By Jenn Watt
Meeting Oprah Winfrey was on Lisa Larter’s bucket list so when she heard the famed talk show host was coming to Ottawa she started planning.
While most people would buy a ticket to Winfrey’s show or stand outside to catch a glimpse of her coming out of the hotel Larter thought bigger.
She and a friend figured out where Winfrey was staying and negotiated a price with the hotel to throw a celebration party dedicated to Oprah. Each woman recruited five speakers who would pay $500 to get on stage which covered the cost of the space. Then they got in touch with Winfrey’s company Harpo to discuss legalities of using the Oprah name. In the end 400 people showed up to event the venue was paid off and Larter got to meet Oprah Winfrey.
“Meeting Oprah was a big challenge so in my mind I’m thinking about ‘how can I make this happen?’” said Larter in a phone interview from her winter home in Florida.
“I just believe that you need to set big goals and go after them.”
And while meeting Winfrey was an impressive feat it’s relatively minor compared to what Larter’s accomplished in the last decade: the newly released bestselling book Pilot to Profit a successful career in telecommunications an online retail store and a lucrative consulting venture.
Born and raised in Haliburton Larter always had a knack for sales and a penchant for entrepreneurship. At age 12 she got her first job at Banks’ General Store on Pine Avenue which she kept for exactly one day until it was discovered that she was too young to be working.
But she wanted to make money so young Lisa found a way around it.
“I took all my toys my books crafts to the flea market and I started selling things at the Haliburton flea market to be able to buy the things that I wanted” she said.
She went on to work at the Molou and then Stedman’s where she would actively strive to sell product chatting up customers and finding ways to get them interested in merchandise.
“Here I am 13 years old and I’m dressing the windows at Stedman’s and I am taking people who say they’re just looking and I’m trying to figure out how to get them to buy something” she said.
Her mother Donna Larter was raising her daughter by herself and working at the veneer plant in Wilberforce. There wasn’t much extra money when the bills were paid meaning if Lisa wanted something she needed to make the money herself.
Not everything went smoothly. Larter moved in Ottawa for her final year of high school and ended up quitting before she had completed Grade 13. In her 20s there were times when she lived in overdraft and was awash in overdue bills.
While school had taught her much it hadn’t given her the practical skills related to business she says.
She had to learn it herself.
Over the years Larter worked in retail and in the telecommunications industry and then went out on her own in 2006 running her own company. Since then she’s embarked on a whirlwind of endeavours. She created her own online business. She became a business consultant. She gave speeches to other entrepreneurs. She became a social media expert. Then she wrote a book.
Published on Jan. 5 Pilot to Profit: Navigating Modern Entrepreneurship to Build Your Business Using Online Marketing Social Media Content Marketing and Sales was immediately a bestseller on Amazon.
The book covers four main areas: business foundations content creation selling to people and social media.
“A lot of business owners they start a business with a great idea but nobody has ever taught them how to sell” says Larter.
Much of what holds people back are attitudes they formed early in life – beliefs that have to be identified and addressed before progress can happen she says.
One of those attitudes is that making money is bad.
“You don’t really have a business until you start making money and a lot of entrepreneurs are uncomfortable monetizing what they do because we’ve been taught for so long that money doesn’t grow on trees and you should get a job and stay with your job and be happy with what you have … so there’s a lot of guilt that comes along with success for business owners” she says.
One’s upbringing often informs a person’s attitudes which feed into feelings that lead to actions; it’s incredibly important not to let oneself be held down by self-imposed limitations she says.
“When I left Haliburton my big crazy very audacious goal was I want to make $50000 a year by the time I was 30. The year that I was 30 I made $350000” she says. “Then for the next few years I stagnated.”
It was because Larter had already surpassed what she thought she was capable of. She had to redefine her goals. “So you have to stretch that upper limit and start to dream bigger.”
New technology has made entrepreneurship simpler for those wanting to go out on their own particularly for those wanting to live in small rural places.
Larter left Haliburton as a teenager and moved to the city – Ottawa – but it wasn’t long until she decided to settle in a small place once more. Because of the Internet and the far-reaching powers of Twitter Facebook and other social media she is able to work from wherever she likes.
“I moved my business from Ottawa to Nova Scotia in 2015 and I had a 23 per cent increase in business from 2014 to 2015. Living in a small town didn’t limit my business at all but people said to me aren’t you afraid you’re going to lose business if you’re not in Ottawa anymore? Didn’t affect me” she says.
Larter’s book Pilot to Profit is published by Morgan James Publishing. Details about where to buy it (including Amazon.com Chapters Indigo and more) can be found at http://lisalarter.com/book.