Canada offers its citizens great possibilities. Multitudes of immigrants make Canada home, and many work hard, converting their dreams and desires into reality. But many Canadians do not maximize their human capital potential. What’s the secret for those who make the most of this great blessing of living here, in one of the most advanced society in the history of humanity?
Pamela Greiner-Labelle knows what makes up that secret to success.
People across Ontario recognize the Business Exchange and Commercial Exchange magazines, available for free pick up in coffee shops, stores and other public spaces. The brain behind the business is Greiner-Labelle, and since she launched in 1998, the magazine has become a staple on coffee-shop and grocery–store magazine racks, reaching readers spanning across Ontario, from Niagara to Bowmanville.
Greiner-Labelle graciously agreed for the Millionaire Mindset magazine to interview her, to probe her mind for the secret to her success. We share with you our readers the remarkable story of Greiner-Labelle’s amazing journey, one of perseverance, overcoming immense tragedy, battling odds that would floor any other person, and yet coming out winner, constantly winning.
At 46 years of age, she’s attractive, witty and alert to life, with a ready smile, and an easy way of conversing about what she’s learned on life’s journey. Her life makes for a movie, so dramatic, exceptional and unique has been her experience of living life and building a great Canadian success story, while overcoming a lot of hurdles.
“I enjoy a high tolerance for risk,” Greiner-Labelle said, noting that her father was an entrepreneur, and she grew up watching him win at business. “I love the feeling of being in control of my destiny,” she said, even despite the fact that “I took financial risks, and worked hard. For years, I put in 20-hour days”.
At just 26 years of age, Greiner-Labelle chose to work those long hours, believing in a dream, sacrificing the usual carefree weekends of her peers, to launch the business. She started out, knowing nothing about the Publishing industry, or about the magazine business.
But with a degree in Economics from the University of Western Ontario, Greiner-Labelle tackled the learning curve with dedication, commitment, and hard work. “I did my own book-keeping, graphic design, distribution, plus selling advertisements. After two years, I hired my first staff, a graphic designer,” Greiner-Labelle said.
Since she was a tot at school, at five years of age, that entrepreneur spirit gripped her, and she would bring stuff to school to sell.
Greiner-Labelle spent her childhood at Driftwood Avenue, the notorious Jane and Finch area in North York. That’s where her Dad owned a Convenience Store, and operated a Wholesaling business.
After University, full of youthful vigour, inner drive and self-belief, Greiner-Labelle started looking for a business to buy, and could not find a source for such information. “There was nowhere that I could find out what businesses were being bought and sold,” she said.
So, she started her own business to do exactly that, be a central hub for businesses on the market, where anybody could easily locate businesses for sale. Therein was birthed the now famous Business Exchange magazine.
But Greiner-Labelle did not jump into the journey blind. “I researched the publishing industry for three months,” she said, before launching the publication.
Today, the Business Exchange and its sister magazine, the Commercial Exchange, enjoy a readership exceeding 100,000 people, and circulation covers most of Ontario, at 3,000 public locations.
Greiner-Labelle loves the print version of the magazine, and believes that despite “a lot of publications going out of business”, the Business Exchange is here to stay, because “it’s easy to pick up. So the print version is doing great”.
The business model focuses on advertising, as Greiner-Labelle determined early in her startup that a freely circulated magazine would build a large readership and a ready audience. Her intuition proved to be correct.
Then, to minimize cost, yet build wide circulation, Greiner-Labelle chose to print on newspaper, an idea that kicked against the norm for magazines. With a glossy full colour cover, the inside pages remain mostly newsprint paper.
Eventually, Real Estate Agents gravitated as her main advertising pool, because “only a licensed real Estate Agent could sell a business,” Greiner-Labelle said.
Over the years, Greiner-Labelle learned every aspect of the business, though staff now handle the bulk of the work.
However, these days she invests heavily into developing a digital platform, recognizing that she could scale the business into a global one with a strong e-commerce online presence, where businesses anywhere in the world could be traded, with easy listing for businesses for sale anywhere across the globe, and for purchasing a business to be an easy process, all within a digital e-commerce platform.
Greiner-Labelle exudes the mindset of ‘I can do it’, an attitude of courage, self-belief, and determination to win and succeed. “I am not afraid to do the hard work, to put in the long hours,” she said, noting that that is what it takes to transform one’s dreams into reality. Also, “I am always learning, so that now I am somewhat of an expert in our industry, keeping up to date with technology and all the evolution and transformation going on”.
Now, advertisers are starting to pay on par with print ad costs for their listing online, on the website of Business Exchange. “We deliver amazing results for our clients, and so they build long term relationships with us. Our result is that people sell businesses. We still have advertising clients from 1998 when the business started,” Greiner-Labelle said.
Greiner-Labelle dismissed the thought that being a woman made any impact on her success as entrepreneur. “I never perceive being a woman as either a strength or weakness. I do not feel disadvantaged being a woman”.
Yet, her life did not unfold along an easy road.
Today, she enjoys her success, spending her days between the business and her two children, Evan, 12 and Alexa, 11.
Greiner-Labelle’s journey makes for remarkable reading not only because of her astonishing success as a sole proprietor of an iconic Canadian business, and for the trials and tribulations she overcame with courage and determined strength, but also because as a business owner she refuses to join any organization, or network with associations, clubs or groupings. Greiner-Labelle is a loner, enjoying challenging herself to be the best. She even refuses to take on business partnerships.
But it has not been an easy road, any means. The world looks at successful people like Greiner-Labelle and marvel at their magic, but delving into her story shows the immense heart, inner strength and sheer guts it took Greiner-Labelle to achieve her dream life.
When Greiner-Labelle was 22 years of age, her sister, Audrey, died tragically at the age of 19. It was a devastating time for Greiner-Labelle and her parents.
Audrey died in Oshawa from a drug overdose, after she ingested drugs that her boyfriend forced her to hide in her body from cops who had showed up at an illegal crack house in Oshawa. Audrey had ingested crack cocaine, and when she started showing signs of sickness, the boyfriend rushed her to hospital. Audrey never recovered, dying in hospital, the diagnoses being of a massive drug overdose. She had swallowed $4,000 worth of crack cocaine. The drug-dealing boyfriend ended up in jail.
“That was the first major tragedy I had experienced in our family, and it made a big impact on me,” Greiner-Labelle said.
“That drug-dealer, her boyfriend, took her to his house on that tragic day, April 14th, 1994. I was in Florida at the time. I was in shock. I never did drugs. I could not understand any of it,” Greiner Labelle said.
That experienced shaped the rest of her life. She tackled her life with creative zeal, determined to make the best life possible.
But tragedy struck again in 2010, when Greiner-Labelle got diagnosed on February 4th with breast cancer. In the middle of operating her thriving business as a sole business owner, with two young children, the news shook her to the core. “I was napping with my daughter, Alexa, who was two years old then. She rolled over and her foot hit me, and I felt a sharp pain. I went to the doctor, and they sent me for an ultrasound. At 38 years old, I got the news that I was suffering from Stage 1 breast cancer. I was in shock,” Greiner-Labelle said. But, “I worked through the whole thing, showing up at work every day wearing a wig”.
Then, after an intense series of chemotherapy radiation treatment, and surgery to remove the lump – while still showing up at work to manage the company, even as she lost all her hair, Greiner-Labelle felt another blow to her life: her marriage came to an end.
“Crisis reveals the true character of a person. Cancer survivors statistically have a high divorce rate. It’s sad that the support I needed, I could not find in my marriage. I had to learn to be happy in a miserable situation. I had to learn how to be grateful. I learned to like me, to like the life I made for myself, like my kids. I am grateful to my parents, my Dad, Richard and Mom, Sara. They are both 71 now, and they have always, always stood me,” Greiner-Labelle said.
The road was long and hard for her to arrive at this place of gratitude. “For the first two years of the business, I lost a lot of money, burned up credit cards and built up debt,” she said.
And then, when success came and the magazine became popular, rivals like the then-existing franchise shows saw her as a big threat, and they banned her from attending their shows. Her response? Greiner-Labelle launched her own franchise show, which became immensely popular. She sold that recently.
Greiner-Labelle said she knew she had arrived at the door of success when, four years into her business, the Autotrader publishing group offered her $200,000 to buy her magazine business. She refused to sell. The same group offered her in 2005, $2 million to sell her enterprise to them. She refused, again, because she knew she had arrived as a success story.
“At 32 years of age, I had arrived, successful. I was having fun and enjoying what I was doing. So I kept the business. Today, I live with gratitude and I am learning a whole bunch of new things, always researching what’s going on in the digital space and how the business should adapt and evolve,” Greiner-Labelle said. “I want to keep on top of what works to be the top of lead generation for business sales. What worked two years ago might not be relevant today,” she said.
Greiner-Labelle distinguishes the difference between success and failure as simply “hard work, long hours. People who fail quit, they give up. I had a goal to be a millionaire the age of 30, and I worked hard at that, investing the hours. My story is self-made. My mother’s grandparents were Polish immigrants to Canada, and I see that attitude of immigrants – of appreciation for the opportunities available to them in Canada. Immigrants are grateful for the opportunities, and work hard to build their dream,” Greiner-Labelle said.
Noting that people who become accustomed to a comfortable life in a well-off country like Canada may not recognize the opportunities available to them, Greiner-Labelle emphasized that her lifestyle and work ethic stem from her upbringing, where her grandparents’ appreciation for Canada impacted her own mentality.
Greiner-Labelle wakes up every day now inspired and motivated with a big dream: “I want to build the leading online platform for the buying and selling of business all over the world,” she said.
That’s the kind of possibility that beats in the heart of Greiner-Labelle, this iconic Canadian success story who, despite a life facing tragedy and mishaps and difficulties, knows what it takes to be the best in the world. Greiner-Labelle shows us that Canada offers each of us that opportunity to be the best in the world.