In Fernie, there is no lack of inspiring, bold women. As business owners. As community advocates. As volunteers and pioneers. It is truly a privilege to work, recreate, create, parent, and live among them.
Recently, one of these woman, Jill Barclay took on an inspiring volunteer position with the Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC) as a Regional Ambassador. A non-profit organization, WEC is “devoted to helping BC women start, lead and grow their own business.” They can provide business loans up to $150k, with access to an additional $100K through a partnership with the BDC. Many women in business in our community, including Jill have attended the annual Forum for Women Entrepreneurs E-Series event in Vancouver. This is a three-day conference for women entrepreneurs and business owners to help them gain the necessary tools to grow their business. Teck announced in early February that it is offering eight grants to allow women in business in BC, Alberta and Alaska to attend the forum.
Jill is a fantastic fit with WEC, having owned and operated Goldstar Cleaning Services for over 15 years. Managing a large team and a multitude of contracts, locally and regionally, Jill has an abundance to lend others finding their way in business.
Like many in our community and other mountain towns, Jill first spent time in Fernie seasonally to ski. At the time she worked in reforestation as a project manager for half the year so it worked well… until she wanted to transition out of being in the bush. “I thought it was time to look for work long-term work,” she tells me. “I had applied for a job at Fernie Lodging Company as the Suite Care Manager, and didn’t get it so took a seasonal job with Island Lake Lodge.” A few months later, Fernie Lodging took over 30 new vacation homes and contacted Jill to see if she would be interested in the cleaning contract and on December 23 of that year, Goldstar Cleaning was born.
“There weren’t a lot of opportunities to earn a decent income back then. Owning a business offers flexibility. I could still participate in some of the lifestyle pieces that originally drew me to the Valley,” Jill says, and as she holds her nearly two-year old who is too sick to attend daycare, she recognises that things have definitely changed. “Between work responsibilities and family, I can’t do the things that brought me here! But, that speaks to life.” Jill is a mother of three children under six.
As Jill progressed with Goldstar, she recognised that many women hit either a professional ceiling or growth ceiling within their business. “How can women do business with big business?” is question she has been contemplating, and is fundamentally why she is involved with WEC. “It allows me to provide peer-to-peer mentoring, bringing women together to see how much they have in common even though they feel so alone.” Thus far there are eight women in Jill’s peer group. “Sometimes it can be hard to think big, but that’s something I would like to see change. Start big, and scale it down.”
Jill is enjoying broadening her view and engaging in different ways with our business community. “It’s a breath of fresh air after having owned a business for 15 years!” Jill also sits on the board for the Fernie Child Care Society and has been creating discussions about the long-term vision and a strategic-fundraising plan. “You need to create a network, it’s key to your success,” she adds.
What are her own long-term goals? “To keep my children alive right now,” she says with a laugh. “But really, I’m focused on what Goldstar can be in five years. Maintaining my business with the current elements and stage of my life.” Jill is also dedicated to working with WEC and women in business to, “look at the ten-year picture and break it down.”
No pressure, Jill but we fully anticipate a ripple effect of boldness and inspiration throughout the Elk Valley, and look forward to what this brings to our communities. Thank you.
1. When did you first arrive in the Valley and what brought you here?I arrived in January 2020 for the ski season. I was a project manager for a reforestation company and working seasonally. I had spent the previous three winters travelling and working extensively through South and Central America. I was going out with a guy who lived here in the winter and decided to join him for a season of skiing.
2. Who did you first meet?haha...one of the legends...James McCabe aka “Chicken." It was a pretty social first few years and a big part of our life was at the ski hill. We also ski hosted on Saturdays at the hill to earn our ski pass and met a lot of great 'locals' and original hosts that to this day are a big part of my network and Fernie story.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie?It snowed a lot, everyone had a dog and we went to a lot of potlucks, bonfires and costume parties. If we were not skiing we were dog walking.
4. What keeps you here?I have an established business, three young children and access right out my door to an amazing natural playground for all of us.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie pastime?Everything is in stages, right now I love our routine of Sunday laps on the mini and mighty moose as a family, finished off with fries, hot chocolate's and a beer at the Rusty Edge and then on to a swim and hot tub at the aquatic centre and heading home in pj's.
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why?I still love winter the best - it feels more extreme... and then I love a big trip away in the off season.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years?I struggle with this kind of question sometimes because so much has changed over my time living here but so much hasn't changed for both good and bad - a lot has to do with the stage of life I was in and that perspective. However from seasonal treeplanter/ski bum, to homeowner, business owner and parent I think the appeal has always been that very strong sense of community. I hope that Fernie continues to support community through encouraging engagement, inclusivity and accessibility. I hope people will still stop their car to let pedestrians cross the road and say hi to strangers in the grocery store!
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?Wishing I was more organised and then trying to figure out which jacket and shoes/boots to wear based on the weather?!
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.It's not a perm - I'm Scottish and immigrated to Canada when I was five.
10. Quote to live by:I have 2 right now that I think of each day in being a parent and a business owner - Shine the Light on what you want to Grow and We overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten years