Young Entrepreneur of the Year Brigitte McLean

Three years after opening her own spa and salon, Brigitte McLean still sometimes has to pinch herself to believe that it’s real.

Owning her own salon had been a dream for the North Bay resident since graduating from esthetics school in 1998, but only after her kids started attending school full time was McLean able to make it a reality.

She opened Tranquility Spa and Salon in 2012, and last year, with business booming, had to expand into a new, 2,150-square-foot location. McLean employs 11 full-time staff and two parttime staff, offering hairstyling, massages, facials, foot treatments, and more. Dermatologist Dr. Luke Harris provides Botox and dermal filler work.

“Sometimes I still walk into work and think, ‘You know what? This is mine,’” she marveled. “It still seems surreal sometimes.”

But what she’s achieved in a few short years is very real.

As a daughter of a miner, McLean grew up in the North’s iconic mining towns — Sudbury, Elliot Lake, Timmins — but it was while studying nursing that she discovered her passion for all things beauty-related.

“I went into health sciences thinking of going into nursing and realized it wasn’t for me,” she said. “During that time I took a few years off to do a little bit of soul searching, working different odd, retail jobs and working at the bank. I started getting esthetic services and fell in love with the whole industry and everything in it.”

That’s when she enrolled at Lam’s School of Esthetics in Toronto — an elite school that accepts only 12 students, internationally, per year — where she was recognized as a top student by the Comité International d’Esthétique et de Cosmétologie (CIDESCO), a global international beauty therapy association.

After travelling North America for three years training health-care professionals on the use of skin-resurfacing techniques, she and her husband decided to start a family and returned home.

“We both knew that we didn’t want to have our children down south, so we ended up coming back to the North,” she said. “We both liked North Bay, which is what brought us back here.”

McLean started out in her home, eventually moving into a 1,500-square-foot space and employing four fulltime (and one part-time) beauty therapists and a registered massage therapist. Growing by 350 per cent between 2012 and 2013 necessitated a change.

Tranquility is now located in North Bay’s downtown core, in an area that needed sprucing up.

“I think it’s made an impact on the downtown core,” said McLean, who acknowledges her staff for their hard work as a big part of its success. “It’s really lifted a major corner for downtown that was empty for so long.”

A proud member of the North Bay Chamber of Commerce, McLean was awarded the New Business Award in 2013. She mentors young, female Métis entrepreneurs through the North Bay Business Centre (McLean’s heritage is Métis), and one day a month offers her services at no cost to clients of Nipissing Transition House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

McLean said she’s a strong believer in making your own way in the world: do the work to get to where you want to be and fate will take over the rest, she said. She plans to carry that philosophy through to her next accomplishment, whatever it may be.

“This is just a stepping stone for me,” she said. “There’s definitely a lot more to come.”