Sarah Thomson



The greatest gift I’ve ever received, or offered, is time. Time is the one thing you give and never get back. The busier life gets, the more I take on, the more valuable my time seems to become … and the more I realise what a gift it is for someone to give their time to me.

Over the years there have been a lot of great people who have given me their time. When I first started Women’s Post I went searching for advice from others in the publishing industry. Michael De Pencier, previous owner of Toronto Life magazine, was a fountain of information. Back then I was having trouble gaining national advertisers, and Michael advised me to avoid the ad buying agencies because they are filled with people dedicated to detail and data. They need studies, surveys, history, and research and they often take years to make decisions. They are not risk takers and truly shouldn’t be.

Instead, De Pencier suggested I go directly to the heads of companies. My assertiveness, passion and determination would be an asset. And at the time, it was. I will never forget the time, advice, and encouragement Michael De Pencier gave me when I needed it most.

A few weeks ago a friend called. He is one of the busiest people I know and yet he took the time to tell me something I needed to know. It wasn’t an easy call for him to make, and it took a lot of courage. But I respect and value his friendship, even more now because he took the time to tell me that people were not seeing my passion and assertiveness in a positive light. That one phone call made me understand the importance of learning to negotiate with people who need more information, data, and research to come to their decisions. I was reminded that the need to stay top-of-mind with a customer is not as important as understanding their needs, wants, and decision-making process.

And I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful friend who took the time to tell me what I needed to know most. Today I was given a few hours from an entrepreneur who has managed to become quite successful in the corporate world, despite his entrepreneurial nature. He is a busy man who heads up a huge company. But not only did he give me his time, he also gave me some very helpful insights on how to negotiate properly with what he calls the “controller-types.” They are people who are precise, accurate, and detail-oriented, usually in the position to control a decision. Controllers need history, data, and research before making any decisions and the best way to work with them is to give them the data and time they need to come to a decision.

Time seems to be creeping into every sentence I write, but it is the one thing that people lack most of, which is why it is one of the best gifts to receive. Over the years I have gained some terrific mentors and friends who have given me their time and who I hope someday to repay. I struggle to find ways to help them, but then perhaps I just need to give things a little time.

Miguel de Cervantes wrote: “There is a time for some things, and a time for all things; a time for great things, and a time for small things.”

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


It’s late in the evening and I’m just getting home from an event. My two boys are fast asleep. They’ve had dinner, a story, and were tucked in by their father hours ago. I can’t help going into their rooms to check on them, kiss them, and hope subconsciously they know I am there and that I love them. I know I may have missed some good moments with them tonight, but I know too that I can offer them more by excelling at what I do.

I have never felt the guilt that some women do when they go back to work. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I’d never be happy staying at home. I’m totally unqualified for teaching young children. So, I’m very lucky to have met a wonderful woman who I trust completely with my children. She is a much better caregiver and teacher than I could ever dream of being, and I know they are safe, loved, and learning.

Times are changing quickly and stay-at-home mothers are a shrinking demographic, while men have taken a much larger role in raising their children. Some believe these changes will wreak havoc with the family unit, but I tend to think that these cultural changes will actually cause more people to live happier lives … and make valium mothers a thing of the past. A strong family takes more than having one parent at home.

This past weekend we celebrated my aunt’s 75th birthday. All her children and her sisters, as well as, extended family were there. A lot of us hadn’t seen one another since we were kids; yet, there was an acceptance, a sense of wanting to know about the other despite the distance. Perhaps it is just curiosity, wanting to see how the “A” student turned out as an adult, or how the sensitive child grew into an artist. But I think there is more to it.

I still feel connected to the cousins that I knew as a child, despite the distance and time that has passed. The shared memories create a connection between us. One of them has a successful career as a banker, another is a lawyer, while another is a passionate artist, but they all come together and enjoy time with one another. It’s due to this connection we share called family.

Family pulls people together who wouldn’t normally choose to connect, but so too does work. This newspaper allows me to be with people I don’t share much in common with. And yet I am able to learn and grow from them because of the time we spend together. And over time, I have grown to respect and appreciate the people I work with – each one of them tries to excel at what they do.

I’ve always believed diversity enhances creativity. The more backgrounds and experiences people have, the more ideas they bring to the table. Diversity can be very profitable in a well-run business, but only when everyone shares a common desire for the success of the business… and maybe that is the key to building a strong family.

My husband and I both want to build a strong happy family, but we know this depends on each of us growing and learning as much as we can in order to pass it on to our children. A strong successful family is one in which all members can learn, grow and find happiness. The cultural changes that are driving more women out of the home, and more men into the home, may indeed help build stronger families, so long as all members share the common desire for success.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


I have a friend, Robert Bick, who operates a gold mining company. He used to play the flute for a living and now he’s the CEO of Evolving Gold, a mining company based in British Columbia. It went from 10 cents a share to as high as $2.20 a share last week. His strategy is simple – invest in the best geologists money can buy and combine them with a diverse portfolio of properties. Bick, like his father (the founder of Bick’s pickles) is a strong marketer and understands the flow of the mining business. Continual momentum, timing, and a little luck have made Evolving Gold a company to watch. Bick has even made this easy with a monthly newsletter and refined website that allows investors to check in every week or two. He understands that the mining industry, like any other business, is about building expectations and delivering on them.

When Robert told us about his company, I wanted to invest in him simply because I know how important it is to support a friend. Robert is a combination of an artist and ideas man. I understand – intimately – how difficult it can be to make an idea work when the odds are stacked against you, and how vital it is to have the support of your friends and family when you have little else behind you, but an idea. Sometimes I think the emotional support is much more crucial than the actual investment.

When I learned that the president of Robert Bick’s company is named Lawrence Dick something about Bick and Dick gave a sense of whimsy to my investment in the company, and whimsy is crucial when backing a friend. Whimsy thwarts expectations and if things don’t work out it protects the friendship.

I remember my father telling me years ago to invest in myself because that is the only thing I can truly rely on. His words have stuck with me. Every time I question myself I hear those words. Perhaps that is why investing, for me, isn’t so much about what I do with my money, but about taking what I value most – time – and putting it into something or someone.

Investing well means that I must balance my time perfectly, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes I invest my time in people who don’t deliver and it’s wasted. Yet, more often than not, it turns out to be a good investment.

I like to invest my time in doing things that make some sort of difference in the world. Over the past few weeks I’ve worked on creating an organisation that will give back to the community of businesspeople who read our pages. What I’ve discovered is that businesswomen want and need to connect with men. They are short on mentors and are quickly climbing the ranks. I expect women will hold the majority of senior executive positions within the next 10 to 20 years – meaning, business leaders (80% men) will need to communicate well with women. Now, more than ever before, there needs to be an organisation designed to enable women and men to connect on a professional level. Thus my idea for the Post Club began.

The Post Club is designed to bring business leaders together into confidential strategy groups which will allow them to discuss their businesses, share ideas, and help each other with the challenges the market throws at them. Discussion and debate evenings will also help create meeting grounds for leaders to connect and share their ideas. I suppose it all comes back to my interest in communication. True understanding only occurs when knowledge and communication work effectively together, but more often than not the latter is compromised by time.

So my goal is to bring senior level women and men to the table, have them discuss their businesses, debate ideas and connect on various levels through events, strategy groups, debate and discussion dinners, creating a fertile ground for innovation and productivity to flourish.

I’ve invested a lot of time into the Post Club, but it has allowed me to meet with presidents and CEOs from many different industries. Some have surprised me with their immediate support as if they were waiting for this to come along; while others who seem to need this more than anyone, are hesitant to join.

Investing is about so much more than the amount of money you’ll make once your investments pay off. Investing is about inspiring innovators in the world to hope, dream and continually strive to make this world a better place in which to live.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at

If you are a CEO, President or Senior Executive of a business with over $1 million in sales annually and would like to learn more about the Post Club, please contact Sarah Thomson


This morning we took our two little boys to meet some close friends at Casa Loma (Casa Loma : Toronto’s Fairy-Tale Castle and its Owner, Sir Henry Pellatt) in Toronto. I’ve attended a number of events there over the years, but today we went for a pirate show that had us looking for treasure all over the castle.

I have a thing for old buildings. I sometimes imagine that I can feel a personality about them, lurking behind a doorway, or winking at me from an upper window. If I were to describe the personality of Casa Loma, I would liken it to that of a dear old uncle who loves to play hide and seek. I picture the kind of man who dresses well but doesn’t mind getting down on his hands and knees to play horsey with his nieces and nephews. It seems fitting that the old mansion is now a place where children can go and dream of being pirates, princesses, or ghost hunters. It is a building designed to celebrate life; so far it is fulfilling that design perfectly as host to weddings, company celebrations, and events for children.

Today we followed a pirate leader who read directions from his treasure map. I watched my boys stride and roll from side to side in his path, and for a brief moment, I too was in that childhood place where anything is possible and the world ahead seems magical. We wandered through bright bedrooms, dark hallways, and up winding staircases in our search for hidden treasure.

My favourite room in Casa Loma is the conservatory at the east end of the building — its huge windows fill the room with sunlight and warmth. The floors are polished marble and plants line the walls, giving the air in the room an almost tropical quality. The room seems to be enchanted. Was I feeling the beauty of the craftsmanship, or could I somehow be touching the soul of the architect playing in the spaces we too played in?

I don’t know if I will ever truly understand what art is all about, but there seems to be a kind of duel between a spirit of excellence and outrageousness in the halls and cavernous rooms of Casa Loma. I’ve always thought of art as something that beautifully captures a human universe. Art takes an idea that we all relate to (hardship, grandeur, magnificence, peace) and captures it in one beautiful instant or a sequence of instants. A building, for example, captures the spirit of art when it is able to cause a sense of grandeur, harmony, or create a feeling of peace in those who walk through it. So too music, or words, a painting, or sculpture can capture and portray in one moment a universal idea.

Over the centuries, people have debated the definition of art, partly I think because it isn’t easy to create, and only a few every century actually achieve art. But the importance of art is in its ability to value ideas that give us a sense of humanity – love, knowledge, ethics, beauty, excellence.

Perhaps I connect to the human spirit in buildings more easily because I am a writer and buildings are in some ways very much like words — they give shape to ideas and protect them against time and the elements.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


For this issue, our theme is eco-awareness. At this point, there isn’t much debate about the fact that humans are having a huge impact on the world.

Winston Churchill said “the farther back we look the farther ahead we will see.” Ecologically, the biggest polluter in history lived approximately 4 million years ago – photosynthetic bacteria ingested carbon dioxide and released oxygen into the earth’s atmosphere. The bacteria multiplied to such an extent that eventually they produced more oxygen than the planet’s natural processes consumed, and oxygen began to build up in the atmosphere. This oxygen was lethal to the bacteria and only a few strains are left today, but it allowed different, more complex forms of life to exist on this planet.

Fast forward to 2008 and our population has grown to such a size that the by-products of civilization may actually change the surface of the planet. What I’ve come to realize about the earth’s ecosystem is that the tiniest elements can, and have, had a huge impact on the earth over the past 4.5 billion years. The photosynthetic bacteria polluted their environment to such a degree that they virtually destroyed their habitat. And it isn’t a stretch to see how humans too might follow this same progression; producing so much carbon dioxide that we too destroy the very environment in which we flourish. Perhaps the carbon dioxide filling our atmosphere will help the photosynthetic bacteria flourish once more. The longer I live, the more I see how life is truly a fine balance.

But how do I make a difference? I put my faith in human ingenuity and hope that as a community we will find a solution to global warming before it is too late. I know that for human ingenuity to work effectively, people must first agree that indeed there is an issue. The general public must want to find a solution in order to motivate the inventors and leaders to find one.

Global warming has now become a public concern, but the next important step is making sure inventors and leaders have access to whatever knowledge is available. Then leaders must share this knowledge and be open to ideas. I have a feeling the internet may actually serve a pivotal role in finding a solution to global warming.

Perhaps the only real contribution I can make (aside from recycling and turning off the lights) is to provide a way for information and knowledge to flow freely. The development of our new website – which we are launching this issue – will allow readers, thinkers, and inventors around the globe to share their knowledge. People will be able to post comments on the articles we publish, upload videos, blogs, pictures, as well as find daily updates on women in the news.

My goal is to make the reliable editor of information and ideas for women that this newspaper has become. Our new site will carry a free job/resume board, as well as weekly updates on new products that have just come on the market, from new “green” products to great wines, new restaurants, excellent books, and innovative technology.

Women are extremely effective at creating communities, but geography, language and distance have created limitations and barriers around us. As Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.” My dream is that the internet will allow knowledge and ideas to flow freely, and because of this our cultural differences – which have caused so much bloodshed – will become irrelevant.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


More than any other industry, fashion has been so oversold, so twisted, pitched, and commercialized, that true designers are few and far between.

I’ve tried to embrace fashion over the years, but there is something that bothers me about the posing that goes on at the fashion shows — and it’s not by the models but by the people involved in the industry, from the make-up-masked designer wannabes to the pretentious fashion reporters who — not surprisingly — are some of the worst writers in the media industry.

At events like L’Oreal Fashion Week, I have to keep reminding myself that arrogance and conceit are signs of insecurity. But there is so much insecurity.

I can’t understand why so many designers seem to have lost touch with the medium they have chosen to work in. Like any craft, the function matters, but the hype around the runways has forced the craft to take back seat to the circus act.

Confidence comes from action. And in a culture where grandparents worked the land, grew their own food, and built cities, sewing material into a blouse and marketing it so you snag complete idiots into paying thousands of dollars for it isn’t exactly honest work. Thus, the industry wobbles around bathed in fake arrogance, fake confidence, and fake significance.

There was a time when a good marriage meant everything to a woman, and although that would seem to have vanished in North American culture, it still remains part of how some women define themselves. And that psychological issue is what the corporate fashion giants have capitalized on.

I shouldn’t be so hard on women who like to dress up just because I find it such a chore. Perhaps I’m just annoyed that they raise the bar so high that I have to really work at it to fit in.

Not all fashion is fake, just the commercial schlock that ends up being mass produced in China or India. There are a few truly great designers who understand that good fashion is a balance of both art and function — they work together. Clothing can create a larger-than-life persona; it can work to communicate status, personality, and character. A good designer is able to create clothing that enhances one’s strength, delicacy, confidence, or assertiveness.

True designers, like Freda Iordanous of Freda’s on Bathurst St. in Toronto, who has built a thriving business on designing and selling clothes that one can actually wear comfortably, are able to identify what fashions will succeed and become stylish and which will fail. Her eye for fashion also helps her match the clothes to the individual. True fashion does exist…but you have to search it out.

I often wonder what future generations will think when they look back at today’s society. Will they think the women were so dim-witted that they actually believed the clothes they wore made them special?

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


Education is the focus for this issue.

I’ve experienced both good and bad education. As a teenager I dropped out of high school, bored stiff by the mediocrity. Going back to university as a mature student, I experienced the excellence of a truly good education and thrived.

After watching John Tory go down in flames in the recent provincial election, it’s obvious that his idea of funding private education upset a huge number of people. Those supporting private education worried that the quality of education in private schools would drop. Those supporting public education worried that more funds would be taken from the public system, and the move would simply benefit the elite.

The Tory campaign failed to see that suggesting a change to education while going into an election is about as bad as suggesting that women be banned from working. Education is part of the fabric of society – it provides hope for the future.

Sometimes I wonder what path my life might have taken had I had the opportunity of a good education at the high-school level. I remember how much I hungered for a challenge then, and how bored I was with school. I felt as if my life were being held back. Instead of learning in a fertile environment, I was decaying in a desert.

If I had been given an option, would I have chosen a better education? I might have. And that’s why I’m so passionate about Children First School Choice Trust.* It was set up by Claudia Hepburn, managing director of the Ontario division of the Fraser Institute, to provide tuition for families who can’t afford to send their children to the school of their choice.

My three-year-old son leaves a small hand-print in paint on a piece of paper in the kitchen. It’s his first artistic statement that says: “I am here. I exist as one unique individual.” As he grows, the environment will shape a huge part of who he becomes. To treat children like sheep, to put them into the same schools, same classes, give them all the same type of instructing will work for some kids, while others will flounder. Private schools offer a variety of teaching styles and different environments; they offer an opportunity for children to excel.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


Children First has recently launched its Shoe Fundraiser Campaign. To learn more about Children First School Choice and their program go to www.


This issue I’ve asked our columnists to focus on the environment. One aspect that often gets overlooked, with much focus given to global warming, is the actual environment – the land, the trees, the marshes and wetlands of Canada.

I grew up on a small apple farm in Southern Ontario. Across the road from our farm was Hilton Falls Conservation Area, where many of my childhood adventures were carried out. The area had everything from a marsh to forest, with a few tiny meadows scattered through it.

The conservation area was my playground, it was the place where my dreams set sail – filled with wildlife, it was also the place where my feet were most grounded in the world around me. It was there that I learned to appreciate the beauty in nature.

I remember watching the birds come to the marsh every spring on their way north. There were dozens of different bird species; from the trumpeter swan to the blue heron and red-winged blackbirds. Those memories seem so fused to the woman I am now. The gracefulness of a swan swimming through the water connected me to the beauty of dance. The stillness of a blue heron helped me understand the importance of patience. The call of a red-winged blackbird made me aware that a soft voice can fill a room.

I learned to listen to the forest; the birds always warn of danger and I would climb up into a tree when a certain kind of stillness came over it. I followed fox tracks for miles in the snow just to learn that he was following me. The life lessons that land taught me were priceless.
The older I became the further and further from that conservation area I moved. From the farm, to the suburbs; I married and moved right into the heart of Toronto. I walked home yesterday and wondered how far below the surface of asphalt and concrete the earth actually was.

Even life at the cottage has changed. There are now so many people on the lake in the middle of summer that it is rare not to hear a motorboat. When I think about the history of the lake, it is hard to imagine only a few cottages dotting the shoreline, or swans nesting in bulrushes along the far shore.

The population has grown so much in my lifetime that I wonder if my children will get the chance to learn the lessons I did from nature. Will they get the chance to be in a place where the stillness can make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? Will there be land that is free from the din of highway traffic?

The economy is thriving, but with this growth there is a cost to the natural world. But I have hope – I discovered Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC). It is a private non-profit organization working for the direct protection of Canada’s bio-diversity through the purchase, donation, or placing of conservation easements on ecologically significant lands. They state that “90% of Canadians live and work in an area covering only 10% of the country along the Canada-U.S. border. This 10% of Canada is also home to over 70 % of Canada’s species at risk. It is on these highly threatened lands that NCC focuses its work.” Their web site

I don’t usually plug an organization in this space, so I hope you’ll forgive this shamelessness, but with more and more of the natural land disappearing, each one of us must try to make a difference. And if there is one thing I’ve learned from running this newspaper, it is that one person can make all the difference in the world.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


I think it is in my blood. I hear about a business idea and I have a burning desire to find out all the details, to evaluate the idea and try to think of ways to make it successful.

I spent over an hour today talking with a man who has designed both the hardware and software to send messages through Bluetooth to every cell phone that is within reach of his hardware. People waiting in line for a concert could get a sneak peek backstage to see how the set up is going, or they could receive a free video of the band. The technology is advancing fast, and this could be on the cutting edge, but he can’t get the cell phone companies to buy into it. Bluetooth is a free service, so the fees the wireless companies make from text messaging and downloading might lose value as cell phone users learn how to use Bluetooth technology and the software designed for it.

I remember when my husband and I were asked to appear on the CBC show Dragon’s Den. We drooled over the publicity it would give us… and hoped it might appear in time for the launch of our new web portal in mid November.

Dragon’s Den is a CBC series involving 5 accomplished business people who evaluate businesses and choose to invest in them, or not. My husband, our CFO, didn’t think we needed investors, but we agreed that the opportunity to discuss Women’s Post on national television was too tempting, and the “dragons” – comprised of four men and only one woman – would never understand how a newspaper designed specifically for women could make money.

As CFO my husband has evaluated the market, studied past sales and created projections that Women’s Post has met and at times surpassed. He knows our potential and has watched the newspaper grow and flourish. After watching a few reruns of Dragon’s Den he realized that even if the “dragons” did make an offer to invest, he would have the final say.

We had to wait a few hours for other business owners to have their time in front of the Dragons. During our wait I spoke to some of the entrepreneurs who hoped to get their lucky break in the Dragon’s Den. They paced the room, some prayed quietly to themselves, while others practiced their presentation. They all seemed very serious about the entire procedure. I found myself wondering who would make a good show – who might break down in tears, and who might blow up in anger – giving the passion and intensity needed to connect with a television audience. I wondered if I could muster up enough passion. I started to question my own intentions. Was it right for me to be pitching to the Dragons when so many others needed their investment dollars more than we did? I didn’t feel like the success of our business rested on the results in the Den ― but so many of the other entrepreneurs saw the money as the only hurdle to their success. I wanted to help each one of them – the woman with the skin cream products, the couple with the new game they hoped to bring to market.
The taping went surprisingly quickly, but we signed a waiver that does not allow me to write about anything that ensued.

The great thing about owning your own business is the constant challenges that arise daily. With this newspaper we struggle to keep the racks and boxes full, and as demand grows it becomes more and more challenging. Then there is the constant need to keep growing and developing in a very competitive market. This week we bought into an online radio station, giving us the ability to offer more to our readers and extend our reach even further. Now we must figure out how to take the intimate, passionate and informative moments we’ve created on paper and put them into a format that will work on radio. We launch the radio station in mid November with our new web site.

My husband thinks I jump without first looking to see where I’ll land. But I don’t think that is necessarily true. I know the lay of the land. I’ve worked all angles of the business. I know what our customers want, and if new ways for delivering ideas come about, it is easy to know if they will work or not. Success is a combination of passion, experience and intuition.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


It takes guts, determination, passion and a bit of a dreamer to make an entrepreneur. But it also takes a belief in what you can do.

I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs over the years. Some have made successful businesses for themselves while others have struggled year after year just to get by. There isn’t any failsafe recipe for success, but the one thing that seems to matter most is passion.

One of the most passionate entrepreneurs that I’ve come across taught me a very valuable lesson. He taught me how to bring the passion out in those around me through conversation. To find what people are passionate about and focus it into what they are doing is something I strive to do everyday with my employees, contributors and virtually everyone I come in contact with. It is as if I feed off the energy.

Another important lesson I learned from an entrepreneur long ago was to help others. It wasn’t easy, especially when I was barely making enough to feed myself, but I had a big vision and wanted my future to flourish.

I think of the people I met today: the musician, the artist, the writers, all passionate about what they do. And I think of ways to help them achieve their goals, of ways to bring their ideas to our readers – to do what I love to do most: present ideas to people.

The desire to make something happen, to see it through, to give up the safety and security of a pay cheque and go out on a limb for an idea, or a dream, distinguishes an entrepreneur from an employee.

And perhaps there is something of the perfectionist in entrepreneurs. They don’t like other people screwing up their ideas. Today I wait for web artwork to come from an agency. We’ve been waiting almost two months and their incompetence is growing more and more frustrating. What makes it so frustrating? It hurts the success of the entire campaign for our mutual client and makes my business look bad. The entrepreneur in me, the desire to do the best that I can at whatever I do, is losing patience. I realize that I could never work for people who don’t have the drive to do their best. Perhaps that is why I grate the agency people so much. I’m sure they have labeled me the loose cannon who will do whatever it takes to get everything done right, but I don’t mind.

I met a musician this morning who wants to try to make it on her own. She’s not looking to sign on with a record label, but wants to stay independent. Her worry is that a label might try to change her, package her music and change the beauty of it – she is an entrepreneur in the making, and is willing to take a chance on herself, and risk her pay cheque.

That’s the difference between an entrepreneur and an employee. An entrepreneur risks her success, comfort zone, and pay cheque for the belief she has in herself.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at