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Whether it is bringing a vision into focus, illuminating a business idea, or inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs, Catherine Priestman, President and CEO of CP Business Solutions Inc., has always put her skills, her personality and her all into everything she does.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was eight,” says Cathy, citing everything from digging up worms and selling them to fishermen as a small child, to running a summer “nursery school” when she was 10, and making and selling clothes for Cabbage Patch dolls when she was 14.
You might think those early entrepreneurial endeavours would have sent her directly down the path to where she is now – a respected business leader, successful small business owner and gifted corporate image strategy/marketing professional. But she went down another road first.
Responding to a strong call to serve, Cathy joined the military. It was there that she honed her skills in thinking quickly and acting decisively by specializing in logistics. What’s more, the military also satisfied her desire to make a difference in the lives of others, where she participated in relief efforts and peacekeeping missions, among other opportunities.
For Cathy, making the move from the military to marketing wasn’t so much a leap as a natural progression.
“In the military, I loved problem solving. I loved huge projects with multiple moving parts. I thrived on figuring out how all the pieces could fit and work together in an optimal way, and making sure no details were overlooked,” she says.
It was this ingenuity and creativity that motivated Cathy to found CP Business Solutions Inc., a team of image strategists and creative problem solvers she has led for 20+ years (the business itself has been incorporated since 2012). Built on the principles of uncovering potential, inspiring creativity, instilling trust and developing solutions, CP Business Solutions continually strives to exceed expectations with marketing excellence – goals that can be linked back to Cathy’s military days.
“I’m fascinated, when I think about it, by how my early experience transfers to my current career,” Cathy says. “For example, corporate image strategy is not just about having a pretty logo. It’s about defining what you want your organization to be and how you want to share that with your client base. Yes, it’s about having a business card you’re proud to hand out. But much more than that, it’s about ensuring you have a cohesive brand, appearance, impact and approach in everything you do, across all platforms, in every aspect of what your business is and how it runs.”
It is precisely when all of those moving parts come together that inspires Cathy to keep doing what she’s doing.
“What I get excited about is creating solutions that make other people look good,” she says. “Nailing down a corporate image strategy can be a complicated process. But when we get it right, when we make that connection with our clients and evoke an emotional response, when we highlight our clients so that they can succeed, when we create something awesome that helps someone else springboard forward – that fuels me!”
Cathy has always had a strong social conscience, and corporate social responsibility is embedded into her company’s daily operations. This also comes through in the many ways she gives back to the community and inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Cathy pays it forward through her charitable giving campaign, The Spotlight Fund, through which interested organizations that are positive and forward-thinking like hers can apply for a complimentary “Spotlight Session” where they can meet with Cathy and her team and tap into their marketing and planning expertise.
She is also driven to help out young entrepreneurs, such as she once was, with her Junior Entrepreneurs program. Knowing that there are many kids out there who have innovative ideas for businesses, Cathy says it’s up to people like her to take responsibility for supporting and believing in them, validating their ideas, developing their skills, and giving them the spirit and confidence to take their ideas to the next level.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is that I’m setting an example for my own children and other young people,” she says. “I especially want young women to see that they can play prominent roles in business.”
This is why Cathy recently established the Elizabeth Priestman Spirit of Giving Scholarship, named for her mother, a teacher by profession and a life-long learner. This scholarship was developed to empower young Canadian women who are making a difference in their lives and the lives of others, and creating a positive impact in their community.
Ultimately, Cathy believes that it is her duty to share her experiences with others and to help wherever she can.
“By talking about my day, about the decisions I had to make, the challenges I had and how I overcame them, I can empower the next generation,” she says. That includes being open about both her successes and her struggles.
Whether she is working or mentoring, Cathy appreciates how her career and her roles have evolved over the years and looks forward to whatever opportunities might spark her interest and involvement in the future.