Pauline Stevenson, Excel Career College, Courtenay
Twenty-five years ago, Pauline Stevenson launched Excel Career College in Courtenay after identifying a niche market. It was a natural progression from her role as a customized accounting systems specialist at an accounting firm. Originally the business provided training support for regional businesses.
Changing with times, the business transitioned into an accredited college at the end of the 1990s and has been constantly growing its inventory of training programs, offering career-oriented diploma programs, courses, as well as corporate training. It also has an international department with a specialty in ESL. The Government has contracted the college for various unique projects including customized training within First Nations communities.
Stevenson’s business has grown organically. “I identified a need that wasn’t being filled and it was my passion so I simply did it.” Her positive and tenacious attitude is her greatest strength. “It has not been an easy road and I feel my tenacity and strength have been the attributes that have kept me going for the past 25 years.”
As an entrepreneur, Stevenson learned to be flexible and adapt to changing market dynamics. Her advice to women entrepreneurs is to have a clear vision of their goals. “Think about what your tasks will be on a daily basis when you become an entrepreneur as opposed to what the business will do.” She also advises entrepreneurs to have a clear exit strategy.
Her experience with her mentors motivates her to help others. “I had a coach who was truly amazing. He was able to keep focused on goals and follow-up where I would get caught up in the latest fire.” Another mentor pushed her out of her comfort zone and inspired her to rise up to business challenges.
Stevenson is a Peer Mentoring Facilitator for Women’s Enterprise Centre in Courtenay. Referring to her own experience with mentors, she says, “I have so much gratitude for the belief and faith that was placed in me and the opportunities that I was provided, that it would give me a huge sense of pride to be able to offer that to other women business owners.”