Nathalie Estime

After losing her husband to cancer, Nathalie Estime embarked on a new career path while facing greater financial obligations.


Photo: Will Lew

Nathalie Estime
Age: 32
School: John Molson School of Business (Concordia University)

When lung cancer claimed Nathalie Estime’s husband, Roger Ndeffo, in 2007, she lost more than her life partner—she lost her sense of purpose. “I prioritized so much his dreams and objectives, mine would be fulfilled automatically,” she says. “But since he was not there anymore, I thought that was the end of it.” Left as the sole breadwinner for her family of three children, ages six, two and one, the then-28-year-old physiotherapist found herself worried for her financial security.

Ndeffo had worked as a patient orderly, but also tried to launch a number of business ventures on the side. Estime, who previous to her husband’s death was working at a Montreal hospital, also had an interest in business, wanting to start her own physiotherapy practice. In 2007, they decided to combine his entrepreneurship with her organizational skills and started a financial-security advising business through Primerica, a North American company that facilitates one-on-one client meetings and allows advisers to recruit and manage a team of people. Their plan was derailed when Ndeffo’s cancer, diagnosed in 2004, spread to his brain. After taking care of her husband for four months, Estime returned to work at the hospital. But after Ndeffo’s death, Estime’s business itch continued to grow. She felt her presentation and organizational skills were under-utilized, and was tired of her routine. With the help of some life coaches, Estime finally started creating dreams and objectives of her own. “I found myself at a crossroads, and I couldn’t see myself moving ahead,” she says. “I realized I needed to go to business school, and it was the best decision ever.”

Estime quit her job in April 2009, and embarked on a 24-month MBA at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business. “I had never thought of myself as a leader,” she says. “I was the type of person that had no problem following the boss or leader in the room, but working on school projects, I realized I had really good leadership skills.”

Those skills have taken her to Montreal-based cosmetic company Lise Watier, where after graduating she started a job this summer as a project manager for an in-store campaign that launched in October. Though Estime still has big-picture dreams of opening her own physiotherapy clinic, or working as a consultant, she recently reached one of her short-term goals: paying for her son’s hockey lessons. “With my former job, I wouldn’t have had the finances,” she says. “This is a first achievement, and I’m really proud.”