2013 Winners

Thunder Bay | Entrepreneur of the Year

Erika Maki

Erika Maki

Every successful entrepreneur on the journey of discovery catches a few breaks.

Thunder Bay's Erika Maki is all too familiar with making the most of her good fortune.

The 44-year-old owner of A Spa For You makes it her mission to help those less fortunate and to live life to its fullest.

Called a "trailblazer" with a "can-do attitude" by her supporters, Maki is passionate about giving opportunities and inspiring women to pursue their dreams.

As a trained esthetician and hair designer, Maki is generous in sharing her expertise and experience with others by often taking aspiring entrepreneurs under her wing.

Always bursting with new ideas, her positive energy and zest for life are not lost on her friends and associates.

"I'm not the normal person who goes to work and just wants to work. I want to do this and try that."

At her Frederica Street shop in the city's south end Westfort neighbourhood, Maki operates a full-service day spa offering facials, manicures, pedicures, hot stone massage, and body wraps. She even does handwriting analysis, a quirky specialty she developed 20 years ago.

"My dream is to incubate other businesses and empower women to have their own little corner shop," said Maki.

She's opened up her century-old, 3,000-square-foot building to a hair salon, a boutique and provides space in her shop for artisans and other local vendors to display their jewelry, furniture and personal care items.

The journey to entrepreneurship began in 2000. With a new baby on the way, she joined the PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise, first as an office assistant, and later through a peer lending circle.

Being surrounded by inspirational and supportive people drove home an important message to Maki.

"If you have a dream go for it. Don't let finances or obstacles hinder you. There's not a single entrepreneur in the world that has had a golden path delivered to them."

Critical to her success was the late Tom Simpson, manager of the Airlane Hotel, who fielded a cold call from Maki one day and cleared space for her to set up a small spa.

"He was a great supporter and believed in me a lot."

More credit goes to her sister, Shirley and other family members, who pooled $20,000 to make that first spa a reality in 2003.

Those breaks she received she wants to extend to others.

A supporter of high school and co-op placements, Maki has hired newcomers to Canada and was instrumental in developing the esthetics program at Confederation College.

Teaching her craft to an international audience is a huge motivation for Maki.

Born in Canada to Slovenian immigrant parents, Maki spent part of her childhood living in the former Yugoslavian republic, then under Communist rule, before her family returned to Canada for good.

It fostered a love of travel and new cultural experiences which has manifested itself in frequent trips to Cuba and the Dominican Republic where she trains women to be potential business owners.

A supporter of many charities, she created one of her own, Business in a Bag, where she collects donated spa supplies, nail polish, and even dresses to take to underdeveloped countries to empower women to start their own business and be economically self-sufficient.

"We live in a land of abundance and living in Yugoslavia opened my eyes. When I travel I find it reopens my eyes again that something we throw away means a massive difference in someone's life.

"My dream is to go to other countries, teach esthetics and handwriting to local law enforcement. It's a passion and I want to share with both of my hats."

In the meantime, she'll continue to manage her spa, mentor others and dream big ideas.

"I'm a small business owner and my wages can't be astronomical but I give opportunities with a full and open heart."

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