The NextWomen Interview With Canadian Entrepreneur Kelsey Ramsden

Profit Magazine named Kelsey Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur two years in a row (2012 & 2013).Kelsey Ramsden is a Canadian entrepreneur, and the founder of kelseyramsden.ca, a business services firm and SparkPlay, a children’s subscription company. In 2005, Kelsey also founded Belvedere Place Development, a construction firm, and Tallus Ridge Development, a residential project management company, both located in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Kelsey was born in 1976 in Kelowna, British Columbia, the daughter of Bruce Kitsch and Esther Kitsch. Her father is an entrepreneur and has had business interests in construction, a restaurant and waterslides. Her mother was a homemaker, before becoming an entrepreneur in the gift and commercial cleaning industries. Her brother Trent Kitsch is also an entrepreneur, and the founder of SAXX Underwear.

Kelsey completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria, before going on to do her MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in 2002. She co-chaired seven student organizations and sat on the Senate while also completing her MBA. Upon graduation she received the MBAA Outstanding Contribution Award, an award for which she was nominated by her classmates.

Featured in bestselling books and magazines from Forbes to Canadian Business as well as via various media outlets, Kelsey is sought after for comment due to her unique and candid perspective on current events in business, leadership, management and entrepreneurship.

We spoke to Kelsey about her roles in her various ventures, her background in entrepreneurship, and the biggest challenges she has faced throughout her career.

TNW: You are the founder of kelseyramsden.ca, SparkPlay, Belvedere Place Development and Tallus Ridge Development. Which of your ventures is closest to your heart and are you still involved in all of them? If so, how do you manage all at the same time?

KR: They are all equally close to my heart. Like children, each business is different, but you love them all the same. I am involved on all of them to varying degrees. I am militant about my time and about clear and concise communication. 

TNW: Please tell us more about kelseyramsden.ca and SparkPlay. Where did the ideas come from and what inspired you to turn the ideas into reality?

KR: You can read some information on SparkPlay here: http://www.sparkplay.com/spark-play/ and here: http://www.sparkplay.com/the-science/ 

Information about me and SparkPlay is provided here: http://www.sparkplay.com/kelsey-ramsden/

Kelseyramsden.ca was developed because of the hundreds of emails I was getting with questions from fellow entrepreneurs about business and lifestyle. There were questions on a variety of subjects, from how to do it as a woman, to as a mom, to cashflow management, to location selection, product packaging … partners … you name it, it was coming at me. So I started kelseyramsden.ca as a place to help people get my answers and a vehicle through which these questions could come.

I think the most successful entrepreneurs stay full of wit, curiosity and humility.

I think my success has been in knowing what I am and am not capable of, being honest about that, always learning, building great relationships and maintaining upmost integrity.

Ultimately it is about having a nimble mind, seeing opportunity and having your house in order, so as to be able to act upon these opportunities.

TNW: Both your father and your mother were entrepreneurs. Do you think you were always destined to become one yourself? What lessons did your parents teach you about entrepreneurship?

KR: Yes, I thought I was destined because I grew up in the lifestyle and mentality of entrepreneurs. My parents taught me that integrity is the most important thing, followed by a tremendous work ethic, followed by remaining humble and never getting too big a head, because you never know what failures or obstacles lie around the corner. They both gave me tremendous respect for all the abilities of others, which has certainly helped as well.

TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout your career, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?

KR:

My greatest challenge has always been managing my own expectations of other people.

Financing can be hard, losing deals, getting swindled, having problems ... that is all hard, but the most difficult thing for me to overcome has been managing my own expectations of others’ high performance within their own abilities, and having to learn that other people may not rank some of my values in the same order … this does not make them lazy or disinterested or any less capable, they simply have a different ranking in terms of what they love to spend their energy on, and this is not only ok but it actually is a great benefit. It took me a long time to learn that one, though.

TNW: What inspired you to continue your studies and go on to do an MBA? Has it helped you in your career?

KR: I always knew I wanted to do an MBA. My Dad had one, and I certainly could not fall short of being at least his equal scholastically (I can be a bit competitive in ridiculous ways).

[Having an MBA] has helped me in immeasurable ways through the people I have access to and the friends I have, down to the learning and confidence it gave me.

Plus, banks like it when you have formal masters level training if you want a bunch of money from them :)

TNW: How can a would-be entrepreneur find out whether their idea would make a viable business?

KR: You HAVE TO test it - and NOT with family and friends. That is the only way to tell.

TNW: How do you balance career and motherhood?

KR: I have a great husband. I always set clear boundaries between work and personal time, and ask for help when I need it.

TNW: If you could get on a soap box and get something off your chest about the world of entrepreneurship, something you’d like to change, what would it be?

KR: I would like to change this impression that it is sexy and easy. It is like the perception of being a programmer was, right after the dot-com started. Programmers use to be the crazy geeks - then all of a sudden they were so rad and treated like oracles. This is what has happened to entrepreneurship. Everyone thinks they can be an entrepreneur like Zuckerberg and overnight they make a million … it is not like that, so people get started with false hopes and lose everything in the process.

I wish more people treated their entrepreneurship bug like a real career: study it, find a mentor, test your idea or product, get feedback, incorporate it (repeat this a lot) and then pull the trigger.

TNW: What is next for Kelsey Ramsden?

KR: More teaching and mentoring entrepreneurs - I peak internationally on entrepreneurship.

I want to be the Oprah of entrepreneurs. I want to talk about the things that keep us up at night in a very real way. I want to help the person who is too afraid to try.

I want to share perspectives and keep investing in great businesses, whether they are built by me or others. I will have a new product coming out in April, which is called "Back of the Envelope Entrepreneurship". Almost every great idea was captured on a napkin, scrap of paper, back of an envelope, so, true to the entrepreneurial love for backs of envelopes, I will pass on what I know about 30 different entrepreneurial problems on the back of envelopes. They will sell for $3.49 a piece, or all 30 for $64.99

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?

KR: I would just like to reach out to those who feel like they are an underdog.

I was an underdog all of my life in many ways - I want them to know that it is possible … try and find a champion or someone to feel akin to who is an entrepreneur, and together you will get there.

Join Kelsey's newsletter this week in order to get behind-the-scenes access to her new business roadmap program and special bonuses, like a chance to join Kelsey for a private Mastermind session totally for free. 

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