As Small Business Week comes to an end, Workopolis caught up with two Saskatchewan CEOs who have successfully turned small businesses into large ones. In fact, both women were recognized nationally as part of PROFIT/Chatelaine’s W100 ranking. It compiles a list of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada. This year two Saskatchewan women made the list — Corrin Harper, president and CEO of Insightrix Research Inc., a market research firm, and Rachel Mielke president of Hillberg & Berk, a designer jewellery brand. We asked the two CEOs five questions each and got answers about everything from working in Saskatchewan and advice to dog spas and royalty.


Rachel Mielke started Hillberg & Berk in 2007 with the idea to leverage the success of the brand to empower women. The Regina-based company sells in retail and wholesale locations and on The Shopping Channel. It’s most recognized for its royal connections. Queen Elizabeth II wore a custom-made brooch designed by Hillberg & Berk on two separate occasions. The company employs about 50 women and contributes funds to organizations that support women.

1. What does it mean to you to be on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 list?

    It’s equally humbling and empowering to be a part of this esteemed group of women entrepreneurs. My team shares in the pride of making it to this prestigious list. It (solidifies) that we are on the right track, and motivates us to keep pushing.

2. Do you feel you have experienced any unique challenges being a female entrepreneur and CEO? If so, what and how did you face these challenges?

    I encounter more challenges as a female entrepreneur on the international business stage than at home. When dealing with international suppliers I certainly have to work much harder to be taken seriously. Often at international shows I will take my husband on the trip and suppliers will start talking to him first, assuming he owns the company. I have learned how to overcome these challenges by working harder to build lasting relationships with international suppliers. I don’t face those same issues in Canada. I have received incredible support at home from the local business community, my business partner, W. Brett Wilson and amazing publications such as PROFIT Magazine and Chatelaine.

3. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

    Yes! I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. As a young girl, I pictured myself as the leader of a large corporation. It took years to get to where Hillberg & Berk is today, but some of the key factors that allowed me to get here were a supportive family, surrounding myself with people who believed in what I was doing, and being fiercely focused and stubborn about achieving my goals — sometimes in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

4. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while running your company?

    The more you learn, the more you have to learn, that it is important to find balance between confidence and humility, and that as a leader, your biggest asset is your team.

5. What advice would you give to a young female entrepreneur in Saskatchewan?

    Never stop learning, surround yourself with amazing people who really support what you do and keep going — even when times are tough.

If you could own another type of business in Saskatchewan, what would it be and why?

    There are so many businesses I would start if I could clone myself. I often find myself daydreaming about what business I would open next. I do have a small real estate company and am looking to grow that portfolio, but if I could start a completely different company, it would probably be an uber-luxury spa. I love going to great spas around the world, and I always take away something great from each new experience. I dream of taking all of the amazing things I have experienced and put them all into one perfect spa!


    In 2001, Corrin Harper used her own money from her savings account to start Insightrix Research Inc., a market-research firm. The company is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and after only four years after its inception, a satellite location opened in Australia. Right now, the company has about 50 employees and is a go-to research firm in the province for data collection and analysis. It’s home to the largest online panel of Saskatchewan residents who complete surveys that influence political, social and consumer decision-makers.

1. What is it like starting and owning a business in Saskatchewan?

    In general, starting and owning a business is like being on a roller coaster — lots of ups and downs. If you really have a passion for what you do though, it makes it all worth it!

    In Saskatchewan specifically, it is an excellent time to start and own a business. This province is growing, and with more opportunities, companies and organizations need to conduct research to ensure they are making appropriate decisions to capitalize on this growth. In addition, we have wonderful educational institutions in this province from which our required workforce needs can be met.

2. Do you feel you have experienced any unique challenges being a female entrepreneur and CEO?

    I don’t know if I really experienced any unique challenges being a female entrepreneur and CEO. I’m sure a lot of the challenges I have faced are also an issue for many male entrepreneurs. Perhaps one area that required personal growth for me was not letting the “traditional female traits” of emotions and nurturing skills affect the business. At times, I would get emotionally connected, and that would hold me back from making the tough decisions. You need to be direct and stay focused on the business goals. This needs to be the driving force.

3. What is the most difficult thing about owning your own business?

    Only one? There are many difficult things. Probably the most difficult thing was the money issues when we first started. At the start of the business I had my savings on the line and the business was my only source of income. I was living in a constant state of determining which personal bills I could pay since at times there was no money available for my salary. It was tough!

4. What about the most rewarding?

    The most rewarding thing, beyond being able to do what you love each day, is that as the business develops, you can also tailor the business or bring in other employees or external professional help to avoid the parts you enjoy doing least. This means you can focus on doing the stuff you really like. The other rewarding part is having the ability to create employment and opportunities for other people. Being able to give someone a job is a great feeling.

5. If you could go back in time to when you first started Insightrix, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

    Be prepared for how long it takes to get a business off the ground. Overnight success can take eight years to come, so be prepared for lots of ups and downs and savour your successes.

    If you could own another type of business in Saskatchewan, what would it be and why?

      I love animals. We have a dog that is our Chief Morale Officer at Insightrix. I would love to build a luxury animal hotel and spa. Having to travel a lot, I know what it is like to have to leave your dog behind. Unlike traditional kennels, I would provide one-of-a-kind, custom-designed pet suites so a person’s beloved pet will feel comfortable in a home-like setting. They would have items like a TV and a private lounge area with courtyard view windows. It would be stocked with an in-room web cam so that owners can stay connected with their pet 24/7. Yes, I have been thinking about it.

    *Some answers have been edited for brevity.

    Angelina Irinici is an award-winning journalist from Saskatoon, Sask. She recently moved back to her home city and is working as a television reporter. She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s journalism school. You can find her on Twitter at @angelinairinici.