in good company // issue no. 07 // jill earthy
*"We For She" event photos by
Jill Earthy is someone that appears to have it all, in the traditional sense. An amazing education, family, a supportive husband (and one that takes care of the kids!), a career that is equally exciting as it is fulfilling and a network of men & women around her who elevate, support and join in on her ideas.
But Jill is a woman who is never satisfied...in a good way. She is constantly finding new opportunities, and better ways to fulfill her passions while taking risks. She is a go-getter, a woman who thrives on helping others pursue their dreams and passions, but with the honest, candid and experienced approach one would expect from a seasoned leader such as herself. It was an honour to highlight such an amazingly talented and driven woman for this month's In Good Company series. Read all about her journey below and you may just be inspired to a little bit.
You have quite the impressive career with a focus on mentorship & women in business. How did you get involved in these areas?
I always had a keen interest in supporting others. From my first job as a Camp Counsellor to my current role, I always knew I wanted to work with and help others.
Tell us about FrontFundr and how the organization works to support entrepreneurs and start ups?
FrontFundr is an online investment platform connecting entrepreneurs and investors. We are changing how entrepreneurs raise the capital they need to grow and thrive by making it an efficient, transparent process. On the investor side, we can now engage anyone across Canada to invest in the small private companies they believe in. It is a very exciting and innovative time!
Tell us about your role as Chief Growth Officer at FrontFundr. What does your day-to-day look like?
I spend the majority of my day in meetings, talking to companies, our team, potential investors as well as strategic partners. My days are varied but booked solid. I tend to do a lot of my "work" in the evenings which is my catch up time, especially after my kids go to bed. I love the variety!
I've noticed a lot of companies, aside from FrontFundr (i.e. Expa), popping up that are doing venture capital differently. Making it easier for start ups to obtain funding, avoiding the pitfalls in early stage ventures and removing the roadblocks along the way. What significant changes have you seen in this industry to support this?
The current age of the sharing economy and the need for increased transparency and efficiency is contributing to the evolution of fundraising. Technology makes this easier. At FrontFundr, we are able to leverage technology to increase access to help both companies and entrepreneurs to connect. What has traditionally been done behind closed doors, is more transparent and open.
What's the one big mistake entrepreneurs make when starting up a company and sourcing funds?
The number one mistake is not asking for help. We often feel like we should have all the answers. Reach out to your networks to ask questions and to learn more about the great resources and support available to you, especially when it comes to fundraising.
You've also started and sold a couple of businesses in your career. What was the toughest thing about running your own business?
The pressure of supporting the livelihood of others and knowing that you are "it", and the end of the line accountable for anything and everything. I also enjoyed the thrill of this!
You have worked in non-profit, previously acting as the CEO for the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE). What was the most fulfilling thing about this role?
I accidentally fell into non-profit to be honest, after being an entrepreneur for many years, but always working on the side to support women. When the role at FWE came up, I knew it would be a great fit. I absolutely loved bringing women entrepreneurs together to support each other and to connect with additional resources and people, who could help them with their business evolution. It was such an inspiring role!
You are the co-founder of Web Alliance, which supports the economic advancement of women in business. You were key behind their movement "Women as a Catalyst for Economic Growth" Action Plan which is amazing! Tell us more about this and what your plans are for the future.
This has been a fantastic initiative. It all began in 2009, when Laurel Douglas, CEO of the Women's Enterprise Centre and I recognized that there were so many great organizations in Vancouver, focused on supporting women in business. We knew that together, we could have a stronger collective voice so we started meeting quarterly. The concept for the first BC Economic Forum: Women as a Catalyst for Growth event in 2014, came about as a way to bring all of our interests and groups together to share ideas for action. We see the economic advancement of women, not as a gender issue but rather an economic opportunity for all. The events in 2014 and 2015 were incredibly successful, engaging over 500 men and women at each session and creating an Action Plan for change that was widely circulated.
The event has evolved and is now entitled "We for She: Championing the Next Generation". The 2016 event took place in October and it was a great success with over 1,500 people participating. Over 700 young women currently in Grades 10-12 attended from throughout the province of BC to engage with male and female community leaders. Leaders and students listened to incredible speakers including the Premier of BC, the Honourable Christy Clark, as well as Karina LeBlanc, former goalie of the Canadian Women's soccer team, who shared their stories, as well as the importance of supporting the economic advancement of women.
How do you balance your time between being a mom, work, family and your spare time?
Balance is not a word in my vocabulary. I prefer the term "integration". My life and my work are fully integrated. My kids are now 9 and 12 so they are gaining more independence but most importantly, I have a husband who manages the majority of the household responsibilities. He is home everyday at 3pm to manage homework, activities and to make dinner.
This provides me with the flexibility to work late or attend work-related events. However, I try to be home at least 2 nights during the week for dinner, which is not always easy in my role. It is definitely a juggling act! I also try to do activities with my kids that are active. For example, we might go for a run, bike ride, walk or hike so that I can combine quality time with my kids while also fitting in a bit of exercise. Life is definitely not black and white, but very grey with combined objectives!
What does mentorship mean to you?
I define mentorship as the act of supporting an individual by asking questions to draw out the answers they already have. It is not about providing advice but rather support and guidance. Championship is another term I like, which means "helping people to identity opportunities they may not see for themselves".
You hold an important leadership role. What do you think makes you a great leader?
I don't relate to being a leader, yet I seem to be labelled that more and more frequently. I think you have to earn the title of leader and consistently demonstrate your ability to inspire people to be the best they can be. Being a leader means making decisions, guiding a team and always being aware of your surroundings including all stakeholders. I am definitely a participative leader, trying to ensure that I engage all key stakeholders as much as possible.
I wrote a blog post about egos + business and how they don't mix. What's your opinion on this?
I completely agree! The work environment is shifting and it needs to. There is no time or need for egos. They detract from what is important - building people up. We need to identify and respect individual strengths, communicate effectively and create a culture of mutual respect. I love the term "A rising tide lifts all boats". We need to focus more on the collective.
I wrote a series of In Good Company features on companies and organizations which support women returning to the workforce after they've briefly left. How important do you think this movement is and what was your experience returning to work after having children?
This is essential. The number of women graduating from professional programs is equal, if not sometimes outweighing men. However, the largest drop-off of women in professional careers is mid-career after they have invested in their education and career. There is still tremendous work to be done to support more women, and men, who want to return to the workforce after taking time off or who want to create a flexible work schedule in order to accommodate family needs. I had fairly short maternity leaves with both of my children, but I went back to work part-time and in flexible environments. That was key for my sanity then and continues to be now. I strongly believe that by empowering people to create a work schedule that works for them in their specific circumstances, more than pays off over the long term.
What word of advice would you give young women who are looking for career guidance after finishing school?
Identity your passion and find a role that will work for you. If it does not exist, look to create it. Find key mentors and champions in your life who will support your vision. Remember, it does take time!
I'm a big believer in 'ah-ha' moments, that timing is everything and things happen for a reason. What has been your biggest ah-ha moment in life?
I have had many ah-ha moments! My two favourites are:
Upon completion of my MBA, I received offers from a few large organizations including banks. I almost went down the banking path, when a dear friend of mine was killed in a car accident. Talk about an ah-ha moment! He was a passionate entrepreneur and I knew that I wanted that as well, so I abruptly rescinded my banking contract and went to work with a couple who became my mentors, and eventual business partners in my first entrepreneurial venture.
While on my second maternity leave, I considered not returning to my previous role (I had sold my business to a larger company that I would be returning to) when the opportunity to build and lead the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs came up. It was serendipitous as several people forwarded me the opportunity and I eventually put my name forward. It was an incredible opportunity, that changed the trajectory of my career!
What are three qualities you look for in the tribe of women you surround yourself with and what's the one thing women can do better to support each other?
We need to respect each other and the decisions we make. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by an absolutely incredible tribe!
What's the one word of advice you would give your younger self?
Perfection does not exist. Stop trying to find the perfect job, perfect partner etc. We all have the power to create our own opportunities, especially if we open ourselves up to new possibilities.
What inspires and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
My girls and I love the work that I do! It is very easy to wake up.
Is the risk really worth the reward?
I have consistently taken risks throughout my career. I have traded security and a larger pay cheque for personal satisfaction and roles where I can have a true impact. I say YES, the risk is worth it!
When have you been the most satisfied in your life?
As my husband says, I am never satisfied. I realize that this is one of my qualities and I never want to be satisfied. Life is constantly evolving and I make sure I surround myself with the right people, love what I do and commit to always challenging myself. I realize that is when I am the happiest!
What one word describes you as a business lady, mom, mentor and a friend?