As a result, I was the only kid in my high school with my own car that I’d bought for myself. I also had a $1,000 BMX bike.
My best subjects in high school were biology (as I still wanted to be a dentist in those days), physics, other sciences and math. It took me awhile to become bilingual, even though my father spoke French and my mother spoke English. When we’d moved to Moncton, I was going into Grade 3 and continued to learn in English, but once I got up to Grade 6, I was able to get into late French immersion classes. We only spoke English at home.
I went to Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., and even then I would come back to Moncton to work shifts at Sobey’s. I also took classes in French at University of Moncton, so I would become more fully bilingual.
It was during university that I changed my plans. Instead of becoming a dentist, I moved more toward the business world.
I was born Chantal St-Amant in 1966 in Campbellton, N.B., which borders Quebec and is also near Bathurst. It’s a very bilingual city. I was always fluent in both French and English.
My dad owned a men’s clothing store and my mom helped him run it. I have one younger brother who now lives in Toronto. My dad passed away shortly before I met Nathan and my mom, who’s now retired, lives close by in Moncton.
As a child, I kept very busy. I was on student council, played a lot of sports like volleyball, took part in marching bands and became involved in the community. In school, I wasn’t good at math or science like Nathan, but I enjoyed studying accounting and economics, which prepared me for running a business.
I moved to the Moncton area for French-language education. I studied social work at the University of Moncton and was a shift manager at McDonald’s, which helped prepare me for our current food-service business.
After I graduated, I was a social worker for 10 years. I liked working in the field, but once Nathan and I started our family, it became difficult because of our first child’s medical needs.
Nathan and I met in 1990. We got married in 1992. Although we speak English to each other, we’re raising our children in French at home. (We also only use French commands with our dogs!) Our first child, Rebeka, was born in 1995. Our son, Alek, was born in 2003.
We adopted our other two children from China: Karielle in 2008 and Loik, who was born in 2003, in 2010. So, Loik is the same age as his brother.
One of the reasons all of their names have the letter ‘k’ is Nathan’s middle name is Karl.
We met at Sobey’s, where she was a customer. One night, I got to carry her groceries to her car.
The next week, we saw each other at a club. We began dating at that time and got married in September 1992.
After graduating from university, I focused my career on sales, as my father had, and anything I did, I gave it 100 per cent. At Heinz, where I sold foods to restaurants, I replaced a sales representative who had worked for the company for 25 years, so I had big shoes to fill. Nevertheless, I achieved record sales numbers.
Then I worked for Eastman Kodak. Within my first 12 months, I was named ‘rookie of the year.’
From 2000 to 2004, Chantal and I owned a licensed restaurant serving pub fare, where we built up to $1 million in annual sales. It took a lot of work. We were the second-largest draft house in Moncton. We added a big patio and a Montreal-style café. That’s how we learned what it took to make a restaurant successful.
The licensing was always a headache, though. I swore I would never get back into the bar scene again.
Chantal fully ran the restaurant. She was there all the time. Then we sold it and she became a stay-at-home mom. Rebeka had cerebral palsy and in 2004 we found out Alek did, too. They needed a lot of support.
After selling the restaurant, I focused on sales for a dental supplies company, where I’d started in 2001. I was their number one sales rep in 2006 and 2009 and number three in 2011 for all of North America. I’ve now been with them for 12 years.