2019 Winner
Wise 50 Over 50 Award™

Virginia McGowan  – McGowan & Co.: The Write Edit Group


The impending loss of my senior position in a federal government agency in 2014 due to the Harper Government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan made me rethink what I wanted out of life. I’d been a researcher/scientist, senior manager and team leader, university professor, community-based program designer and evaluator, and a policy advisor. In each of these positions I’d introduced novel and innovative ways to approach an issue or problem. My work was recognized with several national awards. My sense of identity loss was profound.

I had many decisions to make. I knew that I didn’t want to report to anyone but myself anymore. So, in 2013, at the age of 59 and with the help of a business coach, I registered my first business venture in partnership with my husband: McGowan & Co.: The Write Edit Group. Five years later, in 2018, I opened a second business as a solopreneur: The Business Mentoring Solution.

I’m living proof that someone with three degrees (BA, MA, PhD) in anthropology can have a fulfilling career outside of academia as an applied anthropologist who brings social science perspectives, insights, and methods to solve real world problems. In my first business, I do research, writing, and editing—but nonfiction only: we’re serious! Rick, my partner in life and business, kept the books until a serious illness a few years ago. He still maintains an interest in the business but can’t take on too much. The Write Edit Group has developed into a borderless business with a global reach.

The second business came about after I’d spent a few years working with a non-profit client to research, create, and pilot a business mentoring program for women entrepreneurs. Through that experience, I learned that solopreneurs were often feeling lost, alone, overwhelmed, and embarrassed that, although talented and skilled in producing the goods or services they offered, they knew so little about how to work on their business. 

I also knew from my research just how little support was out there for them. I decided to step into the breach and wrote the first book in The Business Mentoring Solution series: Harness the Power of Mentoring: How to Find and Work with the Right Mentor—A Guide for the Solopreneur. I self-published it in April 2019 and was awarded Finalist status in the 2019 International Book Awards, Business: Small Business and Entrepreneurship category.

I’ve spent the past year publishing articles about mentoring; giving workshops; speaking at local, national, and international conferences; developing an online course; teaching mentoring at Seniors College; and—of course!—working on the next book.

In addition, I was appointed to the Expert Panel to advise the federal government on Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy and was successful in receiving federal funding for a proposal I wrote for a non-profit to develop and pilot a project that will engage youth with barriers to employment in the era of climate change. We’ll support youth participants to understand what needs to happen to mitigate climate change and how they can be a critical part of that. We’ll also help them develop employment readiness skills, gain work experience, and develop podcasts about their journey.

I believe firmly in giving back to community. I sit on the boards of directors of the Rotary Literacy Foundation, Workplace Learning PEI Inc., and the Rotary Club of Charlottetown. I volunteer on several communications committees for local and provincial groups and professional association task forces. I have memberships with Editors Canada, Professional Writers Association of Canada, the International Mentoring Association, the Prince Edward Island Business Women’s Association, and the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. I truly enjoy doing workshops for adult learners and speaking about mentoring to various groups such as Rotarians and young entrepreneurs.