“If you have a dream in your heart, do it.”
Jennilee Greig, founding director of Thrive Kids Canada believes firmly in her statement. It’s what prompted her to start the non-profit 15 years ago.
“Prior to starting Thrive I worked at a number of after-school programs and was really bored,” said Greig. “The kids were too. They couldn’t wait to get picked up so they could get on with life. I thought it was sad that kids had to essentially waste three to four hours every day after school before they could leave get on with things.”
What she wanted was something that kids would be excited to go to and would help them grow and thrive in those after-school hours.
“I wanted to infuse the experience with the things I personally valued,” explained Greig. “A connection with nature, a relationship with the creator, and positive mentors. I wanted something safe, exciting and spiritual for kids to do after school and that’s why I launched (Thrive). I would be remiss not to mention that when I first started, I started it in and with my church and had their cheerleading and supporting me along the way. Thrive Kids Canada wouldn’t be what it is today had I not had that support and encouragement of community in the beginning.”
In addition to its national office on Harvey Avenue, Thrive has locations and programs in Kelowna (Glenmore), Rutland, West Kelowna, Enderby, Cloverdale, Burnaby, Saanich and Saltspring Island. For Greig, the best part about growing the organization is visiting the centres and spending time with kids and staff, and seeing that the vision of helping kids thrive is being carried out.
“Kids love it, staff love it, parents love it,” added Greig. “There is nothing better than seeing kids grinning from ear-to-ear as they ride a horse, beaming with pride as they complete a high ropes course, or tell me that their favourite thing about Thrive is the staff.”
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a time of blessing and challenges.
“At first COVID was actually really great for us,” said Greig. “With the support of the government of B.C. for childcare, those first few months were actually a huge blessing. Kids that needed parent time and home time got it. Staff that needed a break got it. Kids that continued in care got a lot of personal attention and staff got to work in a super small relaxed environment.”
But two years in with regulations constantly changing and government support ended, the landscape has changed.
“It is a challenge,” admitted Greig. “It mostly affects the staff that work directly with the children. Everyone is tired. Tired of the polarization that COVID brought into the team, tired of trying to keep parents happy at both ends of the spectrum, tired of being scared of getting sick.”
Even with the challenges of COVID, there is a shining light.
“The great thing about working with kids is there will always be those that make you laugh and bring so much fun and joy into your day,” said Greig. “As an organization, we have also made a special effort to have all our centre leaders join together weekly on Zoom to share highs and lows and pray for each other. We recently brought in a leader to share about overcoming anxiety, and all our staff regardless of position, are given a counselling allowance. Taking care of our staff is paramount during this time.”
Successful people are incredibly busy. That can lead to conflicts trying to balance work, life, and family. It’s not so much of an issue for Greig.
“I am single and don’t have kids,” she said. “I’m actually really bad at overworking because I love my work and I’m passionate about the mission.”
But overworking does remind her to look after herself.
“I have to remind myself that I need to have health and energy to overflow joy and grace to my team,” added Greig. “If I’m overtired or overstressed my team doesn’t get the best from me and it makes leading harder. When I’m proactive at balancing life I get joy from all things outside, such as hiking, camping, paddling, and gardening. My biggest lifesaver is a secret little retreat called L’abri Fellowship on Vancouver Island where I can retreat but still be in a community and have fun at the same time. As an extrovert that is super important.”
For women who are thinking about starting their own venture, Greig is direct and to the point.
“The biggest reason women don’t succeed in business is they never start,” she said. “If you have a dream in your heart, do it. Start by creating a community around you that believes in you that will encourage you and remind you of your why when things are tough. Make sure the success or growth of the business does not take the joy out of it.”
She said it’s important to create a business plan in a way that allows women to keep doing what they love as they grow.
“Own your business don’t let your business own you. There is lots of support out there right now for women entrepreneurs. Plus most of us already in business and leadership would love to share what we have learned in our journeys. So don’t be scared to ask others for help regardless of where you are in the journey.”
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