When Marie Knott graduated university as a marketing major, she and her friends had ambitious plans: she would move across the pond from her native Sackville, N.B., to London, England where a glamorous job surely awaited. Before she could jet off, however, Marie was persuaded by her aunt and uncle to help out in a community relations role in the Tim Hortons restaurant they owned in Fredericton.

That was 21 years ago, and Marie never did wind up setting sail for England. Instead, she began to see the possibilities that would open up for her as a Tim Hortons restaurant owner: she could simultaneously establish herself in business, become a leader in her community and make a difference in the lives of her employees.

Marie now owns and operates 10 Tim Hortons restaurants in New Brunswick. And given her family history of independent, socially conscious women who dedicated themselves to improving the lives of those around them, Marie feels she couldn’t have found a more perfect fit.

What challenges have you faced as a female business owner?

As a woman, feeling invisible in a room is a problem.

This has made me work a lot smarter and harder. If there was a board meeting, I would talk about work that I’ve done in my community because this had provided me with a sense of confidence and a strong work ethic.

Throughout my career, I have been lucky to have a lot of support from my family and my peers. You also have to love what you’re doing. Your passion will get you through the hard times.

What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of?

My passion for giving back to the community is something that keeps me going.

For the greater part of the first decade of my career, I chaired and was on the board for a charitable organization supporting women and children fleeing abuse. Other big causes for me are about food. I’ve contributed to food banks and helped to create inclusive breakfast programs in schools. When you see how many kids don’t have a lunch or don’t eat breakfast – how can you not try to provide support to help with that?

And the other thing I’m passionate about is my team. We developed an HR department 15 years ago that has been a huge part of our success. Believing in and supporting each other by treating your team the best will provide the best experience for not only your team members, but for your guests.

Have you had any mentors who helped you find your way?

I grew up as the second youngest of five kids, with three older brothers and a sister. My dad was progressive. He was a teacher and a coach and he treated all five of us in the same way. I became really determined at a young age to keep up with my brothers.

My mom, also, was a pioneer in our community. She started the first food bank in our region with a couple of her peers in the ‘80s. My sister was a guidance counsellor who really worked to make a difference in the schools. My aunt – who originally got me involved with Tim Hortons – was also heavily involved with women’s shelters and supportive organizations.

I had strong women and individuals in my life. My aunt and uncle along with my mom and dad really made me feel confident in who I was. These strong individuals in my life gave me the confidence to support and provide a voice for those who are most vulnerable.

That’s why we work so hard to help people who might not have the same type of support through organizations like the Tim Hortons Foundation Camps or local organizations who aim to support women and youth in difficult circumstances. This is, and will continue to be, a constant in this ever-grateful journey.

Click or tap to read more about Janna, Patricia, and Janet.