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Get to know our President, Lorna Selig

Lorna Selig works a full week. Between her full-time with job with Children’s Link and her self-defense training business, she is a busy woman. But, she doesn’t feel busy. “When you’re working in your passion,” she says, “it sounds chiché, but it doesnt feel like work.” How did this former stay at home mom turn bother her love of self-defense and her desire to help families with children with disabilites into a work like that she loves? The answer is, one step at a time. 

STEP #1 – GETTING STARTED
Lorna’s passion for self-defense began early. “When I was just shy of my 17th birthday, I was attacked. This experience left an impression on me that later turned into a mission to help others.” As we unpacked her story in a coffee shop in Calgary, I was amazed by both her resiliency and her ability to turn a negative experience into a way to help others. For a variety of reasons, she didn’t tell anyone about the assault but the experience impacted how she saw the world. It was during this time she started to think about how she could give people the information they needed to stop the cycle of victimization.  “I spent a lot of time in that head space,” she says. “I wanted to help give information that makes people less of a target, builds confidence in them and helps them feel empowered.”

It was during the time she was at home raising her children that she saw the Safe and Sound program at her children’s school. “It was like the structure of Safe and Sound matched what was going on inside my mind in terms of providing a service. I didn’t have a system for what I was thinking. I didn’t have a curriculum for how to teach it systematically, so when I saw this curriculum it fit with what I was wanting to do.”  

The Safe and Sound program had been in Calgary since the mid 1990s owned and operated by Debra deWaal. A friend connected Lorna and she reached out to Deb. “I believe I just phoned her and said I sat in on the class with my child, loved it and wanted to work for her. I cannot recall the conversation exactly but I think it went something like that. Based on my experience and work in the community with kids and teens, she saw the fit and it just all happened from there.”

STEP #2 – BUILD KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE AND SKILLS

Lorna began her career in self-defense and worked with Deb part-time. At the same time, she was also raising two children and working part-time providing parental support and supervision to women with disabilities raising their children. “When Deb needed someone, I would work with her. She had police officers and me teaching this program.” Over 10 years, Lorna juggled raising her children, working her part-time job and teaching self-defense. She also volunteered on parent council, did presentations for the MS Society and was also working on her Homeopathic Certification. Now that she looks back, it all seems a bit crazy but although she didn’t know it at the time, she was building valuable juggling skills that she would later hone as an entrepreneur.

Over the years, Lorna built a name for herself in the community of organizations helping adults with disabilities and families with children with disabilities. From application and long term planning support, to resourcing and speaking engagements, Lorna became the go-to-person. “In general, I’ve been there for families who are transitioning young adults who have disabilities. I think I’ve done this for so long that I’ve created a system within Children’s Link. I do webinars and sit on committees. I’ve been out there for a long time.  I’ve had 30 years in disabilities services in various roles and I’ve been with Children’s Link since 2009 for 10 years now.  I do a lot of speaking engagements and know the organization well and I know the resources and the help that’s out there for families.”

Being a “go-to-person” has been effortless for her and, over the years, she has built knowledge and skills in both her day job and her business. “In terms of my career development in both job and business, I have built great presentation skills. I’m called to do presentations all the time, in the community with my face in front of people for Children’s Link and I also do presentations for the business. Last week, the real estate association wanted me to come and do a presentation about self-defense. My presentation skills are active, lively and energetic.”

Lorna was also invited to speak at the Alberta Council for Disabilities Service ACDS annual conference about the need for safety awareness for people with disabilities. It’s moments like these when her two world’s come together and Lorna is able to marry both her knowledge of community service for persons with disabilities and her love of self-defense.  “Sometimes there’s a beautiful marrying of information and service,” she says. “For example, I was called by the disabilities association to do a presentation on self-defense. Also, an autistic family asked me to do self-defense class for their son and his classmates and, although I was there to help them with self-defense, because of my knowledge about family support for children with disabilities, I was able to point the family to additional services within the community and funding that could be used to help him further.”

STEP #3 – TAKE ACTION ON OPPROTUNITES

Five years ago, Deb approached Lorna and asked her if she wanted to buy the curriculum part of the business. Lorna and her partner bought the company, rebranded to Safe4Life, changed some of the content and hired Calgary Police Service members and padded attackers. They built the business to host hundreds of classes a year, doing 15-20 classes a month all over the city of Calgary.

Even though Lorna had strong presentation skills and leadership skills from her job, moving to business ownership proved to be a challenge. “The learning curve was around the curriculum content and making it my own, learning the concepts for personal safety and building confidence and empowerment in order to respond to people’s unique questions,” she says. She also had to learn how to respond to people who had a personal situation and experience that was still raw for them.

Lorna’s clients have been as young as 3 years and her oldest client was 83. Even though she has a broad clientele who range in age, profession and background, Lorna has paid attention to her clients and why they want to learn self-defense. “The main reason why people are taking the classes is often because they’ve had an incident that has caused them fright or they know someone who has been victimized, or they want to take the pro-active approach and learn skills that build their awareness.” She has noticed that many moms who have kids between the ages of 7 and 17 have been interested in enrolling their kids. They want to equip their children for the future by giving them skill sets to use in a variety of different situations from learning how to minimize risk to understanding how to manage themselves in certain situations.

Lorna’s clients are also schools, corporations who want to equip their staff such as ATB Financial, Brookfield Property Management and not-for-profit organizations such as Boys and Girls Club, Girl Guides and Brownies, accessible housing organizations and sport groups. Understanding her client’s needs and interests has helped her build the business and have a broader reach into the community. 

STEP #4 – LEARN HOW TO MANAGE BOTH A BUSINESS AND A JOB

Managing a full-time job that she loves and a business she has a passion for can equal long hours for a sidepreneur, but Lorna has a superpower that is similar to Oprah Winfrey. She knows how to pull strong teams together. “If I’m going to keep this business going and work in my day job, I have to have an amazing team. I pick the most skilled instructors to teach the classes for me, I have two commissioned sales staff and an administrator and a social media person. I’m the front face of the organization. People do book the classes through me, but I have a team that gets the equipment ready. I love this work and it’s what makes my heart happy.”

In terms of operations, it is a mobile business. Lorna’s team loads the self-defense equipment into the van and delivers it to the instructors who unload it at the class location, run the program then re-load the van. Lorna hires instructors and a padded attacker on a contract basis as freelancers. It’s a good gig for the freelance instructors and attackers because Lorna believes in paying her staff well.  “I want my instructors to choose to work for me rather than work another security gig. You have to pay people really well if you want the good people and if you want them to stay. I want the cream of the crop and I want to pay them as if they are. As a result, I have amazing instructors and they stay.” With this smart hiring and retention strategy, Lorna reduces her workload by retaining her freelance workers.

She also has flexibility in her 40-hour job with Children’s Link. “It’s not a straight 9:00-5:00, 40 hours a week job. I have to work around the needs and the activities of the families I’m supporting so I have ultimate control to flex the hours to meet the needs of the family and the needs of Children’s Link. Sometimes, I have to put on events in the evenings or on weekends, and because I assist and support families who have youth who are moving into the adult services system, I’m often working my hours around their schedules.”

Working outside of traditional work hours often builds helpful time management skills suitable to juggling entrepreneurial ventures. Because Lorna is accustomed to a non-traditional work schedule, she doesn’t appear to compartmentalize work and play hours or be guarded about her personal time. When I asked Lorna what the downside is to juggling both a job and a business, she admitted, “I don’t have a lot of free time, but when you do something that you love and feel passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work. I love the message I’m putting out into the community; the staff, the speaking, the learning, presenting and I love learning more about this area. It’s not really work for me. When I do unplug, I golf and I go on holidays.”

STEP #5 – CREATE SHORT AND LONG-TERM GOALS

Clear short and long-term goals are needed if sidepreneurs are to avoid burn out as they work full-time and run a business. I asked Lorna, “What is your purpose? What are the goals you are trying to achieve working as hard as you do?”

“My long term goal? Continue to work at Children’s Link until I’m 60-ish. Also continue to do Safe4Life because that’s what makes my heart sing. My plan in retirement is to keep my valuable human resources in tact with Safe4Life and pay them well to manage the company because I see Safe4Life as being part of my retirement plan. There’s no pension in my day job so the business has become a retirement plan. I am the face of the organization so I don’t know that I won’t ever be directly part of my business, but maybe in another 10-15 years, I may back off it.  If I’m sitting on a beach in Costa Rica, I can still book classes and organize the staff from my laptop.” 

Two years ago when Lorna was in the UK, she realized the value of moving the business into her retirement when through a 15-minute phone call, she was able to book someone into a class. “Quite honestly, I can make an income in about a 15 minute phone call from the UK. For me, it’s about the message, but if I can make an income sharing the message, it’s a win/win as I move into my retirement.”

When it comes to the short term? “Most of the time, my business doesn’t feel like work but at times it is work. It’s the minute details of it that can feel like work. But, my partner and I make the best of the small details that are often hard like dropping the van off during my free time and not being able to watch Netflix. But, we make the best of it and go and grab a pizza.”

As we wrap us, I ask one final question. “How would you sum up your work life?”

“I guess I can say I have a passion for something that I’ve turned into a business or I can say I have a mission that I’ve turned into a money making adventure.”

Source – Purposeful Careers