#Rural #WomenEntrepreneurs #FemmesEntrepreneures #MilieuRural
April 2, 2018

My Story

For Love And Business Host Doreen Ashton Wagner coffee cup

Thank you for taking the time to browse here. Maybe you’re thinking of attending one of my events. Or you’re considering signing up for my e-newsletter or participating in some of my research. In which way, you should know more about me, my background and why I am doing this. Here’s my story:

“I don’t know how I’m going to get through this” I said to myself as I entered my office on that fateful day in June 2015, the day I let go of 10 employees who were as close to me as family. How did this happen? It seemed like everything in my life was going wrong. The spark was gone in my marriage, my business was sinking, and I was BURNED OUT.

It’s a story that I know resonates with many of you who are in business with your husband. You are frazzled, trying your best to make your business, your relationship, and your family all top priority. But never having any time for yourself. I get it.

But I’m here to tell you there is a better way. I had to go down to the bottom to find it. That doesn’t have to happen for you! My sincere wish is that you are able to benefit from the insight I gained when I hit bottom, and this community has been built to help you do just that.

So how did I get here? Well, there’s a story to be told…

As small town girl, I was born and raised speaking French in the province of Quebec at a time when people with English names were supposed to only speak English (I didn’t yet – learned that around age 10).

I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm in my early years. We moved around a bit after my parent’s divorce. I found myself back on the farm as a teenager, after my mom remarried.

Since I was pretty good at school, I left home at 17 for college and vowed never to return.

It was while working at my first “real job” as a catering coordinator at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa that I met my husband. He was the hotel’s Executive Chef. We worked in different departments, but collaborated on client events. I learned a lot from Heinz professionally and ours was a purely platonic relationship for over a year. Until my boyfriend dumped me and his shoulder became a friendly one to cry on, that is.

We became a couple when I was just 21. That made me a very young stepmom to his two children – Kim, then 4 years-old, and Kris, then 10.

Early in our relationship, I was very much a career woman. Climbing the corporate ranks and job-hopping a bit, I made VP Marketing for a hotel company when I was just 32. But then when I got my promotion to VP I was 3 months pregnant! I made sure the promotion was announced and that a few weeks had passed before I told my boss…

My Corporate & Family Life Clashed

After I gave birth to our daughter, my corporate and family life clashed. I knew I wanted to be free to spend more quality time with my daughter, and my corporate job just took too much time away from my new family.  There was certainly not the flexibility I knew I needed to raise my daughter the way I wanted to. By the time Iliana was 2, I’d convinced Heinz that corporate life was no longer for us and we moved permanently to a house out in the country, and started our first business.

What began as a husband-and-wife consulting firm eventually grew to a company of 23 people, making just short of a million dollars a year at our peak in 2012 when this photo was taken.

equal partners for love and business

I was very proud of the company we built. We had a culture where we treated our employees like family. We very much focused on giving our employees the flexibility to be parents first. Love and business was something we balanced ALL the time. But what I had become was a mom to my business family… and that was not healthy.

In late 2012 things started to unravel and 2013 was our hellish year. I had surgery to remove a cystic ovary and fortunately it was benign. But then Heinz was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Again we were lucky; it was caught and treated in time. Later that year he underwent his first hip replacement surgery, then on the other hip, 6 months later.

As you know, the health and well-being of our loved ones can be all-consuming and that’s exactly what happened. It was a strain on our marriage as well, trying to balance the business, our health issues, and our relationship.

The business started losing steam. When we lost our biggest client, we’d seen it coming to an extent, and we had prepared. But when I became aware of the inner workings of that corporate decision and my favourite client lost her job too, something snapped in me. I had loved working with that account, with the people at that company, and what was happening to them was so deeply unjust. I became angry and began to resent my work. Employees were getting on my nerves.

What I didn’t know then but do know now is that I was experiencing a burnout. Through all of 2014 and the first few months of 2015, all I could do was hang on.

I let events overtake me. I ate and drank my way through my emotions. Gaining a lot of weight, I was in constant pain with my lower back and knees. Heinz didn’t fully understand what was happening to me, and it was hard to connect on a personal level with him (let alone talk about the business!) when I just had no energy at all. I was burning out.

I had to make drastic changes. In May 2015, my life coach challenged me: what was I going to do about it?

Without thinking I answered “I want out.” I loved my business and my employees, but I knew it was slowly killing me and my relationship with my family. What to do?

Making Drastic Changes

So back to that fateful day in June.  June 5, 2015 to be exact, which was the worst business day of my life. That’s when we told our team our decision to close down an entire division, laying off 10 people, keeping only two employees plus Heinz and I. And we’d be shutting down the office so we could work from home.

That summer I was in a fog as people left, and we were selling everything that would not fit into our tiny home office. Our daughter was also getting ready to leave home for University. I felt like I was in mourning for all my children.

(This was me in August 2015, just after our last round of layoffs, moving out of our office space and moving our daughter to University).

Doreen and Heinz

In late fall Heinz and I left for an 8-week sabbatical. During our time away, we had time to talk things through properly, really getting into what we wanted our life together – as life partners and business partners – to look like. We made the decision to sell the company.

Through all this my husband and I had our ups and downs, as you might expect. Many times I contemplated what my life would be like if I was single. We had a decent marriage but with everything that was happening with the business and at home, I felt the spark was gone. And we had to work hard to regain it.

My transformation began when I decided to lose weight. First I educated myself on the biology of why we get fat, especially as we get older. I lost some weight, easing up on processed foods. But it was the Bright Line Eating Program that was the start of the new me. To this day I follow the BLE Plan: I eat 3 square meals a day, I don’t eat sugar or flour and I weigh my food. I also don’t consume any alcohol. I lost 65 lbs in 8 months on this program and have successfully kept it off for two years now.

As I was shedding pounds I realized I needed to look inward to understand my addictive behaviour. I read a lot of “self-help” books and worked with a life coach, my friend Betty Healey. I had been so unhappy with my life, my marriage and my business and I thought if I could change those outside things, life would be golden. But Betty made me realize that to change anything at all, I had to start with ME. I began to take care of ME for the first time in almost 30 years.

Getting Rid of Negative Influences & Taking Care of ME

I also got rid of the negative influences in my life – not just food and alcohol, but the negative people in my life who were always sucking the energy out of me. Some of those were family members, but I realized that putting distance between us was the best thing to do.

As I was becoming more at ease with my body (it’s amazing when you lose weight how much better you can feel!) and understanding why my inner voice was so destructive, I began to rebuild my self-esteem so I had better boundaries.

It’s no secret that when you feel better, you’re a nicer person to be around. I found my husband was more attentive, mostly because I wasn’t pushing him away! We began to want to spend more time together, to have dedicated WE Time. Date nights, weekends away, even just impromptu walks in the forest.

Because I felt better about myself and I was enjoying our time as a couple and socially, I didn’t want to have to work so hard any more. I found ways to work smarter; I gave up the stuff I didn’t want to do (because it wasn’t making me happy and I didn’t mind saying no anymore!). Giving up multi-tasking and focusing on one thing at a time was revolutionary! Finally I felt I was advancing, instead of feeling crappy about doing a ton of things but never finishing any of them well.

A New Foundation

When I settled into a space that felt really good, I realized that these Three Principles – ME Time, WE Time and Working Smart – had become the very foundation of my Love-Business Plan. This is the Plan that helps me stay balanced between LOVE (my own self-love, my husband, my family, my friends and community) and my BUSINESS. It’s the tapestry of tools and practices that I have weaved into my safety net. Now if I get off balance and I fall, that safety net is below me and catches me.

The fact that Heinz and I stuck it out, and have renewed our commitment to one another gives me immense satisfaction. After 33 years of togetherness (20 of which we have been business partners), our love is not the same. It’s better. More patient, respectful, kind.

Doreen and Heinz Happy Couple

These days being married and in business with your spouse is either incredibly noble or a freakishly odd occurrence. A test of love and resilience. Or a sign of pig-headedness and delusion. Maybe all of that.

One thing I know for sure (she says with a nod to Oprah!) is that being married and in business with my spouse is something that’s made ME. And it colours what and how I see that I am most passionate about: entrepreneurship. Especially female entrepreneurship.

When I get up in the morning what I want to do is help other women in their business creation journey. I think women entrepreneurs have certain beliefs, certain values around love and business that makes them different from their male partners.

I’m talking about LOVE of course. LOVE – not just WHAT we love, but WHO we love and HOW and WHEN and FOR WHAT REASONS – is everything we do in business, whether we like to admit it or not.

We go to work to support our family. We create a side-hustle and maybe even leave the corporate world because we love our family and our job doesn’t allow us enough flexibility to take care of them.

When we make decisions our loved ones are always right there, with us in our hearts and minds, shaping what and why we do things.

Out there in the business world, to admit that is to show sentimentality and weakness. You can’t be naming LOVE and family as motivators for what you do, you’d be branded an “emotional female!”

I believe that if only we could more freely admit that LOVE drives what we do – or should do – in business, then we’d be a lot further ahead. Both women and men.

I believe LOVE deserves a permanent seat at the business table.

There, I’ve said it. Now you know my true WHY.

I feel such a sense of purpose around entrepreneurship and how it can offer women a great way to balance love and business, that I’ve gone back to school to study female entrepreneurship! Hope to graduate with my Master’s degree in 2021 with fresh new insights from the thesis I am already working on…

If you feel the same way I do, I hope you’ll join me in the For Love and Business Community.  And I hope we’ll get to talk about YOUR why, the reason you started your business (with or without your life partner), and all the joy and craziness that love and business bring.  

Community is powerful, and investing in ourselves so we can live the life we were meant to live, with LOVE at the center, is what it’s all about.

Yours for love and business,

Doreen's signature in purple



Did you read down to the end and want EVEN MORE?You’re an overachiever like me! Here’s a few more tidbits for you:


  • I don’t believe in “one-and-only,” “forever-and-ever” soul mates. Life isn’t a fairy tale. I believe that you attract those people in your life when you need to learn a lesson. Sometimes those relationships are more seasonal than you might want, and that’s OK. I believe you can have more than one “big love” in your life, and sometimes, I hear, at the same time! 🙂
  • I believe love changes after children are born, and that is natural.
  • What you’ll find here is information for women in heterosexual relationships. I absolutely believe in love – love is love – but I really don’t know if what I am advocating is the same for gay couples, so I don’t pretend.
  • There are so many terms for the person you love and live with –  “life partner,” “significant other,” “boyfriend,” “husband” or any other synonym.  Please know that I use all these terms interchangeably, and that I believe that the relationships which matter are the ones that matter to YOU


  • I mostly speak to women who consider themselves entrepreneurs. But it doesn’t have to be solely your business. It could be that you joined him in an enterprise he started. It generally means though that you have “skin in the game”: you consider yourself a full partner, not just an employee who happens to be the owner’s wife.
  • Or it could be YOUR business and while he’s not in it every day, he is your sounding board, your advisor, your helper, your whatever…
  • I’m not a marriage therapist or counselor. I’m not a psychologist. Don’t go looking for fancy designations because there aren’t any. If that’s important to you then I’m not the person you are looking for. I graduated from University with a Bachelor in Business Admin (in case you find that relevant) but much more importantly I’ve been in your shoes and I have the experience to help you navigate those waters.
  • People ask me if I’m a coach. The answer is – sometimes!  Sometimes I’m a listening ear, sometimes a business consultant, and sometimes just a friend.  In our community we adapt to the situation and do what it takes to do the job. We’re women, right?


  • I swear. I say “shit” when I mean “shit” and I believe the “fuck” collection of words can enhance expression in very effective ways. As in: are you fucking kidding me?? Or what the FUCK was that?? I try not to overdo it, but know that it will come up. If that offends you, I’m sorry. This is your warning!
  • You need to know about the “woo-woo” part of me that believes not only in love between people, but also in Universal Love as in a Higher Power, the Divine Universe, and yes, GOD (gasp!).
  • That makes sense because I am a practicing Catholic who is also Eucharistic minister in our local church (as is my husband). Some may not think of me as a proper Catholic because I don’t believe you have to be married to have sex and raise a family. I don’t believe that men only should be priests (and it pisses me off when the Church says women can’t). And I think the Church is wrong about homosexuality (see above: love is love).  I DO believe in love, tolerance, forgiveness, peace, and that there are many religions and ways to connect with a higher power.  YMMV (“your mileage may vary”!), and that’s ok too.


  • I’m a Sagittarius. My husband is a Leo.
  • I can produce one loud piercing whistle that can silence a crowd.
  • I don’t drink alcohol. Gave it up on February 16, 2016 because I wanted to be healthy and lose weight. Doesn’t bother me if you drink (we all have choices) and I won’t tell you to stop unless I see it’s a problem for you.
  • I love gardening, especially clearing debris, getting ready for the growing season, planting and seeding things. My gardens tend to suffer through summer though, as I pursue other passions like kayaking, cycling… (squirrel!). What does that say about my staying power and follow-through? Maybe that I need things to constantly be new and exciting… which might be a good tip for staying happily married and in business together?

Still reading?  I guess we’re friends now!  So I’m going to expect to see you in our private facebook group so we can chat.  How do you get in, you ask? Just click the link here!

See you soon!