Three Carleton Alumnae Named Top Canadian Female Entrepreneurs

Dale Morris, president of Ascribe Marketing Communications in Ottawa, is one of five Carleton alumna listed on the 2015 PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs. (Justin Tang Photo)

Dale Morris, Mary Beth Denomy and Shannon Lenstra know it takes hard work to build a company from scratch. The three entrepreneurs are among five Carleton alumnae named on the 2015 PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 List of Top Canadian Female Entrepreneurs.

While some might count the rankings as a matter of individual success, these women see it as a team effort.

“The more successful I would be, the more work I would attract,” says Morris, who worked as a freelance writer before founding Ascribe Marketing Communications in Ottawa. “Then I started having children one at a time.”

“I just kept burning out and getting overwhelmed and thinking there has to be a smarter way to do this,” she says.

By starting her own company and building a team, Morris, No.98 on the list, has been able to take on more work than she could as a freelancer, while also balancing her role as a mother.

Ascribe now employs 12 staff, posted revenue of between $1 million and $1.9 million in 2014, and has seen three-year revenue growth of 63 per cent.

While she steers the company, Morris says every person on the Ascribe team has played a role in the company’s ranking on the W100 list.

It’s a sentiment Denomy shares. The president of Free for All Marketing in Toronto, who ranked No. 16, says she surrounds herself with people who are great at what they do, but also support her.

“There’s a great quote: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Denomy says. “I credit every one of these people who work in the company now and who used to work here with contributing to that success.”

Her firm employs 130 people, posted revenue between $5 million and $9.9 million in 2014, and achieved three-year revenue growth of 106 per cent.

But even with teamwork there are challenges when reaching for the top. As Lenstra knows, women have struggled long and hard to achieve equal recognition in the business world.

Ranked at No. 99, she’s faced pushback while working in the male-dominated construction industry as the president of Calgary renovations company Kon-strux Developments.

“I had an eastern European fellow who we were bidding on a project from,” Lenstra says. “He said, ‘Honey, this is the best package I’ve seen. You guys have all the numbers.’ Then he reached across and he grabbed my cheeks and he said: ‘But sweetheart, I don’t think you have the tools to do the job.’”

Lenstra says being an entrepreneur is her way of fighting back and making her own rules. Today, Kon-strux employs 20 people, has posted revenue between $2 million and $4.9 million and has enjoyed 30 per cent revenue growth over the last three years.

“I’ve had times where I made the wrong decisions or I failed at what I was doing,” Lenstra says. “But you know, you get back up and you do it again.”

The key to success, the women agree, is focusing on their goals and getting there one step at a time.

“The difference between people who make it and people who don’t make it is pure perseverance,” Denomy says. “Just keep going. Make mistakes, pick up and keep on going.”

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Kirsten Fenn

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