Biography of Natalie Voland
From social worker to business woman
Natalie Voland was born in Germany. She obtained a degree in Political Science and African Studies from McGill University. Having experienced racism growing up and personally concerned with social inclusion, she decided to better understand this reality through her studies. At the age of 18, she was struck by a drunk driver and nearly died, losing the ability to move her legs. It took her eleven years to learn how to walk again. This dramatic event not only shattered her dream of becoming a ballet dancer, but also propelled her down a different path.
Natalie Voland began her career as a youth social worker at the Montreal YMCA and later at the Montreal Children’s Hospital in the Trauma and Critical Care department. When her father became ill with Parkinson’s disease, Natalie was faced with a choice which had the power to change her life: either continue her career as a social worker or take on the family business, an option which she preferred. This is how Natalie found her place in the business world, at the head of the family company, which she later named Quo Vadis.
Real estate as a powerful vector for change in communities
Quo vadis is a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you going?”. Natalie’s father came up with the name for her company and the name says it all; Natalie Voland is true to herself in everything she does. She has her own vision of the path that real estate should take. The company name and logo – a piece of the puzzle – are daily reminders of her goal to work in symbiosis with other agents for change in order to have a social impact in the community. Together we are stronger!
At the head of her real estate empire, this former social worker enjoys reinventing the way cities develop. She manages an area of 1.5 million square feet spread across various heritage buildings in the city, rented by more than 500 SMEs and generating nearly 3,000 jobs.
Natalie Voland is not only a businesswoman; she is an idealist. She uses real estate as a lever to create inclusive communities. For more than twenty years now, she has cultivated a single obsession: social impact in the community. She continues to prove, through her many real estate projects, that it is possible to make a profit while respecting communities and the environment.
Vision, innovation and determination
Leader of the B Corp Movement in Quebec, Natalie Voland’s company specializes in the renovation of historical buildings in entrepreneurial ecosystems. The primary goal is to provide business opportunities to innovative social entrepreneurs and to foster the integration of business, culture and community into developments. As Natalie puts it, “I build the city I want my family to live in”.
Natalie Voland’s father, an urban planner who emigrated in the 1970s, had already begun to purchase old buildings at a discount in the Southwest industrial district when he was the head of the small family business. Just like Natalie, he had a vision of sustainable development. She has applied this vision in all of her projects, beginning with the transformation of two large Dominion Textile factories into rental properties, now called the Complexe du Canal Lachine and Dompark Complex. Guided by her values, she has convinced businesses to move into these heritage buildings and has lowered the rents to allow NPOs, artists and SMEs to invest in the area, thereby creating jobs and revitalizing the neighborhood.
In 2015, GI Quo Vadis launched Salon 1861 in the historical Saint-Joseph de la Petite-Bourgogne church built in 1861, in order to welcome the community and promote co-creation and social innovation. Now some thirty SMEs with a social vocation are located there. As soon as she saw the building, it was love at first sight. She was so involved in this project that she personally took care of the renovation, chose the design of the balcony’s balustrades and even redesigned the emergency doors.
The art of combining profits and sustainable development
In the early years, Natalie Voland struggled to find funding, but with her vision, courage and determination, she achieved her goals. Slowly but surely, her business started to take off when the Lachine Canal reopened at the turn of the 2000s.
Natalie Voland is a strategic woman. To change the world, one must think and act before others. She has a unique gift for seeing connections where others don’t. Her buildings were the first to adopt local beekeeping as a contribution to the environmental movement. In addition, her company was the first B Corp of Quebec and she was the first to renovate historic buildings in an innovative way while achieving solid returns on investment, when most real estate developers felt it was impossible.
Influence and international renown
Natalie Voland’s social approach allows her to experience unique and exceptional moments. She has been invited to the Harvard School of Public Health to present her real estate projects and teach sustainable leadership to the world’s top CEOs. In 2016, she was invited to speak about her work related to Salon 1861 at the World Summit on Entrepreneurship in San Francisco under the auspices of Barack Obama. She was also selected to join 90 world leaders in sustainable city development at the ACTUrban Conference of the Jan Gehl Institute in Philadelphia where she presented her responsible real estate projects and their contributions to the Montreal community.
Natalie Voland travels the world in search of best practices, not only from developers, but also from city planners, art collectives, retailers and universities. Through her international conferences, she constantly meets new collaborators and collects innovative ideas that she puts into practice in her projects.
Legado, Natalie Voland’s newest project, is a real estate development located in the heart of Griffintown and influenced by the international concept of “vertical pedestrian village”, also inspired by Jan Gelh, Danish architect and urban planner greatly admired by Natalie.
Changing the world, one project at a time
Natalie Voland tries to create a better world for her daughters, the centre of her universe. As a woman, her experience in the business community – especially in real estate – has not always been easy. She is constantly fighting to shine in this masculine world. Every day, she avoids isolating herself and chooses to make a difference in the world. “Breaking the mold of real estate and creating a world of opportunity is inspiring others to take the necessary steps to make a difference in their own industries,” says Natalie.
The values of commitment and solidarity are at the heart of what motivates Natalie Voland. She actively encourages her team to get involved in the community and to volunteer. Every year, her company supports a cause; this year, her obsession is to recycle plastic. Quo Vadis has won numerous awards over the years, including an award at World B Corp for its impact in the community and for being a leading influencer in the industry. Natalie has even received an award from CREW M for her success as a businesswoman in the field of commercial real estate.
Natalie Voland also sits on several boards, mentors many young leaders, and often speaks at universities or at various urbanization, creation, entrepreneurship and real estate events where she constantly encourages her peers to think outside the box.
Natalie Voland believes that the idea of saving the world is the first drop of water from a waterfall. If there are enough drops, then the waterfall becomes possible… and try stopping a waterfall! Creating this first drop of water is sometimes difficult, but it is so worth it. Many people do not like change. But if we continue to remain motionless, where will we go? Natalie is a leader; she inspires change.
One of Natalie Voland’s favorite mantras is a famous phrase by Nelson Mandela (hence the origin of her dog’s name, Nelly): “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Natalie is a humble, transparent and positive woman. Wherever she goes, she inspires others to dream the possible. She changes the world one building at a time, and nothing can stop her.