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Entrepreneur Launches Business from Lessons Gleaned from Best-Seller Book 'The Secret'

January 24, 2009

Toronto, ON, January 23, 2009 -- Sometimes all it takes is a few lessons gleaned from an inspiring book, bolstered by some encouraging words from a group of powerful motivational speakers to spark an ah-ha moment and make a business idea come to life.

That's exactly what happened to Gail James, co-founder of The Phenomenal View, a recently launched series of educational and motivational workshops conducted just outside of Toronto. The Phenomenal View's elite group of speakers and coaches include Jack Canfield, Mike Lipkin, Lisa Nichols and John Assaraf, to name a few.

On getting started

"The thought for the business originated from reading The Secret," says James. "Then, after attending a motivational seminar to hear the book's contributors like Jack Canfield and Lisa Nichols speak, I decided to put my stamp on the notion of starting an empowerment and educational speaker series. But I wanted to it differently. As I had just learned, you start by inviting people into your life to help which is what I did with my business partner, Sherri Skeens, an event planner, and the ball started rolling from there."

James admits the thought of creating a start-up from scratch was daunting, especially from someone who had spent much of her career working for others. "It was a huge leap of faith for us, for sure, but enthusiasm wasn't lacking. Financing was."

While the young firm had grandiose ideas on marketing the series, reality soon kicked in for James. "Because we didn't have the dollars to plunk down on a big marketing budget, the first thing we did was build alliances with friends, supporters and other like-minded businesses. We also formed partnerships with radio stations and newspapers, to assist in getting the word out."

Sometimes small things lead to big breaks. A friend, reading in the Toronto Sun about another speaker series, emailed a note to the reporter, mentioning that James was starting a similar, but different venture. The result surprised James. "The reporter called the next day, did a feature story on us and sure enough, the momentum started. Since then the paper has done editorial for us and we've advertised in the paper -- all because someone took the time to write a letter."

On facing challenges

Being a start-up, the company founders faced a steep learning curve. Their target audience, projected to be those 40-50, ended up much broader than the team expected, with many young people showing up. That revelation affected the media and marketing message.

And while the company intended to market The Phenomenal View program as a complete four-speaker series, that didn't quite happen as hoped. "Many people were not willing to commit $800 on the series package. Most wanted to pay as they went along, even if that meant paying more per day. We also found a reluctance for people to commit their time too far in advance, and that learning forced us to adapt our selling tactics."

On lessons learned

While challenges remain, worthwhile business lessons have been learned. "Don't just think about your idea, make a plan and take action," says James. "Most people let fear of failure stop them, but if you start with a plan, that itself puts things into motion. Listen to your heart, and to the little nudges along the way and follow through, even with small steps."

James reiterates that her firm's success and biggest door opener has come from her willingness to ask for collaboration and take advantage of alliances along the way. "Go out of your way to encourage connections with people you meet. Never say no to an introduction. You never know what someone can do for you, and more importantly, what you can do for someone else."

The interview with Gail James of is one in a series of entrepreneur interviews available as a free transcript and downloadable podcast at

About Grand and Toy:

Founded in 1882, Grand & Toy has evolved from Canada's leading supplier of office products to the nation's number one source for complete business solutions. From office supplies, interiors, technology and imaging, to a host of essential professional services, Grand & Toy is enhancing office performance by providing the tools and solutions needed to stay competitive in today's fast-paced marketplace. Offering more than 10,000 products available through an award-winning web site, detailed catalogue and over 40 retail locations across Canada, Grand & Toy offers the resources, experience and insight to help Canadian businesses realize their full potential. For more information, visit

For more information contact:
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Phone: 416-259-6611

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