Women in Business Awards: Rising Star

Johanne Paquette: brings personal touch to Speakwell

As a teacher and academic, business had never really occurred to Johanne Paquette as a career choice. But sometimes, a happy accident is all it takes to discover a true passion.

Today, Paquette is the owner of Speakwell speakers bureau and the Black Press Women in Business Awards Rising Star.

Nominated by husband Rob Dyke, a competitive swimmer, triathlete and now businessman, and Nobel Prize-winning UVic environmental scientist Dr. Andrew Weaver, Paquette has grown Speakwell from a fledgling collection of speakers to a thriving company with some of the top names in science, business, sport, and health and wellness.

Paquette was a teacher in Montreal when she moved to the University of Victoria for graduate studies. Teaching while finishing her PhD, it was there she met Dyke, shortly before his big swim around Vancouver Island to raise money for charity.

At the time, Dyke had also taken over the Speakwell business from founder and wellness pioneer Dr. Martin Collis, but was more interested in developing new wellness products than growing the speaker bureau.” When he was approached to provide a keynote address, he asked Paquette, now his wife, to look after the details. Though she had never negotiated anything similar before, she managed to get Dyke a very good deal, and from then, she was hooked.

“Wow – this business thing – there’s something in this,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a very interesting game if you put your mind to it.”

Soon after, Paquette bought the company and set out to develop her speaker base, marketing the company and utilizing her extensive network of family friends and work colleagues. Today, Speakwell “has a limited roster of speakers that share a common belief: that a talk can be a catalyst to inspire positive change. Speakwell chooses its speakers very carefully to ensure that each one will give you that exceptional inspirational talk you seek – every time.”

Among her favourite coups? Business expert Peter Johnson was huge, she says. “I was very proud of that one because he’s a negotiator.”

Paquette currently has about 20 speakers and is developing a youth speaker series, which provides both experience to newer speakers and a more affordable selection of knowledgeable, engaging speakers for organizations that may not be able to afford the more high-profile individuals.

Erin Van Wittenburg, for example, is a young woman who ran 4,200 kilometres across Africa to raise money for youth education in Africa and is a fabulous speaker. “There are lots of young, talented Victoria people who have done great things and have an amazing story to tell,” Paquette says. “I’m trying to give them an avenue to start their speaking careers.”

Throughout the growth of her business, Paquette has remained clear that at this point, she wants to stay small enough to provide her clients the personal attention that is a hallmark of her business philosophy. “If you get too big, it’s harder to market effectively and provide that personal attention I want to give clients.”

As Paquette has worked through her first few years of business, balancing those hours with being a mom to 3 1/2-year-old Hudson, an interesting by-product has been the development of new skills such as website design, and the creation of the complementary J Media Design.

“I’ve learned a lot of things,” she reflects. “At first I used to approach speakers and clients very clinically or academically. Then Rob said, ‘Just relax and think about what you would like to hear, and what as a speaker you would like to receive.’”

With that in mind, the job became much simpler. “My role is to be the agent for my speakers – to represent them the best I can – but also to keep in mind what the client wants.”

One of her proudest business achievements stems from a very difficult negotiation for Dr. Weaver. “It was the first time I had to really fight for my client,” Paquette remembers. “I had to put my foot down and I felt a little bad about it, but it worked and I was very, very proud of myself. It was a great win for me and it gave me a lot of confidence.”

While it hasn’t always been easy, “I have found that trusting my instincts has paid off. That was a good lesson for me to learn.

“I’m enjoying this business thing!”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Various Victoria locations were hit with a slew of anti-bylaw graffiti Wednesday. This image has been altered to cover up profane language. (Submitted photo)
UPDATED: Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti an ‘unacceptable’ form of communication says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

Greg Chow is the 2021 Local Hero of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fighting fire a family affair for Colwood Assistant Chief Greg Chow

With 38 years of service, Greg Chow is the 2021 Hero of the Year

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Most Read