By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
Women entrepreneurship is growing in Canada as Statistics Canada reports a 30 per cent increase in women-owned businesses in the last 10 years. That number has certainly increased during the last two years with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Government of Canada’s investment of $2 billion into the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy to double the number of women-owned businesses in 2025, The Rural Voice was curious as the business and the “why” women are launching their own businesses. Interviewing three women entrepreneurs, it’s clear women want to use their skills, make money and find that balance between motherhood and career.
Following are stories from three women entrepreneurs in Huron County. Look for stories about women entrepreneurs from other counties in future issues.
Growing up on a farm in Huron County then working as a nurse for 25 years may explain why working with feet doesn’t faze Julie Grimminck of Sole Purpose
“I love feet!” exclaims the new entrepreneur, who was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from Huron Economic Development Starter Company Plus program after delivering a winning pitch to three judges. She will use the money to purchase an autoclave and ultrasonic cleaner to speed up the process of cleaning and sterilizing her tools.
“I used to clean them by hand but this will save time and also means I can provide the gold standard in IPAC sterilization (infection, prevention and control),’’ explained Grimminck.
Grimminck is a registered nurse with an advanced foot care speciality so she can keep feet healthy for the elderly and those with diabetes. She launched Sole Purpose in June 2021, so she could travel with her tools and skills to the homes of people who need the specialized care.
For her, the change was necessary. She had worked 10 years at the London Psychiatric Hospital, five years in retirement homes and then 10 years in home care and was ready for a new challenge. “I had reached my full potential in those other jobs and I needed something that was fulfilling,” she says. Feet was it. “I wanted a job where I could make a difference and with foot care, I have that impact.”
With over 240 clients, Grimmink visits five to eight clients a day in an area ranging from Grand Bend, to Lucan, to Exeter, Goderich and Seaforth. She starts with a health history then assesses the client’s feet, checking the blood circulation and skin integrity. She checks for range of motion and also inspect the client’s shoes to make sure they are supportive. “Feet say a lot about a person’s health,” says Grimminck. Then she trims nails, reduces callouses, removes corns and sometimes diseased flesh.
Many of her clients are elderly and have mobility issues. Many cannot reach their feet any more and require a nurse to take care of them. Some have arthritis, visual impairments and dexterity issues.
Viewing some pictures of her work is hard for some people to stomach. Grimminck has had cases where people with diabetes do not feel bruising or ulcers in their feet. They require an advocate to get them to a wound centre or else they could lose their feet.
“Prevention. I can’t say enough about that,” says Grimminck. She works with other health care professionals including doctors who specialize in orthotics, which can fix a lot of problems.
Education is a huge part of her work. She wants to reach out to people of all ages via Facebook to teach them about foot care and educate the sons and daughters of her clients to check their parent’s feet as well. The sessions end with a foot massage and that is everyone’s favourite part, she says. Grimminck’s favourite part is listening to the stories of the elderly in her care. “I just love hearing people’s stories.”
As an entrepreneur, Grimminck was excited to take part in the Starter Company Plus program which offers new entrepreneurs training, coaching and mentorship. Participants have to make a business plan, a financial plan, take a specific number of courses, then pitch their business to excited business owners for the chance to win two, $5,000 grants. This year, 10 entrepreneurs vied for the grants with two receiving $5,000 and two receiving $2,500 each.
“Through this program I gained more confidence and I learned so much from hearing other people’s stories and ideas,” said Grimminck.
Genny Smith, Entrepreneurship & Business Program Coordinator with Huron Economic Development said Grimmink’s business was a winner because of the amount of customers she can increase her services to by having an autoclave to clean her instruments at a faster rate.
“Julie can service more clients and change more lives by streamlining her cleaning and disinfection process,” said Smith. She added that the Starter Company Plus program is a full-scale program from business basics, to operations, to financials to sales and marketing. “Its’ like if you have a cake business and you know how to make great cakes. But you may not know how to sell those cakes and how to manage a cake business. This program helps people understand the full scope of a business and what’s all involved.”
The best part? It is free. “When people start out as an entrepreneur, they don’t have the money to hire a business coach. This program is free and we can also connect to our Digital Service Squad to help with detailed marketing.”
Copywriter and Communications Consultant
Growing up on a small dairy farm outside of Blyth, Becky Nethery knew from a young age she wanted to work on her own terms.
She decided to pursue a career as a teacher and worked for 10 years in Calgary, Moosonee and at Central Huron Secondary School in Clinton.
“I loved working with the students and helping kids learn about English and the power of words because I think being able to write is one of the biggest skill sets one can have,” says Nethery, speaking from her Goderich-area home on break from working with small businesses to create their stories.
However, she wanted to travel. She wanted freedom and flexibility to work anywhere in the world. “Honestly, one of the biggest things I wanted was to go to a bathroom whenever I wanted without having to leave a class,” she says, laughing. Nethery sometimes felt limited in her role as a teacher and wanted to be her “whole self”. She was also missing a sense of creativity and being able to tap into her own creative self with potential to make money from her own ideas.
These ideas floated around for a while because teaching is a high-paying vocation with many safety nets in place. However, a quote by Anais Nin finally prompted her to resign from her job. The quote was, “It was more painful to stay than to leave.”
Nethery, now 37, decided to launch her love and skills with words to become a copywriter and instructional design consultant. “I help businesses with their marketing and branding material so they can show up with confidence and ultimately, make them more money,” says Nethery. She helps businesses get clear on their messaging and tell their story.
She started by contacting her friends and letting them know she was launching her own business. She also attended networking events and encouraged everyone she worked with to share her name to potential clients. Once Nethery had helped a few clients, she used their testimonials to attract more.
She has done website and copyright work for such clients as Coastal Coffee, Schaefers, West Wawanosh Insurance, Dr. Kate Hazlitt, and Firmly Rooted.
Nethery also reads many books about entrepreneurship and listens to business podcasts regularly to help her reach her goals. She has now become a speaker herself, sharing her journey into business with events such as the Starter Company Plus program offered by Huron Economic Development.
Two and half years later, she now has a full-fledged business. “Every year my profits have doubled,” says Nethery. While she hasn’t reached her former teacher income yet, she’s close. More than that, she feels fulfilled in her work.
“When I get to show up for a client, I get to be 100 per cent myself, not a robot version of who I am,” says Nethery. “Plus, I can go to the bathroom whenever I want!”
Radiant Vitality Wellness
There is more to health and nutrition than weight loss. That message prompted Kim Hagle to use her background in nursing and as a personal trainer to embrace body diversity and help women enjoy simply moving via her business, Radiant Vitality Wellness.
Her body positive fitness and nutrition coaching service is offered in person at her Goderich studio as well as online to equip women with sustainable tools to heal their relationship with exercise, food and their bodies.
“After I had my last child, I felt I could not go back to fitness training because I no longer fit the mold of what a personal trainer should look like,” remembers Hagle. “I did not have a perfectly chiselled body and believed I could not be a role model for fitness if I did not conform to the ideal.”
She left the fitness world and took a job but her heart was really with women and fitness so she started to work through the block of body image. Kim embraced the anti-diet movement and realized women can be healthy at every size. It gave her renewed passion and indeed, a mission, to revamp what fitness looked like. She opened Radiant Vitality on March 11, 2020 the very day Prime Minister Trudeau gave the stay at home order.
That required an immediate pivot into the online world which was a journey in itself. “Now, two years later, I can say it is going wonderfully. Most of my business is online and I work with women all over the world, including Japan, Australia and the United States.”
Being an entrepreneur requires so many skills that it can be overwhelming, admits Kim. “I was passionate about one thing. An expert about one thing — health and fitness. I am not an expert on social media, marketing and tech integration. I had no idea how much technology I would have to learn.”
Learn she did, to the point she also launched a podcast where she talks about body image issues including motivation, diet culture and toxic messaging from the fitness industry. The podcast really helped her business take off. She used Buzzsprout podcast hosting and isn’t shy about asking experts for help.
Now, she’s at the point where she makes a “decent living” and equally important, she gets to do what brings her joy. “This is what I am passionate about,” says Kim. “I traded in easy work and a steady paycheck for a tonne of stress and way more hours but I would do it again and again because I am so passionate about this mission.”
Her advice for future women entrepreneurs is:
• Outsource: “Get the best help you can afford and search out the rest. There is a lot of free information about there. Try to sift through it all and pick out the pieces that are relevant to you.
• Stay the course: Be patient and know there is a lot to learn and mistakes will be made. “There will be great months and not so great months,” says Kim. “It takes time in the online world to get a following and credibility and traction.”
• Do not neglect your own needs: Being an entrepreneur can be all encompassing. “I wanted to do it all and hit sales targets and that can lead to burnout,” says Kim. She did fall into that trap so now she sets firm boundaries around her hours, makes sure to get her own movement in, and manages her stress so she gets quality sleep. ◊