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We’ve all heard the old trope that it takes a village to raise a child. But how do you nurture a leader?

From left to right: Tom Viinikka, Blaine Bertsch, Lorena Forster, David Bridges. Not photographed: Chris Davey (but he says hello from San Francisco)

When Blaine came to VMS, he was early on in his business and felt like he was working in a vacuum. He had previous entrepreneur experience, but what he lacked was a network of leaders and Mentors to guide him through the early stages of starting Dryrun. For Blaine, it was all about building those relationships with the right people.

Blaine found a Mentor team in Chris, Lorena, David and Kashmir, who stepped down from the team and was replaced by Tom last year. The group found that their skill sets aligned with Blaine’s, and they knew they would be a good fit to support him (and one another!). David has always been motivated to help the Edmonton small and medium-sized business community because he believes it’s unique. He jumped at the opportunity to engage with Dryrun because of the similarities to his business model and because Blaine seemed like a pretty cool guy. Lorena had a head start—she’d already downloaded Dryrun for her profession and had an idea of what the company was about and what they offered. Over the next three years, this group of professionals would evolve into more than just a team; they would become their very own community within the broader VMS community.

During their time together, the diversity of their strengths and individual contributions became apparent. As Chris aptly puts it “One person can’t answer all the questions, you don’t have a bunch of clones you’re talking to. You’re talking to a diverse set of folks and I think that’s a really strong benefit.” Blaine believes that part of what has made their collaboration so successful is the harmonization of their different backgrounds—every minute of their meetings is valuable because they’re comfortable with each other and can dive right into the important discussions and issues. This is part of what makes this group such a healthy and productive community; they support and respect one another. Instead of getting hung up on differences they can focus on working towards a common goal.


No matter what topic they’re discussing, there’s always been this underlying theme of helping Blaine transition from an entrepreneur with an idea to a CEO with a longer-term strategy and goal in mind. David explains that this is a critical transition for a founder to make and that he loved seeing Blaine’s development right before his eyes. Looking back, Lorena mentions how much she’s enjoyed watching Blaine grow his team and the kinds of people he’s surrounded himself with. From early on, this mindset of transforming Blaine from an entrepreneur to a leader has been present. And Blaine says it’s a mindset that’s stuck. For him, CEO isn’t a title—it’s a function. He knew it was where he had to get to as he grew his business.

Of course, this transformation can’t occur in isolation. Blaine describes VMS as one of the cornerstones for this evolution to happen. Being friends with fellow entrepreneurs who are at the same place in their careers provides a sense of companionship, but Blaine describes it as fighting in the trenches together. What VMS provides is more elevated because the guidance enabled him to work through specific topics and concerns. Having that input was like having multiple shortcuts, says Blaine. He avoided a lot of the mistakes and pitfalls other entrepreneurs experience because of the external support provided by his VMS Mentor community.

For the team, community means shared learning experiences and growing together. While the focus may have been on nourishing Blaine’s transformation, each member has experienced their own kinds of development along the way. This was David’s second VMS Mentor team experience, and he’s built a lot of confidence in his ability to coach anyone in any industry. Lorena has many positive things to say about the group, but her key takeaway was a keener understanding of e-commerce and how she can better leverage technology in her own endeavours. To Tom, having a community means relying on the expertise and support of others to help him do things he can’t do for himself—and vice versa. For Chris, this community has been one of continuous learning and growth; the journey together has been equally as fulfilling for him as a Mentor as it was for Blaine.

At the start of their time together, the goal was about helping Blaine become a CEO. But after three years, it was the whole team who benefited from his journey. Uplifting the one created the environment to empower the many. And that’s truly what community is all about.

Blaine Bertsch
VMS entrepreneur since 2017
Mentors: Lorena Forster, Chris Davey, David Bridges, Tom Viinikka