2017 IW Winners

Entrepreneur of the Year - Thunder Bay

Nadia La Russa

Nadia La Russa

“I don’t know how she does it.”

That’s a common theme throughout the nomination letters for Nadia La Russa, and indeed a common refrain from all who know her. A serial entrepreneur, La Russa owns seven businesses, two services (which she calls “passion projects”), teaches part time at Confederation College, and does volunteer and fundraising work – not to mention keeps busy as a mother of five.

It all started with Signature Financial, the bookkeeping company she launched when she was 18.

“I needed the flexibility to be able to work around my eldest daughter’s medical appointments and travel. Signature was born because I recognized a need in the market for bookkeeping services for smaller companies that couldn’t afford to hire someone full time,” La Russa said.

That was followed (in no particular order) by JN Consulting, Inc., Frank Training, Zoom Courier, Granite Town Cars, Peartree Bakery, and Westfort Laundry. She also does Thai massage and wellness consulting, and is soon launching her “Take Control” online workshop, available through her nadialarussa.com website. If that’s not enough, she is about to launch her eighth business in Thunder Bay.

The connection between these ventures is that they are all service-oriented in filling a specific need in the community.

“I didn’t set out to own these particular businesses,” she said. “It was part of a learning and growing experience, and finding out what the needs were in Thunder Bay.”

Some, like Westfort Laundry, she purchased when the opportunity arose. Others, like Granite Town Cars, she built from scratch to fill a space in the marketplace. It’s the only “intermediate” transportation option in Thunder Bay.

In some cases, these businesses support each other through, what La Russa calls, “backward integration” of services she required.

“You look at something like Westfort Laundry and Zoom Courier, they’re doing things for one another, but we also offer these things to other companies in the city.”

“Business isn’t about one-off deals for Nadia,” wrote Lauren Whitburn, Senior Sales Director at Mary Kay Cosmetics, in her nomination letter. “It’s about growth and support, helping each other up the ladder of success.”

“There aren’t many individuals like her,” said Alison Meany, another nominator.

As La Russa revealed in a blog post, part of the key to her success of fitting everything in is starting her day at 4 a.m.

“There are many benefits to being an early riser: according to Forbes magazine, early birds are more enthusiastic, better problem solvers, better planners, more productive, more optimistic, in better shape, and, get this – they sleep better,” she wrote.

Despite her obvious accomplishments, this recognition as Entrepreneur of the Year was humbling, La Russa said.

“Being chosen as the top entrepreneur was quite the honour, for sure.

“I’m proud to be walking among this group of influential women. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.”

Sponsored by: