We’re excited to announce a new program… our Female Founders series! On the first Tuesday of every month we’ll announce a new Female Founder, including a video interview of them sharing their business story.
Want to be featured as a Female Founder? Contact Heather Hutchings for more details.
The first Female Founder that we’re featuring is Jennifer Seberras, President & CEO of Simplify Supply Chain Solutions.
Simplify Supply Chain Solutions is a courier company providing package delivery for businesses across Ontario.
Jennifer Seberras discovered supply chain and logistics 20 years ago. Right away, she fell in love with the possibility of making something so intricate into something simple. As she rose through the ranks of different companies, she noticed there were not many women occupying significant roles in transportation, operations, and supply chain. Jennifer decided to create the change that she wanted to see and Simplify Supply Chain Solutions was born. Now nine years later, Simplify Supply Chain Solutions provides warehousing and delivery service across Ontario. Simplify fleet includes both dry and refrigerated services for home and business deliveries. In 2021 Simplify delivered approximately 4 million packages with over delivery success rate of 99.87%.
To learn more about Jennifer and her journey as a Female Founder, watch the interview below (or read the written format).
Why did you want to be an Entrepreneur?
A lot of people set out to become an entrepreneur. I really didn’t. In the industry that I’m in, being transport and operations, there wasn’t a lot of female representation in manager roles and senior roles. So, that was a big one. I wanted to see that change.
How did you come up with the name for your company?
With every company or every sector, there’s always a lot of red tape where things just get held up. At the end of the day, with logistics we need move things from point A to point B. I really wanted to simplify logistics and transportation and so Simplify, that’s pretty much where it came from.
And the symbol of Simplify is not a complete circle. And the point of that is that there’s always room for improvement. There’s always room to grow as a company, and learning every day how we can do better.
How did the pandemic impact you and your business?
The last two years were absolutely insane. I’m really lucky. I’ve had a great team with me, and so we achieved incredible milestones that, to be honest, we didn’t think that we could probably achieve. But when your feet are to the fire, you just work hard and get it done and work as a team unit. So that was a big thing.
But even with growing – it showed me that growth is great, but it’s also important to see what’s important to you: The culture, the organization, are the people in the right places? So, yeah, going really hard at it, but also remembering, you know, is this growth something that we want? And are we growing properly?
Why did you choose Waterloo Region to establish your business in?
The Kitchener Waterloo area has been an area that I always liked. There’s a lot of great businesses here. I was introduced with the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber, and they’ve been so supportive of me and my business. And there were times when I was starting out as an entrepreneur that coming to the “Peer to Peers” with the KW Chamber made a huge difference. And I don’t know, they’ve always just accepted me. I found that any business opportunity that came along in the KW Chamber, they’ve always been very welcoming and inclusive. I really like this area and I’ll continue to grow the business here.
What core values are important to you when building your team?
To be honest, we grew exponentially. And for me, building a positive culture was extremely important. And so when we grew to the height of what we were, I made a conscious decision to scale Simplify back down. I learned a lot of lessons in growing quite quickly at that speed. When we took the approach to scale down, focus on the culture, focus on who we wanted as customers and who we wanted on our team, it was important that I just sat back and really thought about what I want for Simplify and what I want to see.
First and foremost, everybody that works for Simplify is qualified, but at the same time, everybody that’s at Simplify understands that there’s no glass ceiling. And for me, building a proper culture with the right people is extremely important. I’m not perfect by any means, but I work towards that goal every day.
How do you define success?
Success for me professionally is making sure that my team members know that Simplify will be here tomorrow, next year, ten years, a hundred years from now. I don’t run my business on finances. Obviously, you have to have money to run a business, but to me, finance and business and success don’t equate. It’s making sure that my team’s happy to come into work every day and that our customers are happy with our service and that our team likes dealing with the customers that we have and interacting with them. That’s professional success for me.
Personal success for me is honestly just being a good role model to my kids, my daughters, my nieces. I take exceptional pride when my niece asks me to speak at her school. My nieces think, and my daughter thinks, it’s the coolest thing when I do speaking engagements and talk about what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur. It seems like it might not be difficult, but it’s a pretty crazy road. So to me, personal success is making sure that the people that I love and respect are proud of what I’m doing every day.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
I mean, I’ve experienced a lot of… you name it. I can tell you, from the beginning of my journey in logistics, I remember being called into the human resource office of a fairly large company because the HR lady told me that people were offended that my hair was out. And we’re not talking about 50 years ago, we’re talking like 15-20 years ago. And it threw me back because, being an individual who is half-white half-black, I took offense to it. And instead of being angry at it, I make it a point to always have my hair out when I do things like this and when I’m speaking, because I believe that visual representation is extremely important.
So aside from the challenges of being a female in my industry, when you’re expressing your opinion and having somebody completely dismiss your opinion or having to work ten times harder, or being called “aggressive” because being a Black female intimidated people for some reason. Honestly, I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity in my field. But I was very lucky to grow up with a mom who from the day I was born, used to always say, “people that will love you and hate you in this world, as long as you love yourself, that’s all that matters”. And literally, that’s one of the first things I remember my mom telling me, aside from that she loves me. I never had an issue with my confidence, so whenever I face adversity, I continue to push through it.
I grew up on motorcycles. I got my first dirt bike at seven and my first street bike when I was 16. And I remember asking my dad a few years ago, why did he get me into motorcycles? I’m the youngest. I have older brothers that aren’t into motorcycles. And I remember my dad looking at me, who’s an engineer, and very dry sense of humor and very to the book, and he said, “from when you were younger, I could tell that your personality was going to rub people the wrong way, but that you were going to do amazing things. And so I put you on a motorcycle because you’re always going to fall, and it’s really important to get back up”. And one of the main rules in riding a motorcycle is you want to look where you want to go. You’re looking way out in front of where you want to go, and you’re concentrating on that spot. I really took that as I went into my career. I just look where I want to go, and anytime I fall or take a slip, I get back up, brush myself off, and continue to look in the direction that I need to be. So, yeah, it built resilience for all the stuff that I’ve dealt with in my career.
Who inspires you?
Oh, man, I’m getting emotional. My mom was an incredible person who always made sure that we were always proud of ourselves and we continued to push ourselves. And like I said, one of the first things I remember my mom saying to me is, “people will love you and people will hate you in this world, and as long as you love yourself, that’s all that matters”. And that built an incredible amount of confidence in me – at times, confidence I probably should have had – but it built incredible confidence in me. Honestly, a lot of things that probably should have set me back in life really didn’t. I always grew up around very strong women that didn’t shame us for speaking our mind. And I remember my mom used to always say, “if you’re going to talk, talk with confidence”, so know what you’re talking about.
There’s women that I still aspire to be or to be like. Most people know who Maya Angelou is. I have her poems all over my office. I’ve been lucky to have some pretty incredible people and women in my life.
What has been the best part about starting and running your own business?
I can go for bike rides whenever I like.
No, the best thing is having an impact and being able to because I run a successful business, I’m able to do things like this and be the visual representation that is so very important to me. It’s making an impact on not just our local economy, it’s helping business owners get their packages to where they want to be. It’s growing a positive culture.
When I started Simplify, I remember in the very beginning I was like, “this is going to be easy, I’ll get a customer, no problem”. It took me almost two years to get a paying customer and I gave myself two years. So, when we got close to that two-year mark, I was like, “what did I do?”
It’s just incredible to continue to focus and to continue to build a company where people want to come and work with you and build on a positive culture – I’m very happy.
What advice would you give to other women hoping to own their own business?
I always use the Five Why Rule with anything. Ask yourself the question on why you’re doing something. And with each answer, ask yourself why to get to the root cause of why you’re truly doing something. Then in tough times, really hold on to that and push through it. My mom used to say, “think of all the women that would have stopped at this point”, and it’s imperative that you just push forward. And usually when we remember why we got into it in the first place, if we fall, we brush it off and get back up.
And the other thing would be ‘do you’, right? Do the best that you can. You know you’re going to set milestones for yourself, but realize that those milestones are always changing, and don’t be hard on yourself. Being an entrepreneur is extremely difficult, and you’re just doing the best you can every day, so have some grace with yourself.
What are three words you could use to describe yourself?
Ambitious, feminine, and trustworthy.
Do you believe there’s a winning formula to becoming a successful founder?
I think just being humble. Don’t get too big for your bridges. Always remember why you started your business. Always remember the people that helped you start the business, because nobody starts anything by themselves, and they don’t achieve anything by themselves. I would say, for success, it’s having the right team members. As founders and owners, we give a strategy of where we’d like to be, but at the end of the day, without your team, you’re not anything.
Do you have any tips on how to get more comfortable with networking?
I think being confident in the product or service that you have, being genuine – people can sense when you’re not genuine about something. I think just putting yourself into it, once you get out of your head. And if something is intimidating you, then you should do it over and over and over again until it feels comfortable to you, and then you should go find the next thing that makes you feel uncomfortable.
What tips do you have for helping grow a business?
Surrounding yourself with people that have more experience than you and have more knowledge than you, asking a lot of questions and continuing to want to grow every day to get better in the field that you’re in, to me, is really important.
Do you have any final comments?
I think this is a great series. It highlights people that are in the community and who are still very relatable. I’ve seen speakers where it’s like, to me, it’s not even helpful. I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means, but I’m just saying it’s nice to do this and highlight that stuff.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.