Community//

Kayla Isabelle: “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for”

Whatever you are going through, whether it be in your personal or work life, chances are someone else has had to navigate the same hurdles. Reach out to subject matter experts who have navigated the same challenges. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiding your feelings of anxiety, especially in a business setting. […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Whatever you are going through, whether it be in your personal or work life, chances are someone else has had to navigate the same hurdles. Reach out to subject matter experts who have navigated the same challenges.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiding your feelings of anxiety, especially in a business setting. Be honest about your anxieties and try to have a two way conversation with yourself about what you are feeling.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayla Isabelle.

Kayla is the CEO of Startup Canada, the national rallying community supporting Canada’s 3.5 million entrepreneurs. Kayla has dedicated her career to supporting entrepreneurs, both in Canada and internationally. Kayla is the Board Chair of the Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation, the Host of the THRIVE Podcast for Women Entrepreneurs, and the President of the International Association of Business Communicators Ottawa Chapter.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Up until now, my career path has taken me across the world and immersed me in many different industries and sectors. I began at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario where I received a degree in communications and psychology. After school, I went into fast-paced and high profile consulting in the private sector, public sector, and for non-profit organizations. From there, I moved to Tanzania where I worked in a capacity building role with the local government and independent private sector organizations within the tourism industry. Working with entrepreneurs in Tanzania was a catalyst for wanting to do more for the entrepreneurial community, so I eventually began working for Startup Canada and came into my current role as CEO. My dad is a fiery, and hard working entrepreneur, so I have always resonated with entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial mindset! I was forged in that fire from a young age. However, my draw to the startup community is somewhat unique. I do not have an interest in building my own company, but I have always been drawn to supporting entrepreneurs and being a part of the ecosystem. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the Canadian startup support space.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

While I’m an extremely avid reader of non-fiction, memoirs, and business books, my favourite piece is the children’s story, The Little Prince. The Little Prince has had such an impact on both my personal and professional life, with the narrative that each person you meet in your life has a lesson they can teach you. The book also touches deeply on the idea of following your instincts and knowing with your heart — something that is deeply rooted in how I live my life. The Little Prince also teaches us to not take ourselves so seriously and to live with a child-like enthusiasm. This last piece of advice can and should be carried over into how you run your business — have fun with it, be curious, and trust your gut!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Demonstrations of innovation and resilience. Time and time again, we have seen businesses across all industries and sectors pivot their business models, customer relations strategies and general operations to adapt to the many challenges brought on by COVID-19. Some examples of the innovation and resilience displayed by Canada’s entrepreneurial community was showcased at this year’s CANIE Awards, launched by The Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation (IEF) in collaboration with Startup Canada, Sovereign Insurance, UPS, Mastercard, and Scotiabank. Regional winners of the Product Innovation Award included: Deep Trekker, Chinova Bioworks, Growing Greener Innovations Inc., Vital Tracer Ltd., and EnWave.
  2. Connecting with the community. In Startup Canada’s consultations, the most wanted and needed type of event was a place to come together and talk openly. This new trend, catalyzed by the pandemic, proves the desire for us to stay connected both within business and personal circles. Despite having to meet in new ways through digital platforms, COVID-19 has positively impacted the way we interact with our community and made us realize the importance of connectivity.
  3. Digital modernization at a faster rate. The pandemic has forced many in the business world to adopt more advanced technologies that can accommodate employees working from home, fully online methods of client acquisition, and all other business management elements that were previously done in-person.
  4. Recognition that it’s ok not to be ok. While COVID-19 has had negative impacts on many people’s general wellbeing, one positive impact is the conversation it has started regarding mental health and self care (and balancing screen time at home)!
  5. Getting to know people more personally. With most of the workforce transitioning to a work from home model, we get to see inside the homes and families of our bosses, employees and co-workers. Despite seeing each other less in-person, this switch to fully digital platforms has helped to keep humanness at the core of how we lead our teams and how we do business.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. Amidst the current crisis, many of us have felt like we have lost a certain degree of control over our own lives as a result of quarantine measures, social distancing protocols, and general fears surrounding the virus. In response to this, anchor yourselves in what you do have control over.
  2. Whatever you are going through, whether it be in your personal or work life, chances are someone else has had to navigate the same hurdles. Reach out to subject matter experts who have navigated the same challenges.
  3. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiding your feelings of anxiety, especially in a business setting. Be honest about your anxieties and try to have a two way conversation with yourself about what you are feeling.
  4. The pandemic has likely added a number or tasks and responsibilities to your to-do list, whether that be at home, at work, or within your community. Identify things to take off your plate — not everything can be a priority right now.
  5. No matter the setting, don’t feel like you need to have answers and solutions right away. Sometimes just listening is enough — don’t listen to respond, listen to understand.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

  1. Create a routine. Certain repetitive actions or tasks not only benefit your physical health (getting enough sleep, daily hygiene rituals, exercise, etc.), but they can also improve your mental health by reducing stress levels. My morning routine has been a game changer to increase my productivity!
  2. Find moments and activities that anchor you. Actively identifying and practicing activities that anchor you can help reduce anxiety immensely. These activities should be something you enjoy doing while also ensuring they take your undivided attention and, as a result, should reduce stress and bring your emotions back into balance. I find an afternoon tea and a 20 minute podcast episode is incredible restorative, and anchoring.
  3. Physical exercise. We all know this to be true. When we exercise, we produce endorphins — a natural painkiller and stress reliever. These endorphins also help us to sleep, which is a big element of stress management, and particularly challenging for entrepreneurs who can’t “turn off”!
  4. Mental health-specific resources. The current pandemic has had devastating impacts for many, making it incredibly difficult to self-manage their anxiety levels. Some mental health specific resources can be found through: SnapClarity, CMHA, and BDC.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” — Oprah Winfrey

In 2019, I quit my stable, high profile consulting job and moved to Tanzania to work with entrepreneurs. While it was a daunting decision at first, I gave myself permission to ask what I truly wanted and it paid off in the long run. We should all be able to ask ourselves what we want at different times and acknowledge that this will change overtime. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of not waiting for the perfect time to take action because, the reality is, that perfect moment will likely never come. Instead, realize that you have much more agency over your own life than you give yourself credit for. This quote is also applicable in a very literal sense — do not be afraid to ask the people around you for help. Especially in the entrepreneurial sector, people want to see you succeed so have the courage to ask.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement of embedding selfless support for others into our daily lives. If everyone were to commit one hour of their time to mentor or support another person, personally or professionally, we could work together in creating a more connected and empowered community. Just one hour of our time, the same as watching an hour long TV show, could make such a significant difference in the lives of those around us.

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Three Moms Who Prove that Having Children Should Not Stop You from Creating Your Success

by Heather DeSantis
Community//

We Can Be Heroes

by Phil La Duke
Courtesy of Kayla Fitzgerald
Community//

How Sports Illustrated Swim Star Kayla Fitzgerald Uses Her Platform To Advocate for Petite Models

by Skylar Terrana

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.