Armed with an MBA from Athabasca University, Jennifer Ladouceur is busy helping women just like her who want to advance their careers.
She finished her MBA in 2010, while also balancing life as a single mother of two children. She held down a full-time job and contract work to pay the bills. Her long-term aim is to start a bursary for women who may not have the same opportunities as she did to get loans and to work full-time, she says.
“I recently ended up quitting my job to start Pozentivity. It supports women leaders and organizes retreats all over the world,” said Jennifer, who is based in Vaughan, Ontario. “What’s emerging as a bigger opportunity, is a need to gather women leaders within a corporation and help them to be stronger, help them to support one another, and really get them to higher levels. I can see there is a huge demand for this type of support.”
Jennifer’s inspiration for her MBA came from several places, including proving to others it was possible to learn at a master’s level with dyslexia, and also to obtain an education to support her children. In a recent TEDx talk about finding your authentic self, Jennifer recounted challenges in her early life; a mother with severe mental health issues, Jennifer having cancer when she was 16 to 18, and then getting pregnant at 18. But she was determined to get an MBA after doing studies in journalism at Durham College, and in commerce at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
“I wanted the MBA so badly. I had to work full-time while also doing school work,” she said. She had two young children at home. “Athabasca University was like a dream come true, because all of a sudden I could go to work, go home, make dinner with the kids, then work at the office in the front room – all online – AND with an area for the kids to play. The neighbours would comment, ‘Your light was on until 2 a.m.’ For a long time, that’s how I did it in order to finish school.”
Drawing inspiration from her classmates across Canada, Jennifer graduated and started doing work on top of her full-time business. “School took up so much of my time, and I thought, I’m done school so what can I do with my time now?”
Her full-time jobs recently included economic development around the Greater Toronto Area, including the town of Whitby and the cities of Brampton and Vaughan. She was also Vice President of business development for international consulting firm ROCG.
On the side, however, she co-founded Ideacia ONE Inc., a three-business company including strategic marketing, research and development, and mergers and acquisitions. Jennifer and her now-husband (also a co-founder) then sold the business to the Ryan multinational tax services firm. “We ended up opening offices right across Canada,” she said.
While Jennifer initially stepped back from running her own business, the passing of her father a few years ago made her think about how short life is, and made her decide to work for herself again. Then she poured her energy into the SheEO Radical Generosity Initiative, which she started last year.
“The whole goal of SheEO is that 1,000 women in Canada give $1,000 each with no expectations. We would raise a million dollars to go directly to female entrepreneurs. So far we’ve raised half a million dollars and supported five female entrepreneurs. We’re doing a new round now.”
Jennifer also aims to give back to the community with Pozentivity. A percentage will go back to charities that support women, and over time, she plans to develop that into a bursary. Jennifer’s education continues, too – she now has certificates from Harvard Business School, the Schulich School of Business and the International Economic Development Council.
While Jennifer, now a mother of seven, sometimes worried about the effects on her children as she was pulling long hours working and going to school, she now sees the same drive in her two oldest. At 21, her son is a champion League of Legends video game player based in Los Angeles. And her daughter, 19, is studying medicine.
How can one person do so much? In Jennifer’s words, “I have a natural curiosity for life and that ambition to just get out there – to do and learn new things! I was writing business plans before I had any formal education, and I was reading every single book on it.”
“You can do anything you set your mind to and you don’t have to be reliant on anyone, you make it happen.”