As a young child growing up in rural Newfoundland, Anne Whelan always had a passion for business. She would set up lemonade stands or entertain at children’s birthday parties to make her first sales. Anne graduated from Memorial University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1990. She laughed as she explained; “Like every 20 something year-old, I wanted to save the world.” She began working in economic community development and that’s when she discovered her passion for helping small communities realize their worth.
She learned the power business has to support communities, and help the people within them become masters of their own destinies. Anne says that she feels lucky to have been given the chance early on to learn just how valuable business was to small communities and in turn, be given the knowledge that helped her start and flourish within her own business, Seafair Capital.
Anne pursued a Master’s of Business Administration at Memorial University in 2002. After graduation, Anne joined her mother in her business, Caregivers Inc. From there, she recognized a need for residential care within the province, which turned into the development of Blue Sky – “The first fully accredited residential care provider in the province.” In 2009, BrenKir Industrial Supply was acquired as well, “A multi-site industrial, fire and safety company.” In 2012, Seafair Capital was established. With an ever-growing group of businesses, Anne and her team recognized the need to create a parent company to leverage the strengths of each of the operating companies.
“Challenge motivates me,” she says. “I consider myself a lifelong learner.” Anne claims that in order to be successful one must expose oneself to new ideas, and think around corners. Also, she says that sometimes it is necessary to hit a few brick walls in order to develop the skill of problem solving and finding new ways to deal with things. Anne says that even her failures have motivated her to keep pushing forward –
“Sometimes you need to stretch yourself to achieve something big,” she states.
Anne accredits much of her success to her Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree. She claims that it nurtured her creative side at a young age. Anne says that an arts major’s way of thinking brings an entirely different perspective to the table – one of which she holds at high value within her company. “Ideals don’t exist in real life. In order to create something wonderful there needs to be a combination of different perspectives,” she states. Anne claims that the combination of BA thinking and business thinking is a lethal one. This is the foundation at which she builds her team. “For instance,” she says, “A lawyer or accountant may have an in-the-box approach way of doing things that is valuable in one scenario, and an arts graduate may use their way of thinking to create an out-of-the-box approach that is successful in a different scenario, or maybe a combination of the two could be the most successful. Either way, the combination of the two is what makes magic happen in an organization; they are both of equal value.”
The “skilled, gifted, energetic, and loyal Seafair Capital team that I have surrounded myself with,” says Anne, “is one of my largest achievements to date.” She claims that most days she is in awe of the amazing team that she has managed to put together, and that they continue to inspire her daily. In addition to this, Anne claims that parenting is definitely one of her largest achievements – “To see your own child possess such wonderful qualities, I am so proud and there is truly no better feeling.”
In addition, some achievements that Anne failed to mention herself, is the fact that she was named “CEO of the year” by Atlantic Business Magazine (May 2014), received the Entrepreneurial Award of Excellence from Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (2013), was named “RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur of the Year” by Entrepreneur of the Year Awards (2010), and that’s just to name a few.
Anne claims that in the short range future, Seafair Capital will be expanding to other jurisdictions. However, in general, her hopes for the company are for the team to flourish and be happy in their environment – for Seafair Capital to be about the whole team and not simply “Anne Whelan”. Although she does not plan on retiring anytime soon, as the company and the people involved in it are her passion, she thinks that her team as a whole has the capability to do amazing things here in Newfoundland and Labrador. She would like to see the company ideals and leadership live long past her.
Despite how busy her company may keep her, Anne is an avid volunteer – she thinks that it may stem from her years of working with community development. Nonetheless, she deems it a very important part of her everyday life. “Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada is a very special place, especially if you’ve ever lived away,” says Anne, “It possesses so much culture and community, but it can only continue this way if the people of Newfoundland and Labrador help it succeed economically.” This is only one of the many reasons that Anne believes it is important to volunteer your time to our province. “If you feel strongly about something, you need to be willing to put your time and energy into it – and I guess that’s what I’m doing and will continue to do.”
Anne strongly believes in the overall importance of communities, and she’s “just trying to make a difference”. She clues it all up by saying, “I always tell people, if you ever feel badly about yourself, the best thing you can do is go out and help somebody else.”
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