Sonia Edwards has never been one to take something for granted.
So when an employer took what she calls “a leap of faith,” she made certain to make the most of the opportunity.
Growing up in Quebec, and knowing only basic English, a store manager in Jasper, Alta. took a chance and hired her to manage a gift shop.
“The manager of the store took a leap of faith and he said ‘I’ll help you with your English,’” Edwards says. “Without that person I wouldn’t be here today; that person really took a chance on me. And really that’s why I do what I do. It’s a great feeling when you have someone who believes in you and wants to help you and give their all to you, and I’ve tried to return that.”
In an effort to give back, Edwards, now a divisional manager with Campbell River’s Investors Group, volunteers with the local high schools’ Junior Achievement Program.
The program allows Edwards to pass on her wisdom and teach students who are preparing to enter the workforce how to secure a job, how to budget and how to afford real life once they move out on their own.
“It was a big deal for me when I moved out of my parents’ house,” Edwards said. “I moved from Quebec to Alberta, I wasn’t just two hours away, I was in another province and I was thrown into adulthood. I felt I wasn’t really ready, I didn’t have enough preparation to know what to expect, what groceries cost, how much you should set aside for rent, utilities, if you want cable, that’s extra.
Edwards is also the chair of the Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s.
“My family has been touched by Alzheimer’s and that’s something that’s very difficult to deal with,” she says. “Investors Group put a lot of money towards research through the walk. That aligned with my values and what I believed in and I wanted to give back to that organization. The co-chair had retired and they were looking for a new person so I took it on.”
On top of that, Edwards has also put her French language skills to good use. She is involved with the Campbell River Francophone Association and previously served on the board. She was a member on the board when the association worked out an agreement with the SPCA to house its animal adoption and education centre out of the back of the building.
But, she is quick to admit that all of those successes didn’t come without failure.
After graduating from Laval University in Quebec City, Edwards applied for a job in Quebec but was turned down because she was not bilingual. Having only taken basic English classes in high school and university, Edwards was determined to become fluent in English.
“I had great ambitions for myself and I wanted to grow and climb the ladder, if you will,” Edwards says.
So she moved to Jasper. It wasn’t long before she left the gift shop to take on a job at Jasper’s community newspaper, the Jasper Booster, and take advantage of the communications degree she earned at Laval. And she was wearing a lot of hats.
“I was doing everything to bring content,” Edwards says. “That really taught me a lot, that hard work pays off. I was able to develop so many skills.”
She soon was promoted to publisher of the paper, additional staff was hired, and the future was looking bright.
Until Edwards received news that Sun Media, then owner of the Booster, was shutting down the 65-year-old paper. “I did lots of soul searching. I didn’t know if I should stay in the industry,” Edwards admits. In the end, she chose to go back to school and applied to business school at the University of Victoria to earn her masters in business and administration and be closer to the man who would become her husband.
Edwards completed the two year program in a year and a half and subsequently took a job in Victoria doing marketing for Rogers’ Chocolates. Though she loved her job, Edwards says by that point her husband was commuting to and from Campbell River for work and it was time to decide where they wanted to settle down.
They chose Campbell River and Edwards took a job with Investors Group, following her passion of helping others.
As it turned out, Edwards was not only helping clients to manage their finances but also helping other consultants working with Investors Group.
So much so that after only a couple of years with the company, Edwards was promoted to division director.
“I started coaching the newer consultants that were brought on board at Investors Group pretty much a year after I started,” Edwards says.
“All these failures, losing my job, not getting the job I wanted, I used that to get myself further.”
In 2015, she was recognized as the Financial Planner of the Year – an internal award for the region based on business growth and the number of clients helped. Edwards says the award is given to the consultant who experiences the most growth in that year. Making it an even more impressive feat was the fact Edwards achieved such growth after having a baby in August of 2014.
After taking six months off, Edwards was back at it. “I just could not stay home,” she says with a smile. “We had just hired a new consultant and I just couldn’t not help.”
Help that Edwards is still paying forward and will not soon forget. To this day, she still credits that store manager back in Jasper, and all of her setbacks, for getting her to where she wanted to be.
“All these failures, losing my job, not getting the job I wanted, I used that to get myself further,” she says. “I’m really thankful. I really think I’m in the right place I need to be.”