September 30, 2005 Features & Images » Feature Story

Big ideas, big world, small businesses 

How Whistler's female entrepreneurs are taking their passions into the world, and making a living in the process

Sara Leach asks me to fill in the blanks.

We’re sitting in my office and I’m acutely aware of the piles of papers, leaning towers, file boxes stuffed with manila folders. Spiral bound notebooks prolapsing their contents. There’s not much floor-space and I nearly knock over Leach, myself and several piles, trying to manoeuvre a chair into the middle of the room for her.

I wish I’d cleaned up before she came, in the same way I floss with extra vigilance just before I go to the dentist, and wash my hair twice before a hairdressers’ appointment. She’s a professional organizer.

"When I think about getting organized, I find it hard to ______?"


She laughs. I have come to the right person. Ten years of teaching at Myrtle Philip, Leach is a former disorganized person. "I’m sure that old friends of mine or my family, when they hear I’m now a professional organizer, are laughing. But that’s the point. Anyone can be organized. It’s not about your personality. It’s about whether or not you want to get organized."

And I do. Every so often, I’ll wade through the paper trail of my life, germs of ideas, clippings, piles of notebooks I‘m loathe to throw out in case there’s something salvageable in there. I will cull. Move piles around. Put labels on things. Thematically align the bookshelves. See the surface of my desk again.

And within days, I have forgotten about my systems, and descended back into the entropy of my usual personal chaos.

"Do you want to get organized?" asks Leach.

I do. I really do. I just don’t know how.

Leach does. After all, no one manages to keep a classroom of 30 kindergarteners organized, unless they have some good systems in place.

Now Leach is taking those systems into the big wide world, and starting her own business. Organomics. Professional organizing.

She fits the profile perfectly of Sea to Sky entrepreneur. According to Megan Olesky, Co-ordinator of the Howe Sound Community Futures Self-Employment program, over two-thirds of the 40 people involved in the current intake are women. Although trends change with each intake, the typical client is a woman starting up a home-based business serving between 15 and 35 clients.

"Everyone has different reasons for pursuing self-employment," says Olesky. "Women who have young children will pursue it because it allows them to operate a business from their homes."

Olesky works in a coaching role with participants on the self-employment program, guiding them through the development of a business plan and their start-up’s first year. (Seventy-eight per cent of her clients have taken flight since this launch assistance and are going into their third year of business.) Eligibility is dictated by having collected employment insurance prior to applying, so most of the people Olesky meets are not in steady year-around employment. "They want to create a full-time job for themselves."

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