in good company // issue no. 01 // steph corker
Who: Steph Corker, co-founder of The Corker Co.
What: Contagious spirit, supportive sister, super athlete and "people" person.
Where: Vancouver, BC
I'll be honest with you. I was truly excited to do this Q&A and even more excited to read what Steph's answers would be!
Steph Corker is a force to reckon with. To say I know her personally would be an exaggeration, but it is one of those relationships with someone you just cross paths with every once in a while but feel like you've known each other forever. Wait till you get a whiff of the amount of energy this woman has. Where DOES she get it all from?! Between running her own business with her brother, training for and competing in Ironman competitions across North America, coaching other athletes and most recently, planning her upcoming nuptials, she is one go-getter. Not to mention, there's the amazingly supportive relationship she has with her brother Matt (who is now her business partner in crime and also, a lovely man inside and out). The relationship is envious, sincere and down right rock solid.
I'm so thrilled to have Steph as my first feature for #InGoodCompany. Soak this one up people, you'll want to drink an extra espresso shot first just to keep up with this lady. Inspirational indeed!
What inspired you to do your first Ironman?
I grew up as a competitive swimmer and there were always a small group of triathletes who would train with us. I was wildly inspired that after a 2hr swim practice, they would jump on their bike for another training session. I remember deep down dreaming about the day I could finish ONE Ironman when I turned 50 yrs old, because at the time I thought you couldn’t possibly do anything else in life other than train. I also thought it would take me at least that long to build up to run a marathon. Ha! How ironic. In 2009, I ran my first ultra marathon and I remember after crossing that finish line, I said “if I can run 50km, I can do Ironman” and that was that. I suppose you can say it was the beginning of my Ironman journey…
Have you always been an extreme athlete?
Absolutely not! Or perhaps it depends on how you define extreme. I considered myself to be quite a conservative athlete because I only knew how to swim. I didn’t have very good hand-eye coordination, I didn’t ever really play team sports and I always preferred the ‘long stuff’. That said, I did swim through University and to this day, will always be grateful for logging so many kilometres in a pool.
Where have you travelled to compete in an Ironman and which one was the toughest?
I have only travelled around North America racing Ironman’s — and I say only because there are races in every corner of the globe now. Being based in Vancouver, it can be challenging to train and prepare for races with extreme heat like Hawaii, Texas and Cozumel. That said, Ironman Whistler last year delivered one heck of a gnarly day weather wise (4 degrees and pouring rain!). I had a mechanical on the bike (which causes a mental-mechanical in my brain!) — pushing on to finish was perhaps the toughest race to date.
Talk about paying it forward, you also coach other athletes on their quest to completing their first competition. What's the biggest motivation you get from doing this?
Ohhh man, I am SO insanely grateful for this opportunity. A lot of this comes from the deep respect and admiration I have for my coach Jasper Blake. Jasper is an Ironman Champion who owns B78 Coaching based in Victoria, BC. The lessons he has taught me in our time working together go well beyond my race. They are much deeper than any start line and quite frankly, he has become one of my very best friends. I think these types of relationships are really special. To have the opportunity to work with athletes, to share the wisdom and lessons of Jasper feels like a responsibility to me! Really, more people need to know they too can achieve their crazy, wildest dreams and having a coach (err, cheerleader!) there along the way makes the journey so much more fun.
You spent almost 6 years at Lululemon focusing on recruitment and their 'people' brand. What exactly does a people brand strategy director do?
I worked for a really awesome leader at Lululemon — Margaret Wheeler. She is now the Chief People Officer at Stitch Fix in San Francisco. What I loved about Margaret was that she was always up for doing things differently, trying something new on and breaking the status quo. I had the pleasure of working with an exceptional culture-first recruiting team — the best in the city if I may say so myself.
The People Brand strategy crew was born as a function to tell stories of the people of Lululemon — the law of attraction at it’s very finest. This was otherwise known as “employer branding”, yet we know that people aren’t meant to be branded — they are meant to be celebrated and shared for their awesomeness!
What was the one big thing you learned working under the helm of THE Chip Wilson while at Lululemon?
If I am only to name one, I suppose it would be remiss of me to not declare that he taught me the power of setting goals. However, I have deep respect for many things about that man including his commitment to health. (Hiring sweaty people was my favourite conversation at Lululemon. I still think it is important whether you work in tech or yoga apparel.)
What's the 'it' factor you look for when recruiting for roles?
There are 3 things I want to get out of every conversation/ meeting/ interview — and to be honest, the same 3 things are probably still my guiding light when recruiting for The Corker Co.
Am I inspired to try something new or be better because of this conversation? (this can be a sport, a hobby, a parenting style — quite literally, anything!). Inspiration is contagious and I want to be around people who are up to things that set their heart on fire!
Would I want to be stuck in an airport on a delayed flight with this person? Life is too short to take things too seriously. We all need to have a little bit of fun!
Do I understand what they are most passionate about? Passion fuels the bus of productivity.
What inspired you to go out on your own and start The Corker Co.?
I guess you could say it was my favourite mistake? Or perhaps a “fluke-gone-right”? I left Lululemon and told myself I would take 30 days to unwind, re-assess, determine what to do next. Within the first 2 weeks, I had phone calls and meetings ....and then an incorporation. I had always dreamt of being the Captain of my own Ship and never knew what it would take for me to actually do it. Circumstances made it possible and in the summer of 2014, the business was born. I haven’t looked back since.
In addition, you now work with your brother Matt (hence the name, The Corker Co. ). Tell us what brought this about and what your favourite thing is about working with him?
I joke with Matt that it took me 1 year to recruit him to come and work at Lululemon and it took me 1 year to convince him to become my business partner! Matt had an exceptional run at Lululemon and when it was time for him to leave, I asked him to consider working together. Of course, he had other offers (and frankly, probably much more attractive ones). There is no one else I’d ever go into business with so I guess they say when you know you know. He is the President!
I'm a big fan of women supporting women. What one thing do you do to support women in your community? Are you a part of any organization(s) that support or mentor women?
I love women! And I love women supporting women! Yet I love the power of men and women working together each being perfectly male and female. I’m committed to always being 100% myself - with women CEOs or male CEOs. That said, two power house women in Vancouver Brooke and Manica started Campfire Capital. I am honoured to be apart of this fund and love their approach to supporting organizations with core values that will change the world. I feel like there are not many male-led VC funds who would declare the same powerful statement.
Where do you see Steph Corker in 5 years?
I’ve always said that being a professional Mom is the most noble job in the world. My Man, Dave and I are getting married in September and my wish is that we will have the opportunity to be parents in the next 5 years. I also see The Corker Co. living into our 5 year vision. And I hope I’m still running at least one marathon every year!
Have you always had a passion for recruitment and HR? What turned you on about this specialty?
This was definitely a fluke! I fell into Executive Search when I moved to Vancouver for what I thought would be 6 months. I took a 3 week contract with an excellent executive search firm in town — they were hiring for John Furlong’s executive team at the time. (This was pre-LinkedIn, when everyone needed to be…called!). That short contract turned into a 1.5 year gig and really, I’d say that I owe my career to them. (The HR thing — I’m not the best at your typical HR functions, because I like to break rules and find new ways of doing things which doesn’t always fit into structures and policies that traditional HR teams are responsible for. However, I do think that the times are changing and that is very exciting to me.)
You're a self-starter & a go-for-your-dreams kind of person. What advice would you give to someone wanting to turn their dream or idea into a reality?
Well, simply put: GO FOR IT, of course! Start today. Fail tomorrow. And then start again. I think the challenge for most people is that they don’t know what they reallllly want. So do the work to uncover that first. And then don’t waste one single day not doing something toward making that dream come true. Because…this is it! And you’re worth it.
“You can have it all, as long as you know what it all means.”
You have the personality of a firecracker and possess a certain type of sincerity that very few people have. Where do you get your energy and passion from?
Well, thank you. I am flattered because sincerity is authenticity personified to me. My bro always tells me that we need to be responsible for the energy we bring into a space or room. I think that is sage advice. When I am responsible for taking care of myself, I think I’m the best version of Steph — and she tends to be inspired and grateful, which might come out as energetic and passionate! (I also feel very blessed to have a best friend as a business partner, a really rad lover and awesome friends in my life). Surrounding yourself with people who are more energetic and passionate than you is seriously inspiring!
How do you balance everything between traveling, to working with clients, recruiting top notch people for killer gigs, training for your next big competition, and coaching people all while balancing a personal life?
I really just live one big awesome life. Meaning: there is no disconnect between coaching/consulting/training/personal living and loving. My tribe is obsessed with start lines, Matt is one of my best friends and business partner and my man Dave, well, he runs circles around me! I remember learning at Lululemon that “you can have it all, as long as you know what it all means” — that was my favourite explanation for balance. I feel like I have it all in my life so to me, it’s balanced. But don’t ask me what day of the week it is!
What does an average day look like for Steph Corker? I'm always curious to know what you eat in a typical day given the amount of calories you likely burn!
My week days are pretty standard and I love that! I wake up at 5:08AM and head to the pool or the bike at Method Indoor Cycling. I commit to being at my desk, showered and fed by 9AM to start the day. And from there, I’d say no two days are the same. Matt and I endeavour to work together as much as we can each day, yet we each are juggling several clients both locally and in the US. If the Vancouver sun is shining, I will usually try to get a mid-day run in because I cannot take one dose of vitamin D for granted. I eat rather religiously every 2-3 hours because I can feel the impact of low blood sugar on my work. Most days, I will shut down at 5PM for an evening workout and dinner with Dave. My achilles heel is that I’m always inspired to keep working at 8PM and that doesn’t usually go well with trying to get to bed before 10PM….but I do my best!
I'm a big believer in 'ah-ha' moments, that timing is everything and things happen for a reason. What has been the biggest ah-ha moment in your life?
When I raced Ironman Hawaii for the first time, my now fiancee flew to the Big Island to cheer me on. I remember feeling so embarrassed because I had a huge crush on this ‘acquaintance’ of mine and I was so self-conscious to be racing in what I call tri-suits: a sausage suit. I felt chubby. I felt vulnerable because I was racing the biggest race of my life to date! And looking back now, it was the best lesson in not needing to be perfect. In not waiting to be the perfect dress size before falling in love. And really, the lessons of love are indeed my favourite.
Your brother is one contagious spirit as well, who has been successful in his own right. Have you two always been this close? Its admirable to see two siblings so tight and supportive of each other, without driving each other crazy!
My Brother is remarkable! He is contagious beyond words and successful beyond measure. We have been really close for as long as I can remember (he might remember otherwise!). I am starting to learn that not all siblings are this close, yet I really haven’t known it to be any other way. It is indeed a relationship that I am very grateful for and will never ever take for granted.
What are three qualities you look for in the tribe of women who you surround yourself with?
- believers in possibility — they are all creators in their lives be it entrepreneurs, goal-chasers, big dreamers. I’m so grateful and also realize that I couldn’t have it any other way.
- health matters — they believe in adventure, in sweating, in eating food that honours our bodies.
- big hearts - cause love wins, always.
In your eyes, what's been your biggest failure in life (career or personal) and what did you learn from it?
I think I fail weekly and I try really hard to not quantify failure as “big or small”, but rather a reminder that I’m living on the edge. I’ve failed at qualifying for Ironman Hawaii 8x over - I learned that it is always worth it to try again! I failed at keeping my mouth shut once and it cost me some really tough conversations & clean up - I learned to honour my word after that. I’ve failed at many relationships and I learned that telling the truth is the highest form of honouring your hearts wishes.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Without sounding cliche or corny, my goals! I think knowing what you want to get up to in this one special shot of life should be nothing short of inspiring! Heck if it doesn’t inspire YOU, than something needs to change.
What would you put on your neon sign?
Do it for the Love! (Inspired by my favourite Michael Franti, I believe that when you do it for the love, you will do whatever it takes!).
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Sleep. Seriously. It is the worlds greatest recovery drug.
Is the risk really worth the reward?
Abso-freakin’-lutely! Because…why not?!
When have you been the most satisfied in your life?
October 10, 2015 on the Big Island. I woke up to a condo full of my best friends, my lover, my bro and his man en route to the start line of Ironman Hawaii. I remember feeling a certain level of absolute bliss — surrounded by people I absolutely loved, in my favourite place on earth, backed by sponsors who believed in me, fuelled by my own business, off to race the RACE of my DREAMS! I just felt like a vision statement I had written 10 years prior was being lived out beyond what I ever thought was possible. I had my health to the very best of my ability, I had community, I had possibility. And the finish line didn’t even matter…
I clearly love food and I love to cook. What's your go-to weeknight dish?
I’m obsessed with Oh She Glows and Gwyneth Paltrow's latest cook book, It's All Easy. Our weekly routine is rather standard because we are usually running in/out the door to a workout of some kind. I like to have healthy meals, ready to go, with ease. This usually means some form of protein on the BBQ, a big green salad or roasted veggies. In the winter, I’m a very avid slow-cooker-cook!
What makes a great leader?
My favourite leaders have these traits in common:
Articulate a vision greater than today, beyond themselves, that we can work toward.
Ask excellent questions.
Never take themselves or the business too seriously. They keep it real. Like, come on — sign your email off with love, because we are all human!
What word(s) best describes you as an athlete?
What word best describes you as a friend?
What word best describes you as a sister?
What word best describes you as an entrepreneur?