Doing It for the Girls
5 February 2019
Claudine Labelle, entrepreneur #authentic
Through FitSpirit, Claudine Labelle not only encourages teenagers to get moving, she also emphasizes training, research, and the transfer of knowledge as a way of implementing lasting change in society.
Before becoming the highly inspiring businesswoman encouraging teenage girls across the country to get moving, Claudine Labelle was an elite cyclist with an Olympic dream. Then, one day while training for a big competition in Toronto, she was hit by a car. She was just 22. She suffered a severe head injury which put an end to her career as a high-performance athlete. Unable to concentrate (and even to read), she spent two years in rehab before finding her way back to some resemblance of normal life. Then, she became a mother, which helped her redefine her purpose and priorities.
“The accident was the biggest thing I’ve ever had to overcome, and I’m still working to get there. But it also taught me a great deal. When we go through challenging periods, have to surmount hurdles and deal with grief, there is often something greater waiting for us at the other end. Like a back wind that comes and helps you spread your wings.”
Getting Knocked Down, But Getting Up Again
Claudine Labelle recalled what it felt like when, as a younger woman, she coached swimming to underprivileged children. “At a time when I was focussed on performance, this experience opened my eyes to the other virtues of physical activity.” When reading about the problem of inactivity amongst teenage girls — 90% of 12-17-year-olds don’t get enough exercise — Claudine had a lightbulb moment.
The business bug she’d caught as a child when she used strategy to raise funds for her sporting activities suddenly came back, and stronger than ever. “Getting support from my community, getting people to come together for a common goal… that’s always been part of my DNA. I had to create something, not a product, but an initiative, and I decided to create an NPO because I wanted young girls to get the moral and financial support they needed.” The FitSpirit foundation was established in 2007 and focusses on fun and the absence of competition to encourage teenage girls to get active.
Beyond the Girl, a Revolution Is Needed
To launch her project, Claudine began by investing her own money. Then, she built a network of people who wanted to get involved. Before approaching money lenders, she made sure she was ready by setting the bar very high, ensuring she met all their criteria. “I started by approaching businesses because that came to me the most naturally.” The social entrepreneur then began to develop partnerships with schools and communities, organizing meaningful events and experiences.
Other organizations have joined FitSpirit over time, not only bringing financial and strategic support, but also helping to push the social impact of the initiative even further. “What we’ve realized is that beyond the girl, the whole system needs to be revolutionized so that the girl can get moving in a better context. We need parents, teachers, the government, universities and other organizations that work with them to get involved.”
FitSpirit has just completed its first major fundraising campaign, raising 11 million dollars. This amount will help the organization continue rolling out its program across the country, but also develop online support platforms and contribute to university research into young girls.
Authenticity remains a major trend for 2019–2020. Here at Danièle Henkel.tv, we believe that Claudine Labelle is a great example of an authentic entrepreneur who uses confidence, consistency and coherence to inspire others.