This grad turned her love for martial arts and self-empowerment into a business
By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations
Michelle Tremblay wants to nip bullying in the bud – both in schools and in the workplace. And with her business, MPower Lives, she’s doing just that.
“It’s all about empowerment,” says Michelle, who offers services ranging from conflict resolution seminars to self-defence and assertiveness training classes for schools, sports teams and corporate groups. “I believe that confident kids don’t bully and that adults who are self-aware and feel valued at the workplace will show up a lot differently than those who aren’t.”
Michelle is also taking on bigger clients for workplace sessions, from VanCity to Westminster Savings to G&F Financial.
“Mental health has been an important focus for many companies recently,” Michelle says. “There’s been a shift from focusing on policies to focusing on people, which has been incredible to support.”
Although MPower Lives has seen significant success in recent years, getting there wasn’t easy. “When I first started my business, it wasn’t what I had envisioned. I knew I had something, but I was just a beginner,” says Michelle. “When I moved to Vancouver from the Okanagan, I had this dream of rebranding myself and taking my company to the next level.”
In 2016, Michelle enrolled in the Douglas College Training Group’s Self-Employment Program, one of the largest and most successful entrepreneurial training programs in Canada.
“I had a phenomenal experience learning the ropes of how to run a business,” says Michelle, who went on to be a finalist in the program’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “It was powerful to have my instructors and business mentor believe in what I was already doing and help me build a more solid structure.”
Since completing the program, MPower Lives has expanded to include six other instructors and programs, all focused on building student resilience and social and emotional independence through the use of yoga, dance, acting, singing, martial arts and mindfulness strategies. In the wake of the pandemic, MPower Lives continues to offer their programs online.
Michelle’s road to entrepreneurial success started with her own journey of personal empowerment. After losing a loved one to suicide, Michelle started training in karate.
“I reached my breaking point,” says Michelle, now a second-degree black belt. “It was the hardest, heaviest place in my life. Training allowed me to take my power back and was the catalyst that I needed to step into my own personal growth.”
The skills Michelle has gained through over 18 years of training have made their way into her business in more ways than one, from being a core component of her curriculum to helping guide the company’s culture.
“When you walk into a dojo to train, there’s a level of respect no matter what level of belt you are,” Michelle says. “You respect the white belt who just walked in the door because we’ve all been there before. There’s also a sense of ‘I’m going to help you get where you’re going.’ This approach is incredibly important to me and my business.”
Room to grow
Now five years into her business, Michelle has her sights set on even further growth for her career, her company and team.
“My vision is to ensure the training I’m providing for kids in schools is sustainable and that we can use our existing base to include training for more companies and keynotes,” Michelle says.
Inspired by the many coaches and mentors in her life – from her Douglas business mentor to her sensei – Michelle also aims to be a role model for people in her community, including other entrepreneurs.
“Something people forget is how incredible they truly are. You have to go after your dreams no matter how crazy you think they are. You may have to start by having a job and then doing it on the side. I believe that in years to come, we’re going to have way more entrepreneurs than we’ve ever had.”
Douglas College students have many avenues for support available for mental wellbeing. If you need help, reach out for support. You can meet with one of the counsellors at Douglas College or, for 24/7 support, call the new provincial Here2Talk service.