2018 IW Winners

Entrepreneur of the Year - Haileybury

Nicole Guertin

Nicole Guertin

For 15 years, Nicole Guertin and her partner, Jocelyn Blais, have been redefining the standards of hospitality in Haileybury through their vacation rental business, Les Suites des Presidents. But as they moved to cross over into more corporate business, they realized if they wanted to compete with the popular resorts of Muskoka, they had to also offer food – and so they opened a restaurant.

“Opening a restaurant was one of the hardest things either of us have done in our life. I have a lot of respect for restaurateurs,” Guertin said. “We knew it would be hard, but it was much harder than we expected.”

Yet, a year after opening, the Café Meteor Bistro is a success, offering a menu stacked with fresh food made with locally sourced ingredients and an atmosphere that promotes the history and beauty of the Temiskaming region.

This isn’t a surprise for anyone who knows Guertin, whose persistence in the face of a challenge is a hallmark trait of the tenacious entrepreneur.

“My vision was always, do what’s your passion and then the money will come after, and that’s really what I’ve done in the past,” she said. “I think the duty of being an entrepreneur is, really, any idea you have you can just make it happen.”

Although she hails from a clan of business-savvy impresarios, she shied away from business in her early career, instead favouring nursing work. But the pull of entrepreneurship proved too strong, and through her career, Guertin has helmed a number of successful social and for-profit ventures, resulting in a rich, varied legacy.

She’s launched a theatre troupe, formed a nurs- ing organization, started the Destination Nord tourism group, operated a clothing store, created a French newspaper (which she later sold to Québecor), developed a French tourism smartphone app, instigated a French health centre, refurbished five of the majestic homes of Temiskaming’s original mining barons into travel accommodations, established a glamping experience, and, of course, opened a restaurant.

“I was raised in a family that never discouraged any ideas I had,” Guertin recalled. “A lot of the time people would say, ‘She’s just a dreamer,’ because I had lot of ideas and projects.

She jokes that Jocelyn allows her to come up with three ideas a day, and she usually reaches her limit by 6 a.m., eagerly waiting for him to wake up so she can get started right away.

Now that the Presidents’ Suites is enjoying an extended period of stability, Guertin is looking ahead to her next project, which is a business breakfast club designed to bring together the area’s businesses for unique networking opportunities.

Her biggest strength, she believes, is gathering people together to work toward a common vision, which, at this stage in her life, is promoting the Temiskaming area and all it has to offer.

“I see the community is changing and the businesses, we’re starting to work together,” she said. “All of those small pieces that start developing a community – we’re on that right direction and it’s happening.”