The Business Moves That Took Nicole Leblanc From a Tiny Town to the Toronto Big Leagues

Small town girl falls in love and gets married to her sweetheart on their six month anniversary before landing her first dream job at the locally-run chocolate factory. Nope, you’re not reading the synopsis of the latest Nicholas Sparks movie, this is just the start to Nicole Leblanc’s story. I know, it’s so damn adorable it might make you sick. But just wait, ‘cause her career trajectory is even more annoyingly impressive.

Growing up in the tiny 1200 person town of St. George, New Brunswick, Nicole remembers learning the importance of community and making an effort to care about the people around you. She went to school for business and happened to be really good at accounting (which I didn’t think was a thing that you could just randomly ‘happen’ to be good at… but whatever), and landed a job in the accounting department of the confectionary company, Ganong Brothers, that claims to have invented the chocolate bar.

Nicole Leblanc is the Director of Investments at Sidewalk Labs Toronto, an organization that aims to develop innovative solutions to achieve new standards of sustainability, affordability and economic opportunity in the city of Toronto.

Okay honestly, this is too much. How has no one made this into a movie yet?!

Whether it was the inventor of the chocolate bar or not, she gives that candy company a ton of credit for teaching her how to be the smart, critical, kind and well-spoken business woman that she is today. Years later, she’s taken her sharp business acumen to Toronto where she works at Sidewalk Labs to broker business partnerships that are making the city more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

Going from a town of 1200 people total to a city where 1200 people live in a single condo building was obviously unnatural. But as Nicole says, you can do anything for a year, and you might just end up staying.

“Set some objectives… What do you want to get out of this opportunity? What do you think you can bring to this opportunity? And then make sure you’re continuing to evaluate those.”

As a newbie in the big city (we <3 TO), Nicole got a crash course in what it takes to be a successful business person in the fast-paced and high stakes world of venture capitalism, and she’s got some advice for all of you: “Even if you’re not an extroverted person, you have to just go to all of the events. Meet as many people as you can. Do the blitz.”

When she started in Toronto, Nicole learned what it would take to succeed outside of her comfort zone: who to talk to, how to network, pitch ideas, build partnerships, procure resources, and how to find opportunities for social impact that were also economically attractive.

The point is, you’ve got to put yourself out there. Yes, you will probably feel v annoying introducing yourself to a lot of intimidatingly successful people, shaking a million hands and adding a bunch of randos on LinkedIn who you might never speak to again. But of those handshakes and new connection requests, you will meet people, organizations and other like-minded businesses who are looking to make a similar social impact as you, and that will make the awkward small talk worth it.

Also, if you ever feel like you’re coming off as exceptionally desperate, remember this: there are guys out there who still try to use Bumble for Business to hit on women. L O L.

Got an innovative business idea that you feel like running past someone? Nicole suggests you run it by 100 people all from different business, education and social backgrounds. Listen to what they have to say about it. Then, send us an email at team@weareflik.com and join our Beta Apprenticeship program to learn from a female founder just like Nicole (#shamelessplug)!

“One person is really smart. Five people are geniuses,” she says.

Learn from the wealth of resources that you have around you just by virtue of the people you encounter every day. According to Nicole, this is how you become a person that others want to invest in. So take that chance!! There are only a few months left in this decade - shoot your shot homegirl.

Nicole’s final piece of advice for those of us trying to hustle our way to the tops of our own personal mountains: there’s no use in doing something that won’t motivate you to get out of bed every day.

“I don’t have work-life balance; I have work-life integration,” she explains.

Loving what you do doesn’t have to be some sort of pipedream, ladies. Despite Nicole Leblanc’s similarities to the protagonist of a cheesy-ass rom-com, her everyday hustle - and happiness - is real life. So send that aforementioned email and watch the videos above to hear more about how she made it happen, and how you can too.

Written by: Hannah Geiser

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