Meet three women turning their vision into reality
At first glance, the following three businesses have little in common. One is geared toward young children. One is for beer-loving adults. And the third is for businesses owners. But what all three entrepreneurs share is a passion for their community and a love for what they do.
Leigha Blackwood, YeeHaw Play
Leigha Blackwood and her husband Colin Clark found inspiration for their new business after the birth of their third child.
They’d seen indoor playgrounds for toddlers in Calgary and elsewhere, but they couldn’t find anything similar at home in Airdrie.
So they decided to create it themselves.
And, in October 2016, YeeHaw Play — Airdrie’s first indoor playground for children 10 and under — opened its doors. A massive climbing structure, bouncy castle, wiggle track with little cars for kids to “drive,” four birthday party rooms and a deli are just some of the offerings in the 8,000-square-foot space.
Down the road, they plan to expand their facility, adding options for older children and adults. “We’d like to make it a full family entertainment centre,” says Blackwood.
With backgrounds in IT and business development, both Blackwood and Clark had the know-how to get a new idea off the ground. It took two years, however, to find the right location and to get the licensing and equipment in place.
But Blackwood has never doubted their decision to create their company in Airdrie. “We live here and work here, and our kids go to school here,” she says. “This is a great community to be a part of.”
Kara Fulton, Thumbprint Craft Beer Market
Kara Fulton was on a date with her husband Dave when she tried a Hoegaarden beer for the first time. Then she tried another beer. And another. She began visiting breweries and a few years later, she realized she had become an aficionado. “My interest just exploded,” she says.
But she couldn’t find a beer store in Alberta like the ones she had visited – and loved – in other parts of the world. “We figured if we ever won the lottery one day, we’d open one,” she says.
Then Fulton’s father died, leaving her his estate. “He said, ‘I think you have a great idea and you should do it,’” Fulton says. “Out of the tragedy of his death, we could realize our dream.”
Thumbprint Craft Beer Market opened in January, and features at least 600 different beers, all for sale as individual bottles, plus eight growler taps.
The store name pays homage to Fulton’s father who, before he died, gave her his thumbprint. Combined with her own, it forms the store’s logo. “It’s like the rings in a tree trunk, symbolizing the old generation and the new,” she says. “I never could have done this without him. It’s a dream come true.”
Deanna Hunter, Ridgegate Consulting
Deanna Hunter spent more than two decades working her way up the corporate human resources ladder.
But two years ago, she was laid off, shortly after the economy started to falter.
“I was the director of talent acquisitions, and we weren’t acquiring any talent,” she says with a laugh.
Not one to be down for long, she created Ridgegate Consulting. Named after the Airdrie community where she lives, the two-year-old company offers human resources help for small businesses.
“I live here and I want to be part of the community in a significant way,” Hunter says. “My ideal customer is someone who doesn’t need a full-time HR person, but needs some expertise,” she says. “Someone who wants an HR expert on speed dial.”
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Hunter completed a business degree at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon before heading to Calgary for a job. Then another. And another, including time at both WestJet and Shaw.
She liked living in the big city but was drawn to Airdrie for its community vibe. “Airdrie is small enough that you can know people, but you don’t know everybody,” she says. “And the business community here is just that: a community