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Driving change in Cape Breton: Kathleen Yurchesyn

Kathleen Yurchesyn - Belle DeMont
Kathleen Yurchesyn - Belle DeMont

When Kathleen Yurchesyn wants something, she goes after it, and that’s the way it has been for her entire life. At just 29, Yurchesyn is driving change on her home Island of Cape Breton as the CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The path

Originally from Sydney, Yurchesyn left the Island immediately after high school to pursue an education at Mount Saint Vincent University. After earning her degree, she moved to St. John’s Newfoundland and was hired at a Marketing and Communications agency where her love of marketing blossomed. When an opportunity arose to move back to Cape Breton and take on the role of Marketing Manager at Cape Breton University, Yurchesyn was happy to oblige.

“Of course I was happy to be in my home town, but I would say it was during that period that I became super passionate about the community and economic development,” says Yurchesyn. “I really recognized that there’s no better place where opportunity exists for those who want it than in Cape Breton.” When a number of people reached out to Yurchesyn about a new opportunity at the Chamber, she couldn’t silence her intrigue.


Five facts about Kathleen

  • Age: 29
  • Hometown: Sydney, Nova Scotia
  • Education: Bachelor of Public Relations with a certificate in Marketing
  • Title: CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Length in Position: Approximately 2 years

A mindset of change

“I approached the organization with a mindset of change and I was very transparent about that from the moment I was in talks with the Board about the opportunity,” says Yurchesyn. “I went into this role with nothing more than the intention to revitalize the organization.”  In just two short years, Yurchesyn has accomplished a staggering amount and continues to turn challenges into opportunities for the blossoming Island community. She understands the importance of community support and says she has never felt more connected to her community and the people in it than she has over these past two years. “I have a front row seat to the best of the best, and that’s what really fires me up,” Yurchesyn says.

What’s in a leader?

To Yurchesyn, being a leader is about much more than leading the charge. Leaders should have ambition, drive, and the ability to get things done while empowering others to do the same. “I don’t think I’m perfect, that’s for sure,” says Yurchesyn. “But I would like to think that I push people to think for themselves.” One of Yurchesyn’s proudest accomplishments at the Chamber is the shift in focus toward collaboration, which she says brings people together to participate in the art of the possible.

As someone who has always taken initiative, Yurchesyn is motivated by the confidence of knowing she can do anything she sets her mind to. While failure is always possible, Yurchesyn doesn’t let fear stop her from trying new things and pushing beyond the status quo. As the leader of the Chamber, Yurchesyn thrives on the momentum of young Cape Bretoners who are excited about tomorrow. “Sometimes in life we look back and say ‘remember when?’ or ‘look how far we’ve come,” she explains. “I think the place that we’re in right now is the coming far section. At some point we’re going to say ‘look how far we’ve come’ but right now we’re living it.”

Don’t run away, run forward

What drives Yurchesyn to create change is the need and possibility in Cape Breton. “As humankind we’re all lured by new and shiny, but the grass isn’t always greener. We just need to water our own grass,” she says. “We don’t need to recreate the place that we live. We live in a beautiful place with a history that has taught us so much. Let’s learn from that and move forward.” Yurchesyn says for a long time her community has settled for the status quo, and 2020 is the year to be bold and fight for positive change and innovation on the Island.

JILL: A lover of handwritten letters, bottomless tea, and contributing to the chaos.

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