Marissa Grootes, 29
Founder + CEO, Stil Classics
Life Story: Starting a business wasn’t on Marissa Grootes’ busy agenda in 2013, when she made a notebook-style planner to manage her schedule. The Zurich-born SFU communications grad was working full-time in design and marketing while selling jewelry on the side and attending graphic design classes at Langara College. The other organizers she had tried were ugly and hard to use, Grootes says, so she used her design skills to create her own.
She handcrafted a few more as Christmas gifts for friends and family. When those became a hit, she made another 30 to sell on Etsy. Realizing she was having fun, she made her next step a leap of faith. Grootes quit her job in 2014, using all of her savings to make a production run of planners for the upcoming new year. “It was the scariest thing ever,” she recalls.
Bottom Line: Grootes fought through a multiple sclerosis diagnosis to consistently grow Stil Classics’ revenue by 150 percent each month and build a community with more than 26,000 Instagram followers. Stil, which has one full-time and two-part-time employees, sells its products on its website, mostly in the U.S. and Canada.