Dr. Marie Delorme: CEO, The Imagination Group of Companies
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Dr. Marie Delorme to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Dr. Marie Delorme: The current era of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples is described as a time of healing and reconciliation. The issues are highly complex, and all Canadians have a role in creating a future that is inclusive and prosperous for all. As a Métis woman born to an Indigenous father and a white mother, I have had the unique opportunity to live in two worlds. A career of over 40 years has provided many “firsts”: first Indigenous female to reach the executive ranks in a large telecommunications company, leading a task force in the role and advancement of women, championing Indigenous interns, and chairing national boards focused on corporate Indigenous relationships. These experiences led to the creation of The Imagination Group of Companies in 2000. The seed of an idea, to help Indigenous artists market their work and protect their copyrights, has grown into 4 companies. Each company focuses in some way on Indigenous and non-Indigenous intercultural relationships.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
MD: A serendipitous idea was followed by 9 months of research, testing the concept with mentors and advisors, and building a solid business plan; all of which contributed to validating the idea. Almost 20 years later, each Imagination Group company focuses on some aspect of Indigenous economic development, and contributes to enhancing the lives of Indigenous people. Through the business, we strive to make a difference for the people and organizations with whom we work. We strive to form a small part of the tapestry that is being woven to transcend the past and move to Indigenous economic self-sufficiency.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
MD: The decision to leave a large corporation for the world of entrepreneurship is daunting, as is the journey once the decision has been made. My greatest business mentor was my son, who had been running his own businesses for years, and is president of our companies. Startup financing, and accessing capital for finance growth and innovation are always a challenge. Every path has been a learning experience and some of the lessons have been difficult, but not insurmountable.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
MD: It is important to live a life with meaning; to engage in work that makes a difference; to be intellectually stimulated; to surround oneself with people who are energizing; and to find time to play. Many of my contemporaries are retiring and wondering when I will do the same. My answer is always “never!”
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
MD: Many of the issues we were talking about, when I came of age in the early 1970s, are still critical and unresolved. Equal pay, equal representation in politics and business, and violence against women and girls are just a few. My philanthropic interests focus on at-risk youth, trafficking of women and girls, mentoring of Indigenous women, and education. It is critical to not only take an interest in the most pressing social issues, but also to get involved.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
MD: The socioeconomic and societal changes over the past 40-50 years have enabled women to access opportunities for education and careers; but there is so much more work to be done to unleash the full power of women. Women inherently possess qualities and abilities like adaptability, multi-tasking, problem-solving, and empathy that are the fundamentals of innovation. Women innovators are found throughout history. Their legacy and contributions to our world must be recognized, celebrated, and built upon.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.