If Leah Tremain ever needs a model for measuring success in her business she has one ready-made at hand. It’s in the gym where she trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That’s where she puts into action the drive to be a competitor in the sport. And that same drive powers her business.

“If I can stay in the sport to a black belt, which I plan to do,  that feeling would be tremendous,” she says, “knowing that I can stick with something, no matter how hard it gets. And that’s pretty much how it is with my business too. “It gets difficult and it gets hard and if I can just stick with it, I feel that there’s success on the other side.”

As founder and CEO, Tremain is the force behind Tremain Media Inc., a full service media company providing web, print, video and time-lapse products as well as social media, branding marketing and technology services. Tremain tasted initial success with her business but it got slammed by the downturn in the economy eight years or so ago and a meteoric rise suddenly dissipated. After completing a Master’s degree in education, she started producing educational DVDs for children and parents on video literacy, numeracy and play. “We’ve covered a lot of topics,” she said.

In the end, she sold 68,000 DVDs across Canada and the United States. But then DVDs as a medium hit a bump and that bump was called YouTube, the online video-sharing website which started in 2005. “That was five years into my business and that killed the educational market,” Tremain said. “DVDs as an educational product for schools slowly started dying.” And that killed that aspect of her, until then, rapidly growing business. Schools were no longer buying DVDs like they used to.

“I spent a winter playing stupid games on my phone and depressed once the educational DVD business died,” Tremain said. But she reads a lot about attaining business success and she kept encountering one theme that said if you can just make it through the hard times, you’ll find success. “And I’m like, please make that be true,” Tremain said. “If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’ll do.”

She started to pivot the business into media materials for other businesses. A breakthrough came when she created a video about Campbell River to play in Vancouver International Airport for 2010. Then she continued to diversify her products through different media “spheres” and that’s what kept her business alive.

In 2010, somebody from BC Hydro was walking through YVR and saw the Campbell River video which contained a time lapse sunrise. Tremain was approached to do a time lapse of a BC Hydro project, the Heber River diversion. She was asked if she could do a time lapse in a remote location with no power, no satellite and no cell phone and she said, “Of course.” And then proceeded to figure out how to do it. “And that was when Tremain Visual was born,” Tremain said.

Now she does work for BC Hydro, SNC Lvalin, Western Forest Products, a number of school districts in the region and other regional companies.

“And now, since we bottomed out in 2008 we’re…I don’t know how much…four times as large as we were at our peak when we were doing educational videos,” Tremain said. “And I made it through.” 

Photo: Stephen Watson
Photo: Stephen Watson

That has become her modus operandi for business and for life.

“And that’s my plan just to keep doing what it takes to stay alive both in my sport and in my company and then setting those audacious goals like a world championships. It’s setting those audacious goals in the long term and in the short term, it’s doing what it takes each day to get there.”

You can tell by her statement that she attained one of those goals – a world championship. She was crowned masters world champion in Jiu-Jitsu for her age category.

What success will be in her business is yet to be determined but with the drive she demonstrated to win a title in her martial art against younger, stronger competitors – she competed in a younger age class because there weren’t enough competitors in her actual age class – she has climbed to greater heights with her business and shows no signs of sliding back any time soon.

Originally from Kitchener, Ontario, Tremain moved to Campbell River in 1997 after three years in Victoria. The provincial capital wasn’t a good fit, she discovered after moving to Campbell River.

“I met more people in one month in Campbell River than three years in Victoria,” Tremain said.

That gave the inspiration to make Campbell River her long term home. “I made a commitment to stay here,” she said.

Tremain is driven but it’s not a cutthroat, self-centered drive. That’s illustrated by the model with which she guides her business. It’s a model that recognizes the value of her employees as individuals and the importance of nurturing the whole person and accommodating people’s needs outside of work. She makes work fit the lifestyle of her employees.

She uses that model because it was with that model which she fit a business into her own life. She realized that her needs as a mother, a wife and an individual were the same in her employees. So, the same accommodations she made in her business for herself were applied to her employees. Her employees’ need to take time to pick up the kids at school and take them to dance class or whatever, were the same needs she accommodated when she was starting her business. So, she gives them the same flexibility.

It wasn’t until some time later that she discovered this is actually a modern business model and that it has a name. In fact Tremain will be addressing the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce  about her company’s modern work structure.

“We’re a distributed workforce with democratic hours,” Tremain said. “We’re able to attract and retain talent because we offer this type of work structure. Everybody can live and work in the way they choose but it is still client driven. So we still need to meet the needs of the client but besides that it really is a democratic work flow.”

“We’re a distributed workforce with democratic hours.  We’re able to attract and retain talent because we offer this type of work structure.”

The work model is perhaps partly necessary because of the fact that Tremain Media operates out of Tremain’s home. They can only have a few people actually work in the home office but besides that, the work can be done out of an employee’s own home or out in the field.

Tremain is tempted to move into an office building because of the growth of her business and the occasional need for meeting some clients who want to meet in an office. Otherwise, she likes the home office the way it is.

“We really like it,” she said. There isn’t the hustle and bustle of a building-based office but Tremain said you should see her emails. Her work force can be distributed because technology allows it to be. She even has a designer who works out of a farm house. In Ontario. “We don’t need to hang out to get work done,” Tremain said.

Getting things done is no problem for Tremain as she has expanded into just about every technological medium you can imagine. But somehow, she manages to find time to become a world champion martial artist.

In September, Tremain came home from Las Vegas with a World Championship title – winning gold in her division at the World Master Jiu-Jitsu championship held by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJFF).leah-medals

With her local gym, Pure Martial Arts, and the West Coast Jiu-Jitsu team supporting her on the sidelines, Tremain came home with gold after defeating a police officer from Brazil. She won with a submission that forced her opponent to tap out.

“My mental game had to be strong,” Tremain said at the time. “Knowing the woman is an officer and from the home country of the sport was enough to make me uneasy. I had to work hard to visualize success and not falter or doubt that vision.”

And you can be sure that Tremain will not falter or doubt her vision for her business or just about anything in her life.