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Pharmpreneur of the week Maggy Warda: “Challenges motivate me; the bigger, the better.”

Maggy Warda


Education:  BSc. Sciences, Chemistry

Role/Title: Vice-President and Co-owner

What excites you about being an entrepreneur?

I'm passionate about turning ideas into successful realities. Back in 1990, we recognized the crucial role pharmacists could play in patient education. We believed that providing them with a turnkey program, despite the need for financing from associations and pharma, would make a significant impact. Even though it's funded by third parties, we insisted on delivering credible and accurate content. Developing a 90-word poster took four to five months. Before launching the business, everyone I spoke to about offering a uniform program to all chains and banners was skeptical and didn't think it would succeed. However, I believed in it and gave it a shot. Now, 30 years later, the program is still present in over 1,200 pharmacies.

How has your entrepreneurial career evolved since the start?

In the 70s, when I arrived in Montreal, I had a strong belief that I would one day have a successful business of my own. 

I began my career as a sales representative at Glaxo, and the regional manager was initially reluctant to hire me because I was a woman – at that time, it was still very much a male-dominated world. Part of my territory involved covering the Abitibi region, which was a six-hour drive from Montreal. I convinced him that I could handle it, and after three months of pursuing him, he finally hired me.

My territory became my own business, and I quickly became the number one representative in Canada. Due to my success, I was offered a promotion to marketing in Toronto. Even though my English was very basic, not unlike French for an English-speaking person, I had to embrace this challenge for my future. As you can imagine, being immersed in a language you hardly understand is a real struggle, but with perseverance, I managed to become comfortable in English as my third language. Furthermore, I had no support system, as my friends and family were back in Montreal. 

A few years later, I had the opportunity to run a hospital publication in Montreal and transformed the company, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, into a profitable one. This experience provided me with the knowledge necessary to eventually start Communimed with my husband, even with a baby and just $100 in hand. That was over 25 years ago!

What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?

My strong desire to succeed on my own.

How do you define success?

Success means bringing an idea to life and making it financially viable. It also involves building a strong team and support system.

As a successful entrepreneur, what continues to drive you?

I'm still as passionate and excited about my business as I was on the first day. Challenges motivate me; the bigger, the better. I thrive when things are not too easy.

What are the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur?

The primary challenge is convincing customers to embrace your vision. Following that, managing finances is crucial, as you are uncertain about reaching the breakeven point. You basically have no safety net.

How do you manage work/life balance?

My work and life are intertwined because my husband is also my business partner. It's incredibly advantageous to have immediate access to discuss ideas and make quick decisions. Although I love my three children, my maternity leaves were relatively short: the shortest being two weeks and the longest being two months, as the business also demanded my attention. Fortunately, my children turned out well despite my initial concerns. Over time, I've learned to disconnect from business thinking during my spare time.

What books/resources do you recommend for every entrepreneur to check out?

Personally, I find that I learn the most from hands-on experience and my mistakes serve as the best teachers. However, here are some valuable resources:

 ·       "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey

·       "La Formule de Dieu" by José Rodrigues Dos Santos

·       "Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein

What advice would you give to colleagues who want to become entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself and ensure you are financially stable before starting. In the initial years, we made some sacrifices, like reducing our travel frequency and paying off our mortgage and car. Starting your own business is a risk in and of itself, so it's essential to minimize other risks before embarking on this journey.

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