Phoenix from the Ashes – By Amy Singh
The more I talk to women, the more amazed I am by their inner strength, resilience, and indomitable spirit to not only survive, but succeed and help others do the same. Take Lorraine Leslie as a case in point.
In 1988, Lorraine fled a 25-year marriage for reasons of personal safety due to a series of tragic events. With only $152 to her name and the clothes she wore, she started putting her life together again.
But what has risen from those events is an inspiration “to meet people and learn who they are-their authentic selves,” says Lorraine. “Everyone has their own story and I want to help them move their lives forward.”
Having moved out on her own after leaving her devastated life behind, Lorraine was driving home to Collingwood one night from Owen Sound. She was reflecting on her chance meeting with a minister in a quiet, little cafe there. “It was there, while I was driving home, that I had an epiphany. I realized everything I had done in my life up to that point was to help other women,” she recalls.
Serving as a Metropolitan Toronto police officer in 1966, Lorraine started off her career as an advocate for change. She fought on behalf of other members of the force to change outdated rules. “When I met my husband to be, there was a rule, made back during the Depression, that members of the police force, hospital employees, school boards, and financial institutions couldn’t marry. The purpose was for those organizations to avoid having to pay a double income to any one family,” explains Lorraine.
Well, she married her husband in 1968. “Since I got that rule changed for the police, it opened the doors of opportunity everywhere else,” says Lorraine.
Over the next few years, Lorraine had three sons. Then, her husband left the force and went to work for a car finance company that frequently transferred them to different locations. One such move was to St. John’s, Newfoundland. By this time, having become a certified fitness professional and personal trainer, Lorraine exercised her entrepreneurial abilities and built a fitness empire there. “That’s where my fitness business took off,” she says.
Did it ever. After four years, and at the age of 40, Lorraine had 32 fitness rental locations, trained 24 instructors, 6,000 students, a cable TV show, and a newspaper column. She had also opened up a chain of Lorraine Leslie Dans’n Aerobics fitness classes across all the Maritime provinces. “Doing all of that taught me the grass roots skills in sales and marketing,” she says.
Before Lorraine and her family moved back to Ontario, her husband suffered an almost fatal car accident. Over time, and perhaps as a result of injuries he suffered he became more and more estranged until one day, for Lorraine, it became an issue of personal safely. “I ran from my home with nothing except the clothes on my back, my car keys, and my fitness tapes and recorder. With no family to turn to, I had to leave my boys behind and live in my car for three months. What I have now, I built from nothing,” says Leslie.
Trying to piece her life together, Lorraine rebuilt her fitness business in Ontario. In 1992, she decided to return to school and attend Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario for their Gerontology-Working with the Aged program. “I attended my college classes between fitness classes. I got strange looks from the other students because I’d show up in my leotards and track suit,” Lorraine reminisces. “I was determined to make a new life for myself so I completed the three-year program in 18 months.” She graduated with honours.
From there, we’ll fast forward a couple of years to the night Lorraine was driving home from her meeting with the minister. “I was selling advertising for hotel directories to keep a roof over my head, but knew I was destined for more,” she says. “By the time I got home, I decided to give my notice the next day.”
Lorraine spent the next five years building Women with Vision!® “At my very first conference in 1999, I had eight speakers and 142 attendees. After the event, I called 18 friends in business to attend a networking luncheon event. It developed into what Women with Vision! is today,” says Lorraine.
There are now numerous Women with Vision!® networking locations throughout central Ontario. The monthly networking event is complemented by a bi-monthly, full-colour magazine that has a distribution of more than 20,000. The Women with Vision! mission statement reads: Women with Vision!® provides networking events and a magazine designed to educate, promote and inspire women in business and daily living.
The annual conferences and networking events have seen such speakers as TV Host Dini Petty, Award Winning Canadian Fashion Designer – Linda Lundstrom, Newspaper columnist – Linda Leatherdale, Isabelle Bassett, and Inspirational Speaker – Grace Cirocoo. “Women With Vision!® has featured Olympic Rower Silken Laumann, Linda Lundstrom, Canadian Singer Songwriter – Amy Sky, Radio Host Erin Davis, Mamma Mia’s original mother, Louise Petry, Child Puppetier Diane Dupuy, ET Canada Host Cheryl Hickey and Host of CityLine Tracy Moore and Mairlyn Smith among other well known Canadian celebrities.”
Today, Lorraine celebrates fifteen years as the founder/publisher and Editor-In-Chief and CEO Women with Vision Inc.
In 2014 Lorraine created the Women with Vision Mentoring & Training Institute – where talented and well invested in their businesses to mentor and train young entrepreneurs.
The Women with Vision!® magazine continues to grow throughout Ontario as well as her highly attended Women with Vision!® Networking Luncheons. Lorraine’s creation, production and hosting her Women with Vision!® television show on Rogers Cable has been well received and continues to make an empowering difference in many women’s lives. A dynamic keynote speaker, Lorraine looks forward to expanding her vision and taking Women with Vision magazine and television show across the country
How Lorraine Leslie has given back…
EVENTS & FUNDRAISERS – FOUNDED AND CREATED
By Lorraine Leslie
Bra & Spa Day Fundraiser Luncheon with Lorraine
Slim A Size Weight Management Workshop Conference At Sea 2009
Collingwood Women’s Show
Women with Vision Business Conference
1st Georgian Triangle Travel and Golf Show
Janice Hayes Memorial Golf Tournament
Robert Fawcett Memorial Golf Tournament
1st Easy Living Expo – Trade Show
Familiarity trip for Collingwood BIA and the Chamber of Commerce to Mt Tremblant – Intrawest
Bid proposals for land excursions for Great Lake Cruise Ships coming to Collingwood’s harbour
Georgian Triangle Tourist Association Spring, Summer and Fall Visitor Packages 1994-1996
Created Visitor Packages to the Georgian Triangle for Tourism Ontario*
Created Visitor Packages for Theatre in Collingwood and Meaford*
Ongoing Women with Vision Networking Luncheons in five communities
Women with Vision Secret Workshop
RECIPIENTS FROM FUNDRAISING INITIATIVES
Numerous Women’s Shelters in The Georgian Triangle
Collingwood & Meaford Chamber of Commerce
South Georgian Bay Rotary Club
Canadian Cancer Society
Front Line Collingwood Foundation
Easter Seal Society
International Child Care
Board of Director for Festival & Events Ontario
Board of Director Collingwood Chamber of Commerce
Facilitator: Human Rainbow & Titz ‘n Glitz 2005 & 2006
Thornbury Jazzmania 2002 – 2206
Elvis Festival 1998 – 2005
Media Chair for the 2002 Dragon Boat Festival
Mountain Safety Patrol – Blue Mountain Resorts 2001 – 2007
Tour guide for Familiarity Days for the Chamber of Commerce (2002)
Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee for the Town of Collingwood (1998-2001)
Economic Development Committee for the Town of The Blue Mountains (1995-1997)
Special Olympics Winter Games; transportation & protocol for Honoured Guests (1997)
My Friend’s House – Events & Fundraising Co-ordinator, Member of Board of Directors (1997-1999)
Collingwood Jazz Festival
Chili Cook Off
Wasaga Beach Business Women’s Association
Alliston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Day Event
Television Host of Women with Vision Show 2006
Ambassador for the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce 2002-2006
Facilitator of bi-annual event Titz’n Glitz Fundraiser 2002, 2004 & 2006
International Women’s Day in Alliston Ontario 2005
Time & Stress Management-Collingwood Adult Learning Centre 1997
Senior Development Days-M.P.P Margaret Marland 1986-1990
Miss Mississauga Pageant 1986
Television Host of Fitfully Your Lorraine fitness show 1980-1984
Television Host of Women with Vision!® present
▪ International Toastmasters Communication & Leadership Award
▪ Nominated Collingwood Business Woman of the Year 2007
▪ Nominated Collingwood “Heart & Soul Award” 2007
▪ Nominated RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2005, 06, 09 & 2010)
▪ Entrepreneur of the Year – Town of Collingwood. (2000)
▪ Collingwood Business Excellence Award – Town of Collingwood. (2000)
▪ Acknowledged by the Easter Seal Society’s for “Outstanding Achievement” Golf & Travel Show
▪ Cited by Easter Seal Society Community Chair For “Well managed production” Travel & Golf Show
▪ Recognized by Margaret Marland, MPP Mississauga South Opportunity is Ageless presentation (1992)
▪ Award of Merit – Heart & Stroke Foundation, Cancer Society and the Easter Seal Society (1989)
EDUCATION & SPECIALIZED TRAINING
Professional training includes, but is not limited to:
~ Energy ~ Enthusiasm ~ Experience ~