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Kelsey Ramsden is a force to be reckoned with! This $50M biz-starter, mother of three, and two-time #1 Female Entrepreneur in Canada founded SparkPlay in 2012 as a means of helping parents and kids unplug from electronic media and plug into authentic playtime. At the same time, Kelsey has been rolling up her sleeves and getting down in the dirt as President of Belvedere Place Development, a land development and construction project, since 2005. On top of that, she founded Tallus Ridge Development in 2005, and started her own private business coaching service 2 years ago. When does this serial entrepreneur find time to rest?!
You’ve seen her featured in Forbes and you’ve seen her speak at TEDx – and now she’s talking business and entrepreneurship with StartupNation!
Tell us about yourself.
I am a bit of an underdog-makes-good story. I never was very scholastic and managed to fail a number of classes at school. I have, however, always been an entrepreneur. It took a number of years to realize that I actually am pretty clever, but that the things that school was measuring were never my strongest suits. Recognizing this upped my value for myself immensely. I had thought for years that I might not amount to much in the end.
I have always been considered a leader and a great relationship builder, and this was what started out as my “special sauce”…and to a degree, continues to be.
What makes your entrepreneurial style unique?
I am not a huge fan of rules, and this helps when one is an entrepreneur. I think that there is a place for the tried and tested methods, but that creating something new – whether it be in product or process – is what separates the great from the exceptional.
I have been told that what makes me unique is that I am ‘real’ and ‘candid’ and ‘humble’. I would say it is also in part my ability to not pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing or other people’s opinions.
As an entrepreneur and a parent, do you find that these two roles complement each other?
In one respect, yes. Things are always changing, and despite the fact that I sometimes have no idea what I am doing or have gotten myself into, I try my best to stay two steps ahead of the kids and the competition.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs on balancing work, family, and life?
There is no such thing as work-life balance. It is a sham. My advice is to quit feeling terrible about yourself while you search for the nirvana of balance. I am working on a book on this subject…so I won’t give everything away! Check back when the book is done in about 5 months as I share how I have learned to turn work-life balance on its head, and find peace in chaos.
What is your proudest moment – in business AND as a mother?
In business, I think I was most proud of myself when I started to meet other business people who considered me someone they looked up to. I thought that these people were amazing and I was so interested in them…I figured that if they had any interest in what I was saying, then I must have done something right.
As a mother, I am proud of everything my kids do…even the failures, because I know they will make them better people in the long run.
Can you share three tips for managing your time efficiently at work?
- Be militant. Accept nothing less than you commit to yourself in terms of timing and deadlines.
- Be realistic about how long things take – including preparation and follow up.
- Never let people disrespect your time.
You are a $50M entrepreneur! What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to match your profound success?
Build relationships ahead of yourself. Do not wait until you are at a place when you need a certain relationship. Trust takes time. Make a plan and pave the way with friends. Don’t let success or failure go to your head.
You’ve accomplished so much! What’s next?
I travel the world delivering keynote talks and am about to release a series of “Business on the Back of an Envelope” digital products where entrepreneurs can get my top tips and insights on 30 different subjects in a need-to-know format, literally explained on the back of an envelope. These are made for the entrepreneur who is looking for non-traditional, real world insights to support them in achieving success.
Then there is my book – due out in 5 months!
And finally, I am working on an MBA for Entrepreneurs course specifically for women. I will walk women through the startup process, including identifying what one really wants, developing a business idea, and getting it off of the ground.
You cited this quote by Steve Jobs as a personal favorite; why is this meaningful to you, and how does it apply to your journey?
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
I used to try and be all of these things that brought me no joy, but that I thought were expected of me. Then I got cancer – and it is one of the best things that has happened to me. I got my head screwed on straight and started living my own life…and the past two years have been even more amazing as a result.
I give a talk about the ‘doing’ versus the ‘being’ of leadership. So much of leading starts with a very personal journey. Great leaders have visited the dark places in themselves and have reconciled their ‘being’ over ‘doing’ what is expected or deemed correct.