Nick Lees: Stony Plain entrepreneur, philanthropist an inspiration

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Lisa Levasseur had the groundbreaking idea to help entrepreneurs of any age become energized and enthusiastic when starting or expanding a business.

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“The concept came from my move to Stony Plain from running our Terracana Ranch Resort near Valemont, BC,” she says.

“My father’s health started to deteriorate and I was suddenly left to take over his businesses.”

Her father is the popular Stony Plain entrepreneur and philanthropist Gerry Levasseur, 89, whose interests include 10 INNhotels, an RV car dealership; a riding school; a construction company and several car dealers.”

Lisa says, “I had worked in all of our hotels and run my own businesses, but had really little experience running a large company.

“I had little time to learn and needed quick access to high-level information.”

Levasseur, an artist whose work hangs in exhibitions, museums and galleries around the world, said she was looking for “a Netflix-for-business” type of help, where information could be available on demand.

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Not finding what she was looking for led to the creation of the BizWell Studio.

“It is an online platform with inspiring stories about all kinds of successful entrepreneurs, just like my father,” says Levasseur.

“It also provides insight into maintaining health and wellness, which is a challenge in running a business.”

Most of the BizWell platform is free to access, but there are also more intensive business and wellness courses that people can sign up for.

Her partner is longtime friend Laurent Goldstein, whose Vancouver Citrus Pie Media Group had already filmed entrepreneurs for commercial advertising.

“Laurent has been a documentary film director, producer and entrepreneur all his life and was the perfect person to make the BizWell idea a reality,” says Levasseur.

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“His wife Jennifer joined our partnership and with her background in designing online marketing websites, she did a fantastic job creating the platform with us.

“Covid caused so many people to rethink their careers or reinvent their businesses. Our idea was the right one at the right time.”

Goldstein will be in Edmonton on June 28 when his film, commissioned by Lisa and titled A Going Concern, The Life of Gerry Levasseur, will be screened at NAIT’s Shaw Theater.

“The original idea of ​​making a film was for our own family and business use,” says Lisa.

“But Laurent’s story about Dad is so inspiring that we decided to share it with the public and hopefully inspire entrepreneurs.

“The show will be a fundraiser for the Levasseur Community Trust we founded last year and an inspiring story for everyone in business.”

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Ticket sales support food banks, victim services and mental health organizations in local communities where INNhotels are located.”

Tickets at https://trellis.org/gerry-levasseur-documentary

Supportive mother, five sisters

Gerry Levasseur and his wife Helga, who recently celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary, will no doubt chuckle with friends when it is revealed while he was not a hockey player, he would ask his mother to buy him hockey gear and then quietly sell it on for cash.

When he was about 15, he bought second-hand bicycles and sold them for two or three times more than he paid.

Levasseur lost his father when he was 17 and supported his mother and five sisters during the Depression era.

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“Gerry’s is an iconic Alberta story,” Goldstein says. “He started his first business after his father’s death, with a small pop and liquor store in Devon. He went on to set up many companies in both BC and Alberta,”

A family man, Levasseur was delighted when his son Gerard took over the automotive and construction side of the operations, while his daughter plans to take over the equestrian center.

Choosing good staff is a key to success, says Levasseur, who can cite two good examples.

They are Pat Crowley, whom he left to run his Maligne Lake Cruises and chalet operation when she was 27 years old, and Shawnee Wilson, who ran the Levasseur-built Jasper Inn for 37 years.

“Gerry basically said to both of us, ‘You run the business,’ and then went back home to Edmonton,” said Crawley, who recently retired.

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“He didn’t care that we were relative toddlers, or for that matter, women. He never questioned our education, skills, experience or knowledge. He had already made his signature decision on both of us.”

Levasseur says his message in employee selection is: choose good people and treat them well. “They’ll be gone if you try to take advantage of them,” he says.

Lisa Levasseur hugs her mother Helga, who she says encouraged and helped her when she started painting in her teens.  Photo provided by family.
Lisa Levasseur hugs her mother Helga, who she says encouraged and helped her when she started painting in her teens. Photo provided by family.

Lisa says her interest in art started when she loved horses so much that she started drawing them.

“My mother is a talented artist and she helped me,” she says. “When I was 17 I had art hanging in galleries and then I concentrated on professionally training horses.

“But over ten years ago I painted a Maligne Lake painting for Dad’s birthday and found myself completely absorbed in artwork again.

“I’m now trying to position myself with enough support to run my father’s businesses so I can get back to working on my art.”

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