Arlene Dickinson from Dragons’ Den in Red Deer: reinvent yourself through recession

Arlene Dickinson still remembers the time she got a strawberry milkshake dumped on her head, not too far outside of Red Deer, when she was about six.

Dickinson, at the time, was in the backseat with her family. They were broke and driving a car that was on its last legs during winter, moving from Edmonton to Calgary.

She and her two sisters were fighting in the backseat, and the father pulled into Red Deer for milkshakes and gas.

Red Deer was a much smaller community then, known as the stop between the two major Alberta cities, Dickinson, of Dragons’ Den’s fame, recalled at a luncheon in Red Deer on Monday.

More than 300 people attended the Lending Cupboard’s fundraising event to raise money to provide equipment for those recovering from illness or surgery, for end-of-life care, extreme sport injuries and seniors.

That memory is etched in Dickinson’s mind. The girls, in their matching pink sweaters that their mom had knitted, continued to fight.

The father, at his wits end, dumped the milkshakes on their heads, to stop them from bickering.

At the luncheon, Dickinson spoke about reinventing yourself, something she has had to do a handful of times when life got tough: to save her business during the 2013 southern Alberta floods and when she got divorced.

Her advice to those trying to do the same thing in this downturn, whether it be with their businesses or their lives: assess yourself, find what you’re good at – your currency, find your core purpose – and discover what’s going on around you. Take stock.

“Today, in this community, in Alberta, the reality is dim, but isn’t that exactly the opportunity to reinvent? Isn’t that exactly when we can take stock of who we are and what got us here?

“What’s going on around the world around us? What we’re really good at? What our purpose is in Alberta? That doesn’t mean leaving oil and gas. That’s not what I’m saying. But it’s thinking about what the future looks like in the context of what we’re good at,” she said.

She reminded Red Deerians to be grateful and let the anger go: because we woke up in the best city, best country in the world this morning, she said.

“And the idea of separating, the idea of trying to use anger and divisiveness to try and build something is foreign to me. I don’t understand that. Nothing ever good comes from hatred and anger and not being able to see each other’s points of view,” she said.

Don’t let recession stop you, she said to those with an entrepreneurial spirit: because businesses probably do better through the recession, and they’ll also do better after the recession, she said, speaking from her own business experience with Venture Communications.

Dickinson is known for being on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. She is also a Canadian entrepreneur, an investor, and is known for her philanthropic work, and for her book, Reinvention: Changing Your Life, Your Career, Your Future.

The Lending Cupboard Society board chair, Bradley Williams, said events such as the luncheon are important for the agency, because demand continues to grow for medical equipment and daily living aids available through them.

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