Where Are They Now: Shauna Harper, Live Work Communications

WeBC September 17, 2020


This spotlight is part of a series in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Women’s Enterprise Centre! Our impact would not be possible without our volunteers, partners and clients so we’re sharing the stories of some of the women who have played a part in our success. Sign up for our eNews to receive the featured story of the month.

The WEC Connection

Shauna first connected with Women’s Enterprise Centre in Vancouver when she volunteered to be a One-to-One Mentor in 2007.

In 2009, my family moved to Prince George, BC and I wanted our region to also have access to programs that directly served women entrepreneurs. That’s when I really became a champion of WEC.

Over the years, we have benefited from many hours of volunteering from Shauna, as she shared her insights as a storyteller and an experienced mentor.

Shauna was recognized as one of BC’s Most Influential Women in 2017 (Mentors Edition) by BC Business Magazine for her mentorship roles as founder and lead for Startup Prince George.

In 2015, she co-facilitated the regional dialogues as part of our “Catalyst for Growth” project, to capture how business communities in all regions of BC can increase the economic impact of women in BC.

In 2019, Shauna co-led the Taking the Stage® group in Prince George alongside Bobbi Carpino to help women become more effective leaders and communicators.

Now, Shauna is a member of the Women’s Enterprise Centre board!

The team at Women’s Enterprise Centre is so grateful for Shauna’s long-standing support for WEC and our clients, and we’re excited to share more about her personal journey as an entrepreneur.

About Shauna Harper – Live Work Communications

Shauna Harper knows what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

An experienced business owner, Shauna has successfully owned and operated a manufacturing company for about ten years that created and sold inspirational glass stone magnets globally.

In 2009, she moved to Prince George, BC, to find more balance for her young family in a smaller community. Shortly after moving to Prince George, Shauna closed down her manufacturing business and together with her husband started a communications company, Live Work Communications. Her newest business initiative, The Consciously Creative Art Gallery, showcases her artwork.

An avid volunteer, Shauna co-founded Startup PG in 2012 and became a community builder who connected national, provincial and regional service organizations to local entrepreneurs. The visibility from leading the startup community also led to positions on different boards, including being appointed to be an advisor and Co-Vice Chair of the Premier’s Women’s Economic Council (PWEC) from 2014-2017.

Shauna was also the lead facilitator of Catalyst for Growth dialogues in BC, which explored how to support economic growth through women and create a greater impact by growing women in senior leadership roles, in trades and emerging sectors and as entrepreneurs.

Shauna was also actively involved in BC Economic Forum (2015) and the We for She Conference (2016). 

A recipient of numerous awards, in 2019 she was appointed to the Federal Government’s expert panel advising on the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy in Canada.

Q&A: Shauna’s Journey

Q. How did you get where you are today? How different is your business from when you started?

I wish I could tell a story of a linear path but it really wasn’t a step-by-step process. I stumbled into entrepreneurship when I took a medical leave from managing a travel agency in 1999 in Vancouver.

While on my leave, I used affirmations and quotes (and watched a lot of Oprah!) as a way of healing. I also painted and journaled and found that I loved being creative, painting and creating products. I started very small with no business plan, just a bag of inspirational magnets with affirmations on them at a craft table in East Vancouver.

“… if you don’t know how to manage your cash flow or how to manage you inventory, you can get yourself into hot water quickly when you business grows.”

From there, I went to wholesale trade shows and larger craft fairs during the holidays. I said yes to everything. From the little craft show table, it grew to me owning a manufacturing company that imported our raw products from China, created production circles of women in Vancouver who would make the magnets and then having sales reps all across Canada and the USA, and distributions in Australia, UK and Singapore.

At the same time, I didn’t really know what I didn’t know. I wasn’t well connected to other entrepreneurs and I didn’t know how to ask for help or even what to ask for. Also, the initial stages of growth are exciting but if you don’t know how to manage your cash flow or how to manage your inventory, you can get yourself into hot water quickly when your business grows. And that’s what happened.

Starting in 2007, I had 2 kids in 2 years. Then in 2008, when the market crashed, we had a warehouse filled with products and I was over-extended. Shortly afterwards, we lost a lot of our bigger clients like Hallmark and Disney and a lot of the smaller independent stores, especially in the USA. I tried to hold the company together but realized that I didn’t have the mental or financial bandwidth as I was also juggling having a new young family.

I owe much of my success to living in a smaller community where there are so many opportunities.

It was a hard moment in time but I wouldn’t have changed any part of it. This stumble had me close down this business, but I took the lessons I learned and began helping other entrepreneurs.

My next business was a communications marketing company with my husband called Live Work Communications. This business stretched me, as I am naturally more introverted. I owe much of my success to living in a smaller community where there are so many opportunities.

From joining boards to starting up an entrepreneurial start-up community, to being mentored and mentoring others, you can’t help but be connected in a town like Prince George.

Live Work Communications is still my current main business, but it has evolved over the years. I can’t believe it has been 10 years of my second business already.

It started off with me helping small businesses with social media and online marketing while my husband worked on video production. We even began to grow it with a physical downtown office space, and staff members and thought we wanted to expand.

But a few years ago we did a check-in with each other and realized that we wanted to keep it manageable and I really only wanted to work with social impact organizations. So now I get to do just that.

My latest adventure on top of Live Work Communication is my new online art business called Consciously Creative Art Gallery. It is an outlet for me to share my journey as a lifelong artist and creative. I sell art prints of my artwork and also different products with my artwork on them.

Q. What shifts have you seen in the entrepreneurial ecosystem since you started?

There are definitely more resources, education and networking in the entrepreneurial ecosystem than when I started. There is also more focus on women and other under-represented demographics. At the same time, entrepreneurs need to curate through all the different content and choose what’s right for them and the stage of business they are in.

Q. As a board member of Women’s Enterprise Centre, what do you consider the most important factor in empowering women entrepreneurs?

I believe there are two really important factors in empowering women entrepreneurs. Firstly, it is improving access to capital for growth but we also need to improve access to social capital that can open doors to opportunities for businesses to grow.

I am where I am today because of my mentors.

Q. Why do you feel it’s important to mentor other women? How can mentors support women-owned businesses in BC?

Mentoring other women is something I love doing. It’s in my DNA. For me, it started with my dad giving me advice, to then all of the other mentors after him. I am where I am today because of my mentors.

In my life, I have had mentors that have come my way and changed the trajectory of what I thought was ever possible. I could never pay them back, so I honour them and I pay it forward by supporting other women entrepreneurs.

Q. What is your greatest business-related failure and what did you learn from it?

My biggest business-related failure was not having the right financial systems and not knowing how to juggle my cash flow. This eventually led to the closing of my manufacturing business.

I mentioned above how it started in 2008 and but it really didn’t come to an end until early 2010 when I finally closed down everything in the business.

I literally watched this business that I spent all this time and heart in have a very slow death. Over the last couple of months before closing it down, I realized there were still lessons I had learned and that I could help others in growing their businesses so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did.

From this experience, I learned to ask more questions, stay humble when growth is good, run tight books and systems and plan out my stages of growth when I can.

When things are tough, I know I need to slow down, be in the moment and ask myself: What is my lesson in this moment? What is the silver lining and my gratitude? and Who is beside me?

Q. After all of your success, what are your current challenges now?

I recently started my new online art business, Consciously Creative Gallery. The most challenging part is that I love what I do in both businesses, so I am not working to close one down for the other. So balance I guess is the biggest challenge when you are passionate about everything you do.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?

As a daughter of immigrant entrepreneurs, my parents sacrificed a lot so that I would have the choice to follow my passion. Both my mom and dad are definitely my first inspiration (and even more so now that I have kids). From juggling four kids to running their small business and all while also giving us opportunities for higher education, travel and stability.

Today, on a more daily basis, I find inspiration in podcasts, reading (more audibles these days), and surrounding myself with a strong circle of friends that care about their families, the world, and their own growth and development.

Q. If you could do it all over again, what would you tell yourself when you were just starting your business?

Slow down and focus on now.

I was always in a rush when I was younger. I was always in a rush to get to a bigger business, more clients, more connections, more________ (fill in the blank).

Over the years I have learned that although the “middle” can feel hard and messy, it is also where the growth, learning and excitement come from. So instead of a goal to climb higher or to acquire more, I instead want a richer and deeper experience in life.

When things are tough, I know I need to slow down, be in the moment and ask myself: What is my lesson in this moment? What is the silver lining and my gratitude? and Who is beside me?

Q. What do you think the BC business community will be like in 10 years?

As we go through COVID-19, I hope that in 10 years we start to see the fruits of the resilient women entrepreneurs that can ride through this moment in time. This moment (as we are in the middle) might be hard, but I have no doubt there will be some incredible entrepreneurial stories and new opportunities.

I also have a vision that women entrepreneurs change the narrative the corporate world has been feeding us that it is always about a race to the top. Instead, it should also be about measuring our impact and the ways we collaborate.

About WeBC

WeBC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women launch, lead and scale their own businesses. Our full range of services includes business loans up to $150K, business advice, skills training, mentoring, resources and a supportive community to help women entrepreneurs realize their business potential. Connect with us today for personalized support for your business!

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