We spoke to three entrepreneurs about their experiences in beginning their passion projects.
Brittany Watson is a certified PMP, who leads the Project Management Office at her Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). Brittany founded HealthSight Project Management – Canada’s premier health and social service specialized project management firm. Brittany obtained a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Waterloo, a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from Schulich School of Business and became PMP certified in 2014.
Maria Cheung obtained her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Waterloo. Her passion project is Taboo Health – a non-profit collective of health promoters, curators and advocates. Taboo Health creates evidence-based art exhibits that open the dialogue on forbidden health topics through engaging, credible and empowering art.
Nida Jabrani is a Project Manager and founder of, and instructor at PMInfinity, a boutique training provider that offers custom-made, leading edge, skills-based training in professionall project management and business analysis. Nida completed her MBA from McMaster University, DeGroote School of Business and obtained her Project Management Professional (PMP) designation shortly after.
How they got started
Listen to our panelists as they describe what brought them to their passion projects.
Challenges to Overcome
We asked our panelists what challenges they had to overcome in launching their passion projects.
A common challenge related to the confidence to take those first steps – moving toward action, sometimes despite what others were saying to them and while juggling multiple priorities. They also highlighted challenges in initially building that customer base.
- “It was about going from idea to something concrete, so it was one thing having conversations with other people, but another to build it from the idea, defining it, and getting the right kind of feedback…” -Maria
- “The biggest challenge that I faced in starting was the naysayers…” – Nida
- “Also at the time, I was working a full-time job that was not HealthSight…there was lots of stress – the cost of incorporation, legalities, branding, looking for staff…but going on a limb for that venture, you have to go out on a limb to make it happen…” – Brittany
Our panelists shared their insights on some of the practical considerations when starting their projects – you know, the things we may not think of right away and are critical to the launch of a project. Practical considerations included:
- Developing your value proposition to set yourself apart from the competitors
- Registering a business – as a for-profit organization or non-profit
- Determining whether or not to incorporate, including considering taxes and liability insurance
- Applying for grants in the case of non-profits
- Learning to pilot and scope
- Self-reflection on lessons learned from trying things out
Advice and Lessons Learned
Finally, we asked our panelists to provide some advice to our audience.
One important theme that emerged was partnerships – the panelists described the importance of surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals; additionally, one panelist advised against partnering initially, as she suggested this might get in the way of establishing your brand. The advice included: to keep persevering (even amidst setbacks), draw on others around you for support, identify key performance indicators to measure your own success, ask questions and get things in writing to avoid making assumptions.
- “Networking, networking, networking even when it seems completely odd…” – Brittany
- “Surround yourself with your biggest cheerleaders and the people that will be straight with you too.” – Maria
- “Don’t be too quick to partner with people. Partnerships can be a way to move your business forward quickly, especially as a fresh entrepreneur (but) try to make it on your own first.” – Nida
Feel free to reach out to us with your questions and comments about your own experiences as entrepreneurs.
Listen to the entire audio here: