Rita Theil, CEO of JacKryn France Inc.i, tells her kids “Just do the right thing.” Believing that we all intuitively know what the right thing is, Rita is also aware that without good mentors many of us can get off track. As someone who has benefited from mentorship herself, Rita creates opportunities to guide and empower people so that they can do the right thing. For Rita, “what comes around goes around.”
At sixteen years old, Rita found herself having to grow up fast when her parents divorced. Today she is grateful for the support and guidance she received from others. “I often say that I just got lucky. People say that you create your own luck, but I had people around me that were good leaders. They taught me when to lead and when to follow.” That gratitude translates into support for people at the times they need it most. Many of the initiatives that Rita invests in are organizations that educate and guide women. “I really believe that if women are ever going to step up to the plate they need to have good mentoring experiences. That’s why I started the Women’s’ Mentoring Initiative.” A program that is aimed at women between the ages of 28 and 48 in the workplace, it is “designed for large corporations that want to keep talented women. Without a mentor to shepherd these women through, the corporate world can be a very tough, male dominated society.” In addition, Rita sits on the board of the Junior League of Torontoii “an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.” Along with her daughter, Kate, Rita is also very involved in the Because I’m a Girliii campaign. This program is an international charitable organization run through Plan Canada.iv It is also a “social movement to unleash the power of girls and women to claim a brighter future for girls in the developing world.” Their goal is to empower and educate girls so that they develop into strong woman. “When a girl is educated, nourished and protected, she shares her knowledge and skills with her family and community, and can forever change the future of a nation. It’s that powerful. It only takes ONE girl to change the world.”v
Sharing her philanthropic passion with her kids, Rita decided get her children involved in charity while they were young. Each of Rita’s two children, Kate and Jack (from which the name JacKryn France evolved) have their own charities. For Kate it is Because I’m a Girl. Jack likes Big Brothers Big Sisters, so each child supports their own charities, their own way. Rita wanted her children to understand that not everyone enjoys the same privileges or quality of life that they do. “I decided to raise my children with a consciousness that the whole world does not live as well as we do in Canada. Jack and Katie feel ownership and responsibility for the charities they have decided to become involved in. They are very serious about their commitment.”
Also involved locally, Rita chaired the sponsorship committee for the Magna Black Tie Masquerade Ballvi for two years. This gala event features a lavish cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, silent, live auctions, and top entertainment in support of Southlake Regional Health Centre.vii In 2011 alone this event raised $872,000 for the Southlake Foundation.viii The money raised helps to cover the cost of “medical equipment, capital projects, patient programs and staff education.”ix
An innovative and visionary thinker, when Rita started JacKryn France Inc. in 2004 she decided not to put her marketing budget in newspaper and magazine ads. Understanding that “women vote with their pocketbooks” she donated that money to local charities instead. Over the years JacKryn France has supported King-Aurora Hospice, Evergreen Hospice and Doan Hospice. Rita also sponsors local school programs that raise money for libraries and sports programs through bazaars, galas and banquets. A big contributor to the Aurora High School band, Rita believes it is a very important program that needs more help. “They are desperately in need of funding!”
Fitting her volunteer work around a very demanding career as Vice President of Corporate Development at EnerCare Inc.x, Rita also shares her expertise on several public boards dealing with renewable energy and clean water. These include Global Water Resources Corp.xi, Sierra Geothermal Power Corp.xii and Scottish Water.xiii
Admittedly a “driven individual” (she did her MBA at the same time that she went to law school!) Rita developed her concept for JacKryn France xiv after she and her family moved here from France. While shopping for furnishing for her new home, Rita identified an unmet need in Canada for “luxury home décor, accessories and hard-to-find European brands.”xv That’s when JacKryn France Inc. was born! Previously located in a turn-of-the-century home on Wellington St. East, Rita recently made a savvy business decision to migrate the business model to online. Now, JacKryn.com offers online sales and retail and wholesale shopping via their new location in a warehouse on Industrial Parkway.
Rita’s future plans for charity involvement include working on sponsorship for the Because I’m a Girl Gala, which takes place this October 12th in Toronto. Rita also intends to serve another two-year term as chair of the sponsorship committee for the Magna Black Tie Masquerade Ball. A strong woman who firmly believes in education, mentorship and helping women to “understand their own strengths and what they bring to the world” Rita will continue her personal journey of empowering others. Always seeking to be a power of example, she will be “giving to others what I was fortunate to receive myself.”