After spending years in the corporate world, Elizabeth Vieira-Richard struck out on her own to play in a sandbox.
A professional coach and mentor, the Prince George resident said when she connects with her clients, she immerses herself into their lives.
"I get a chance to step into people's sandboxes and play with them," she explained.
While the sandbox may be metaphorical, her success and effectiveness is real.
Vieira-Richard left a career with Fortune 100 companies in North and South America to start her own professional development company in the early 1990s in Toronto. She moved to B.C. in 1997 with her husband and settled in Prince George in 2003.
"I wanted to work with individuals, make a difference to individuals' lives and to be able to manage my own life. So I did that and never looked back," Vieira-Richard said.
Now known as People Dynamics Inc., the mother - and grandmother - of six is kept busy with a steady stable of clients across the country.
Vieira-Richard was recently honoured by the Women's Enterprise Centre for volunteering her know-how over the past several years as part of their mentoring program.
The centre, which focuses on helping women starting or growing a small business in B.C., surprised Vieira-Richard with the recognition at its Kelowna office last week.
"Elizabeth Vieira-Richard's expertise, knowledge and experience has made a significant impact on the lives of many women entrepreneurs. She has been a source of inspiration to many women," said Women's Enterprise Centre CEO Laurel Douglas. "Without amazing volunteers like Elizabeth we would not continue to be the leading resource for women entrepreneurs in BC."
The Guyana native said she began mentoring because she had effective guiding hands along the way. "There are a lot of people who clipped feathers off my wings. So it's just about clipping feathers when you need it, or when you don't realize you need it," she said.
Vieira-Richard enjoys the connection she feels during a mentor or coach relationship.
"I forget about the world when I'm with my clients," she said. "It's nice to see them get their 'a-ha' moments."
One of her own moments of enlightenment came when she realized there was a void in the market for leaders with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In addition to being the only master certified coach in the north, Vieira-Richard is the only coach for people with or affected by ADHD as well.
She said it's not unusual to find businesspeople with the disorder and that part of the reason she wanted to work with these individuals was also to help remove some of the stigma that they're too unfocused to do the job.
"There's not anyone else around, except for medical people. I wanted to be able to work and play with those people, help them to have someone who could understand, someone who could help them through some things," Vieira-Richard said. "They tend to feel that they're somewhat isolated and that they can't do certain things, but they forget about the things they can do."