Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sarah Jenner, Executive Director of Mindful Employer Canada, located in Waterdown, ON, Canada.

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

Mindful Employer Canada is a national non-profit. We create leadership development programs for individuals passionate about supporting their team's psychological health and well-being so they can thrive. The difference between our programs and many other leadership development opportunities is that we teach participants what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Rather than share theory or processes with leaders who are already dealing with high demands. We make it easy for them to take what they learn and apply it immediately to the situations at hand. Self-awareness and self-care are built into the fiber of every course we create. We don't expect leaders to be mental health experts; we actively teach them to do no harm, to know when someone needs additional resources, and to learn how to recommend these resources in a tactful and encouraging way. We are committed to being champions for the mental health and psychological safety of those who manage, support, and lead others.

Tell us about yourself

I stumbled upon the workplace mental health sector 10 years ago. I was fresh out of post-secondary school with a major in sociology and had no idea how I was going to put it to good use. I was working for a rental car agency, and the work environment was not at all conducive to helping people grow and feel good about being there.

A friend of mine's mother, Mary Ann Baynton, was involved in the workplace mental health sector. He introduced me to her, and she invited me to come in to interview for a position in her organization. She spent the entire interview trying to talk me out of the job because she felt I was overqualified, but I knew that this sector strongly aligned with my values and goals, and there was no way I was giving up this opportunity to learn from one of the greats.

Mary Ann was and is everything someone could dream of in a leader. She's empathetic, vulnerable, courageous, accountable, and honest. She truly cares about the human behind the employee and always prioritizes their well-being. In 2017 I was given the opportunity to be the Executive Director of Mindful Employer Canada, so Mary Ann and I no longer work in the same organization, but I jump at every chance to collaborate with her. To me, that speaks volumes about her as a leader and a human being.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The moments that stick out to me the most are when I meet individuals who say, "I was in one of your workshops a few years ago, and the strategies you shared have changed how I manage my team." Or clients who approach us and say, "We'd want to begin planning to enroll another cohort of leaders into the program." Or, "I used [xyz] from the last course to support an employee who was struggling to complete tasks at work because of things happening at home, and we were able to create a plan to help them. We meet every week now to check in. They're doing great."

As a course creator, you have three concerns when developing and launching:

  1. Will this course have a positive impact?
  2. Will individuals find the content valuable?
  3. Will they put what they've learned into practice?

Moments like those I shared above make my heart explode with joy and leave me smiling for days.

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

The feeling of isolation that creeps in sometimes. As a business owner, it comes down to you to make difficult decisions. I take the decisions very seriously, and I begin to spiral into thinking about all the ways either decision can go wrong.

It can feel like you're in the middle of the ocean, and every way you turn, all you see is open water, and you're not sure which way to turn and start swimming. It used to feel debilitating. But I'm very grateful to have colleagues, mentors, and friends I can lean on in those moments. Connection is so important. And I don't mean that you should invest your time in attending a bunch of networking events to hand out business cards.

Find that group of humans you can remove your armor with is what I mean when I say connection. The people who sit with you in the hard stuff, tell you how it is when you need it, and celebrate you in the moments that matter. Those people pull you out of the ocean and wrap you in a warm blanket.

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

  1. Connect with others who are in a similar industry. Ask them about their challenges. Ask them about the unexpected hurdles. Ask them how you can work together to support one another. Come together to collaborate and celebrate one another. You can go so much further together.
  2. Document all the great moments and all the tough moments. You could write them on a small piece of paper and keep them in a jar. Maybe you journal about them. Too often, we pass these milestones and forget to pause and celebrate how far we've come. Or we come up against challenges, and the imposter syndrome creeps in. Reminding yourself that you've been in hard places before and been able to move forward can help release us from negative thoughts.
  3. Find employees who wholeheartedly align with your organization's mission and values first and foremost. Skills can be taught.

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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