Canadian women entrepreneurs: Bold beginnings and brave futures

So exciting to get to know some of our Canadian women entrepreneurs at this week’s fifth-annual Dell Women Entrepreneurs conference.  As the theme of the conference was “Bold Beginnings. Brave Futures,” I’ve invited these entrepreneurs to share their stories in that frame as role models for other women entrepreneurs.  Here’s the first post from my conversation with Virginia Poly, founder and CEO of Poly Services Group.

Cheryl Sylvester: “What was your bold beginning?”

Virginia Poly: “I was eight months pregnant when I founded Poly Placements Inc.! The company I had worked for downsized, I needed to find work. Since I had the entrepreneurial streak from my family, and even owned a restaurant after university, starting a business looked to be a good path forward.  My business was born @ the same time as my son, so it was like having two babies. Fortunately I had some good business opportunities right away with clients’ IT departments – a major bank, pharma & technology companies. Since I wanted to take the opportunities, my husband took parental leave to help support me and my two babies.”

CS: How does technology enable your business?

VP: “Poly placements has since evolved to Poly Services Group.  We provide recruiting and IT solutions – so technology is critical! We use our website & internet to connect with candidates and we have an applicant tracking system to manage workflow, keeping track of a lot of details.

Our office is in Toronto, but our extended team is remote. We depend on technology to collaborate and share information, using cloud-based applications for accessibility by the full team.

We’ve also expanded our “high touch” business to include IT support services. We work within our clients’ IT systems, and clients get to leverage learning systems from Poly.  Because we also leverage off the shelf technology, our services are cost-effective.  We find it’s easier to look at what we’re doing, research what’s available & tweak it to suit our business.

Ultimately, our business is differentiated on relationships and service.  It’s all about people and relationships: hard tech skills are the foundation, but what’s critical is open communication and personality, to effectively partner with clients. Technology helps with keeping the process easy, pragmatic, and simple for clients.

And of course, social media has become very important to leverage our small-business sized marketing budget, using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for marketing.”

CP: “What does your ‘brave future’ look like?”

VP: “Increasingly, we are moving from recruiting to becoming more of a solution provider of IT and Service Desk services.  It was a bold new step to move into providing services.  One model, our Insourcing Solution, delivers clients the full benefit of outsourcing, but teams remain on-site and accessible to their teams. That way, voices on support calls are people our clients remain connected with personally.

We are currently in a strategic thinking and planning stage our with leadership team.  Some of our next moves could include geographical expansion — beyond Toronto to other parts of Canada & possibly US, strategic partnerships, or acquisitions. Technology is definitely central to our planning discussions.”

CP: “What did you take away from participating in the Dell Women Entrepreneurs Network (DWEN) conference?”

VP: “The opportunity to connect with other female entrepreneurs and their journeys, inspires me to think about how to move my own business forward. Hearing their stories helps me to consider growth opportunities I may not have contemplated – the pitfalls and challenges, the benefits. The best way to learn is from 2-way dialogue where you can ask questions and really connect. I found the DWEN entrepreneurs to be very open to share information and connections.

The other key take away for me was Dr. Brene Brown’s talk — inspiring us to be courageous again.  In the beginning of your business it’s courageous and exciting by definition, then it gets so busy with little time to ‘dare greatly!’  She teaches that you can’t be both comfortable and courageous — and her talk has me looking at the entire business differently. Already I’m having bigger conversations with my team and clients and implementing lots of key learnings.”

As a coach and woman entrepreneur, I enjoyed learning Virginia’s story and hope it inspires bold beginnings and brave futures for new women entrepreneurs!

Cheryl Sylvester
Cheryl Sylvester
Cheryl Sylvester is a Leadership Coach, Brand Communications consultant and W100 Business Owner. A perpetual idea generator, entrepreneurship cheerleader, and wanna-be geek, her clients include Novell, PlateSpin, Mozilla, HP, Tenscores & Polar. She writes about Leadership, Communications, Entrepreneurship and Women in technology.

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