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

Page 4 of 5

Baking muffins to sell to local cafes was a way to meet her rent, and free up her evenings to pursue her fledgling business. "I took my first couple of horrendous looking muffins to Blenz, and they said, ‘Yeah, I guess we can work with this.’"

Two years on, you wouldn’t connect to Whistler’s Own Bake Shop if you went looking for ugly muffins. But if you’ve snacked on a West Coast Smore or a Harmony Bar, a slice of lemon loaf or banana chocolate walnut bread at any of your favourite local java joints (Molson-Sellers now supplies Behind the Grind, Pasta Lupino, Esquires, Blenz, CyberWeb, the Upper Village Market and Nesters), you are on the receiving end of two years of creative culinary kitchen-storming. As for Chef on Skis, it never quite got off the gondola.

This combination of being able to stay true to your core values, and having the space to be creative, is what drives Darlene Samer, whose brainchild Leadershape melded together her primary passion of health and wellness, with a growing focus on organizational leadership, strategic planning and executive coaching. Corporate head office, for Samer, is in her home. She splits her time equally between Whistler and Vancouver clients, with the city emphasis on in-house consulting, and the Whistler focus on corporate retreats and seminars.

"I can’t imagine waking up and having to be somewhere from 9 to 5," she says. "I wake up every morning and say, how can I be healthy, how can I have fun, and how can I make money doing it? Those are my core values. I need the freedom to work the hours I want, to choose the work I want, to create and innovate. It’s hard work. Because your passion has to meet the marketplace. But I do this because I want access, to life experiences and people. The freedom of being an entrepreneur gives you the chance to choose the world you want to play in."

Samer is the driving force behind the Health and Wellness group that is partnering with Tourism Whistler to promote events like Samer’s spring Refuel Retreat, or her forthcoming Top Talent seminar. Top Talent offers a competitively-priced leadership development day, exploring getting organized, coaching skills, leadership styles and goal-setting. "It’s totally targeted at a local market. It’s for companies and organizations who want to provide this training but wouldn’t necessarily bring someone in-house to do it."

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