on Remote Year was a huge leap of faith beyond my comfort zone and a big risk. I got rid of almost everything I had, and put the rest into two boxes and just travelled,” Mike said. “It changed my perspective on work and life, and looking back, I would make that move a million times over.”
Mike then met Ali, an American also on remote year, in Croatia – who is now his business and life partner – and they’ve been inseparable ever since (other than that pesky eight months when the Canadian border was closed!). As creative folks with complementary skills, they’ve combined their businesses and made the remote life work for them.
“We were actually in Los Angeles when the pandemic hit, and we had to cancel all of our plans to drive across the country to get to the Canadian border just as it closed,” he said. “It was a very stressful experience.”
Once back in Canada, Mike started to plan his next move. He had always dreamed of living in the mountains, and after three years of living nomadically, he’s finally been able to put his roots down in Park City and enjoy that feeling of community once again.
“Immigrating to the United States was a challenging process to go through during a pandemic while in a long-distance relationship, but it was certainly worth it,” he said.
Mike has made many positive strides to get what he wants out of life. For anyone considering making a career change, going remote, or starting a business, he references the quote, “The trouble is, you think you have time.”
“Whenever I’m scared, unhappy or feeling stagnant, I remind myself that I would rather have a bunch of oh wells than several what-ifs,” Mike said. “It’s an empowering feeling when you completely take the reins and take ownership of your life.”
A final word
We hope you enjoyed these inspiring stories as much as we did finding them! Everyone has a different path in life, and everyone has had a different experience over these last two years.
It will take some healing, we’re sure, but we can’t wait to get our community back to pre-pandemic days of genuine connection with a newly redefined sense of purpose.
And if you’re ready to start something new or launch something of your own – we’re always here to help.