Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in career development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Colleen Clarke, Principal, and Owner of Colleen Clarke & Associates, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Colleen Clarke & Associates is a career counseling, workplace coaching, and public speaking/training company located in Toronto, ON. My customers are every type of corporation, ministry, municipality, or association that requires soft skills training, career guidance for their employees, coaching for their star performers or "needs development employees," and resume writing.

Tell us about yourself

I started a not-for-profit organization for unemployed business professionals in 1990, at the start of the recession in Canada. EARN, the Executive Advancement Resource Network. EARN held weekly meetings to assist unemployed people in going through their time of career transition. Networking was a huge component of EARN, as it was a networking group. I was unemployed when I started the group. With help from the media, outplacement, recruiting firms, etc., the group took off like wildfire. In a matter of weeks, 60-80 people were attending weekly meetings and listening to speakers, and finding job postings. Over the 10 years I facilitated and administered EARN, over 7000 benefited from attending meetings. From this starting point in a new line of career, I got a job as an outplacement consultant. I became a speaker, trainer, author, and columnist. I had been unemployed a few times in my life, so I knew firsthand what it felt like, what was needed to thrive and strive, and the technical skills to get a new job.

My motivation comes from the difference I have made in hundreds if not thousands of peoples' lives over the last three-plus decades. I am inspiring, well-resourced, knowledgeable, and I love to share my expertise and resources with my clients so they can optimize their potential. I love what I do, and my audience and clients see that in me.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Being able to maintain my company for over three decades. Adding new skills and knowledge areas as they presented themselves. Taking on challenges like writing two books, being a columnist for over 9 years for commuter newspapers, The Globe and Mail, and two internet job search sites, and Ergo, stepping outside my comfort zone to help others and keep myself stimulated and serviceable.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The fluctuations in business. Some months there is no work, and other months there is little time to breathe. Juggling finances, staying sane during the down times, and never giving up because you love what you do!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Know you love what you are going to be doing very, very much... Be passionate and knowledgeable about your offerings.
  2. Have a year's worth of financial aid in the bank.
  3. Establish and maintain a strong and resourceful network.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

It's not who you know; it's who knows you! Learn social media and, at the same time, get out from behind your computer and be visible, be everywhere. Be relentless, but not annoying or pushy. Listen to those who came before you. Be creative and have fun!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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