Changing jobs during a pandemic can be quite stressful, and most people would prefer to wait until things are back to a somewhat ‘normal’ condition, before a major career change. That was not the case for Karey Anne Large, the new executive director for the Scugog Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber recently had its first ‘in-person’ annual meeting, with a fantastic turnout of more than 90 people. One of the organizers was Karey Anne Large, and the event was a majotr success.
“Experience is the biggest asset a person can possess for this position,” said Board President, Michael Filip. “Karey Anne has a wealth of experience and talent.”
Karey Anne Large, the former executive director for the Whitby Business Improvement Association, was eager to move to Scugog and work with the Chamber. I asked her what the difference between the two organizations was, and she replied, “The BIA exists to make the downtown area better, whereas the Chamber is there to help businesses do better.”
Born in East York, Karey Anne’s mother worked at Manulife, and her father was an electrician and farmer. When she was 11 months old, her family moved, and along with her older brother, ended up in Whitby. Not afraid of a little hard work, Karey Anne was recruited as the receptionist of Good Life Fitness, throughout her high school and college years.
“My father had an accountant, who looked after his taxes. Ironically he was located in the same office the Chamber now occupies [250 Queen Street in Port Perry],” Karey Anne explained. “We used to pack into the car and make the drive up here, every year at tax time.” Quite the coincidence. She went on to explain the accountant was Alex Shepherd, who went on to become our MP.
“When I had need of an accountant, I used one in the same building, so I have been coming here for a long time,” she said, smiling.
Her dream, was to be a legal administration person, which is what she took at Durham College, but after working at a law firm for a year, decided it was not for her. Karey Anne’s uncle started an electrical contracting business, and hired Karey Anne to handle all the administration for the business.
“I did it for six years and enjoyed it. It was where I met my husband to be, Jason, who was in the same industry. In 2002 the couple were married, and Karey Anne secured a position in Woodbridge as the office manager for a large HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] company.
Two years later their first son was born followed in three years by a second. “Both my kids were born in Port Perry hospital,” Karey explained. “One of them on St. Patrick’s Day, and I still have the little knitted cap with a shamrock, kindly donated by the Hospital Auxiliary.”
Karey Anne has always had a talent for baking and cake decorating, and in 2010 decided to make the move, and start her own bakery. Located in the promenade in Whitby, on Brock, just north of Dundas Street, the business was an instant success. She taught cake decorating, and made cakes for all occasions, including weddings.
A short five years later, she outgrew her premises and moved to a larger space, on the other side of the street. Unfortunately, the day before she was to open, a fire forced her to reschedule the launch and source a new location on Dundas Street.
Running the business kept her busy, but somehow she found time to fly to Los Angeles and be a guest on Cake Wars, a popular television baking reality show. “I was the only Canadian who had ever been on the show, which was quite an honour,” Karey Anne explained.
By 2017, the business element was taking its toll, and Karey Anne wanted to spend more time with her family. It was two years after the Whitby BIA started, and Karey Anne was heavily involved in it. So much, that she became the executive director.
She was also on the board of the Whitby Chamber and when the pandemic began, the BIA switched its direction from being event driven to one-on-one advocacy with its members. “I much preferred that over the event side,” Karey Anne explained. “When the opportunity at the Scugog Chamber surfaced, I was eager to get involved.”
The Chamber now has more than 240 members, and Karey Anne’s knowledge will certainly assist in the growth of the organization. I asked her about her hobbies, knowing there is probably not much time in her life for them.
“I have always been a car racing fan and volunteer for OSCCAAR, the Ontario stock car group. “My father was a former Grand National champion, and my brother and my nephew race, so it’s in my blood.”
Golf and travel are her two favourite pastimes, but she is on the Whitby heritage committee, co-chair of the mayor’s community fund raising group, director of vocation for the Rotary, and co-chair of the Whitby Ribfest this year.
There is certainly no beneficial project, Karey Anne would not entertain becoming involved in, and Scugog will certainly benefit from her expertise. Working in the same building she would visit as a child, goes to show that ‘What goes around, comes around’.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.