Katherine Keeping is a Thunder Bay resident and has worked extensively with the Women’s Economic Council. She serves as a member of the board of the PARO Centre, and works with one of our own board members, Rosalind Lockyer .
When her industry was affected by funding cuts, she was left without employment. Without anything on the horizon, she decided to follow her passions, but she couldn’t do it alone. She came to PARO looking for help with the operation of her burgeoning small business.
And we feel fortunate to have helped. Seeing success stories like Katherine’s are part of what makes our task so rewarding. We, and those at PARO, have seen her business skills blossom over the years that we’ve known her. Her dynamism and ability shines through in everything she does.
What She’s Known For
While she is many things, Katherine is best known as a practitioner of alternative medicines. She makes healing crystal oils that she sells through her independent business, Gratitude Gem Oils. At her online store, customers can find oils for relieving stress, improving heart health and promoting spiritual awakening. It’s a delicate and intricate process.
“I use crystals that are of the highest grade and highest frequency,” says Keeping. “Each oil goes through an intensive testing process involving at least one hundred people across different walks of life.”
She explains that, if the crystals fail to work correctly, it’s back to the drawing board. It’s clear that she has exacting standards.
Keeping offers all her oils scent-free. Because many businesses, and especially alternative health clinics, enforce a no-scent policy, she feels that unscented oils are more accessible and practical. Currently, she is the only oil maker in the world to do it this way.
In addition to her gem oil business, Keeping sees patients in a clinic attached to her home. She practices reiki and other alternative health techniques.
Keeping has always followed her passions. Her first job involved working with top secret communications for the Canadian Forces. She oversaw sensitive communications for Canada’s fleet of ships. While she enjoyed the work, she admits that it was sometimes tough to be barred from discussing her work with her family or friends, due to its sensitive nature. Still, she did the work because she felt passionately about it.
“I was really glad that I did it because I very much believe in being a Canadian and doing what you can to support your country,” says Keeping, “and for me part of that was volunteering and being in the Canadian forces.”
After her tenure in the military, she graduated to theatre. She went to Dalhousie University to become a theatre technician, and soon she was involved in large-scale theatre projects in Canada and all over the world. She was part of the first troupe of performers to ever perform inside Japan’s Imperial Palace.
But soon funding cuts came to the theatre business, and Keeping was forced to look elsewhere. It is here that her contact with PARO and WEC begins.
How We Helped
Keeping recalls feeling prepared, and perhaps a little over-confident when she first met with PARO. She met with Suzanne Tighe, the former Business Counsellor at PARO, now owner of Nurse Next Door in Thunder Bay, and handed her what Keeping thought was a complete business plan.
“I was quite excited,” remembers Keeping. “I handed her a single sheet of paper. It had my goals and my timelines. I was very proud.”
She still has a picture of that original business plan, though it has since grown to around 21 pages.
Keeping took business courses through the PARO Centre. She studied processes and honed her skills, and has since become more confident in the realm of business ownership.
Keeping knew that one of her shortcomings was in the website realm. Through PARO’s aid, she was able to learn how to create a website.
“I thought that once I put up that first website, everything was perfect. I didn’t have an understanding of the evolving nature of websites and technology at the time.”
PARO helped her develop the skills and gain access to the resources she would need to develop her website over the years she would use it.
Katherine’s Lending Circle
PARO was also instrumental in setting up a lending circle that would help Keeping and other women like her share knowledge and resources. The lending circle was made up of women from all walks of life, all local to the Thunder Bay area:
- Julie Einarson, Owner of Sweet Escape Cake Cafe & Bakery
- Tracy Rowe, Owner of Ecological Landscaping
- Toni McDonald, currently re-envisioning her business
- Ashley MacLean, Positive Change Organizing
- Leanne Wierzbicki, Breathe Live Believe
These women were encouraged to connect and share resources, learning from each other’s strengths. Over the years, the lending circle has remained strong, and Keeping still talks to them on a regular basis.
What’s Next for Katherine
As Katherine Keeping continues to evolve her business, she’s hoping to expand. Currently she is studying under Vivien Shepera and Beth Ann Kennedy, authors of Crystal Healing Techniques, to become one of the first eight people in Canada to teach their new take on crystal healing. She’ll soon be travelling and teaching three-day courses, something she feels will be a new challenge.
“That for me is a huge jump forward,” she says. “Having the confidence from all I’ve done with PARO is important. They were there to support me every step of the way.”
And through organizations like PARO, we hope to continue being there for people like Katherine Keeping. Success like hers is what we strive for.