By Kelli Jacula-Kochan
Structure is a notion I embrace fully. As a student at an all-girls high school run by nuns, my life was all about being organized. And that’s a good thing. Today, having the ability to divide my time and maintain balance allows me to juggle four businesses, one of them a Planet Beach spa franchise in Spruce Grove, Alta.
‘Miss Kelli’ in the making
You could say I got my entrepreneurial spirit from my parents, who owned and operated a grain farm in Vermilion, Alta., about two hours east of Edmonton. At one point, we also had cattle, pigs and chickens. I remember my siblings—two sisters and a brother—and me collecting and washing eggs for 10 cents a dozen as a chore and shelling peas to earn TV time. My mom and dad also opened a couple of local hotels and a KFC franchise. Looking back now, I give them credit for my work ethic—they set a pretty good example for our family, especially me. We were taught to work hard for what we have, and that’s something I’ve always believed in, starting with school.
I attended a Catholic school close to home from kindergarten to grade nine, but the rest of my high school years were spent at St. Angela’s Academy, a boarding school in Saskatchewan. My parents and I decided the move would be good for me, as the high school in Vermilion offered less structure. There, students could work at their own pace. St. Angela’s gave me a well-rounded curriculum that not only included academics, but sports, drama and singing, which I really enjoyed.
If our school put on a production, you could usually find me on stage. I also got my fix through the swing choir. Decked out in our poodle skirts, we travelled throughout Saskatchewan, performing at other boarding schools. Arts were definitely a big part of my high school years, but so were academics. Two-hour mandatory study time kept us all in check. Not only did I make lifelong friends there, but most of all, my time at St. Angela’s instilled discipline, which would later become so important in my life as a business owner. Being away from home and on your own may be a teenager’s dream, but you had to be really focused to be able to thrive in a structured environment like St. Angela’s, particularly when I had my mind set on
a teaching career myself.
Teaching is something I always wanted to do. As a child, I christened myself ‘Miss Kelli’ and went through the day’s lessons with my siblings, who would sit around the chalk board acting the part of my students. It’s not a surprise then that after graduating high school in 1997, I entered the University of Alberta to work toward fulfilling my dream.
With a degree in elementary education in hand, I got a job teaching kindergarten at St. Mary’s School in Okotoks, Alta., and was soon a finalist for an Edwin Parr Teacher Award, an honour presented to a first-year teacher demonstrating exemplary dedication and commitment. I truly have a passion for children, teaching and learning, which is why I set out to establish a private pre-school for three- to five-year-olds. When it first opened its doors in 2003, Two By Two Me & You only had 13 students, but today it boasts 130.
My husband, Bryce, and I married in 2005 after I moved back to Spruce Grove, Alta., to open my school. Living in this small city of about 26,000 allowed us to be close to Edmonton and the power plant where Bryce worked. I remember racing home to have dinner with Bryce before his shift began and then returning to the classroom to work into the evening. We made sure we spent time together. As I said, a big part of my life is finding balance; it’s something I really try to focus on, so I can meet all my obligations and still take time for people.
In 2010, an opportunity came up to open a Boston Pizza in Vermilion, so Bryce and I relocated back home. I like to joke I obviously have a business addiction, which as you’ll soon learn, has only gotten ‘worse,’ given the two other businesses we would come to own.
An afternoon outing to Lloydminster, Alta., to do some shopping gave my husband and me our first introduction to Planet Beach. Not knowing anything about the spa or its automated treatment concept, we went inside to check it out. Needless to say, we immediately signed up for membership, which allowed us unlimited use of all the services. The 40-minute drive to the spa from home was no barrier for Bryce and me—whenever we had free time in our week, you could find us there enjoying the massage chair, hydration station or red light therapy. One of the things that struck us about the spa is its one-stop-shop setup. We loved that we could take a couple of hours whenever we wanted to recharge. We were such fans of Planet Beach that we decided to open a location in Spruce Grove in May 2013.