Jean Blacklock

reflections on being an entrepreneur

Latest stories

The Master Plan

Last month in my remarks to the Rotman Commerce Women’s Initiative, I told 4 stories. The first story was about rolling with the punches. Why? Because punches are inevitable. After law school, my Master Plan was to be a big tax lawyer at a big firm. But I didn’t get an articling job at a big firm. Instead I got a job at a small firm that had me doing all sorts of things including setting bail...

How to Take a Risk

I spoke recently to a group of undergrad business students. There was a Q&A after my talk. Someone asked a question I have been asked many times before. “How did you decide to take the risk of opening your own business?” When I have been asked this in the past, my answer has been some version of brainstorming all the things that could go wrong and then mitigating them. To work hard at writing...

Lessons from a week without water

On Tuesday, January 28th we were unceremoniously tossed out of our management office on the 12th floor of 18 King Street East – and our flagship bakery and back office on the main floor – with an announcement over the speaker system that left no room for discussion: “There is an emergency in the building. Leave the building immediately”. Apparently everyone agreed that this was...

The Ugh of Saying No

For the first few days of business back in 2011, customers would call us and say, “I’m on my way! Save me a dozen Red Velvets!”, and the catering manager (me) would dash from my desk in the middle of the kitchen to the front of the store and dutifully box up a dozen Red Velvets. I think it was Day 4 when Andrea looked at me and said, “You have to quit doing that, Jean, it doesn’t make sense to...

January blues

Prairie Girl Bakery Ltd. was incorporated on August 10, 2010 and in the decade since, I’ve never thought, “I think I’m done here”. Until this Christmas. As this holiday season wound down, I had a persistent thought, “This just isn’t fun anymore”. I started to think about the best way to exit the business. As I write this, it’s January 22nd and I feel entirely differently so I want to reflect on...

Barney and Bud

On January 25th I am the keynote speaker at the annual symposium of the Rotman Commerce Women’s Initiative. I am really looking forward to it. For help with my comments, I am turning to a great book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath called, Made to Stick. One of their main points is that as audience members we just don’t retain information such as “The Top 3 Things to Remember about Success”. But we do...

Behind the Scenes at Prairie Girl

In my last post of the year, I’m going to mention some of the things the team does to help us manage the really busy times for us: Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Maybe the most important part of holiday planning is ensuring our foundation is strong. By this I mean our website, our processes, our team (recruitment and training), and our products. The things that can most jam up a rush period is if...

Crazy stuff happens

I’m really excited about 2020 because I have been thinking about all the stuff that happened in 2019 and it just blows my mind! Some of it really, really sucked, I can’t lie. But other great things that happened like two people on our management team marrying wonderful people (to be clear, they didn’t marry each other, they married other wonderful people) and the original Head...

Becoming nut free

Changing to a nut-free bakery in 2019 deserves a 10/10 rating, but like many worthwhile projects in life, it was a lotta work especially as we were doing it at the same time as building our Woodbine store (we wanted to open that store without ever having had nuts in it). The hardest part was finding all the supplies. They must of course have a nut-free ingredient list but also cannot contain a...

Letting stuff go

I’ve realized that part of change is letting stuff go. My sister’s wedding anniversary is December 29th. That sounds romantic but it was a pain: I was in 2nd year law school with difficult first term classes, there was  Christmas on the farm to get through and Leslie was marrying into a Ukrainian-Canadian family which (we learned) celebrates weddings over a 3 to 4 day period. I am...

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