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Vision: Shawnigan Lake restaurateur sells restaurant and changes direction

Darren Cole has been in the restaurant business for 38 years. -
Darren Cole has been in the restaurant business for 38 years.
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A well-known Shawnigan Lake restaurateur is re-inventing himself.

Darren Cole, owner of Steeples Bar and Grill for the past 13 years, and Mill Bay’s Fridays before that, recently sold his restaurant and is launching a career as a motivational speaker.

Or as the 51-year old says, relaunching it.

Twenty-four years ago, he was a motivational speaker and coach for network marketing companies — American Gold Eagles and Straight Up Marketing Systems to name two. Back in the day, he taught three keys to success: desire, faith and persistence.

“There’s no better feeling than sharing beneficial information with people,” he said.

Unfortunately, those gigs weren’t paying the bills at the time. So implementing the philosophies he shared with others, he started three successful restaurants from scratch.

“I’ve been in the restaurant biz for 38 years,” Cole said. “I’ve worked every Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve...I’ve dedicated my life to it. When things turned, I thought, ‘there’s a reason.’”

The first indicator his life might be changing came on Nov. 26, 2011, when employee Tyler Noble was killed in an altercation with a man on a downtown street in Victoria.

“He was a really great kid,” his employer and self-described empath said. “His death upset me a lot.”

Wondering what he could do to ensure something like that didn’t happen again, he decided to hold a workshop for teens on violence and bullying, called “drop the ego, not the gloves.”  According to Cole, Shawnigan Lake School heard about it and suggested he hold it there so more people could attend.

“The feedback I got was that I should go on the road,” he said, adding that would be his dream. “It made me think, maybe this is what I should be doing.”

Noble’s death, coupled with a poor economy and changes in drinking laws that saw the blood alcohol limit reduced from .08% to .05% got him to see life was turning him in a new direction. After the law changed, people were more reluctant to drive long distances.

Last October, he sold his business to a Chinese businessman, under the federal government’s foreign investment program. The new owner was supposed to take over in March, but because of bureaucratic hoops, Cole thinks it will be a few more months.

Serendipitously, producers of CHEK TV’s show, The Hard Way, approached him about being on the show. The reality TV show helps struggling businesses with their problems, and tries to turn them around.

Cole said when producers learned he had sold his business, they decided to help him focus on his new goal. Challenges were made and before you could say “motivational speaker,” Cole was addressing a sold-out house at Brentwood College on the secret to the power of intention.

“My (ultimate) goal is to get into schools...and once kids understand, we may be able to rid the world of bullies,” he said.

While acknowledging making a success of being a motivational leader and coach in a crowded field could be challenging, Cole said one of the important things he’s learned in his life is that, “you can’t have expectations, you can have goals and dreams, but whatever happens you have to accept it and move on.”

Most people aren’t living the life of their dreams because of fear and doubt.

“I’m jumping off a cliff and building my wings on the way down,” he said. “I’m really outside my comfort zone, but I have a burning desire and a faith.”

And if his past three businesses are any indication, the persistence too.

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