Micheline Kuepfer could be considered something of a super-mom. A Senior Client Advocate for Environics Analytics’ (EA) finance, insurance, travel and telco practice, she is also the mother of three very active school-aged daughters, a part-time vintner and, when time permits, a ball hockey player. All of which begs the question: how does she find the time?
“There’s a lot of juggling,” says Micheline. “And sometimes, when I look in the rear-view mirror and see only two kids, it sends me into panic mode before my brain catches up with my eyes and I remember that one of the girls is off with my husband.”
At their Don Mills home in an Urbane Villagers (wealthy, middle-aged urban sophisticates) neighbourhood, Micheline’s husband of thirteen years, Tim, is just as involved in the girls’ activities as mom, and they often find their free time consumed by sports practices or competitions of one form or another. Eva, 12, is a competitive swimmer who took a while to find her niche, according to Micheline, but has already added several awards to the family trophy case. “It’s her passion,” the proud mom observes. “Seeing her prepare both physically and mentally is amazing. To be that young and that focused is really something special.”
Not to be left behind, the second oldest child, 10-year-old Anika, plays hockey at a competitive level and exhibits the same drive as her older sister. “She really gives a full effort in everything she does,” says Micheline.
The youngest daughter, Ellie, is now 7 and hasn’t settled on favoured activity yet. “But, she is very gregarious,” says her mom. “It’s like she was given an extra dose of personality.”
When asked how she manages to harness all that energy, Micheline shrugs, “You just make it work.” Weekends can be somewhat disjointed for the Kuepfers, with everyone attending different events, but they typically come together for family activities like a trip to their vineyard.
Four years ago, Micheline asked Tim what he wanted as a Christmas gift, and he responded with two options: a book about quitting your job and sailing around the world or a book about working in the city and having a vineyard in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. Micheline selected the latter and, after a bit of searching, was pleasantly surprised to find that just such a book existed. Not too long afterwards, they became owners of a small vineyard in Prince Edward County, where they often spend their summer weekends.
But a trip to their vineyard is no leisure outing for the Kuepfer family. “It takes a lot of work to keep the vineyard running,” says Micheline. “You have to bury the vines at the end of the season and dig them up in the spring to protect them from the frost. It’s different from having a vineyard in the warmer Niagara area. But the kids love to help with the work during the growing season and they particularly enjoy the harvest.”
Come harvest time, Micheline and her family host a large season-ending party, usually planned well in advance, where they invite friends and family to help pick grapes. Once the fruit is harvested, one of their neighbours helps with the fermentation and bottling process that eventually leads to their very own wine. The family produces about 1,200 bottles each year under the label “Broken Stone.”
“While we still have a lot to learn about winemaking, there is a lot of satisfaction in seeing the bottles with our label and knowing we made it ourselves,” says Micheline, a note of pride in her voice.
That sense of pride for a job well done is typical of Micheline, whether it’s ferrying her kids to practices, making wine, playing defense on a women’s ball hockey league or completing a difficult project for a client. “I really enjoy the client-facing activities,” she declares. “Being able to be creative and serve as the liaison between the client and the developers is a lot of fun.” She especially likes creating documentation, developing training sessions and tailoring content and information to meet the specific business challenges facing her clients. The relationships she’s formed with clients during difficult assignments are, she says, among the most satisfying benefits of her career.
Micheline got her start in the industry after earning a bachelor’s degree in geography, studying first at the University of Western Ontario and completing her degree at Laurentian University in her home town of Sudbury. Following graduation, she took a job with the Ministry of Natural Resources doing forestry inventory mapping. One of the great revelations for her was that GIS could be used for more than just mapping. That notion, combined with a desire to move to a big city, lead her to Toronto and an eventual interview with Jan Kestle at Compusearch. She still recalls her interview, where, after making an appointment without quite revealing the reason, she arrived with her resume in hand. But she must have done something right: Jan hired her then—and then again when she founded EA.
Working in the field has given Micheline special insight into the needs of clients. During a stint at Allstate Insurance, she helped develop the company’s segmentation strategies, even making a presentation to the company president about her work. And as a marketing manager at Nielsen, she honed her skills in producing documentation to help project teams and client users make the most of proprietary analytics programs.
Between her busy work and home schedule, Micheline has also managed to find time to coach Ellie’s soccer team. Though they prefer someone with more experience once they get older, they like the role of nurturing parent for now. And she’s happy to spend the time with her kids, who continually surprise and delight her. “I love their tenacity, their perseverance and their hearts of gold,” she states. “Everything they do is just amazing.”