Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jill Valentine, co-founder of UGO Impact, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

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

At UGO Impact, we lead powerful transformative travel experiences that bring together volunteering abroad and journeying within to help our clients gain the clarity, confidence, and community to live a happier and more purpose-filled life. Our clients range from professionals who have climbed the corporate ladder and are searching for more meaning to empty nesters and retirees seeking more purpose to entrepreneurs looking to make a greater social impact.

We support our clients in deepening their connection to self, up-leveling their leadership, and discovering how to foster more joy and meaning in their lives while at the same time supporting communities in need around the world. We ask the communities we work with what they need and how we can help. We have worked to repair homes in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and have built a storage shed in rural Costa Rica and a perimeter fence in Arusha, Tanzania, for a women's organization.

This fall, we are returning to Tanzania to build a shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence, and then we will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as part of our program to get our clients out of their comfort zone. Our clients get to give back and personally grow at the same time - it's a transformative win-win for everyone!

Tell us about yourself

For years I worked in the non-profit/charity world, wanting to make a difference but feeling completely unfulfilled. I did jobs that didn’t light me up. I felt undervalued and knew I wasn’t living up to my potential. I had travelled and volunteered abroad but felt like I was on auto-pilot, not really questioning anything, pushing myself, or seeking out what I desired. It wasn’t until after I spent a year volunteering in Uganda that my life really shifted, and even then, it took a life coaching program to help me really reflect on it and process it all to truly understand and articulate how it had changed me and why the year was so significant.

Through the coaching, I realized what my values were. I was honoring and living them in Uganda, but they were absent in my Toronto life after returning home. My life in Uganda has been full of adventure, a sense of freedom, deep purpose through serving others, and a close community, and I was using my strengths and skills.

I came to realize that both coaching and volunteering abroad were profoundly transformative experiences and that bringing the two together would be an incredible opportunity for creating profound personal change for clients while at the same time creating impactful social change for a community in need. So I started leading programs that offered the two together, and the results were life-changing for my clients.

Seeing clients come through our program and gain the confidence to take their business to the next level, discover clarity about what they want in life and decide to change careers or companies, or return home and deepen their relationships with loved ones is so fulfilling for me. But even more rewarding is seeing the impact we make with the communities we work with during our programming, from building capacity to providing much-needed infrastructure or repairs.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I feel that my greatest accomplishment has been being able to create a business that creates both transformations for clients that I absolutely love and, at the same time, makes a difference in the world. I have been able to take my skills and strengths and create a business that fulfills my deepest desires and dreams and positively impacts the world.

Our clients have a life-changing experience, become a part of the UGO family, and together with our charity partners, we help those in need while volunteering abroad, and then come home and continue to create our social legacies contributing to our local home communities. I feel grateful every day that this is the work I get to do.

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

It's always an emotional journey. As you up-level your leadership and business, you need to grow personally, which comes with lots of being emotionally uncomfortable and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. But at the same time, the growth is so rewarding, and it's amazing to see how far I have come on my journey.

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

  1. It's all about relationship building and being of service, so get out and connect with lots of amazing people and create a supportive network that will champion you (as you champion them).
  2. Take lots of consistent small actions - done is better than perfect.
  3. Do a ton of work on yourself - your mindset, your inner leadership - so much more is possible when you believe it's possible!

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

We have a Courage, Community, Kilimanjaro program taking place this fall that includes a week of volunteering in Tanzania and then climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. And another program in the spring of 2023 called Elevate! Ecuador 2023 which is all about elevating your life and personal leadership.

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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