Need something done? Want an introduction? Not sure where to look?
Talk to Sarah Byrne.
The Glovertown, N.L., native has been involved in running businesses since she was 12 years old when she started working for her parents’ campground in Central Newfoundland.
“When I was working for my parents, my official role was activities co-ordinator and assistant manager. But by the time I was 16, I was managing the day-to-day operations of the business. I was the person who was involved in reservations, I was in charge of the kids programs, all of the fundraising. I was kind of doing whatever needed to be done,” she said.
“They started calling me ‘The Fixer.’ If there was a problem with the business or a client who was angry or something needed to be done, then I was called,” she added. “It’s me who deals with all of the client stuff that needs to be dealt with immediately. I’ve had emails at midnight from a client saying, ‘I need this done, like, right now. Can you do it, please?’ And my answer is always ‘yes.’”
Ms. Byrne says her commerce degree has given her the skills to be better at what she has been doing for years: running businesses.
“I started running my first business when I was 13.”
“I’ve always kind of had an entrepreneurial spirit. I started running my first business when I was 13. It was a small marketing business [and] I basically just did marketing pieces for my parents’ business and a couple of other local businesses. I always kind of knew that I wanted to do something on my own but now I have the skills to do it.”
Breadth of business interests
She began her studies intending to concentrate on accounting. Instead, she discovered a greater breadth of business interests, particularly in small business and strategy.
“I don’t know that I could have gotten any more out of the five years that I did in commerce,” she said. “All of the things that I did and all of the courses that I took have kind of given me this 30,000-foot view of business, and now, of course, I have a small business that I run and it’s given me a much more holistic look at the business side of things. I was always familiar with the day-in and day-out side of business, but developing strategy and doing the accounting pieces and understanding how things fit together has come out of my commerce degree.”
Ms. Byrne is the chief executive officer of Click Search and Social, an online marketing company that she started with classmate Krissy Hussey and per course instructor Terry Hussey. The company grew out of an online branding course at the business faculty when Ms. Byrne and Ms. Hussey were placed together for group work.
“Our group had a fantastic dynamic. We were productive, we were efficient and we really enjoyed working together. And at the end of it, we didn’t want to give up on what we were doing, so we formed a small business.”
Mr. Hussey had already hired Ms. Byrne for his company, Vigilant Management, and as his teaching assistant. Ms. Byrne completed two of her three mandatory work terms at Vigilant and now works there full time.
“My role started out as operations co-ordinator, so I was basically just doing the day-to-day stuff for the business and making sure that whoever needed anything it was done.”
But her role at the company has grown. She’s now an integral member of the management team, responsible for financial tasks, business development and general strategy for Vigilant. Ms. Byrne says her role is to ensure that everyone on the Vigilant team has everything they need to conduct their work and ensure that issues are dealt with as quickly as possible.
The challenge of balance
For Ms. Byrne, working part-time while completing her commerce degree was challenging but rewarding.
“I never got to go to the end of school class party because I was at a board of advisors meeting for the business. It was just a step out of school and a step into a bigger role,” she said. “There were days when I thought, ‘I don’t know what to do! Do I do school or do I do work?’ But it’s quite fulfilling to know that, as a student, you can be trusted with so much.”
Ms. Byrne has been accepted to law school at Dalhousie University in the fall, education she intends to combine with her business background as she develops her career.
“I want to do business law. I think it’s probably the connection to the small business. It’s really difficult for a small business to be able to hire a lawyer. It’s really expensive. I eventually want to be able to set up my own boutique firm where I can service the small businesses that maybe can’t afford a big fancy lawyer with marble settings. I kind of want to be the middle ground for small businesses.”
Ms. Byrne will graduate with a bachelor of commerce (co-op.) (hons.) degree on June 1.