2018 IW Winners

Young Entrepreneur of the Year - Keewatin

Kaija Saaninen

Kora Wilcox

Helping people prevent problems and deal with it themselves doesn’t sound like a great way to grow a service business, but for Kaija Saarinen, it’s all in helping the community grow.

When she started Green and Gone Pest Control in Keewatin, a community in Kenora, her intention was to implement safer ways to deal with nuisance animals and infestations.

She ended up educating clients on ecology and empowering others.

“We are trying to make the world a better place, by being greener and more environmentally-friendly,” she said.

Her business is the only pest control between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, which meant she was on her own to develop her business. While it was intimidating at first, she had high praise for the local business community for helping her grow and thrive.

“They are very supportive, and being from the North, we have the mindset that we don’t have access to everything like they do in big cities. We take care of ourselves and use what we have at our disposal,” she said.

Part of that support is the drive to support local. Many of the residents, both permanent and those who own cottages, are all keen to support local and keep the community growing.

This has lead to a lot of young entrepreneurs like her to actively find niches in the community to fill. There is an abundance of support programs and a customer and client base eager to give them business.

Her entire life she was interested in biology and eventually moved west, working at an aquarium, taking up animal training, then applied for a job at a pest control company to train and handle a bedbug-detecting dog.

Saarinen learned not only was it not just spray or set a trap, she learned compassion.

“I am meeting people when they are very vulnerable and upset,” she said. “There is an education component involved. I talk to clients and explain what I am doing, why I am doing it.”

When a job opened up for her husband in Kenora, they jumped at the chance. While working at a restaurant, a fellow bartender told about a business starter program at the Northwest Business Centre through the Ontario government, which piqued Kaija’s interest.

Instructors at the program helped her develop her business plan, market research, and some startup funds.

Saarinen also credits the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise with supporting her business venture.

To help clients, she offers educational programs to show people how to deal with pests, including steps to help them determine when it’s time to call a professional.

Even after her success, Saarinen is sometimes surprised how far she has gone. She doesn’t think of herself as a role model, but is happy to share her experiences.

“Everybody has a different journey, and I would love to share my lessons and stories, and hopefully inspire others to follow their path. You sometimes feel like you are crazy for starting your own business, but it’s worth it.”