Since 1999, Entrepreneur Stephanie Rudnick has Been Blazing Her Own Trail
Being an entrepreneur can be challenging and even more so when you’re a woman. Breaking Barriers is a TD series that celebrates successful Canadian women entrepreneurs by highlighting their journey and the barriers they’ve overcome.
Life’s defining moments can shape you for the better, at least that is what happened to Stephanie Rudnick.
“Being 6ft tall and in grade 9, was a curse and a blessing. I towered over my fellow students, and it made me feel awkward and impacted my self-esteem. But, on the basketball court it felt so right, so natural.
Dealing with my teen angst allowed me to move forward in so many ways. It gave me the confidence to succeed and by accepting who I was defined who I became. It was the start of something special — my story.”
Stephanie Rudnick has excelled on and off the basketball court. From being ranked #1 in the country at the time, to being a camp director at 20 and coordinating 32 camps, to publishing a book “Life as a Sport”, she has given it her all so that she could carve out a great future for herself.
Today she is the proud owner of Elite Camps, which has been running year-round basketball camps and programs in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) since 1999. It caters to over 6,500 athletes every year making it one of the largest and longest running basketball camps in Canada.
What basketball gave to her taught her everything she needed to know to become an entrepreneur. She also wanted to give that experience to other children.
“My mission has always been to teach basketball and life lessons through sport.”
Some notable milestones:
- Started off with 1 week, grew to full summer/all school breaks
- Branched from TO to Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Thornhill
- 16th year tried overnight camps — doubled enrollment in second year
- Built Elite Training Centre (ETC) in Toronto
- 2018 got kicked out of overnight camp space. Bought 75 acres in southwest Bruce Peninsula and built own overnight camp in over 9 months
- Doubled enrollment but then COVID hit
Breaking through the barriers
When you first set out to start a business you don’t really think about the next few years. You have a vision, and you want to see it unfold, so you dive right into it.
As an entrepreneur, plans change, and you need to find creative solutions.
A year later, you find yourself pregnant and realize mat leave was not included in your business plan, “oops.”
“This was my first real barrier; one I had not planned for. But I figured out very quickly how to work and stay focused. I brought my newborn son with me. This was my business, and he was my responsibility, so I took charge. The plan changed when I had my second son, my husband took 9 months off so I could focus on building the business."
Her next challenge came when she found herself on the construction site among 60 men, who thought she was her husband’s administrator. Sad but true. While she was not intimidated by them, she did get a sense that they did not think she would succeed.
“I was very articulate and laid out my plans, but what really helped was making them feel comfortable and part of the team. Once I broke these walls down, they no longer saw me as this female administrator, they saw me as an empowered entrepreneur who wanted her vision to come to life.”
Top 5 advice I would give to other female entrepreneurs:
1. Find a mentor early, for business, for personal, take them for a coffee (find a few!)
2. Find your tribe. I joined a group called Entrepreneurs' Organization. Before finding them, I felt very alone. When I was writing books and building buildings, my friends didn't understand.
3. Read a lot. I taught myself everything I didn't know about business and leadership. Biographies by other entrepreneurs are my personal favourite.
4. When people tell you you're crazy it means you're onto something big so keep going.
5. When people tell you that your idea has already been done, do it anyway. If you're passionate about it, do it.
How TD helped Stephanie on her business journey
“TD was my husband’s bank since he was a little kid, so I naturally became a client too.
My first real experience with TD Small Business Banking was when I wanted to start construction for the basketball camp. I had an idea of what the cost would be, but when working with my Account Manager, they advised me that a Business Line of Credit (BLOC) could come in handy because construction projects can go sideways very easily.
He was right! Without the BLOC I would not have been able to do it, I basically used most of it. I was fortunate enough to pay it off after construction was complete. When COVID hit, I still needed that access to credit so again, I was grateful that it was there.
Having a personal Account Manager who understood me, and my situation really helped me to move forward. I’m very grateful.”
TD’s products and Tools
Whether you want to expand your line of products or services, increase your capacity and customer base, or are looking for ways to maximize profits, explore our available tools, articles, and resources to help you grow your business.
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Get in touch:
Deborah Cherenfant, Regional Manager Women in Enterprise, Eastern Canadadeborah.firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Monaco, Regional Manager Women in Enterprise, Central Canadajennifer.email@example.com
Melanie Campbell, Regional Manager Women in Enterprise, Western Canadamelanie.firstname.lastname@example.org
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