Kim Green had a well-paying job as CEO of Tourism Charlottetown and the P.E.I. Convention Partnership.
She loved the work, but not the politics involved, so two months shy of turning 40, she decided to quit and start her own business.
She and her husband put their house up as collateral to secure a loan, then she somehow convinced her brother to do the same. She also borrowed money from him and her in-laws.
“There were a bit of sleepless nights knowing I had everyone’s houses in my hands.”
The sleepless nights paid off. Green owns two businesses with her husband Roddy Willis, and she has been named the 2019 entrepreneur of the year by the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce.
She will formally receive the award on Nov. 21 during the President’s Excellence Awards.
“It has been 10 years and it has been a lot of stress and hard work and you often question whether it’s worth it, so it was really emotional in that way to be recognized,” she said.
Green is the owner and operator of Kays Wholesale, a business-to-business wholesaler that sells supplies to many Island companies, so she knows the competition well.
“There’s a ton of entrepreneurial people on this Island and they all deserve this award, so I was humbled by that because there’s so many people who could have gotten this award,” she said.
While Green’s educational and vocational background was in tourism and sales, she had wanted her own business for some time.
In her 20s, she looked at opening a franchise — the now defunct café chain Just Desserts — and considered another business in her 30s, but there was always something missing.
“I was cash poor and banks would not fund a young person,” Green said.
So, she continued working, building her confidence managing projects and making good connections in the Island tourism industry.
Her effort was not misplaced, as many of the companies she dealt with are now clients, but her clientele stretches far beyond a single industry.
“We do everything from toilet paper to chicken fingers. We would touch, quite honestly, probably every single business on Prince Edward Island in some little way.”
Before Kays, Green and her husband owned Island Chemicals, which her husband operates.
As a team, she’s the people person, he’s the numbers person.
“He’ll dig down into the analytics of business: what our returns and margins are and really keeps a finger on the pulse of the bank.”
While Kays continues to be successful, scaling the business over the last few years as it has grown from four to 30 employees has been tough.
“I feel like I’ve been in a marathon with my business and I’m always behind. I can never quite catch up to the business,” said Green.
She has needed to hire experts to develop new procedures and manuals and continues investing in technologies to keep updating operations.
In June, she finished a year-long program at the Wallace McCain Institute after beating over 400 nominees to join the 13 others accepted.
Every month, Green would travel there for two days to attend talks on varying topics related to running a business — from reading financials to sales to HR — but the real benefit came from support-group like meetings with other entrepreneurs.
“You have this group of people that, you’re sworn to secrecy and you can talk about basically anything that you can’t talk about with other people.”
She also learned an important thing about entrepreneurs.
“A lot of them, including me, fly by the seat of our pants and hope it works out.”