Dream 10 Profile: Suzanne West
by Kylie Kendall
The Dream 10 is a group of extraordinary people and organizations who have invested in the Dream, Girl premiere in New York City on June 9th, 2016.
Energy industry renegade, role model for a new (read: better) way to do business, and the first member of the Dream 10, Suzanne West is, in a word, unstoppable.
Suzanne is the founder and CEO of Imaginea Energy, an oil company that does everything it can possibly think of to make the extraction process environmentally friendly, pioneering new technologies and prioritizing people, planet and profit equally. The company also recognizes that innovation can only be born out of collaboration and open creativity, which is why it operates on a flat organizational model. On all fronts, Imaginea is simply revolutionary.
Suzanne herself is also a huge believer in the power of the female economy, and has been behind Dream, Girl since the very beginning (she’s interviewed in the film!). For her, becoming a member of the Dream 10 was a no-brainer. Here, we caught up with Suzanne to find out more about her life as a crazy-successful entrepreneur and her passion for a new model of leadership.
What’s your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
What isn’t my favorite part about being an entrepreneur? One of my favorite ones is to just take nothing and build something. That kind of creative process is kind of like a drug. I’m a possibility junkie — I just love to see the world for what it could be. Most people are more relegated to only the things they can see, and I’m more interested in what we can’t see.
I left the big companies because I love to be the designer of my own destiny, and when you’re an entrepreneur you just have a greater ability and capacity to chart that course. If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down myself in a blazing ball of fire, as opposed to somebody else handing my future to me. That ability to go where you need to go is just really freeing.
Why is it important to you to support other female entrepreneurs?
We’re moving away from linear, darwinian mindsets, into a new quantum world. This is a world where the right brain skills will be highly valued — the skills of innovation, creativity, integration, collaboration, personal development, caring, nurturing, compassion, looking at the world as an ecosystem — those are going to be huge, important skills in the future. Both men and women have them, but women quite often gravitate toward them more easily and readily, and that’s why they’re going to just be hugely important parts of our future.
I’m a huge advocate of service based leadership. Leadership is not a power job — it’s a service job. It’s a job to help those around you be more successful, and to me, women leaders are that much more powerful in understanding that service-based model. We’ve been ruled by command and control for far too long. It’s been the cause of many of the problems that we see in society in general, the delays that plague us. So we’re in desperate need of women leaders to lead us out of these complex problems, to lead us in ways that we solve them together, in ways that we care about each other.
How did you get involved with Dream, Girl?
It was a very cool story: Komal had called me and explained Erin’s inspiration for the film, and she said, “Can I send you the trailer?” So we did it in real time — that’s the beauty of technology these days — and I’m watching the trailer that she sent, and it took me like two nanoseconds to basically say, “Oh my God, if I can somehow help this, sign me up.”
I’m also a big supporter of Plan Canada and have been for a long time, so I’ve seen for many years the stats that are dismaying and also inspiring of what happens when you educate girls, when you change girls’ perception of what is possible. It changes everything. It changes health, it changes poverty — it’s literally amazing when we can empower girls to feel like they have every opportunity available to them in the world, just like every human being should feel. So, to me, if I can have some tiny little part in inspiring a girl to be all she can be, I will have left this planet a very successful person.
Why did you join the Dream 10?
Imaginea is trying to change the world, and I get it — to change the world, you have to tell as many people as possible. It’s the power of social media, it’s the power of communication — so we need to have more financial support to help tell that story, to reach more people in more meaningful ways. It doesn’t matter if we made this movie and nobody sees it. If ever I made money to do something, it’s to help share this message. This is why I make money, is to do something with it like this.
What would you like to see for the future of the Dream, Girl movement?
I’ve been talking to our government here in Canada, the Status of Women, and I would love to have this shown in every single school. We want every girl to see the film, but all boys should see this too.
It needs to be a continuous movement. What we need to do is not just inspire girls, which is the first step — to get them to believe in the possibility, but then we need to come behind them and give them the support, 24/7, day-to-day, when the crappy days show up, or when the bullies show up, or the people that say, “You can’t do this” show up. They need a community to reach out to them that can remind them that they’re extraordinary on the days that they forget. So we need to come behind that with a movement, a community that continues to support their dreams and their ideas and the excitement about what they can be.
We need to tell as many people as possible, and then we need to harness all the greatness that comes out of these girls.