Never-say-die attitude brings success, speakers say
Roy made the remarks at the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce's third annual International Women's Day event.
She was a guest speaker at the March 6 breakfast, along with Northern Ontario Business publisher Patricia Mills, Furniture World president Diane Doucet-Salo and Life Zone Consulting owner Karen Hourtovenko.
Roy started Old Rock at Sudbury's farmer's market in 2004. Although she developed a loyal following of customers from the beginning, there were a few detractors.
“I had a lot of comments from people asking me, 'Do you not know there's 22 Tim Hortons in the City of Greater Sudbury? Why are you doing this? It won't work.'”
Roy now owns two popular coffee shops in Sudbury's downtown, and is celebrating 10 years in business this year.
“If you believe in something and you want to do something, think big, start small, and never quit,” she said.
“Never let people tell that you can't do it. Never let let people tell you that you can't compete, because you can, and if you believe in what you do, you can make it happen.”
Roy's never-say-die message was echoed by the rest of the guest speakers.
Doucet-Salo said she's faced sexism over the years — everything from her dad telling her that “you don't need a university degree to change diapers” to a former boss paying her half of what her male coworkers were making.
She sees these challenges, however, as a “kick in the ass” that got her to where she is today.
Like Roy, Doucet-Salo said she had detractors when she started Furniture World 25 years ago.
She said she had brought in an American line of furniture, and when the owner of another local furniture store came in to check out her business and congratulate her, he said “this is lovely, but you know it's not for Sudbury.
“He only lasted a few more years, and here we are today,” Doucet-Salo said. “We're still bringing in the new stuff, and you guys are still loving it.”
Mills said it was the experiences during her early years at Northern Ontario Business that led her to launch the Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards 17 years ago.
She recalls one instance where the mayor of a community was speaking about a business that was owned by a man and a woman. He complimented the male owner, while ignoring his female partner.
“I'm sitting there, and I'm just fuming,” Mills said. “They're partners in business. That's when I said 'We've got to do something about this in Northern Ontario,' and I launched Influential Women.”
She said she faced discrimination herself when she became publisher of Northern Ontario Business in 2000.
“One of the first phone calls I had from a client (who said), and I quote, 'What the 'blank' is Atkins doing hiring a woman as a publisher for a business publication?' I'm going, 'Oh please, I'm not going through this again.'”
Hourtovenko said when she was young, the biggest challenge she faced was overcoming her own low self-esteem.
“If somebody would have told me 30 years ago I'd be sitting here today, I would have said 'You're crazy,'” she said. “I was shy, I was not confident, I didn't think I had enough value to speak.”
But Hourtovenko has now earned degrees as a nurse and nurse practitioner, an MBA, and a doctorate of psychology, and is the owner of Life Zone Consulting and the co-owner of Riverside Cardiac Clinic.
“Don't let the world tell you what you can and cannot do,” she said. “Sit down and ask yourself 'What am I passionate about, what fires me up?' and that's what your life mission is.”
Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Debbi Nicholson said the International Women's Day event is a chance to recognize how far women have come in the last few decades.
She said many of the chamber's members are businesses led by women. Nicholson encourages young women — and young men too, for that matter — to consider starting their own business.
“I think you need to encourage more business studies in school and encourage young people to be creative and to think of how they can earn a living for themselves and potentially for other employees they maybe are able to hire,” Nicholson said.