Ann Kaplan


Celebrating Women: Ann Kaplan

Have you ever met a beautiful woman who seems to grow even more beautiful when she speaks? Ann Kaplan is a woman like this. She has an elegant business look and exudes a strong grace that I’ve only seen a few times in my life.

The more time you spend with Ann, the more her sense of humour and intelligence shines through. I was fortunate enough to meet her over a decade ago and since then I have watched as she built her business – iFinance – from the ground up in a predominantly male industry.  As I grew to know her,  I developed a sense of awe over the way she could think and handle hard, emotionally-exhausting life events and yet keep her sense of humour and desire to put others first. Her strength shone through at a time when others might have collapsed under stress of illness and family losses that saw her move from having six children to suddenly having eight.

When Olympic athletes talk about inner strength and endurance, my mind always turns to Ann, who seems to gain strength with each hurdle she jumps over.  I remember having lunch with her while she talked of all the pain and loss she had to cope with, and yet she could still smile and care about what was going on in my life. She draws strength from giving to all those around her.

Now, add to all of this the fact that she is one of the smartest women I have ever met and you start realizing that there are some great lessons you can learn from Ann. Just a few things I have learned from her are:  laugh as hard as you cry, focus on what you can give and not what it takes out of you, and always be able to laugh at yourself.

Ann Kaplan has become a success in business because she understands what is important in life.  She is the perfect example of someone who gives more than they receive, who values what she can do for others over what they will do for her. When thinking of what makes a woman beautiful, I think of Ann’s grace, her intelligence, and how her inside beauty seems to shine all the way through her.

I am lucky to have her as a friend. I think of her often and find myself thinking… now what would Ann do in this situation? I’ll never have her grace, but if I can try to come close to her level of kindness, I may just capture a small part of the beauty that surrounds her.

CosMedicList: the one-stop shop for cometic surgeries

Standing at the front of the screening room at the Shangri-La Hotel, Ann Kaplan looks radiant. She has been working the room for the past hour and a half, mingling with all the reporters and investors here to listen to her talk about her latest business endeavour, CosMedicList.

“We’ve changed. It’s no longer a one size-fits all and we are looking online to see what we want to get done. That’s where we come to CosMedicList, and we are gong to have a bit of fun,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

Kaplan is president and CEO of iFinance Canada Inc., a money-lending company that offers loans for elective surgeries, veterinary services, dental, and home improvement financing — items that would otherwise be difficult to get a bank loan for. Her latest endeavour is a business she founded called CosMedicList, a website that connects Canadians with doctors, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons.

Beauty trends, Kaplan says, are great for the industry.  “Women can’t make up their mind. They’re bigger, they’re smaller.” Sixty per cent of people will reference articles online when deciding what plastic surgery they would like to get. The other 30 per cent will go directly to a doctor. But, Kaplan asks, how do they find these doctors and how do we ensure the information they look at is reliable?

Ann Kaplan
Ann Kaplan

“The aim of CosMedicList is to provide people with a credible destination for all their cosmetic medical needs, questions, and any concerns,” says Kaplan. “By bringing the wealth of knowledge of many of the world’s leading medical professionals in the cosmetic medical industry into one place, it really allows users to trust the information they are provided with.”

The website is truly a one-stop shop for cosmetic surgery. It contains valuable information about different procedures, including the average cost, recovery time, level of invasiveness and pain, and finally the permanence of the change. It provides information on how the procedure is performed and whether or not it is right for you.

Once you know what procedure you want, you can plan it out by searching for a doctor near your geographical area. There are over 1700 doctors registered with CosMedicList, with full profiles and contact information available to users. All you have to do is choose the area of your body you are interested in modifying and then search the common procedures for more information. CosMedicList also offers a daily-curated list of news related to cosmetic surgery with the latest trends.

The other big feature of the website is the “Ask A Doctor” section, where anyone can post a question relating to cosmetic surgery and a certified doctor will answer it. That way, it ensures the information people get is accurate and comes from a certified medical professional instead of a random person on Reddit. A panel, including two plastic surgeons and two dermatologists, sits at the front of the room during the launch to provide sample answers to questions from the audience in a demonstration.

The only problem with this particular section of CosMedicList is that it puts the onus on those doctors to go through the website in their free time to answer questions from the public. While it could benefit them — people who are happy with the answers provided can contact that doctor directly through the website to make an appointment—it is also dependent on their time. I posted a question the night of the launch on March 2 —about a week and a half ago— hoping to see how it worked when the doctors weren’t on hand. Unfortunately, the question remains unanswered. It also looks like no other questions have been asked since the launch.

That being said, the rest of the website is clean and easy to use. The beauty industry is constantly changing, and with more women considering plastic surgery than before, it’s important to know where that information is coming from. It looks like Kaplan has once again found a niche market that was in desperate need of her services. And I wish her all the luck in the world.

Woman of the Week: Ann Kaplan

Think big — that’s Ann Kaplan’s biggest piece of advice for those wanting to succeed in business.

“I wish I had thought bigger,” she said. “Once I looked back and saw how big we had become, I thought ‘why didn’t I envision that when I was thinking of building the business?'”

Kaplan is president and CEO of iFinance Canada inc., a money-lending company that offers loans for elective surgeries, veterinary services, dental, and home improvement financing — items that would otherwise be difficult to get a loan from the bank. She built the corporation from nothing, relishing in the chance to pitch her ideas and grow.

Kaplan originally went to school for interior design, but once she opened up her own store, dealt with her own clients, and got a taste for the back room dealings of business, she was hooked. She now has an MBA in finance, a Masters of Science in Business, a Corporate Governance designation (ICD.d) and is completing her PhD thesis, which involves creating an algorithm that would determine whether a consumer would default on a loan.

All of her hard work has resulted in an influx of awards, the most recent being the PROFIT Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship as part of the 23rd annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. She said she cried when she found out she had won. “I was taken aback. I knew I was a finalist, but there were very qualified candidates.”

Kaplan was also recognized in 2000, a few years after the creation of Medicard Finance Inc., her first enterprise which is now under the iFinance umbrella, as Canadian Women Entrepreneur of the Year, Start-Up. In 2001, she won the Peak Award of Excellence in Finance. Kaplan has been on the Canada’s Profit Top 100 Companies nine times and has held a place on the Canadian W100 list eight times. She was inducted in the WXN Hall of Fame in 2014 after being named as one of Canada’s top three Female Business Leaders and as Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. If that isn’t enough, she has also written four books — and these are only some of her notable achievements.

Despite her success, Kaplan remains humble and modest, speaking with a dry sense of humour — “verbal volleyball” she calls it, a skill that makes her popular with bankers and businessmen. Her time is split between work and her large family of eight kids, which means the word ‘relax’ isn’t in her vocabulary. Kaplan gets her hair done three to four times a week, and schedules in time for manicures and pedicures, but even then she has her laptop on hand. “No time is wasted,” she says.

What’s unique about Kaplan is that after nearly 20 years building iFinance, she still sees the opportunity for growth and education. But, what else made her start-up a success? Kaplan spoke with Women’s Post over the phone to go through a few tips on pitching to investors or lenders. According to Kaplan, the first, and most important aspect of a pitch, is to have an idea. This idea must help solve a problem. “That’s what a good business model is. Whether that is an App or providing instant financing that’s unsecured.”

Kaplan explains that the internet is inundated with everything. An idea must stand out and it must be able to provide a service that solves a specific problem. This means that people will actually be motivated to use the product or service you are pitching.

The next step is preparedness — be prepared to demonstrate your market, competition, and uniqueness. Understanding how your business is going to grow and what investors are going to get in return is crucial to landing a pitch. “There are great things like crowd-funding, but even in that you need to be prepared and be able to display the vision.”

In addition to knowing the worth of your business endeavour and of the company you are pitching to, it’s also important to also understand your own worth. Don’t undersell.

Finally, it’s all about communication and confidence. If you are able to explain in a concise manner how investing in your idea will be mutually beneficial, how the idea will be a success, and how you plan on making it into a larger, bigger entity, there is no reason why the pitch shouldn’t be considered.

For Kaplan, the independence that comes from creating a business from scratch is empowering. “The first time someone besides your mother buys something — it’s exciting!” That’s why it’s so important to continue to grow and think of new ideas, expand, and adapt to the new technology available. Kaplan is in the middle of a new and exciting enterprise called Brix Exchange, a Canadian crowd-funding portal for real estate and technology start-ups. It will be the first regulated portal of its kind in Canada.

The biggest piece of advice Kaplan can give, besides thinking big, is to follow your dreams. You can have everything if you are organized.

“Young women … they come to talk about handling their boyfriend who are concerned they are not spending enough time with them. It sounds like I’m generalizing, but it’s very common,” she said. “Family will come, but you should set yourself for your future.”

“Being able to walk away and do what makes you happy is empowering.”

Ann Kaplan is currently reading “So Anyway” by John Cleese.