Marie-Pier St-Hilaire, 34
In a little over a decade, St-Hilaire has become Quebec’s leading corporate trainer. After finishing an MBA at Laval University in 2000, she worked for a small training franchise in Quebec City that employed only four people. Two years later, the franchiser closed its doors, but St-Hilaire didn’t want to give up the business she had built. So she bought out the owner of her location, kept the employees and changed the name to AFI (Accompany, Foster growth, Innovate). By 2003, the provincial and federal governments, as well as large insurance firms, were AFI clients, and the company was the largest training provider in her city.
Now, with more than 85 employees and 900 courses on offer, St-Hilaire has launched a new division called Savori, which will design non-business training and offer public classes on topics such as wine appreciation. The Société des alcools du Québec is the first major client. St-Hilaire has also set her sights on expanding AFI beyond the province. Meanwhile, she’s working on a second MBA at Harvard, this one aimed at owner-managers. “My first MBA focused on IT, and I needed that to transform my business,” she says. “But a small enterprise doesn’t have the same challenges as a big one, and I needed to add new management competencies.”
On her proudest achievement: “It’s hard as a young woman to find experienced people who want to be part of your team and your dream. But I have found amazing VPs to take care of my business.”