Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Janelle Abela, Founder, and CEO of Diverse Solutions Strategy Firm Inc., located in Windsor, ON, Canada.

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

We are a full-service consulting and training service that focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (IDEA). Everything from e-learning courses to in-person workshops, we help your team learn more about how identity affects everyday organizational operations. IDEA work is more than representational hiring; it is the organizational culture, perspective, and values. We support IDEA within an organization for humanity and business benefit. We serve public and private organizations across all industries. Currently, we are working with law enforcement, public education, private education, financial institutions, and non-profit organizations.

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in the United States and Canada as a Black and South Asian woman. As I better understood how the world saw me and how it interacted with my identity, I committed to improving that relationship for other people in equity-deserving groups. I started as a high school educator while continuing my own education. In reflection on my own experience, I felt it necessary to offer growth opportunities for industries outside of the progressive education system. This resulted in a model that allowed me to share my experience, my knowledge, and practical skills for change from a person-first approach. I stay motivated by the stories that people share with me and how I have been able to help improve awareness of inequities or misconceptions surrounding equity work. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we all deserve to be treated with dignity. Sometimes that doesn't happen, and I want to help fix that.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Being able to live my dream and change the experience for other people is as big of an accomplishment as I could imagine. Being able to hear people's stories of "ah-ha" or experience their exhale because someone has finally seen and understood them is just incredible. But I did recently find a full-circle experience that I would also acclaim as a big accomplishment. As I started to engage in equity work in the classroom, I always knew that I wanted to "go bigger." I wanted to help more than just the amazing people in my classroom. I wanted to teach the teachers and help more learners. Recently I was able to engage in learning with my former school board and educators, that were colleagues and mentors. This experience was so enriching because I was finally able to see my vision through in the space where it all started.

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

Owning a business means that no one will ever care as much as you. There is a level of commitment that you hear about as a start-up or as a business owner that really is indescribable until you actually do it. Early mornings, late nights, hard decisions... but it is all worth it. I have found this most challenging while hiring and finding people to support new ideas and innovations. I spend time working well outside of the typical working hours, and it is hours or days before I am able to have other people on the same wavelength. I've heard before, "people don't move as fast as you." It is a challenge that I am still working through, and I believe that I always will be. But, I am living my passion and am so grateful that I get to what I love each day.

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

  1. Get out of your comfort zone! Lean into something that might seem a little scary or that you might automatically disregard because you assume it's a "no." There were many situations where I asked, even if I thought it was a "no," and it turned out to be a "YES!" Getting out of my comfort zone has also allowed me to engage with and learn from many people and situations in which I otherwise would have never had the opportunity.
  2. Seek help! We can't do it all, even if we feel like we can. As I learned more about the resources in my own region, I was able to have more people involved in what I was doing. I felt like I had to get to a certain place before telling people about my business or bringing other people in, but that's far from true. There are resources and support for every level.
  3. Take time to schedule. It seems like you are just adding more work to your workload, but it is worth it. Schedule time at the beginning and end of your week to coordinate your calendar for upcoming tasks, and don't forget to leave time for catch-up/extra time. Scheduling lunch breaks, walks, social media posts, etc., all will help you flow through that to-do list with ease.

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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