uOttawa alumni Harley Finkelstein and Lindsay Taub talk entrepreneurship, family, and curiosity

Posted on Monday, October 3, 2022

Lindsay Taub and Harley Finkelstei

Photo : Lindsay Taub and Harley Finkelstein

The uOttaKnow podcast is back for a fifth season! Hosted by Gwen Madiba (MA ’12; BSocSc ’08), uOttaKnow puts uOttawa alumni and researchers in the guest seat to talk about today’s most important topics. The theme of season five? Curiosity. Our first episode of the season is with Harley Finkelstein (LLB ’09, MBA ’09) and Lindsay Taub (MEd ’10).

The husband and wife duo met at uOttawa and have achieved so much together and individually. Harley is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and president of Shopify, and in 2021 was named the University of Ottawa Alumnus of the Year. Lindsay is a child and family therapist at Child in Mind, an Ottawa-based child psychology clinic. They’re also the parents of two young daughters, Bayley and Zoe.

While we encourage you to listen to the full conversation, here are some highlights from Harley and Lindsay’s chat with Gwen.

The link between Japanese barbecue and a family mindset of entrepreneurship

Early in the conversation, Harley references a hobby the family took up during the pandemic: Yakitori, AKA Japanese barbecue. Learning the ins and outs of this culinary craft is one way Lindsay and Harley weave the spirit of entrepreneurship into their family culture.

By grilling the perfect meat together, the family could learn new skills and curiously ponder how to make things even tastier. Just as entrepreneurship is about viewing an old problem through a new set of eyes, the family’s Yakitori lunches were a way to see the act of preparing and eating lunch differently.

This intentional activity isn’t the only way Harley and Lindsay cultivate their daughters’ entrepreneurial spirits. Lindsay tries to notice what interests they gravitate towards and urges them to explore them further and take risks. She also encourages them to ask for what they need and know their worth—both important elements of successful entrepreneurs.

In other words, entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be exclusively about business—it can be a way to live your life, too.

Entrepreneurship is for everyone (and you don’t have to do it alone!)

Curiosity can unlock new ideas for entrepreneurs. A curious mind is more likely to notice something missing in their community or how to solve a problem more efficiently. Starting a business, Harley says, is an incredible opportunity to self-actualize a dream and determine your own version of success.

For Lindsay, that meant previously running an ice cream shop in Ottawa because she noticed a lack of iced treats in her neighbourhood. Harley talks about this idea in the context of his evolving role at Shopify. He points to the need for entrepreneurs to be a “Swiss army knife” of skills and ideas when a business is in the start-up phase, and to gradually hone in on their specific “superpower skills” over time. Entrepreneurs don’t need to be good at everything—that’s where asking for help (or hiring others) comes in.

We need to talk more about mental health

Curiosity is often seen as how we experience the world outside of ourselves, but it’s also about how we explore and understand our inner thoughts and emotions.

Though less taboo than in the past, there’s still a stigma around talking about mental health. That’s especially true in fields like business or law where there’s the expectation that you should push emotions aside and not show vulnerability or “weakness.”

Lindsay and Harley call for a new narrative. Vulnerability, they say, is a strength and means you have a deep understanding of how to be the best version of yourself. Mental health and resilience is about creating a toolkit of self-care practices that will help you show up for the people and causes you care about. Listen to the full episode to hear how the couple invest in their own mental wellbeing.

This episode also features a pair of questions from two rising Ottawa entrepreneurs and uOttawa Startup Garage alumni. Harley and Lindsay respond with some valuable insight for anyone thinking of starting or scaling a business—you won’t want to miss it! You can listen to this first episode of season 5 here.

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