Stepping out of the shadows to achieve your goals

Danièle Henkel, president of Les Entreprises Daniele Henkel, receiving the 2015 Prix Réalisations – Les Affaires award from Géraldine Martin, at the time the associate editor and editor-in-chief of Groupe Les Affaires

Danièle Henkel, President of Danièle Henkel inc., is an experienced leader who has earned numerous awards from the Prix Femmes d’affaires du Québec and also serves as its Honorary Chair this year. An opportunity for her to invite women to live up to their ambitions and take their place in sectors that might seem less familiar to them.

Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) –You’ve won many awards from the Prix Femmes d’affaires du Québec 1, what have you gained from these achievements?

D.H. – Memorable moments where my family, loved ones, and collaborators gathered to celebrate our success. Because when it comes to entrepreneurship, the people around you play a big role in the success of your project. An award recognizes everyone’s efforts, not only those of a single individual. These are heart-warming events that fill us with pride. We tend to have a hard time accepting compliments on our success. These distinctions are precious ways of celebrating our achievements.

CCMM –The 2017 award ceremony will take place on November 8. What is the goal of this kind of event?

D.H. – To be able to say that anything is possible. To be inspired by the careers of women who have succeeded, despite all the obstacles in their way. And to think “I can do this too.”

“In entrepreneurship, the people around you play a big role in the success of your project. An award recognizes everyone’s efforts, not only those of a single individual.”

CCMM –Aside from the prize itself, what advantages are there to being nominated?

D.H. – First, it’s an excellent reassessment of your own career and objectives. In this vein, I think it’s a great exercise. 
Second, this process sheds a light on some sectors in which women have not necessarily played a large role and encounter fields they are less familiar with. Professionals such as bus drivers, integrators, or scientific researchers can inspire young girls to follow in their footsteps.

CCMM – In your opinion, what are the main qualities shared by businesswomen taking part in the Prix ceremony?

D.H. – Perseverance, determination, and resilience. We all share the same dream: to fulfill our potential. There is a willingness to create something with our own hands. However, we know that this kind of project requires a lot of personal, family, and even health sacrifices. We sometimes end up alone and we must show courage and continue.

CCMM – What is the role of women in the business world?

D.H. – There are still not enough women in business. Women represent 47% of the active population in Quebec2 , but only 24% of executives are women3 . There is still a long way to go. There are also few women in the sectors we mentioned above, civil engineering and transportation, sciences, new information technologies, architecture… How can we reverse this trend? By getting together and sharing vital information that could save us time and money. By sharing our experiences. By convening in every sector. And by being bolder.

As a female leader in a field dominated by men, being bold and hiring a woman who has the same skillsets as a man. This will help bring a new perspective in the company as well as new ways of doing things.

CCMM – What is the main challenge for women who want to go into business?

D.H. – Fear of failure! We are “wonder women”. We want to be 100% sure that everything will work out. We think we’re not allowed to make mistakes and we feel like we need to prove this to the entire world. I believe the best response is to trust ourselves and to accept failure (we are humans, not robots!) without necessarily focusing on failure. We need to accept that we will make mistakes and irritate some people – unfortunately, we can’t please everybody. We also need the drive to accomplish things based on our own values and personal beliefs, and have faith in our skills. My tip? Go for it, ladies!

CCMM – Broadly speaking, do you believe that entrepreneurship is something innate?

D.H. – Yes, it is something that’s innate, that is characterized by our willingness to take risks and innovate. You don’t become an entrepreneur overnight. Sometimes, you only discover this in yourself later in life, in different circumstances. But it’s something within yourself that pushes you to see your dreams through.

“You don’t become an entrepreneur overnight, you’re born that way.”

CCMM –Is it because of your entrepreneurial background that you are the Honorary Chair of the 2017 Prix Femmes d’affaires du Québec

Danièle Henkel (D.H.) –I’d say that it’s a combination of experiences. First, my experience as a Moroccan-Algerian immigrant, because I was born in Morocco, I grew up in Algeria, and I moved to Canada (Quebec, more precisely) in 1990. I found myself in a country that was completely unfamiliar to me without any reference points, a country with different traditions. I had to learn new cultural and professional norms. An upheaval of this magnitude requires an ability to accept change and be able to adapt. You need to know what choices to make and accept the responsibilities that come with them.

There is also my mother’s experience, she brought her family with her. She had to maintain stability and calmness in the home, to limit the impact of the changes my children were going through.

Finally, there was the experience of being an entrepreneur. I left a stable job to launch my own business, against all odds. Me, a woman, an immigrant, a mother of four, I decided to embark on this journey because that’s what I really wanted to do. If I had decided to analyze the pros and cons, I would never have started. Today, I want to use my status as a public personality to give back, share, and motivate others. I want to show that, in the business world, you can be a woman and a mom and accomplish your goals, even if it takes years. There is only one question you should ask yourself: why am I doing what I’m doing? Never forget that we are the ones forging our own paths.

1  Among Ms. Henkel’s most recent awards: the 2015 prix Réalisations; the 2012 winner of the “Entrepreneur active at an international level” category; a 2010 finalist of the “Entrepreneur, medium-sized business” category.
2 Statistics Canada, Labour force, employment and unemployment, levels and rates, by province.
3 Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2013.

About the Prix Femmes d’affaires du Québec

The Prix Femmes d’affaires du Québec is the only event of its kind for female entrepreneurs, executives, and professionals who have made their mark in Quebec. Businesswomen renowned for their skills, their meaningful accomplishments, and their prominence in every sphere of the Quebec economy, on a local, national, and international level.

Find out more

Photo credit: Stéphanie Colvey, photographe.

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