COVER Kim Bruneau | On Motherhood, Real Estate and Balancing it all

Introducing the one and only, Kim Bruneau for Canada Develops first issue! You’ve seen her grace the cover of issue No 5 – LOVE which was an intimate storytelling of her journey. In this issue, we dive deep into her world, and a new world that is. She’s the mother of a newborn baby girl Ella Rose, one that she’s been waiting for, for over five years. Through hardship and IVF treatments, she finally made her dream come true.

On the business side

She’s the co-owner of the boutique luxury real estate brand Forest Hill who has recently developed roots in Quebec. She also has many real estate investments and multiple ventures that include her non profit organization, Les Belles et les Bêtes, to raise awareness and funds for different animal welfare organizations. 

Passionate for new constructions and real estate developments, she has worked on multiple projects on the South-Shore and all around the Montreal area including, among others, one of the largest developments on the island and one of the most expensive. From the start to the end of each project — from pricing, design, plans and marketing to building sales offices, selling, managing employees and follow-through up to delivery — she has mastered the art of selling on plan. 

Truly, there is not much Kim cannot achieve. Her superwoman abilities have taken her far, and her genuine good heart and love of others has made her an icon in our books.  

On motherhood

You’re a mama to newborn Ella Rose, tell us what it’s been like journeying home with her.

I was prepared for war. Wanting to have a child and going through many years of IVF in 3 different countries takes a lot mentally, physically, and emotionally. I knew the journey to get there wouldn’t be easy and that raising her alone would also prove challenging. You look online, you go on Instagram, and it’s all black or white. All you see are moms who are overwhelmed going, “Oh, my God, it’s so hard, you’ll never be able to have a life.” Or it’s the complete opposite. “Oh, my baby is so perfect and so cute.” The thing is, it’s almost always in the middle. I went in prepared for the worst and I’ve been nothing but happily surprised. I’m not adapting to my baby’s life; she’s adapting to mine — in a good way. I haven’t stopped living or working or traveling, she just comes with me and we make it work! You do have to modify your lifestyle, make certain sacrifices, and give up certain things to make it work but it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I think one of the reasons we are in symbiosis, and it works so well is that I didn’t pressure myself with anything. For example, I didn’t care whether I gave birth naturally or through a c-section or wanted to breastfeed, but I was prepared and very fine with bottle feeding. All I cared about was having a healthy baby and I would figure out the rest.

My mom helped a lot. The first three weeks were hard for me, physically. I had complications after birth, so having that support at home was crucial. Now she comes to babysit for a few hours when I have meetings and one day a week. But she doesn’t even come to ‘work’. I’ll be like, let’s have dinner, let’s watch movies and let’s all sleep together. Then in the morning, she’ll take Ella Rose so I can sleep a few extra hours. I think if you’re a good planner, it’s very doable. Also, the fact that I wasn’t much of a sleeper to begin with helped. I have dogs that wake up at night and I’m used to caring for baby animals so waking up at night really doesn’t bother me. The first few weeks you are getting to know what works and what doesn’t work but once you find out what works it gets easier, it’s instinctive. 

I love being home with her, but when she’s napping, which is for a good portion of the day, I need to get my brain going. I can’t just lay in bed and do nothing, I don’t enjoy that. So, during one nap, I’ll be cleaning a bit or working out or resting or doing some work. When I work from home, she’s on my lap or next to me and we play in between.  I love my work and I had nine months of being pregnant to plan accordingly. It’s not like you’re pregnant and then you’re giving birth the next day. You have time to plan this. So, I spoke to my clients, I looked into my businesses, and I did what I had to do to be able to come back gradually to clients and projects that allowed me to consolidate family and work. And for the most part, I bring Ella everywhere. It’s just about integrating her.

I think I’ve always been very caring and loving. I always took care of animals. I have my own charity dedicated to them and I love kids with all my heart. I volunteer and raise funds for the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Le 2159. Le 2159 helps teens and young adults in need and they have provided me with the support and resources to become a foster mom to Marie-Ange who was going through a hard time. As you can see being a mom is something I’ve always dreamed of. It is truly the most beautiful title I’ve ever held.

Tell us about the hardship that you went through during your IVF journey.

At the age of thirty-two, I wanted to freeze my eggs to concentrate on my career. That’s when I found out I had a low ovarian reserve, premature aging of the ovaries, and an estrogen deficiency. I was told it would be hard to freeze eggs because I would only make a few at a time (between three to five) and that you needed a minimum  of twenty for one healthy baby. I went through three extractions in Canada. Not only did I get poor service — they kept doing the same thing expecting different results — I didn’t get good results. 

At thirty-five, I felt ready to have a child. At home, while caring for baby raccoons and squirrels, my two dogs and my foster daughter, I figured I can do this. Things were quiet because of the pandemic. So, not wanting to repeat the same treatments in Montreal, I looked for an alternative and flew to Mexico City to try dual stimulations and fresh fertilization. 

I did three rounds there. Every time they tried something new. Unfortunately, my embryos all came back genetically abnormal and I hyper-stimulated the last round which was very painful. On my way back to Canada, I was told about an amazing clinic in Miami. So I flew there and started treatments even though they told me I had less than five percent chance of making a good embryo. I went through two extractions, two pregnancies, and one miscarriage. It wasn’t an easy journey. I came back skin and bones, exhausted, with lots of anxiety, and having to go to the USA to get meds that weren’t available in Canada until my third month of pregnancy.  In the end, I’m glad I never gave up. The amount of pain and sorrow is nothing compared to the joy she brings me. Yes, my miracle baby is finally in my arms.

What was the biggest motivation for you to raise her on your own?

There’s no perfect scenario, no perfect couple, no perfect situation. I don’t think that either two moms raising a child, two dads raising a child or one parent raising a child is a bad thing. So long as the child gets love and support. Obviously, everybody wants that fairy tale, but it doesn’t always happen that way. And in my case, medically speaking, I couldn’t wait any longer. They were very clear that it would be very difficult for me to have a child even with medical assistance, so I had to do it right away. 

What advice would you give to women from your fertility journey? 

Whether you wish to wait to have children, have them alone, in a relationship, or whatever your situation is, I think that every woman around age 32 should get tested to see what their ovarian situation is. Lucky for me, because I did it at 32-33, I was able to take measures and steps to freeze my eggs and try other treatments, which took years.  I’m now 37 and I have my baby, but had I not done those tests and decided to look into it at  35-37, then it would have taken me another five years. Not only would it have been much longer but there would be more chances of having abnormal embryos. So I would say to just go get tested, figure out where you stand, and plan for what you want to do — whether it’s to freeze your eggs for later or start your fertility journey to get pregnant.

Nobody tells you about these tests. It’s such a simple thing that’s going to give you peace of mind by knowing whether you should act now, soon, or it just won’t happen. So many women I talked to told me, “Oh, my God, I wish I knew, now I’m too old and I missed my window, I thought I had more time.” Why don’t we talk about it more? I shared my story online and many women wrote to me, crying, “We have never told anybody that we have these issues.” Someone said, “I’m ashamed because I’m a woman, I was made to procreate.” And I remind them that it’s not their fault. They haven’t done something intentionally to not be able to give birth and thankfully, in a lot of cases, modern medicine can make it happen.  Infertility affects one in five. It’s a lot!! We are so misinformed so I take time with everyone who reaches out to share as much knowledge as I can.

 On Real Estate 

Do you have a long-term vision or things that you want to accomplish through Forest Hill?

Once we build the culture and we have enough agents, I would like to grow to other cities but all in time, I don’t want or need to go too fast. Forest Hill is already in other provinces, so I want to concentrate on Quebec. I’d like to open other offices but most importantly, have a good brand name and a great environment where people are happy to work. We want to touch the high-end market but in an approachable way. A way where no one must pretend or act a certain way, we know how that world can be. I see all the other agencies; I like many parts of them and I dislike others but I’m not there to compare and judge or put one down or one up. I want to make my own space and get agents that are like-minded and create that community. That’s more what I’m looking for.

What do you want in terms of your company culture?

One thing that I’ve noticed throughout the years of being in real estate, especially in new construction, is that the people above you always try to take as much as they can from you. I was usually working six days a week and the main part of my commission would go to the office. But the office, the people above me, were never there. They were never on site. They would come once in a while but they were getting more money than me and I was like, hmm, that doesn’t work. So that’s when I started my own development teams and told myself I would never be that person. On the contrary, I’ll take a small share, and I’ll teach you. If you’re happy then I’m happy and we grow and get more business together. 

The thing is, when you have happy employees/co-workers, they won’t leave you. They’ll stay with you, and they’ll be loyal because they’re happy. When they feel like they’re getting screwed, that’s when they leave. A lot of agencies are always afraid of their agents leaving. Just treat them well. You don’t have to be greedy. Share the knowledge and share the money. 

Oh, and share the credit! Whenever people tell me “That was a great project, you did amazing” I always remind them that it was a team effort. It’s rarely just me. I may be the face of something, or I may be the person who spoke about that project, but there are people behind, and without them, it wouldn’t be possible. Sharing credit, sharing money, and sharing knowledge is important. And in the end, if they leave, it’s fine, but they’ll never have anything to say against you.

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Follow @KimBruneau on Instagram.

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