Locelle delivers personal and professional development to women at work. On June 5th, Douglas Magazine named the Victoria-based company as one of their 10 to Watch, and CEO, Humaira Ahmed, was featured on the cover for their latest issue.

Interview with Humaira Ahmed, CEO.

You’ve been in the NVBC community for years. First, as a VAP client, and now as a Competitor and part of the Discovery Foundation Sales Acceleration cohort. How did NVBC programs help Locelle transform over time?

I joined the VAP before I even knew what I was going to do! I had the concept but didn’t know much about the startup world, so I did some research and found NVBC.

When you’re just starting out and you don’t have that prior experience starting a tech company there’s a lot of work to do and you don’t know how to even start.

I learned all of that with the help of my Executive in Residence, Ean. In our weekly meetings, I realized how much I didn’t know and it helped change my perspective on startups.

Joining the VAP was definitely one of the best things I did, and it happened at the right time.

As a competitor, one of the things that really stands out for me is that, regardless of the outcome, you get to take a clear look at your business. You have to share your plans, how you’re going to market, how you’re going to distribute, etc.

I’ve participated in the competition a few times, but it’s been so refreshing getting that outside perspective, judges’ feedback, and how we can improve. It’s incredibly insightful and a great learning experience.

About the Discovery Foundation Sales Acceleration, I can say hands down it’s one of the best accelerator programs I’ve been a part of, especially when it comes to growing your business.

I believe now that as founders we need to figure out what is that founder-led sales model, because as founders if you can not sell you’re going to have a lot of challenges.

You’re the person who knows your business the most, who  knows the value proposition of your business the most.

Peter (one of the mentors) really helped with that. And we ended up growing over 1000% since we joined the accelerator, which is huge!

It’s been incredible and the support has been great. NVBC has been such a great community that I can always tap into, especially as we continue to grow.

Does any advice that you received stand out as something that helped you get where you are today?

The one piece of advice that I got consistently is “before you build, leave the office–get out and talk to people”.

In my experience, I’ve never seen any business start off with an offering and continue to build upon that. Every business has had to iterate and change, because when you finally launch a product or service in the market, you realize what people actually need.

You’ve just won the “10 To Watch” Award by Douglas Magazine: how does it feel to be nominated for the award? Any advice for new entrepreneurs on Vancouver Island?

It’s awesome!

Even after I got the call that we won, it didn’t really hit me until it was announced and I started to get calls from former colleagues or even the neighbours.

As a founder you’re busy selling and growing, and you don’t realize the value of that external validation. It’s always great when these awards happen because you get known in the community.

For advice for new entrepreneurs on Vancouver Island, I would say… talk to and connect with other founders. Now, it’s so accessible to connect with other entrepreneurs, and that’s what I did when I started out: I looked for the top three people that I could connect with.

I’d suggest having a top 10 list of people and reach out to them 10 times, until you either hear back, or you hear a no.

I recently connected with an amazing entrepreneur–they have a company with more than 100 employees, and by connecting with them I learned about their challenges.

So, talk to people you admire and ask about their challenges and their journey–you’d be really surprised by what you can learn!

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