Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay catering company owner wins women's business award

Jennifer Biron of Redhead and the Chef has won this year's Alumni Award from the Paro Centre for Women's Enterprise.

Jennifer Biron of Redhead and the Chef has won the Paro Alumni Award

Suzanne Tighe, right, owner of Thunder Bay's Nurse Next Door franchise and last year's winner of the Paro Alumni Award, presents this year's award to Jennifer Biron, centre, co-founder of Redhead and the Chef. Paro president Rosalind Lockyer, left, hosted the event. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

The Paro Centre for Women's Enterprise will hold its annual conference and awards ceremony in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Nov. 7, but it gave media a taste of what to expect Thursday when it awarded its annual Alumni Award to the owner of a successful local catering company.

At an event at the Thunder Bay Country Market to officially launch the conference, Paro officials presented the award to Jennifer Biron, the co-founder of Redhead and the Chef, the company that operates the restaurant at the market.  

"A little awe-striking actually," is how Biron described the feeling of receiving the award. 

"It feels really good," she added.

Biron baked the cookies that were served to guests at the event and said the recipe dates back to her very first business venture: selling cookies to raise money for a trip to Toronto in Grade 8.  She needed to raise $400, she said.  She ended up raising $4,000.  

From cookies, Biron moved on to aesthetics, owning and operating a nail company in the city. 

People at Paro believed in her

But when her daughter, who had had a heart transplant as an infant, passed away, Biron said she no longer had a passion for the business, so she worked in the non-profit sector for a while, studied for and pursued a career as a personal support worker, then eventually left the profession to work in the corporate world. 

Owning a catering company was the dream of Biron's husband, Derek Cyrenne, who Biron met while working in the hotel business.

Paro was a huge part of helping them get started, she said. 

"They help you with funding sources.  They help you write your business plan.  They run workshops to help explain your taxes, your book keeping, all the different parts of business [where] you need those gaps sort of filled in," she said.    

"... and just being able to walk in somewhere and have people that just believed in you, because a lot of people in my life at that time were kind of like, 'You're going to do what?  You don't know anything about catering.'"

Biron's biggest challenge as an entrepreneur was getting funding for the business, she said, but she added that nothing was going to hold her back.  

Paro helped her talk through problems and find solutions, she said.  

"They were just so supportive of everything," she added.  "But not in a sense of, 'Yes, you can do this. Yes, you can do this.' They really worked you through tangibly what you needed to do to put these steps together to be successful."