Christine Magee took a risk by becoming the face of Sleep Country Canada

(Photo credit: Sleep Country Canada)

Uncertainty is something every entrepreneur feels, especially when they’re about to quit their day job to pursue their business idea fulltime.

This reminds Arlene Dickinson of Sleep Country Canada’s president and co-founder — and one of her favourite Canadian entrepreneurs — Christine Magee.

Back in 1994, Christine already had a successful career in corporate and commercial lending at National Bank, but Christine and her future business partners Stephen Gunn and Gordon Lownds wanted to experience something new: starting their own business. Over 20 years later, their company Sleep Country Canada has over 230 stores across Canada.

In the fifth episode of Venturing Out, Arlene invites Christine to her podcast to chat about what it was like to quit her job to become an entrepreneur, what keeps the business exciting after all these years, advertising strategies and much more.

Here are the five things we learned from their chat.

1. It’s okay to not have a solid career plan after graduating

After graduating from Western’s Ivey Business School, Christine thought “OK, I’ve got a business degree, now what do I do with it?” She decided to go into banking because it would expose her to other industries and a variety of management styles — to hopefully one day inspire what she would do with the rest of her life. That approach worked out for Christine because she met her business partners through banking.

2. Some positives can still come from a business failure

When Christine decided to leave her day job, she was in her mid-30s and owned a house with her husband. “Had I had children, I can’t tell you, Arlene, whether I would have made that decision,” says Christine. “But I did know I still wanted to have children, so it was still a risk.” Before making the ultimate decision, Christine and her husband agreed that if the business failed, she would be more employable from the experience and it would prepare her for the next opportunity she may want to start.

3. You won’t get bored of your business if it keeps evolving

“Like all things, business evolves. Your team grows [and] as you expand there are new horizons — new changes,” says Christine. “Part of the excitement is being able to change with it, to innovate, to see yourself getting better… that keeps all of us on that edge of excitement.”

4. Becoming the face of Sleep Country Canada made Christine step outside her comfort zone

Christine, Stephen and Gordon studied gaps in customer service from mattress companies in the United States. “No retailer had a great brand awareness,” says Christine. “Personifying the company, we thought, was a unique approach at the time.” That’s when they decided to put a face to the brand — the business was not going to be just a jingle or a trademark. They wanted the face of someone who their target market could relate to, and they thought it would be appropriate to use someone internally that believes in what the company has to offer. So Christine became the face of Sleep Country Canada. “It made sense out of the three of us that the female president [do it],” says Christine. “I had never been in a recording studio, it was not my comfort zone.”

“You did put yourself out there and that is risk-taking,” says Arlene.

5. Mentorships don’t always come from people you want to emulate

Christine says we often learn from people we admire, that we work with, that we learn from and want to emulate their characteristics or approach. But we also learn lessons from people who aren’t so positive in our lives. “I think also sometimes we learn from those individuals that we wouldn’t want to emulate,” says Christine.

Venturing Out is a weekly podcast series hosted by Arlene Dickinson and presented by CBC Calgary. Each episode delves into a behind-the-scenes look at the survival stories of Canadian business leaders as they took risks, experienced failure and continued to think big as they navigated their way through the Canadian business marketplace to success. New episodes will be available every Tuesday starting July 18 to Aug. 29, 2017. Subscribe to Venturing Out on your favourite podcast app, or listen on the free CBC Radio app for iOS and Android, or at