With one exception, Jill Earthy has never had a predecessor in her professional career.
She has, however, left behind big shoes to fill.
“I don’t have a traditional career path, and that’s OK. If I can encourage more people to think differently about that, that’s great,” said Earthy, who is less than a year into her new role as head of growth at Female Funders.
Born back east and raised in B.C., Earthy was a self-starter before being an entrepreneur was really an option.
“I like to initiate things. But I never self-identified as an entrepreneur,” said Earthy. “Nobody even knew what that word meant at that time. It was such a brand new phrase and focus.”
In hindsight, it’s one that seems to fit. In high school, she started clubs. In university, she founded a women’s business network. She leapt feet first into her own business venture and hasn’t been afraid to chart a new course.
For example, she went into hospitality after psychology and economics studies at the University of Western Ontario. She loved people but hated almost everything else about her hotel nightshift front-desk job. Without having intended to go back to school, she enrolled in the University of Victoria’s master of business administration program in entrepreneurship – the first program of its kind, and one that almost led her into banking.
“I always laugh now, because I almost went into banking; now I’m back in the finance sector,” said Earthy.
At the time, the prospect of locking into a prescribed career path as one of thousands of employees didn’t appeal.
“I aborted that mission.”
Earthy’s first foray into entrepreneurship came when she was asked to join two mentors as an equal partner in Frontline Staff, which provided temporary staff for conferences and events. She bought out her partners a year later and sold the company to Nasco Staffing Solutions a few years after that.
“It was empowering and fun and scary. And I loved that I could create my own path,” said Earthy. “There isn’t always one way to do things. I think that’s something that’s always really resonated with me, and I continue to do that.”
She spent the next four years growing her business within Nasco before joining the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) as its first executive, an opportunity that “really solidified” her passion for supporting women in entrepreneurship, she said.
Leaving FWE was one of the hardest decisions she has had to make, she said, but after five years, she joined Futurpreneur Canada as the non-profit’s regional director for B.C. and Yukon. It was an opportunity to expand her experience and support young women and men with their businesses.
“Everything that I believe and I talk about is about diversity of perspectives,” said Earthy, and she is doing her part to empower diverse voices. She currently chairs the Women’s Enterprise Centre, co-chairs the annual We for She conference and co-founded the WEB Alliance, a consortium of B.C.-based women’s business networks. Her work in the field last year earned her recognition as one of the Women’s Executive Network’s top 100 most powerful women in Canada.
“Now is the time of the woman entrepreneur,” she said.
Next in line is the time of the female investor, and Earthy’s latest mission is to help female business leaders navigate the investment landscape.
“I think we’re going to start to see more capital unlocked and deployed in new, more powerful ways. So that’s my core focus right now,” said Earthy.
The role comes on the heels of three years at FrontFundr, where Earthy had the opportunity to increase diversity within the traditional investor pool as the startup’s chief growth officer.
“It’s amazing when you think about the winding path. But each step does have a reason somehow. Somehow it’s come together.”
Join us to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Influential Women in Business Awards March 8 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For ticketing and full event information, visit biv.com/iwib.