Exclusive T.I.M Interview With: Carissa Reiniger

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Not often do we get the pleasure of interviewing a successful, young entrepreneur who is a positive role model in our community. You wanted the best of the best, so we went and got a hold of Carissa Reiniger. Check out this Toronto Is Mine exclusive interview, and see what she has to say!

Not often do we hear about positive role models who are young, energetic, and possess a sharp entrepreneurial mind. It is why we take a great deal of pleasure by going against the tide, and providing you an insight into the life of such people.

Fellow readers, meet Carissa Reiniger who is the founder and president of Silver Lining. At just 24 years of age, Carissa has offices in Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and Las Vegas which enjoy a healthy revenue of over 1 million dollars. But what strikes me the most about Carissa is her eagerness to raise awareness and promote entrepreneurship. I am not exactly sure how we’ve managed to get her to reply, seeing as how she sits on the Directors Team at the Metting House, manages Project Aware, sits on the Board of Directors for Women Entrepreneurs of Canada, is a Founder of Women’s Initiative, Chair of the Alberta Young Entrepreneur Website project, and sits on the Advisory Board for the School of Business degree in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise at NAIT. But we did. I can only imagine how busy Carissa’s Blackberry must be.

Without further ado . . .

1. Carissa, first and foremost, thank you for agreeing to do an interview with Toronto Is Mine. It is a great pleasure to be able to speak to a successful young entrepreneur such as yourself. I have read that you have completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alberta. What made you take the business route?

CR: I am happy to be doing it! Yes- I have a Psychology Major and a Sociology Minor. My original plan in life was to get my PhD and counsel juvenile delinquents. About a month into my undergrad I realized that sitting in classrooms for 9 years and studying theories was not going to keep me engaged- I learn best by doing. So I finished my Arts degree because it came fairly naturally to me and it allowed me time to work. In my 3rd and 4th year of University I was working four full time jobs and I was loving it. Each of them taught me different skills in marketing, promotions, leadership, managing people, recruitment and more and I loved it all, leading me into a permanent career path into business.

2. I have also read that you have a combined staff of sixteen members – to whom you accredit you success. It has often been talked about that a company is as strong as its employees. With that in mind, what type of people does an entrepreneur need to surround himself with if he/she is to succeed?

CR: People who are smarter than me! At Silver Lining we hire people who have experience in small business and who strive in the entrepreneurial environment of a small business- as opposed to struggling without a ton of structure around them. We have had great success with people who have a background in customer service. We hire based on personality, not skill set. I always believe that I can teach anyone the fundamentals and tactics of what we do, but I cannot teach anyone to care, to be invested in their work and to go above and beyond those are things they need to come to the company with.

3. Based on your experience and success, what are three most important skills an entrepreneur must have?

1- A true desire to make change. This is not a skill as much as a personality trait- but it does take skill to keep this at the heart of what you are doing. It takes an exceptional amount of work to stay grounded in what you started your business for. The skill of bringing yourself back to the vision and passion behind your business is key.

2- Focus – the ability to think big but execute in clear, concise and simple action plans is really important. There is a lot of opportunity as you work to grow your business and no entrepreneur has enough time or money to do it all.

4. Carissa, as you may very well know, it is easy for young entrepreneurs to get discouraged. Whether they fall into the trap of listening to others tell them they can’t do it, or they lose the hunger to succeed, what have been some of your failures and how have you bounced back from them?

I have failed at almost everything I have tried! I have made hugely bad financial decisions. I have borrowed money without being able to afford how to pay it back. I have hired the wrong people and had to deal with the repercussions of it. In trying to prove myself, I have tried to be perfect and pretend that everything was great and never asked for help. I have made a ton of mistakes. A couple of things have kept me going:

1- My passion. I strongly believe in what I do- and I think I can help people if I keep figuring out how to get better at what I do. That keeps me going.

2– My stubbornness. I refuse to fail- so every set back is not a complete failure- I am determined to learn from my mistakes, get back out there and figure it out.

3- My big realization. I have realized that I am not perfect and I cant expect myself to be perfect. So I am going to make mistakes in life and I have come to accept that and not beat myself up every time that I do make mistakes. Instead, my life motto has become I do not question IF I will achieve my goals, I only ask myself HOW I am going to do.

5. Now the part that truly interests me about you is your commitment to finding and developing young entrepreneurs, especially women. You are on the Board of Directors on W.E.C (Women’s Entrepreneurs of Canada) which is an organization notorious for helping women ‘think big’ and succeed in the business world. What is it that made you decide to join the organization? Moreover, can you please elaborate on how the organization aims to help women.

I joined the organization because I do believe that women experience different hurdles when growing their businesses than men. While I strongly believe that no one deserves special treatment, there is a reality that women are not given the same opportunities that men are. In order to overcome this and help women become more successful I think that we need to motivate and train women on how to get to the next level in their business. As a national organization, WEC has the opportunity to connect with and then leverage relationships with the media, government, corporate partners and women entrepreneurs on a mass scale. The results that can happen when a group of people looking to create change like this is exciting- and worth being a part of.

6. It is a well known fact that Canada is still struggling to rid itself of the inequalities that exist between men and women in the workplace. One of the more prominent inequalities is the difference in salaries. Do you see Canada overcoming this barrier anytime soon? And what advice would you give to women who are suffering from such inequalities in their line of work?

It is definitely an unfortunate fact that inequalities exist between women and men in the workplace. I, personally, believe that women and men are not ever going to be equal- and nor should we be. Women are always going to excel at certain things that men wont and men will always be better at some things than women. What I think needs to be recognized is that both men and women have a lot to offer and if they are both used for their strengths in the context of business, the end result will be much better for both parties. Women are extremely capable and brilliant in many areas and we absolutely should be compensated for what we bring to the table. The reason that I think sometimes we dont get what we deserve is we dont ask for it. What I would say to every woman reading this is decide what you want and need to be happy and go out and create that for yourself. Ask for what you want and if someone says no, move on and find the person who will say yes.

7. Now your own company, Silver Lining, specializes in helping entrepreneurs grow their business. I must say that seeking business consulting is quite easy – finding GOOD business consulting is another story. How did you go about acquiring clients and convincing them your services were perfect for them?

Well, first- I would clarify that we are not consultants. We are interested in working with entrepreneurs to grow their businesses- not just talking about how to do it, but stepping in with help to actually execute growth plans. We focus on taking action- spending about 10% of your time thinking and about 90% of your time doing. I think that the biggest reason that people hire us is because they can see our passion for what we do. Silver Lining does not just care about making revenue or acquiring clients- we care about seeing small businesses grow. We get hired by people who want us to come in and partner with them to help them grow. Everything we create for entrepreneurs is created based on our own experiences and the experiences of the entrepreneurs we work with and people see that and want to be a part of it. We care and we create everything we do with our client in mind- two big reasons to hire us.

8. The age barrier is one seldom talked about. At just 24, did any of your major clients look at you and say – “what does she know? She’s so young” or did you find a system to bypass the stereotype?

CR: My age has been an interesting thing for sure. My strategy has been to just address it up front. I can tell that people are always sitting there thinking hmm, I wonder how old this girl is so, I dont make them ask, I incorporate it into conversation in a non chalant way so that we can just deal with it and they can stop spending all their mental energy wondering how old I am and focus back on the business at hand.

9. I normally complain about my phone bill month in and month out, but Carissa, once I saw the organizations you are involved with I thought you must be paying a fortunate for that phone. You are one busy girl. Explain to us your typical day.

CR: My last cell phone bill was $1900!! If anyone has access to anyone who can help me get a better plan, please give me a call J I spend most of my days in meetings. A lot of my time is with people- brainstorming and strategizing on how to work together, grow their business or innovate new solutions for entrepreneurs together. I usually get up around 7 (and hit snooze as long as humanly possible), am in my first meeting no later than 9am and am typically in back to back meetings until about 7pm. I go out and do something fun and social and am home by 11pm. I work at night- usually from about 11:01 until about 3am.

10. Is there anything else you would like to say?

Think about why you are, or want to be, an entrepreneur. This world is not for everyone. I the challenges of entrepreneurship invigorate you, if the understanding of ultimate responsibility motivates you and if you can survive without structure- this world might just be right for you. But a large majority of people out there are not necessarily meant to be entrepreneurs- and that is ok. Regardless, everyone CAN support entrepreneurship. Buy your next coffee from an independent shop, look for your next outfit at a boutique store and think about how you can support a friend or family member who is an entrepreneur.

Carissa, once again thank you very much for your time. I know our readers will appreciate the interview, and I wish you all the health, wealth and success.

My Personal Comments: Carissa was a pleasure to interview and interact with. No matter how busy she was, she managed to reply to my emails within a few hours. She has a great attitude; a very likable and approachable entrepreneur. I respect her financial success, but I admire her for her involvement in making a difference in our communities. Her eagerness to succeed is something to write about. Speaking about her eagerness, Carissa will officially become the President of the Women Entrepreneurs of Canada as of Wednesday September 24th. She just doesn’t stop, folks.

Feel free to visit W.E.C at: http://www.wec.ca/

Silver Lining: http://www.silverlininglimited.com/

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