My #SpreadYourAwesome Story
By: Claire Bouvier
Does anyone ask you “what’s your plan after school?” and you think to yourself - “errrr...I have no idea...”
You are NOT alone.
Hello! My name is Claire Bouvier and I help people like you to #SpreadYourAwesome. Specifically, I dedicate my energy to advocating and working with Female Entrepreneurs in Small Towns (FEiST). This focus did NOT come overnight. To be honest, it took almost 15 years of experimenting to find exactly what I LOVE to do.
I remember in highschool, and then in university having lots of exciting ideas, but I could never put my finger on what I wanted to focus on. The beauty of it is that you don’t need to focus on one thing right now, or maybe ever. The best thing you can do right now is take as much time needed to explore all the options, possibilities and paths of interest. Over time things will start to solidify and you will find the place you are meant to be. The journey is not linear.
At fifteen years old, the goal was to graduate highschool, go and get my B.A. Degree and then Education Degree, become a teacher and then get married and have a family. Simple as that, right? NOPE.
Little did I realize, over the years of schooling and traveling that there was SO much more out there for me. In highschool I was an athlete and a closet artist (violin, orchestra, drawing, crafting, journaling etc.). But when I went to Acadia University in Nova Scotia, worlds of opportunity opened up for me. I discovered my love of photography, fashion styling, performing and digital art. Slowly I started showcasing my work which in turn introduced me to new networks of people with similar interests. I continued to play varsity soccer but I chose to dedicate off seasons to playing in bands, doing fashion shoots, videography, editing, and coding my first website! At the time, I had no idea where this would lead to but I knew deep down to continue exploring the things I LOVED while I was in school. Not to mention all the friendships I built during these years.
I am the second oldest of eight children - and by no means did we have disposable income. Therefore, it forced me to be as resourceful and creative so that
I could do the things I wanted to. For example, in highschool I desperately wanted to go on the Europe trip with all my friends, but knew that I had to raise the money myself. In grade ten, I had my first taste of entrepreneurship. With the (incredible) help of my mother, I built my first bakery: “Bouv’s Bakery” - we sold more pies that I ever want to see again BUT I was able to raise the $2000 to go to France and Spain in grade 11. It was the best 10 days I had ever experienced in my life.
In university, I did not get enough money from my Ontario Student Loan to finish my last year so I found a social entrepreneurship competition with monetary prizes. LONG story short, I hibernated for weeks and gave my heart and soul to my first ever business pitch and won the competition. This allowed me to finish and graduate with my first university degree in English Literature. Setting goals was always innate for me but once that specific goal was achieved, I always questioned if it was the right choice. Teaching was a perfect example of this. By the time I was 22 years old I had two degrees and was teaching full time at the highschool. I quickly realized that it was not what I had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED teaching and spending hours doing extracurriculars after school with the students - but I found that my dream was to create my own curriculum and schedule. After a couple of bumps and bruises, I decided in year three of teaching I needed to quietly plan my exit strategy from this career. I knew to walk away with no plan was a bad idea despite the urges. So, as a proud early adopter to new technologies - I was fascinated with the sharing economy - such as Airbnb - that was starting to evolve. Therefore, I put up my small loft apartment as one of Kingston’s first Airbnb’s. This new world got me so excited about the possibilities of making my own money.
It was at this time, I started sharing my photography on facebook. I was so surprised that people were interested and wanted to book me for family shoots. On the weekends, I photographed and took advantage of the Kijji Job Boards - landing gigs doing odd jobs, hosting children’s birthday parties, costume designing a feature film and playing violin at weddings/funerals, and the list goes on (lots of funny stories to accompany this part of my life).
At this time, I also started what was called “The Claire Closet” - an extension of the competition I won at Acadia University helping young girls find their passions.
After about seven years of full time teaching and working almost 20+ hours on these side hustles, I crashed. Hard. I remember driving with a teacher one day to school and I had a “to-do” list on my dashboard with 93 things I had to do that week. He looked at me and said “this is not ok!”. He was right. I became mentally and physically drained. My anxiety had won my life over. I sought out doctors, started medication, and tried to figure out how to get back to “normal”. I knew deep down this was the turning point for me. I had to choose. I chose to leave teaching. I knew if I didn’t fully close the door of teaching in the public system, I would never fully lean into my entrepreneurship dreams. I decided it was time to take the space to focus on my health and then dedicate my days to creative and social entrepreneurship endeavours. At this point, I had to trust in myself that everything would be okay.
I remember that first day of school in September pacing my apartment realizing this was the first time in 25 years I would not be in “a classroom”. Those first couple of years challenged me in 10000 different ways. But the best thing happened just before I turned 30 - I was clinically diagnosed with AD
HD. At 30 I was so grateful to have a label that allowed me to explore the intertwinings of my hyperactive brain while working on my various projects.
Today it has been 6.5 years that I have had access to cognitive behavioural therapy that allows me to set boundaries, reclaim calmness, organize my finances and personal spaces and reframe the way I think for success. After running 50+ side hustles and creating hundreds of workshops and programs for entrepreneurs all around the world- I feel so lucky to be in a space to help guide and consult other female entrepreneurs in their journey.
If you ask me what is next, I truly couldn’t tell you exactly. But I can tell you, I now feel confident that I have the tools to be successful in what I dedicate my time and energy to next. Most importantly I also know that I have an incredible community of people that support me and will help me grow as my work evolves.
To my reader, take time every week and carve out quiet time where you have the chance to read, listen and learn from other great thinkers and doers. The greatest moments happen when you challenge yourself and try new things.
Thank you for being here! ... and continue to #SpreadYourAwesome!