Mandy is the Founder of Freshco, Canada’s #1, full-service, reconstruction and retail maintenance provider.
What is your morning routine?
I’m an early riser. I tackle emails before the chaos of the day starts. I also go to the gym and make a disgusting looking green shake that will make me live to 100! I’m not allowed to have caffeine anymore (I already have too much energy!) so I have fake coffee – decaf americano with a little cream.
Tell us about your career path
They call me The Blue-Collar CEO™. I’m the founder of Freshco (not the grocery store!), Canada’s #1, full-service, reconstruction and retail maintenance provider operating across Canada and the eastern United States.
I was born and raised in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I left home at 18 with a hockey bag and a smile. No formal education. I’m self-taught. I often worked for free to gain experience until I had the skill set I needed to launch Freshco in 1995. Now Freshco’s client list includes Fortune 500 retail giants like Tiffany & Co., Apple, Nike, Sephora, The Gap, Banana Republic, Lululemon, Anthropologie, Home Depot, Restoration Hardware, and many more.
I’ve also been honoured to receive many business and entrepreneurial awards including The Women’s Executive Network’s (WXN’s) Top 100 Most Powerful Women (2015, 2016 & 2017), Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEOs and Profit Magazine’s W100. I also received the 2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award and was an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist (2016 & 2017). Freshco was also named The CGLCC LGBT Business of the Year 2017.
By 2020, Canada is expected to face a shortage of one million skilled workers, according to Conference Board of Canada estimates. I’m passionate about inspiring women and girls to aspire to a career in the trades – I want to redefine the collar, blue™ and change the answer to ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. I’ve started public speaking to raise awareness and recently partnered with Barbie’s You Can Be Anything Mentorship Program to give Canadian girls with big hopes real-life, hands-on career experience. I’ve also partnered with the Conestoga College Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program to encourage women in the trade program by providing both financial support and mentorship opportunities. In 2015, I established the Chris Rennehan Scholarship – named after my late brother – an initiative to get youth and women more involved in the trades.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
The skilled trades industry has been traditionally and stereotypically male dominated. Overcoming that initial hurdle is the first challenge. Women bring an incredible set of skills to the table that are hugely valuable to the industry. Hiring across the industry has been male skewed – and its up to business leaders to demand diversity and equal representation. Women and men working together in the trades is the perfect ying and yang. Things are changing but we need to keep pushing change – change the mindset about trades being for men – it is just wrong.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
Be confident and speak up when you have something of value to say. Don’t underestimate the value you bring the industry. The trades NEED more women! Also, take advantage of the programs and apprentice/mentorship opportunities available today – these didn’t exist for me and they are fantastic! Make the choice to put on the work boots and walk.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
What inspires you?
Ambition… and wonderful people that see the good and focus on that instead of the bad. We are blessed to live where we do.
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?