Category Archives: Leadership

Small Business, Big Dreams

Her first flight took her 13,400 kilometres away from her home in Chennai ten months after her wedding day. Selvi Thambimuthu landed at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Toronto on December 4, 2004.

Three Generations

“I felt really happy to see my new husband and new country but also a little bit sad leaving my family back in Chennai. I was also very curious about snow,” she recalls.

Now thirteen+ years later, Selvi and Siva, her husband, and their three handsome sons Pragadheesh (12), Harshan (10), and Vadhanan (8), are busy getting ready to open their second restaurant franchise next week in Toronto – “Starving Artist”!

Stars Align – A Love Story

A match made by both our parents and confirmed by 4 different astrologists, Selvi and Siva were married within eighteen days of meeting one another in person for the first time in 2004. They came to know one another long distance by phone and her first thought was “he looks just like his photograph”. Strong faith in family and even stronger faith in dreams bridged the distance then and now.

Living the Dream

“Work for your dreams. It will happen whatever you dream. It will come true. You need to believe.” she repeats to her sons. “I want my sons to have their own dreams and I will support them as my parents always supported me. Education is important, first and foremost!”

She remembers how her parents set her up for success, always reading, exploring, and fuelling her curiosity about the world. At age 12, her father gave her a black radio and brought the world inside their home each night at dinnertime.

Her earliest memory of Toronto was “Everyone on the subway was reading!” She used to buy “packages of books” for her sons and read Dr. Seuss’ favourites including “Cat in the Hat” twenty to thirty times a day.

Entrepreneurship & Education in Progress

It’s not clear if “Green Eggs and Ham” set the tone as Selvi and Siva bought their first waffle restaurant franchise in 2016 and opened “Starving Artist” in Midtown Toronto. It was also the year Selvi started (and now graduated!) George Brown College’s Office Administration – Health Services two-year diploma program. And 2016 was the year Selvi’s Mom came from Chennai to help them realize their dreams.

The entrepreneurial spirit thrives in their family. Her father once owned a machine shop in Chennai. And as all entrepreneurs know, you do what it takes to make things work so they live above their restaurant which makes a whole lot of logistical sense.

Soccer Dreams

Listening to Pragadheesh talk about his passion, soccer, with his eyes shining brightly, he is like most young first generation Canadians. They are strivers, strong-willed with extraordinary grit and determination.

When his father suggested they should book their tickets for the World Cup 2026 (Canada, U.S. and Mexico will be hosting), Pragadheesh reassured his father, “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll be playing so I’ll have tickets for everyone.”

The Next Big Dream

And what’s next you might wonder from the lady who once pushed a stroller dubbed “The Rocket” by her co-workers to get her son to school on time?

Selvi now dreams about how she will furnish their next house, a much bigger house as their home as she remembers fondly her childhood home in Chennai, 10’ x 50’, where her dreams began. And now 13,400 kms away, I have no doubt this dream will also come true. Small business, big dreams!

We Women

“It’s not like you always recall your Dad cooking for you!” – Chef Victoria Blamey, originally from Santiago, Chile, now NYC.

I sat up a little straighter in my seat as I listened and watched the women chefs in Maya Gallus’ “The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution” last Friday at Hot Docs  Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto. One by one they shared their years of dedication in pursuing and perfecting their art.

But I wondered who are they? Why don’t I remember their names like I remember the male chefs? Blame it on the media, PR, the male chefs? Or us, we women?

Women have been cooking forever. Women have been the ones that have been cooking for the chef or the man that became the chef. Usually it’s like my mom used to make this for me so ok …Women have been cooking all this time but you can’t make it to the professional side? That’s the irony of this, you know what I mean?”Chef Victoria Blamey, ready for her next adventure after Chumley’s, NYC.

“There’s a saying. Men cook for glory. Women cook for love … but as a chef, you really want to be judged on your work. Your gender has nothing to do with it.”Chef Anita Lo, 2nd generation Malaysian American, Annisa, NYC.

“I’m a chef. I don’t really attach importance to the fact woman or male chefs. We are all chefs.”Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, known for her 3 Michelin star restaurant, Maison Pic, SE France.

“I always say I wasn’t harassed because I was a woman. I was harassed because I was a human and chefs are equal opportunity ass-holes. They’ll harass anyone they see who’s weaker than them.” – Chef Amanda Cohen, owner, award-winning vegetable restaurant, Dirt Candy, NYC.

I won’t forget them now.

In NBA player San Antonio Spurs’ power forward/centre, Paul Gasol’s recent open letter about working with female coaches like Coach Becky Hammon, he sees no difference in coaching.

Growing up near Barcelona, Gasol’s father is a nurse and his mother is a doctor. “In 37 years, I can honestly say I’ve never once thought of my mom as a “female” doctor. To me, she has always just been … a doctor. And a great one, too.”

So why are we women still be pushing that same rock up the mountain forty years later? Maybe it’s time to put that rock down and just build our own damn mountain. What we need is a voice, a more united voice, a louder voice. Maya Gallus used her voice. Pau Gasol used his voice. Now is the time. Find ways to use your voice – blog, tweet, speak, share, educate, discuss. We need to care, we should care, do we care?

The Power of Perspective – All the light we can see

The Power of Perspective

Scrolling my Twitter feed, I stumbled upon Daniel Pink’s , an American author of bestselling books about business, work, and behavior, 2016 convocation address at Georgetown University on the importance of perspective-taking.

He asked the grads to do a quick social experiment with three simple instructions. Try it!

1) Identify your dominant hand.

2) With your dominant hand, snap your fingers 5 times.

3) With the forefinger of your dominant hand, draw for me a capital “E” on your forehead.

Take note, did you draw your “E” facing you inwardly  or “E” facing outwardly? Pink: “If you drew the “E”  facing you i.e. inwardly, it means you are self-oriented and take your own perspective. If you drew  “E” facing outwardly , it means you take someone else’s perspective.”

As time goes on, you will draw the “E” differently, depending on context. As you grow and acquire power and success, you might lose your ability to see the world through another’s eyes. “Use your power but sharpen your perspective.” –Daniel H. Pink

Saul Bellow, a Canadian author and Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner quoted Proust as he talked about life’s “true impressions.” “With increasing frequency, I dismiss as merely respectable opinions I have long held – or thought I held – and try to discern what I have really lived by and what others live by.” –Saul Bellow

Thirty years ago I was “gifted” this rare perspective. I haven’t used it very often…not until this month.  This “gift” came from being hospitalized for an extended period with no vision and no mobility. So when I peered into my best friend’s (30 years) one open eye last week, I suddenly realized that in order to connect with her, I had to take her perspective. I had to communicate in such a way so that if she was inside there, she could use her facial muscles to answer.  Being careful not to overtire her, we “conversed” as she responded neurologically well – acknowledging accurately and quickly. She’s smart, strong, and resilient. We pray.

“Valuing the differences between people is the essence of synergy … And the key is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”–Stephen R. Covey

Did you draw  the Capital E facing inwardly or facing outwardly? Know your power of perspective and use it aptly, wisely, and compassionately.

 

Hashtag Talk #2 – Karma to help Kids with Disabilities

#karma

#hope

#kindness

A funny thing happened on my way to my #GoodLife  gym yesterday.  The speed of thought zooming through my brain yesterday was at supersonic Mach1 – inventions for kids with disabilities, volunteering at the junior squash tournament, first coaching session with my new client, squeezing in a spin class and a run, applying for an exciting part time opportunity to help newcomers, the men’s PSA squash final in Cartagena, Colombia etc etc etc. a jam-packed day

How was I going to accomplish this in one day?  My New Year’s resolution kicked in.  Being mindful of doing too much, too #fastfasterfastest, too soon, I made a  conscious effort to stop, rearrange my thoughts, and reverse the order of my day.  In doing so, an amazing series of occurrences led to boundless #hope #karma

Let’s take one thought – inventions for kids with disabilities. I am excited to submit my proposal as a social venture start up consultant to help commercialize two inventions thanks to my good friend, Karen, who is vacationing in Hawaii and took the time to email me the opportunity #kindness #karma.

I found a young CEO entrepreneur online who is associated with the same hospital and already in commercialization so I was a bit nervous about my pending conference call with him who is armed with a double Masters in neuroscience and design engineering!  I decided to skip my morning spin class (sorry Graham), move my run to end of day and have lunch (why not?) at Sriannie’s snack bar located inside the gym before our call.

I managed to place my fish wrap order seconds ahead of the next customer who bought up all her fish. #karma  After 10 minutes, we both returned at the same time for our orders. #karma  He started chatting with the customer next to me #karma and soon the three of us were praising Sriannie on her high level of customer service and good food.

Minutes later I learned that my new acquaintance is actually Mr. Fitness Business Aficionado and his spouse is an occupational therapist.  I told him about the inventions #networking and got his permission to email him the details. #karma #kindness

After lunch, I spoke with the very affable and congenial genius young CEO #kindness.  I mentioned my new acquaintance. #networking  He softly hinted at putting his invention into the hands of their hands for a demo and I said I would try. #karma #hope

At the end of the day, after a great coaching session with my client, refereeing junior squash players under age 11 and age 15 (some were under age 7!), running 5 km, picking up my lost scarf gifted by my dear client from the cafe where I met my new client #karma, and reaching home just in time to watch the PSA World Squash final, I collapsed in my bed.

This morning I reflected on how #karma played a big role yesterday.  Maybe we can make a difference to improve the quality of the lives for the kids in rehab.  When we see the “dots”, we can try.  We have a moral obligation to try. Let’s try! #hope #leadership

 

 

 

A Superhero for the Underdog Entrepreneur!

Pat McNamara @patapex is a PR dynamo who has found a way to give back! She’s the poster girl of  huge heart, self-effacing and ever so humble.  She is the super-hero for the underdog entrepreneur!

#Entrepreneurs sometimes fall and fall hard for different reasons and need a second chance. Doesn’t everyone? Pat mentions ever so briefly that she had a second chance and her gratitude  jumps out when you see her smile.  Pat McNamara 19NOV2015

As volunteer business judges, we spent the day listening and assessing  the top 9 pitches in 3 categories – youth, women, and immigrant – and are at varying stages of start-up.  By the end of the day, @IgniteCapital will have awarded $20k to each of the three category winners!  Where does this money come from?  From Pat’s 3 pockets for 3 entrepreneurs, $60K,  to help move an entrepreneur’s dream forward.

This is no Dragon’s Den!  Pat and her team have designed a process for cash-strapped, low credit score entrepreneurs (yep, you have to have a credit score LESS THAN 650) to be eligible.  2015 is Year 3 of Pat’s generosity and now is the time for other successful entrepreneurs to step up.  Join Pat in helping those who deserve a second chance!

A Second Chance
A Second Chance