Get to Know: Colette Bellefleur

Colette Bellefleur is Vireo Health’s Vice President of New Market Development.  She comes to Vireo Health with unique and extensive combination of operational, people, and relationship management experience – all critical to getting facilities and operations in newly licensed markets up, running, and fully compliant. Ms. Bellefleur has a BA and MS in Economics from Rutgers University and a long career in operations management working in highly regulated industries, such as financial information and analytics, engineering standards, and the cannabis industry.

Colette was kind enough to share her inspirational story and tell us a little about how her trek across the Himalayas helps her today as we deal with a global pandemic. See below for her story!

My role at Vireo, as a member of the Project Management Office (PMO), is to manage projects – just as the name suggests! I focus mostly on launching our cannabis grow and processing facilities across the country, but also on our new dispensary locations.

I would be remiss not to do a little “PR” for the PMO – our focus in the PMO is to apply a standard process to managing projects that is repeatable and transparent and is also guided by project deadlines which are often regulatory compliance and deadlines, budget and brand guidelines, and regulatory compliance. These processes get replicated all over Vireo’s business!

I have been with Vireo for 4 years now. The first two as a consultant and the last two as a full-time employee.  I am an economist by training but have spent most of my career in operations and project management.  And I feel quite blessed, particularly at this stage in my career, that Vireo has given me the opportunity to do my dream job that requires me to do the things I am good at and love doing!

Outside of Vireo, I enjoy walking (it used to be running), playing golf, and the outdoors in general and I love cooking. During the pandemic, I’ve managed to cook my way through all the new recipes I collected over the past few months. I watch the food network instead of the news, so I don’t yell at the television. Anyway, my husband is really happy about that – the cooking and the not yelling at the television!

One thing about me that might surprise you about me is that some time ago I quit my job on Wall Street and spent a year travelling in Southeast Asia. The highlight of the trip was the 42 days I spent trekking in the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal where I successfully ascended to and through a 17,000+ foot pass called Thorong La. Not quite an Everest summit – but an 11 hour climb none the less – up through the pass, and then to the base camp on the other side. I could end here with this surprising feat – but more important details about this trek resonate with what we are all going through right now.

So, please permit me to tell you a few more details about this story! As you can imagine the climb was very difficult and I ran into a bit of trouble.  I was never in any real physical danger, but I very much thought I was – and feared at one point that I might not make it off the mountain!

Weather and timing dictate that you must keep going once you start a climb like this one – there is no turning back. Despite weeks of preparation before the ascent, for some reason, physically debilitating fear gripped me from the start. Long story short, I did not make it through that pass on my own – but for the helpful hand – and frankly – for the “lies” of an amazing Tibetan Sherpa that was on the trail behind me.

This Sherpa, who I did not know, handed me a walking stick because I was having trouble staying on my feet and kept saying to me, “the summit is just over that hill.”  For hours when I wanted to stop or sit down, he told me that beneficial lie repeatedly until we were finally over the summit and on the downside of the pass!

The moral of my story? No matter how tough we think we are, or no matter how bad things may seem – we are never truly by ourselves. What resonates most for me is that we are witnessing this every day during this pandemic. Really difficult times no doubt, but people helping people any way they can, people giving to others, even folks they don’t know!

So, I just wanted to say to all my colleagues at Vireo and to all our patients and followers, who are helping our patients or helping each other and helping us – THANK YOU!

I am so proud to be part of this Vireo family, which includes my co-worker, our patients, and their families!

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