By Katherine Christie
I have what I like to call a ‘type-E’ personality. Entrepreneurship has always been a part of who I am, even from a very young age. When I started my first business, I was no expert; I just knew what I needed to do. It all came very naturally to me. That innate spirit carried me through several successful business ventures, and paved the way to my current career as a multi-unit franchisee with U Weight Loss Clinics. Combine that with a passion for helping people and a commitment to hard work and you’ve got the recipe for franchise success.
Life on (and off) the farm
Entrepreneurship runs in my family. My grandparents acquired a small farm in Kitscoty, Alta., after immigrating to Canada from Europe. My father and mother worked on the family farm for almost four decades.
Though I’ve spent the majority of my life in Alberta, I was actually born in Burnaby, B.C. Being entrepreneurial himself, my father, saw a career opportunity in the late 1950’s, and moved his family to Vancouver, working construction on the Second Narrows Bridge. When I was about a year old, my grandfather called my dad and asked him to come back to Kitscoty and help run the farm. Of course, my three sisters and I were also recruited to help. Together, the family turned my grandparents’ modest land purchase into a thriving, wealthy farm. At a very young age, I learned one of life’s most important lessons—success comes from hard work.
My parents were great entrepreneurial examples to me. They developed several businesses to supplement the farm income and started a number of successful new ventures. Even when I was about four years old, I went from farm to farm meeting our neighbours with my mother, the Avon lady. Mom was also way ahead of her time, focusing on organic techniques and self-sufficient farming long before it was trendy. It was inspiring to see that type of innovation and dedication. My parents also helped shape my strong work ethic, which has served me very well over the years.
Searching for a career
When it came to my own career aspirations, I vividly recall a defining moment in my childhood. At the age of 12, I was in Edmonton with my sister and watched as women in business suits with briefcases going in and out of buildings. I said to myself, ‘Someday, that’s going to be me.’ I wasn’t sure how, but there was no question I was going to make it happen.
As I was growing up, I tried a variety of jobs, including two or three before I turned 16. These experiences helped define my interests as I prepared to choose a career. For example, I got my first job at the Kitscoty County Office when I was only 14 years old, typing up pipeline service contracts three days a week after school. There, I learned a valuable lesson—I did not want to work in an office.
I also worked in a record store, but it wasn’t a good fit either. Knowing this was not my calling, I introduced myself to the owner of a men’s hair salon next door. I was offered a job—50 cents for every head I shampooed. Once I saw the entrepreneurial nature of hairdressing, I was hooked.
I instinctively researched all of the schools available to me in Edmonton that offered hairstyling programs. I also called all of the top salons in the city and asked what schools they would hire from and why. This lead me to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), a technical school that offered a well-respected 10-month program, complete with a business component for budding entrepreneurs. I eventually received the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship for Academic Achievement from NAIT for the hairstyling program.
After graduation, I moved to Lloydminster and spent a year with an up-and-coming salon until the age of 19. While working there, I continued to see entrepreneurial promise, challenges and possibilities, so I decided to venture out on my own.