Q&A: How Mandy and Rebecca are adapting to a new normal.

In 2004, sisters Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe took a leap of faith and opened up Mandy’s Salad Bar, Montreal’s first-ever “create-your-own gourmet salad” restaurant. Sixteen years later, the co-owners have built a mini-empire that includes eight successful locations with local and international expansion in the works for 2020. But when COVID hit, business-as-usual came to a standstill and growth plans were effectively put on pause. They share how they are navigating one of the hardest-hit industries, rebounding from the initial impact, and adapting their business model for the new future of food services.

 

What area of your business is getting your most energy and focus? 

In a way, we are getting back to our roots — which was, and always has been, a takeout model for gourmet casual food. Over the sixteen years that we’ve been making salads and goodies for Montreal, we’ve grown our dining rooms and the overall experience for dining in, but following health and government guidelines for takeout and delivery during this pandemic has made us go back to the original concept we had in 2004.

What is the most important problem you are trying to solve? 

We are trying to be the safest and most helpful channel and bridge between our suppliers and our customers. When it became clear that things were going to get worse before they got better, we got on calls with our suppliers and reached out to our customers and tried to find a way to get the most food to the most people — including health care workers in our hospitals and hardest hit CHSLD (long term care facilities).

What has been your most successful solution so far? 

In all of our business and company decisions, we play the part of both our staff and our customer in asking “what would I want or need most in these challenging times?” And for everyone, it was safety, security, employment, and fresh healthy food. On the customer side, it was definitely an opportunity to expand our offerings to grocery boxes and meal kits — both Rebecca and I are at home with many kids and cooking three meals a day plus snacks seven days a week was getting really tiring, so one of the best things we did was grow our line of goods to taco DIY boxes, kids’ boxes, munchies boxes, smoothie and morning boxes, and more.

How have you been staying connected with your customers and employees? 

Thank god for technology in a time of social and physical distancing! We have had so many virtual meetings, conference calls, and when necessary — location visits. For our customers we have strong engagement and connection with them through our social media, Instagram being our favourite way to message, poll and stay in close touch. Our team has pulled together so strongly and beautifully in these difficult times, with a real “one team” mentality. We feel so grateful for our core team, our management, and everyone who comes to work with a genuine smile on their face, willing to make someone else a bit happier too.

What advice do you have for businesses struggling with their finances?

One saving grace for us is knowing that we are not alone in this. Most everyone we know, especially in our sector of the industry, has been hit really hard by this pandemic. Knowing that we are all in this together has certainly brought about some extra compassion, understanding and humanity in a sometimes cold business world. It’s a chance to strengthen relationships — whether it’s your landlord, your staff, your bank, investors, your suppliers and vendors, etc. Every business is connected to a greater economy, you can’t isolate your own business without it affecting so many other factors and sectors. If you can build a bridge to the “other side” (what we’ve been calling the end of COVID, whenever that comes!), even if that bridge is rickety, unstable and shaky, it’s still a path that won’t leave you so deep in the hole, or in the woods. Talk to your banks, see what arrangements can be made, try to remain open-minded to new ways of doing business in these trying times.

 

“Support one another, no one is your competition or your enemy right now, we’re all suffering and trying to figure out these new roads without a map, so try a little more kindness and understanding.”

 

What has surprised you? 

The outpouring of support, the sense of community all around us — be it neighbours, other restaurant owners, our guests, our staff who have picked us up and led the way with optimism and leadership even on days where we were feeling down — people can really be amazing in critical times. As a wise, kind man once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

How far ahead are you planning? 

There have definitely been some sad moments and times since March… We had plans to open up in Toronto next year, our first cookbook was due to launch May 19, 2020, and all of these dreams and schemes are now on pause as we figure out our brave new world. We’re so grateful that it’s the beginning of summer and the nice weather has people out and about more — albeit in a safe manner, and our sales are picking up a bit compared to the devastation we felt in March and April. What’s going to happen in the fall and winter? Who knows… Right now we’re taking it one week or month at a time and focusing on what matters most — our team and family’s health, wellbeing, safety and security. 

What keeps you positive? 

Giving back and helping others. Nothing feels so good as feeling useful and helpful in difficult times. Whether it’s donating free meals to staff at our hospitals and CHSLDs, or preparing grocery boxes for refugee claimants who can’t get to the food banks because they are single moms with little kids and are scared to take public transit, every little gesture counts. In being a part of that, in seeing so many others showing up to volunteer and help and do their part, it keeps hope alive and restores our faith in the goodness of humanity.

What message do you want to share with entrepreneurs right now? 

Keep it simple, go back to basics… we’re living in a very skeletal time right now, people are spending on what they need now more than ever, not so much on what they want. How can you help them? How can you be flexible in these times to adapt and stay afloat and alive? Support one another, no one is your competition or your enemy right now, we’re all suffering and trying to figure out these new roads without a map, so try a little more kindness and understanding. And when in doubt, help somebody out — everyone wins that way.

Good question: How can I come across more professionally in virtual meetings? Liz West shares her advice.

Q:

“My calendar has quickly filled up with virtual meetings. While I’m getting used to the technology (hello, mute button!) and trying to present myself well (goodbye, pajamas!), I still don’t feel like I’m giving off a professional vibe — definitely not like what I’m used to with in-person connections. Any advice for upping my virtual game?”

 

 

OUR EXPERT: 

Liz West
Emcee/Moderator & Video/Media/Speaker Coach
BeWellSpoken

Liz West is a seasoned television personality who has reported, anchored and hosted for five networks across Canada including CTV, CityTV and W Network. She is a sought-after emcee and moderator for live and virtual events and is co-author of Scratch Your Buts – Seven Words that Get in the Way, a guide to becoming a better communicator. A former Presentation Skills Instructor at Centennial College and experienced media trainer, Liz works with individuals and teams who want to be their best at the podium, on camera, and in the boardroom.

 

A:

So, you’ve suddenly found yourself faced with having to sit in your home office and be your professional self “on camera” — all the while you are surrounded by your laundry, screaming kids, and your cat is wrapped around your foot. The good news is that for video calls, you really only need to worry about what the camera sees, not what it DOESN’T see. There are several simple steps you can take to set yourself up for success by looking and feeling more professional in Virtual Meetings.

Here are my top 3 Virtual Presentation Must Do’s:

1. Make eye contact.

Nobody walks into a meeting and sits on the floor while everyone sits in a chair, so why are you looking down during a virtual call? It’s not so much that nobody looks good from that angle (although that is a fact), it’s more about maintaining the natural eye-to-eye contact that we use in all aspects of our non-virtual life. Talking eye-to-eye creates an understood equality, which opens up a conversation to having the best possible outcome.

To fix the “up your nose” shot in your new virtual office, grab some books, a shoebox, or anything that is flat and solid and lifts your device six inches or so off your desk surface. If you are feeling really confident, let yourself look at your camera lens so that you even appear to be talking to your guest. Raising your eye level to a natural height will really help connect you to the participants of a video chat.

2. Pay attention to lighting.

How many times have you been on a video call and you can’t really see one of the people on your screen because it’s too dark? You wouldn’t have a meeting at your downtown office in the dark, and the same rules apply during a video conference. To fix this problem you need light. Any light. Ideally, sit with your face towards a window, because natural light is ideal. Do NOT have your back to a window or your side to a window. If you don’t have a window, then face a simple table lamp or standing lamp, so that you are well lit. Light is a woman’s best friend when it comes to video.

3. Get into prime position.

Remember that your “shot” is quite small, so you want to fill most of it. Having a little head at the bottom of the screen while we all admire your stucco ceiling or Royal Daulton collection is just plain distracting. Position your camera so that your head and shoulders take up most of the frame. And sit-up straight, so that your body is in an active position. The added energy you use to do this will help you stay engaged in what can be a very disconnected environment.

By upping your virtual game, on those video calls you will look and feel more like the professional you are, and can take a deep breath and forget about the laundry, your kids, and the cat (for a while).

 

 

Meet Bianca Lee Mondino: a Toronto-based DJ who spent over a decade in the banking sector before pursuing her passion

Bianca Lee Mondino is a Toronto-based DJ and experience curator known for her ability to lift people through music and inspire women through joy-driven action. In the past 4 years, Bianca has been booked to DJ internationally in sunny locations like the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Croatia. In April of 2019, Bianca quit her corporate job of over 12 years in banking to pursue her creative passions full-time With a focus on corporate and special events, Bianca has had the incredible opportunity to work with brands like Bumble, YouTube, Toronto International Film Festival, TD Bank, Elevate Tech Fest and more. Outside of DJing, Bianca is the founder of Sunday Soul Service — a feel-good oasis that celebrates all those who identify as women. With a mission to help women fill their cup first, Sunday Soul Service curates unique phone-free experiences around the city to help women disconnect from the hustle of their every day and reconnect with their favourite versions of themselves.

 

My first job ever was…*technically* at Tim Hortons as a Customer Service Representative (just before I turned 16), but I started babysitting my neighbour’s kids when I was about 13.

I decided to give up my career in banking and follow my dreams of becoming a DJ because… it brought me a feeling of joy that I’ve never experienced before! I will never forget the feeling of waking up after my first DJ set (it was for a good friend’s 30th birthday); I woke up smiling from ear-to-ear and felt a sense of fulfilment that was entirely new and exciting. There are certain moments in my life where I’ve just felt called to trust my intuition fully, and this was one of them. There was something in me that told me I needed to explore this newfound passion project a bit more, and it turned out to be something I was able to grow into a sustainable career (having a corporate background + network really helped here). It was also a dream of mine to become my own boss one day!

My proudest accomplishment is… finding the courage to seek help so that I could better understand my experience with debilitating anxiety. There was a point when I told myself I couldn’t go on being miserable/sad/depressed every single day, and that there must be something or someone to help me through this. After some very honest conversations with myself (and with Google search), I found and began my first form of therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

My boldest move to date was… leaving my stable, coveted 9-5 job to pursue my creative passions full-time!

I surprise people when I tell them… I am introverted! People look at my line of work and think ‘wow she’s the life of the party’, but in fact, after a fun DJ set or event, you will NOT find me looking for an afterparty. I crave solitude so that I can recharge.

I would tell people thinking about making a career transition… three things:

  1.  Invest in yourself – before I made the leap, I hired a business + mindset coach who helped me move through my limited beliefs + build my brand, a lawyer to help me structure my business and an accountant to help me get my books in order. While I understand resources can be a challenge, there are a ton of free tools and resources online these days. Investing in yourself to me doesn’t necessarily mean financially, but rather setting aside some time to work on moving you closer to your transition goals.
  2. Start an emergency fund – I put aside about six months worth of living expenses before I quit because I knew realistically I had certain financial responsibilities and a lifestyle I wanted to (at least somewhat) maintain.
  3. Start thinking about other streams of income you can tap into based on your skills and experience – for me, because I had over 12 years of experience in business, communications, PR, and branding, I began offering 1-on-1 strategy sessions for women.

My best advice from a mentor was… think about your “why” before making any big decisions. There was a time when I was seriously considering pursuing an MBA and my mentor asked me WHY I wanted to do this. This question totally stumped me and it turned out that I wasn’t actually sure why I wanted to do this. Once I honestly asked myself “why”, it became clear it wasn’t actually something I personally wanted but rather an impression of what I thought was the “right” thing to do. I am grateful for this advice because not only did it save me a lot of time and money, but I also truly believe it was not the right path for my journey.

 

“There are certain moments in my life where I’ve just felt called to trust my intuition fully, and this was one of them.”

 

One piece of advice that I often give but find it difficult to follow is… it’s OK to ask for help!!! I feel like we can be our own worst enemies at times and especially as an entrepreneur/solopreneur it can be an incredibly lonely journey. However, I’ve realized that we don’t have to do it alone. I am making a more conscious effort to “receive” because I am notorious for being that person who just wants to give and figure things out on my own. More recently I’ve started to become more open to sharing my challenges on social media, joining communities and just simply asking for help from my network.

My biggest setback was… experiencing debilitating anxiety, which I first experienced six years ago. While I wouldn’t consider it a setback per se (I believe obstacles and pain can make us stronger), it was a really dark and challenging time for me. I felt like the world was against me and I couldn’t make sense of why I was constantly unhappy in my job, relationships and just life in general. It wasn’t until I starting seeking help that I now say anxiety really freed me. It helped me understand myself on a much deeper level (I also learned that I’m an empath during this time and this helped clarify a lot) and I’ve become a lot more intuitive because of it.

I overcame it by… seeking help and being transparent about what I was going through! I realized that I did not have to suffer alone. I started to warm up to the idea that there are professionals and resources available to help me heal and move through this challenging time. I also learned that it’s OK to talk about what I was going through – I understand this is not always easy or may not feel safe, however it helped to share what I was going through with loved ones and friends.

The best thing about being a DJ is… the people and energy. From the people, I’m DJing for, to the ones planning the events and everything in between. Some of my fondest memories are the incredibly energetic dance floors – one particular memory was earlier this year in Bahamas where I was fortunate enough to guest DJ a week-long corporate reward program. I will never forget a moment when the entire dance floor was packed and I was playing “We Found Love” by Rihanna and Calvin Harris. The energy was so electric and the entire dance floor (imagine 300+ people) was jumping in unison for most of the song. It gave me goosebumps to think that this was now my life. All that to say – I feed off of energy. I am also so lucky to work with some incredible clients and event companies. Travelling for work is also a nice perk – travelling gigs are some of my favourites!

The most challenging thing about what I do is… it can get lonely! While being an entrepreneur/solopreneur is often glamorized, it can get really lonely especially when you first make the transition. When I first started facing the challenges of being a solopreneur, it was hard for some of my friends and even family to relate to what I was going through because it was so new. However, I remained patient and open and was fortunate enough to meet more people who were in similar positions through Facebook communities, events, etc. This is one of the reasons I am a huge fan of WOI – I have met so many incredible women at events who genuinely want to help each other and learn about each other’s work. I am grateful for spaces like this!

While social distancing, I’m spending my time… on a few things! First, I’ve been working to bring more light into the community through Sunday Soul Service, a space I founded in September 2019. The mission of Sunday Soul Service is to help women (and those who identify as women) fill their cup first via experiences that help them disconnect with the hustle and reconnect with their favourite versions of themselves. Once the quarantine hit, we adapted our traditional in-real-life experiences to a virtual format, and so I’ve spent much of my time curating and producing virtual wellness experiences. I’ve been fortunate to know many incredible experts and healers who stepped up during this time to help me bring this to life (shout out to Hannah O’Donovan of Lovedey who helped me spearhead the virtual experience idea). Second, I’ve been having so much fun doing weekly, feel-good Instagram Live DJ sets! I do a 30-minute set once a week that is simply meant to help give people a little pick-me-up (they are literally called The Pick-Me-Up). Finally, I’ve been embracing my feminine energy more – to me that means proper sleep, solo dance parties, and just creating space to learn more about myself (journaling has been a huge help here!)

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I once hugged a panda! It was one of my life goals to volunteer at a panda research centre, and so I volunteered at a base in Chengdu, China about 5 years ago. It was a dream come true!

The future excites me because… I believe as we come out of this we are going to crave human connection more than ever and seek out more opportunities to play and heal.

My next step is… studying energy medicine and energy psychology and looking into how I can incorporate some of these techniques into my work to help people manage day-to-day stress. Also, I’m expanding my DJ offerings to a virtual format so that I can bring more feel-good music to people!

Q&A: How Linh Truong is adapting to a new normal.

Linh Truong is the innovative founder of The Soap Dispensary, Vancouver’s first dedicated refill shop specializing in premium soaps, household cleaners, personal care products, DIY ingredients and grocery supplies. Considered an essential service, she has been able to keep doors open over the last few months but has had to drastically adjust operations to adapt to a new environment. She’s sharing how she’s successfully incorporating new virtual and delivery solutions and most importantly, continuing to service her customers with the products they need most.

 

What area of your business is getting your most energy and focus? 

My shop has remained open throughout this pandemic but our normal operations have been thrown out the window. Adaptation and new systems development and implementation (and doing it safely) have consumed all my attention. We have had to transform into another business in a way and join the ranks of many brick and mortar shops to adapt to an online market. 

What is the most important problem you are trying to solve? 

In a broad sense, I am trying to maintain the essence of what we did well before COVID; what made us unique and important in our customer’s lives and translating that in our new operations. My business tries to resolve the issue of how to help our community reduce waste in the simplest and most impactful way. So as my shop works around the restrictions and guidelines set by our local authorities, we are trying to uphold an important message in our community that even in a pandemic, we can still minimize waste and support our customers in the long term vision of the future we want. 

What has been your most successful solution so far? 

Like many businesses around us, pivoting to an online platform has been a win for us and our customers. Our foot traffic has been reduced to a trickle but once we opened online, sales recovered quickly and allowed us to retain our team and maintain support for our suppliers. Our customers were grateful to be able to stay at home while still being able to explore our offerings online. 

How have you been staying connected with your customers and employees? 

I hope that by remaining open, we are not only a place to get essentials but we are also a little sanctuary for our customers to stay in touch with things that they care about beyond the fears and lockdown. I also feel that mine and all the little independent shops that have been able to stay open on otherwise deserted streets early in the pandemic keep our neighbourhood colourful and interactive and independent. We are available to our customers physically and virtually. Social media is also a great point of connection with customers 

As for my team, we have a morning meeting every day to stay in touch with what’s going on. I am very involved in my shop and I am in the shop every day. I make myself available to my staff if they need me. I think it has also been nice for those who choose to work during COVID to have a place to feel productive and see their coworkers and friends. With social distancing, the team has become the only other social circle they can share space with. 

What financial resources are you tapping into? 

I must admit I have not had time to look into if I qualify for financial support. I am grateful to my accountant for sending me info and I have plans to apply for the emergency loan from the Federal govt and cement some of our changes into permanent facets of the shop, such as a webstore upgrade. There are also lots to upgrade in our shop and delivery vehicle. A business can always improve. 

 

“I never see a problem as a problem. I see them as challenges; as an opportunity to tap into creative thinking; as a learning experience.”

 

What has surprised you? 

The resilience of my team. They came to work during the scariest and darkest hours during the pandemic. They were scared but they still showed up – to serve customers, to help me, to support each other. I am eternally grateful to them. 

How far ahead are you planning? 

I am a nose-to-the-ground kind of entrepreneur. I am very involved in the day-to-day operations which allows me to tweak and improve what we do all the time. My bigger plans are usually 3 – 6 months ahead but in actuality, I set small goals every few days or weeks to get to the bigger ones. 

What keeps you positive? 

I never see a problem as a problem. I see them as challenges; as an opportunity to tap into creative thinking; as a learning experience. I do get thrown off by mistakes or HR issues and financial worries like everyone else but I know things change all the time, and things almost always get better. Entrepreneurs are generally a positive bunch. You need some can-do attitude to want to go off on your own and take a risk! 

What message do you want to share with entrepreneurs right now? 

For someone starting out, work hard to learn all about your industry and yourself within it. Then at some point, dive and take some risks. You can’t know how things will go otherwise. This is an advice I admit I am trying to practice myself. Do what you love and get others to help with what you don’t. You don’t have to be an expert at everything. You may worry that getting help is an expense you can’t afford or asking for help is embarrassing but your time is the most valuable asset you have.

Good Question: Does Covid-19 mean my career plan has to go on hold? Christine Laperriere shares her advice.

Q:

“Before Covid-19, I was on a career plan to move into a Vice President role in the next 18 months or so. I knew I had more to do to secure the position, but I was doing great work, growing the right relationships, and my last performance review confirmed I was on track. Now, everything has changed. Working remotely, I can’t just stop by someone’s desk or easily get a few minutes with senior leaders — who all seem to be in crisis mode, so I hate to bother them with career discussions. I know I’m lucky to just have a job. Should I accept that my career aspirations are on hold?”

 

 

OUR EXPERT: 

Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.

 

A:

Let me start by saying, you’re not alone. So many of us are scratching our head and trying to figure out what to do next. And yes, you are fortunate to be employed, but it can still be frustrating to feel that your hard earned career momentum has been lost. The good news is, your aspirations don’t need to come to an end — you just have to adjust your strategy.

Demonstrate leadership through a crisis.
You’ve put in the work to show you can be a leader — now’s the time to prove that you can lead through a crisis. Think about this: in the future, when other leaders in your organization are trying to assess whether you are ready to be a VP, they are going to use their past experiences with you to determine if they can picture you being successful in this new and expanded role. So help them picture it. Stay open minded, stay innovative, and practice as much self-care as you can to help you stay sane (which I know is near impossible for those of us with kids at home, or those who are worried about the health and safety of our family and friends). None of this is easy; and that’s exactly the point — leading through a crisis is very challenging, which is why it’s such a critical opportunity to show your capability and dedication.

Create a communication plan. 
In order to put the first point into action, you need to become thoughtful about your talking points. Think through how you will communicate to others about how you are leading through this challenging time. For example, when people ask you how you are doing, tell them how you are leading. Tell them about how you view the complexities of moving to a virtual environment overnight, how it has impacted the team, and how it has changed your business. And then share with them exactly what your approach has been to lead through this challenge to get the best outcomes possible. As people get to hear how you solve problems, it will build your personal brand even further.

Connect virtually, but with a purpose.
Although I can imagine that few of us really want one more virtual meeting on our calendar, don’t be afraid to reach out to sponsors and mentors and ask them for a few minutes of either coaching around a business issue or a discussion about leading during this crisis. Share stories, support each other with ideas, and most important, don’t be afraid to ask them for help. If you are going to a sponsor, start by explaining how you are approaching leading through this crisis, and then ask for their advice on what you should be considering. What are you missing? How are they approaching this challenge? This meeting approach not only gets you coaching on how to be a strong crisis leader, it also gives you a chance to show your strategic thinking capability.

 

 

L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia, au service de toutes les entreprises détenues ou dirigées par des femmes

 

Par Shelley White

 

Depuis son lancement en décembre 2018, l’initiative Femmes de la Banque ScotiaMC cumule les projets et, selon Geneviève Brouillard, cela ne fait que commencer.

Geneviève, qui est première vice-présidente de la région Québec et Est de l’Ontario à la Banque Scotia et membre du comité consultatif de l’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia, est une fervente partisane des initiatives que la Banque déploie aux quatre coins du pays pour renforcer son soutien aux entreprises détenues ou dirigées par des femmes, tout particulièrement en cette période sans précédent.

« Nous pouvons encore faire beaucoup, déclare-t-elle. Nous nous sommes engagés à investir une enveloppe de trois milliards de dollars dans les trois premières années et, après un an, nous avons déjà injecté un milliard de dollars. Ce que nous voulons, c’est devenir le partenaire de choix des femmes qui possèdent ou dirigent une entreprise, donc je vois très bien cette initiative devenir un programme emblématique de la Banque Scotia. »

« Ce jalon d’un milliard de dollars en financement, ce n’est que l’une des réussites de notre première année », précise Geneviève. En effet, la Banque Scotia a aussi investi dans Disruption Ventures, le tout premier fonds privé d’investissement en capital de risque canadien fondé par des femmes, pour des femmes.

En outre, les ateliers Un-MentorshipMC et les séances de mentorat en groupe offerts en 2019 dans le cadre du volet formation de l’initiative ont permis à 1 500 dirigeantes et entrepreneures de partout au pays d’élargir leurs compétences et leur réseau. L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia s’est également associée au Forum for Women Entrepreneurs pour lancer la nouvelle série de balados bilingue Le Go-To : pour les entrepreneures au courant, qui se penche sur les notions fondamentales de l’entrepreneuriat et des affaires.

Début 2020, l’initiative a étendu son champ d’action en faisant équipe avec le Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec (RFAQ) pour organiser des activités dans la province tout au long de l’année.

« Le RFAQ, c’est un organisme sans but lucratif de 2 000 membres au service des femmes entrepreneures qui veulent faire croître leurs activités et percer à l’étranger ainsi que des femmes d’affaires qui aspirent à une brillante carrière, résume Geneviève. C’est le partenaire idéal pour nous, puisque nous partageons le même objectif : épauler les entrepreneures québécoises. »

« Ces activités sur mesure permettront aux participantes d’apprendre l’une de l’autre, de nouer des relations et de parfaire leurs compétences pour amener leur entreprise vers de nouveaux sommets, poursuit-elle. En s’associant avec le RFAQ, la Banque Scotia manifeste clairement son intention d’être plus présente au Québec, de faire partie intégrante des collectivités dans lesquelles ses employés vivent et travaillent. »

L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia déploie donc des efforts pour augmenter sa présence dans la province et a d’ailleurs créé un nouveau poste pour piloter cette expansion. Ce poste a été confié à une personne dévouée qui possède une profonde compréhension du marché et une vaste expérience de travail avec des femmes entrepreneures et de conception de programmes et de contenu original.

L’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia travaille sans relâche pour trouver de meilleures approches qui permettent d’offrir un soutien novateur et concret aux entreprises détenues ou dirigées par des femmes. Récemment, elle a par exemple parrainé Femmessor, un organisme sans but lucratif au service des entrepreneures dans 17 régions du Québec qui, tout comme elle, cherche à épauler les entrepreneures québécoises touchées par la pandémie de COVID-19 en leur prodiguant les services-conseils d’experts gratuitement.

Parallèlement, l’initiative alimente son centre de ressources en ligne et parfait sa stratégie de communication externe par l’intermédiaire d’événements virtuels, de webinaires et de balados.

 

 

Je veux que ma contribution ait été d’aider d’autres femmes à se hisser aux postes de leadership à la Banque Scotia, qu’ils soient semblables au mien, ou tout autres. Que pouvons-nous faire pour réunir notre passion et cet océan de possibilités, au service des femmes? 


« Une autre étape importante franchie cette année : la publication en mars 2020 d’un rapport d’étude qui jette un éclairage inédit sur la relation qu’entretiennent les entrepreneures avec le financement et la croissance de leur entreprise », explique Geneviève. S’appuyant sur un sondage effectué auprès de propriétaires de petites entreprises au Canada, ce rapport intitulé
Connaissances et confiance en finance – Vers une parité hommes-femmes dans le financement des petites entreprises canadiennes révèle que les demandes de prêt présentées par les femmes propriétaires d’entreprise sont plus souvent acceptées, mais aussi moins nombreuses. On y constate aussi que leur niveau de connaissances financières est, en moyenne, inférieur à celui de leurs contreparties masculines.

Le rapport conclut que pour permettre aux femmes propriétaires d’entreprise au Canada d’atteindre leurs objectifs de croissance, les formations et autres initiatives doivent autant mettre l’accent sur les connaissances financières que sur la confiance qu’elles s’accordent à ce sujet.

Geneviève rappelle que la mission de l’initiative Femmes de la Banque Scotia est de refermer l’écart hommes-femmes, de s’attaquer aux préjugés inconscients et de s’assurer que les femmes ont les outils dont elles ont besoin pour réussir.

« Nous aimerions que les femmes prennent une plus grande place dans le tissu économique de la société, dit-elle. D’où la nécessité pour l’initiative d’être présente pour leur offrir ce capital, leur donner accès à une gamme complète de solutions de financement, sans oublier le mentorat et la formation. »

« Le mentorat constitue un volet central de l’initiative, renchérit Geneviève, et l’objectif est de le développer encore plus. » Du haut de ses 30 ans d’expérience en tant que cadre dans le secteur bancaire, elle insiste sur le rôle prépondérant qu’a joué le mentorat dans son propre parcours professionnel :

« Le mentorat, c’est disposer d’un espace exempt de jugement pour prendre les meilleures décisions, que ce soit sur le plan professionnel ou personnel. Ça peut changer la vie de quelqu’un. Si j’ai su prendre des risques et m’épanouir, c’est grâce à mes mentors. Lorsque j’étais effrayée par une proposition ou un défi, c’est le simple fait de recevoir un message d’un mentor me disant “oui, tu en es capable” qui m’a permis de devenir qui je suis aujourd’hui. »

D’ailleurs, Geneviève compte bien profiter de son rôle dans le comité consultatif de l’initiative et dans le cadre de son poste actuel de première vice-présidente pour aider des femmes de talent à gravir les échelons.

« J’ai encore un objectif à l’horizon : faire monter plus de femmes à bord. Je veux que ma contribution ait été d’aider d’autres femmes à se hisser aux postes de leadership à la Banque Scotia, qu’ils soient semblables au mien, ou tout autres. Que pouvons-nous faire pour réunir notre passion et cet océan de possibilités, au service des femmes? »

Pour conclure, voici les bons conseils de Geneviève pour toutes les entrepreneures désireuses de développer leur entreprise et de devenir des dirigeantes à la hauteur de leurs aspirations :

« Foncez. Réseautez. Et demandez conseil à votre banquier. »

Meet Jalee Pelissier: a 20-year-old advocate with Muscular Dystrophy working to make her community better for people with disabilities

20-year-old Sudbury, Ontario native Jalee Pelissier was born with Muscular Dystrophy, a disorder that weakens a person’s muscles over time. Jalee has made it her mission to make a positive change for people with neuromuscular disorders and all disabilities. She is a spokesperson for the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, whose mission is to make dreams come true for kids with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Through her advocacy work, Jalee became an honorary firefighter for the work she has done to raise awareness in her hometown. Her mantra is “dream, strength, balance and fearless” inspired by her role model Tessa Virtue, which she wears inscribed on her ring and bracelet every day.

 

I first started advocating for people with neuromuscular disorders and other disabilities… when I was about 13 years old. It started by me doing a lot of research trying to find support in my community and I came across Muscular Dystrophy Canada. I then signed up for the walk-in North Bay and had then started making it my goal to raise awareness by being an advocate and doing research and fundraising for MDC. Over the last 5 years, I have raised over 20 thousand dollars. By doing all these things I have received huge honours such as becoming an honorary firefighter, ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy Canada, spokesperson for the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, winning the Craig Nobel independence award, The Sally Spence Award from the Children’s Treatment Centre and the Young Woman of Distinction Award from the YWCA.

I became interested in this work because… it is my passion to advocate for those with special needs. I believe it is important that all places should be barrier-free and inclusion should be automatic and not something that should be fought for.  As someone with a disability, I have faced a lot of barriers and rough patches and I want to put a stop for others in the future. I feel I have turned my disease into something beautiful and used it as a platform to make a difference. 

My proudest accomplishment is…  when the firefighters in my community made me honorary firefighter. I had been going around the station giving presentations on Muscular Dystrophy as that is their charity of choice and I wanted to put a face to the issue and explain how the money they raise will help individuals with neuromuscular disorders. I would tell them a little bit about my story, give them a description of MD and tell them what the mission of MDC is and where that money is going and how it helps. By the 3rd presentation, they made me an honorary firefighter and it was a huge honour.

My boldest move to date was… as a little girl, I was so shy and couldn’t talk to people or look people in the eye. Then a few years later I got up on stage in front of hundreds of people to share my story and that’s when everything changed and where it all started with my public speaking. It was completely out of my comfort zone but now it is my passion 

The next thing I would like to accomplish is… to continue my work on being an advocate for people with disabilities. I would love to continue my public speaking but not only in my hometown, but I would also love to start travelling in order to fulfil my quest and continue raising awareness for all disabilities.   

I surprise people when I tell them… that my life doesn’t suck, that it’s okay that I have Charcot Marie tooth, I live a full life that it doesn’t define me and I’m happy. I don’t let it drag me down. I can do anything anyone does, but I may just have to do it a little differently.

My best advice to others who like to become advocates in this area is… there are no limits. Always take the opportunity to share information and to educate others. Let your story be heard.

 

“I tell everyone to dream big and that dreams do come true. You will get through anything and you can have challenges but still live an incredible life.”

 

The person I look up to is… it’s hard to choose just one person, but I will give you three. Number one is my mom, I hope to grow up and be just like her. She is my inspiration and my guardian angel. Without her, it would’ve been a lot harder to overcome all my obstacles, but we jump over the hurdles together. My family means the world to me my dad and older brothers are like my best friends and we share everything together.  Second, he doesn’t know it but Niall Horan has helped me a lot through my journey and his music means everything to me. I had the privileged to meet him and he was the nicest person in the world. Lastly, Tessa Virtue is the perfect example of a woman of influence. I wear her ring every day with the words engraved “dream, strength, balance and fearless” and I live by those words. She has accomplished so many incredible things in her life, not only by winning the Olympics but by being an inspiration to women everywhere. 

The best advice I’ve been given is… never give up on your dreams because they will come true. No dream is ever too big. Never stop dreaming. 

My biggest setback was… when I had surgery every year in my 4 years of high school. It was tough as I missed a lot of school by going back and forth to Ottawa to see my specialist when I’m from Sudbury. Loads of travelling and seeing doctors while trying to heal. I had 3 full reconstructive surgeries on my feet and a hardware removal during my 4 years. 

I overcame it by… working hard and having the support from my family. I stayed positive and not only worked hard on my schoolwork, but also working hard to recover. I kept my spirits high and pushed myself to accomplish my goals. In the end, I graduated from high school with all my fellow students and even received 4 bursaries. 

I stay inspired by… seeing what all my hard work is doing. Seeing how many people it has helped and seeing what I’m doing is working and that I am making a difference. 

The most exciting thing about the work I do is… knowing that the things I have done will help multiple families and I always get a thrill after one of my presentations and I’m so happy. I have also met some incredible people along the way who I will stay in contact with forever. 

The future excites me because… in the future, the world will be more accessible and will become a barrier-free zone for all! I will work my hardest for that to happen. As for the neuromuscular community, the world will be more informative of it and will be more well known. I have lots of projects set for the future and I am excited to start them. 

The career I aspire to have is…to work with individuals with disabilities and help them not only physically but also emotionally by inspiring them to work their hardest and stay motivated. 

My next step is…to participate in the new MDC webinars and to share information and my experience with my follow MD warriors and inspire them to reach their goals.

How Janet LePage built a $2.5 billion real estate empire in six years.

By Karen van Kampen

 

The night before Janet LePage was set to return to work after maternity leave, she sat on the floor of her daughter’s room and cried. She had a tough decision to make, one that would change the course of her life. Should she leave a good pension and steady paycheque to follow her passion and make a career out of investing in real estate? 

“I would be leaving everything,” she says. “It was terrifying.” The next morning, Janet quit her job and never went back to the corporate world. 

Six years later, Janet has built Western Wealth Capital into a global equity platform for real estate investment. With more than $2.5 billion in transaction value, the Vancouver-based company is the eighth largest private foreign buyer in U.S. multi-family real estate. As CEO and co-founder, Janet has garnered national recognition and accolades, including the 2019 RBC Momentum Award — a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that honours an entrepreneur who has created a responsive business that can adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth.  

When people ask Janet how she built her award-winning business, she’s open about the challenges. A new business isn’t profitable on day one, says Janet. This often means staying at your full-time job while building your next career in the evening and on the weekend, which Janet did for five years. “You work two jobs. My day job was from seven to five and then my next job started,” she says. “You don’t get a free ride becoming an entrepreneur.”  

The journey began in 2008, when Janet hired a coach to learn about the real estate industry. She then bought two single-family homes in Phoenix, Arizona. A year later, Janet devised a business plan to flip houses in Phoenix. But she needed $10,000 to get her idea off the ground. She presented the plan to her dad and he said, “if you beat me at crib, I’ll lend you ten grand at 18 per cent interest.” 

Over the next two years, Janet bought 58 Phoenix properties at auction, fixed them up and quickly sold the turnkey properties at the same price as neighbouring foreclosed houses. In 2011, Janet says the margins were becoming too thin. So she shifted her investment strategy and bought her first apartment building at auction, a 23-unit property near the University of Arizona. A year later, Janet purchased a 200-unit building in Phoenix. The $5-million cash close was the deal that propelled her career in real estate investment.  

With two young children, Janet knew that she had to choose between real estate and her full-time position as a senior marketing manager at a major North American construction company. “I was terrified that my children would derail my career, and they did the exact opposite,” she says. “They were hands down the best thing that ever happened in my success because they forced me to choose.” 

With her experience investing in real estate as well as some savings in the bank, Janet says she took a “calculated risk” and launched her business with partner David Steele. 

 

“You have to break every norm you thought possible of what a mother or a woman should be, you cannot fit a norm and be powerful. They don’t co-exist.” 

 

Her eight years in the corporate world “was a grooming on how business works,” says Janet, and her hands-on experience with corporate structure and controls provided a solid foundation to build her business. Western Wealth has created a strategy in which repeatability enables scalability. Once a property is purchased, a series of uniform interior and exterior upgrades are made. Keeping to the same colour palette and fixtures tightens the timeline for renovations and speeds up the process of listing units on the rental market. This creates wealth and reduces risk for investors. 

“There’s also probably some mom card being played throughout how this company was built,” says Janet. Property upgrades include lighting in parking lots to create a safe environment for women, and umbrellas at playgrounds offer a shaded place for kids to play. Every time a $600 washer/dryer is installed in a unit, this increases the market value of a property by $10,000. These upgrades also improve the lives of residents. 

While Janet says she is in the business of creating wealth for her investment partners, she adds, “you can create more wealth by doing good. That was the big ah-ha.” Generally speaking, the primary goal in real estate is to make money. Janet is working to change this outlook in her industry. “You can improve the lives of the people who work and live in your community while creating wealth,” she says. “It’s not an either/or.” 

Satisfied employees work harder and happy residents aren’t compelled to move. The less turnover, the less money it costs to operate a property. To date, Western Wealth Capital has acquired over 16,500 apartment units in Arizona, Texas and Georgia. The company employs 40 staff across its Vancouver and Tempe headquarters, 50 in-house property management and 400 employees across its third-party-managed properties. 

One day Janet was visiting a Phoenix property and noticed that many of the children boarded their school bus without backpacks. When the kids returned home that day, there were backpacks filled with school supplies waiting for them, and the “We’ve Got Your Back” program was born. Today, backpacks and school supplies are provided to all children living in Janet’s properties. 

With less than three per cent of women in executive roles in real estate investment companies, Janet often reflects on being a strong role model, especially for her kids. She talks to her daughter about finding success on her own terms. “You have to break every norm you thought possible of what a mother or a woman should be,” says Janet. “You cannot fit a norm and be powerful. They don’t co-exist.” 

The four keys to making a business partnership work.

By Vera Gavizon

 

Many years ago, while working as a consultant at McKinsey, one of my clients explained how he always enters into any partnership with a 50% share. He never considers a majority share — even if it is on the table. 

His logic was that this ensured he was a good partner. When no one has a majority, it requires you to explain your positions with rational arguments and fairness and not from a position of power, leading to a greater chance of success. His perspective has resonated with me ever since then.  

There are so many advantages to entering business with a partner as opposed to a sole proprietorship (and many challenges, too). The main advantage for me, when I co-founded Workhoppers, was to share the considerable responsibilities that are expected in starting a business while having time to take care of my family. 

My business partner Linda and I met while our kids were in daycare. At the time, we were busy juggling work, playdates, and the extracurricular activities of our (probably overly-scheduled) kids. We had worked on some contracts together, but it was only when our children started high school and were becoming more independent that we considered changing career paths to become entrepreneurs.

In the summer of 2012, while talking about our frustrations in finding flexible work, Linda and I came up with the idea for Workhoppers; a solution for all the busy professional moms around us to easily find flexible work and for companies to find them. We soon realized that the freelance market included more than moms and was on the rise. 

Finding the right person to start a business with is almost as difficult as finding the right partner in life. If you are lucky, sometimes fate brings you your partner, like it did for me — but often you need to be proactive and use resources, networks and the like to find your match. Our partnership works as we have the same vision and the same level of commitment. It did take some adjustments along the way, and I am happy to share what I learned:

Interview your partner before committing 

Linda and I met when our kids were young. Our friendship was based around having fun, carpools, and entertaining our kids. We had worked on a few projects together but getting into a business partnership requires a different set of skills and commitment. 

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. What is your long-term vision for the business and what is your level of commitment to the success of it? This will determine the exit strategy, the financing strategy and the level of sacrifice that each is willing to undertake. Get concrete to better understand what your daily life will look like. How many hours a day will you dedicate to the business? Are you willing to sacrifice your personal life to put the business first? How many vacations are you going to take? Is your end goal to become a millionaire or are you seeking a steady income? How long can you commit before the business becomes profitable? I find that our partnership has a particular advantage: we both had made the choice of making certain sacrifices to be there for our kids, and this is very much present in our business relationship. Understanding these dynamics in advance is important when entering a business partnership because it has consequences on how you approach the future of the business.

 

“Finding the right person to start a business with is almost as difficult as finding the right partner in life.”

 

Make room for the differences

It quickly became clear that Linda and I had very different personalities and styles. Linda is more patient, detail-oriented, and good at developing relationships. I am more analytical, more direct, and as a former consultant, I need variety — I like to review the big picture often, and do not look too much into the little details.

It took some time to accept the differences, and to learn how our strengths can complement each other’s weaknesses. Today we try to bring out the best in each other, but we are a work in progress, which means it doesn’t work ALL the time. We are both “control freaks” and like to be involved in everything. Sometimes this makes it hard to make decisions and move quickly. 

Interestingly, a few years ago, we included a personality test in our matching platform that helps companies understand the working habits of the freelancer they are about to hire. This gives a very good idea of their leadership style, level of flexibility, communication skills, self-control and more. I think if we both would have undertaken this test at the beginning of our relationship this would have saved us a lot of energy in learning about each other. Knowing about the differences helps you approach them in a more productive way.

Our way to make it work is by treating everything as a project. Once we agree on the need of the project, we split the development of it — always checking in to get the other’s input before implementing.

 

It is all about open communication

Our relationship works in a respectful way. We have had many clashes (sometimes it feels like we are an old married couple) but we aim to speak openly about our disagreements, and discuss them until we find consensus or apologize. We are not afraid of telling each other the truth about how we feel, and we both easily move on after a disagreement. 

We like to believe that our differences push us to do better and find the best solutions. We know that if either one raises an issue it is because she has a strong opinion on how to proceed. To make a decision we discuss the why, best practices, expert opinions, and finding the facts. All with the objective of doing the right thing for the success of the business. 

 

Don’t forget to have fun

It is very important to remember to have fun while you go through the ups and downs of owning a business. Linda and I have learned to laugh at our mistakes and not to take everything too seriously. Having a partner makes the journey so much more fun and doable. We both believe that we could not do it without the other.  

Building a company is not easy. We share the financial and emotional ups and downs. It is great to have someone to celebrate the good times with, and we hold each other up during the times when we are not so sure of the future. And we know we can rely on each other to take over when needed — whether it’s for travel or to deal with personal issues. And being in the same stage in our personal lives makes it easy to understand the other’s needs and priorities. This is a huge bonus!

Vera Gavizon

Vera Gavizon

Vera Gavizon worked many years in management consulting and venture capital. A project manager by nature and training, she understands the need that companies have to outsource non-core activities to remain competitive. While looking for flexibility to continue her consulting career after motherhood, she envisioned the value of matching small businesses with talented professionals; founding Workhoppers with her partner Linda.

3 Lessons Learned From Emotional Burnout Last Year

First off, let me say that I’ve had enough of performing, perfecting, proving and pleasing. They’ve all been UN-invited to my 2020 New Year, Better Me party. 

Problem is, they have a tendency to show up uninvited — especially in my field of work as an Inclusion Strategist, Neuro-Life and Emotional Intelligence Coach. Helping organizations have braver conversations around inclusive workspaces, deconstructing heavy and uncomfortable “elephants” like internalized racism, white privilege, microaggressions, and microinvalidations, is at the core of what we do. 

There are days I get home and ask myself: “Did you just spend the day proving why you and racialized people should have a right to equitable workspaces?”

These are the days I wish I didn’t have to prove to the masses that when you speak about gender without adding race, most of the conversation, solutions, speakers or stats being shared will reflect only white women, and will most likely only benefit white women as well.

And while the research shows that racial discrimination is a common experience in Canada, it seems that many do forget that Black, Indigenous, and Women of Colour (BIWOC) face an emotional tax daily in the workplace. As an entrepreneur, I wish I could say that the entrepreneurial journey is different — but it’s not. 

Proving is where I burned out. Proving that emotional tax is real, and that Women of Colour experience this on top of racism and sexism. Proving that representation has to be more than a hashtag or a communication strategy, and that the most underrepresented should be prioritized. Proving that inclusion begins with I (the individual) and must start from the top to trickle down to workplace culture. These are the lessons my burnout taught me: 

 

LESSON # 1: Setting emotional boundaries is a holistic process

Lack of emotional boundaries at work led to me deprioritizing my needs in the pursuit of doing what matters to me the most. Reflecting back, I did take things personally at a huge International Women’s Day event last year, where the lack of diversity on and off stage was glaring. Or when conferences I attended did not bother to have diverse speakers, quote stats, or address the “elephant in the room” — that Black, Indigenous, self-identifying women of colour are the most underrepresented when talking about women’s advancement. I learned that I need to check in with my emotional bank account and determine whether I have the bandwidth to attend that event, comment, or leave if I didn’t feel welcome.

 

There are so many brilliant leaders representing with excellence and we know that representation matters — you can’t be what you can’t see.

 

LESSON # 2: Emotional burnout blocks your superpowers (AKA, your intuition) 

Emotional burnout is exhausting. It amplifies stress-like symptoms and so can feel “normal”.  Performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving can rob us of our greatest wins and our ability to make better decisions, leading to disconnection from our authentic selves and our intuition. Am I surprised that I ended the year with a flu that lasted for almost a month? Not at all. 

LESSON # 3: Burnout is an entry point to braver conversations at work, home and in life

In my work, we remind our clients that wellness is a leadership strategy — but I forgot to put on my own oxygen mask in this case. This burnout gave me an opportunity to reflect on my activities, how I chose to respond and interact in spaces where I didn’t feel safe or welcomed, and revisit what my life would look like in 2020 & beyond. This led to braver conversations in my business, teams, marriage, family, friendships, and my inner self. I had to re-prioritize my needs and face my truth: Who did I want to become? 

 

This is why I am excited to tell more stories about Black women and women of colour in 2020. Last year, we worked with an amazing group of women on the soft launch of AmplifyHer — a self-funded, grassroots movement that is designed to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and self-identifying women of colour. There are so many brilliant leaders representing with excellence and we know that representation matters — you can’t be what you can’t see. This year, we’re partnering with Women of Influence, using their platform to share the stories wider, and we’re looking to grow with other like-minded organizations.

I hope my lessons offer some insight, or remind you to set boundaries in your life. Everything we go through is designed to help us grow to our next leadership opportunity — be it at work or at home. Truly everything is designed to help us get closer to realizing our full potential.

I’m the National Lead, Women Entrepreneurs at BDC — here’s how my role has changed.

It started out as a semi-normal week. I was in Ottawa for an event, and booked for another in BC the following week — in my role, I’m accustomed to traversing the country — when I was told BDC had put on a travel moratorium, and I had to go back home to Calgary. 

That was Wednesday. By Friday, we had all of our 2,300 employees working from home. As the only Canadian bank devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs, we knew that all of our clients — as well as a broader community of business owners across the country — had just as suddenly had their worlds upended. 

Many of us, myself included, were quickly trained and deployed into new jobs to help entrepreneurs. I volunteered to be a relief loan writer, quickly filling up the time I used to spend on airplanes. Within a few weeks, we received as many loan applications as we typically do in a year. Everyone at BDC — no matter their role or title — had been mobilized to rise to the challenge and increase support. We’re doing all we can to make sure that the influx of calls are answered, online resources are available, our clients know we’re virtually here for them, and the extra capital we’re making available is getting into the hands of the entrepreneurs that need it. We have even launched a dedicated hub to help entrepreneurs navigate relief programs and access support.  

While I’m new to loan applications, throughout my more than 25 years at BDC I’ve always had the privilege of working directly with entrepreneurs. For the last five years I’ve been able to focus my energy on women business owners, and I’ve learned a lot leading the bank’s strategy to support and grow this group.  

“Another thing I’ve learned over all these years is that women entrepreneurs are persistent and resilient. It’s definitely a mindset that we all need right now — and I think it’s one that we can share with each other.”

In the best of times, women face unique challenges when starting and growing a business — from accessing capital to finding role models and mentors. Due to these and other roadblocks, women entrepreneurs earn on average 58% less revenue annually than their male peers running similar businesses. These issues are being amplified in the current economic climate, and more pressures are piling on. Many women business owners operate in the industries that have been hardest hit, like health care, wellness, and hospitality. Add on to that working from home while taking care of kids, aging parents, or both (women in Canada still take on more caregiving responsibilities, as compared to men), with the usual support systems often inaccessible. 

I know it’s challenging — which is why I’m very proud that BDC is still making it a priority to support women entrepreneurs’ success. I’m also optimistic, because another thing I’ve learned over all these years is that women entrepreneurs are persistent and resilient. It’s definitely a mindset that we all need right now — and I think it’s one that we can share with each other. 

Over the next few months, I’ll be using this column to bring you uplifting interviews with women entrepreneurs who are not only surviving this crisis, but have also started looking towards the future, finding innovative ways to thrive, and paying it forward. My hope is that these inspirational stories will help you navigate your own journey, recognize that you have a whole community rooting for you, and, perhaps most importantly, offer the belief that you can get through this, too. 

We’re nearly two months in, and I know all of us are getting a little sick of hearing that “our new normal” is an “unprecedented time,” and “we’re stronger together.” But, it’s true, we are stronger together. In my experience, it’s where the magic happens. 

Before that fateful Wednesday in March — and even more so after it — there’s power in having a network, and being a part of a community that supports and learns from each other. When women unite, they build thriving businesses faster, and now’s the time we need it most. 

Meet Amanda Munday: founder of The Workaround, author, and advocate.

Amanda Munday is the founder and CEO of The Workaround, a parent-friendly workspace in Toronto that offers waitlist-free childcare. An expert storyteller, she’s a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail, and the author of the intimate, bestselling memoir Day Nine: A Postpartum Depression Memoir. An advocate for women’s rights, Amanda has been awarded the Toronto Community Foundation Vital People Award for her work with women and technology, and an active voice in the push for universal childcare. 

 

My first job ever was… working concessions at Famous Players Theatre (now Cineplex). After slaying the popcorn upsell I was promoted to “audience warm-up” where before each film I picked up a microphone and asked people to turn off their cell phones and… wait for it… their beepers. Ironically people often tossed popcorn at me.

The idea for The Workaround came to me when... I returned to work at a Toronto tech startup after my second child and felt like an alien. It seemed like I was the only one struggling to work and parent young children with a career I loved. Yet I knew there had to be other parents who needed to work and who struggled to find childcare in Toronto, so I selfishly built a space that would make it easier for me to go to work.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because…  I’m stubborn and government policy moves too slowly. As we’ve seen with the COVID crisis, there is a lot of promise of relief without concrete immediate action. The same is true (tenfold) with childcare policy. I started an innovative childcare company after several frustrating years of childcare inaction.

My proudest accomplishment is… when my daughter proclaimed on one of her virtual school lessons that she is now the CEO of The Workaround and too busy on calls all day to finish her schoolwork. 

My boldest move to date… was leaving my ten year marriage to come out as queer and finding a way to positively co-parent and co-exist with my ex while my children are still so little.

 

“As a strong, A-type, very proud woman I believed I could do it all. Once I accepted help, things improved dramatically.”

 

I surprise people when I tell them… I’m quite introverted and feel great stress in large group settings or after long in-person visits with anyone other than one or two close friends.

My best advice from a mentor was… focus on the problem directly in front of you, not the future problem you’re envisioning.

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs… is don’t open a brick and mortar space? (Kidding… but not really). My advice to entrepreneurs is to consider if the work you want to be doing truly lights you up — you will be working longer hours than you ever have, putting everything on the line. So make sure it’s for a mission/cause/activity you really believe in. Otherwise it’s a whole lot of stress, and there are easier ways to earn no money.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is…you can’t do everything today”. I recognize that currently I’m in the middle of a global pandemic and I cannot do the work I want to do, but I’m still quietly shaming myself for not doing enough. I really struggle to remember what “enough” really means.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… ask whether that hour includes parenting my children. If it’s a solo extra hour in the day, I would spend it napping or sitting outside in silence. If it’s an extra hour of parenting, I would spend it on screen time.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I’m queer, but truly in love with my garden. If only I lived somewhere I could garden 12 months of the year.

The best thing I’ve done for my business so far… is bring very wise investors and advisors into the mix, revealing my books and financial vulnerability. As a strong, A-type, very proud woman I believed I could do it all. Once I accepted help, things improved dramatically.

I stay inspired by… incredibly intelligent women and non-binary individuals who bravely put their critical analysis into the world through articles, books, podcasts and song. I LOVE critical analysis of everything from the current state of capitalism to an apt dissection of Love is Blind.

The future excites me because… well frankly it feels like we have nowhere to go but up.

My next step is… only to survive the next 18 months. The Workaround, my company, is still ordered closed in this moment — the recovery from this closure period will be much longer than the closure itself, and the only option I have is to try to survive it, hoping we will see enough return to normalcy to continue on.

Managing Our Professional Identity Crisis

Being an entrepreneur is hard at the best of times. In the midst of a global pandemic? As my Italian relatives say… fugedaboudit. The loss of self can be hard to reconcile when the public messaging is to be all-in-this-together. I thought I had my identity finally sorted: A queer, separated parent of two children, author and brick-and-mortar small business owner. I am many things to many people, and I worked hard to get comfortable with who I am. I consider myself well-versed in all things identity. Especially the loss of it. And yet the pandemic has made me feel as though I’m losing the identity I worked so hard to shape.

In what feels like a century ago, The Workaround, the parent-friendly coworking space with childcare was ordered closed on March 17. By March 20, I found myself immersed in homeschooling schedules with eight hours of crafts and activity plans, short-order cooking, emotional caregiving to my children, staff, family and friends, along with the responsibility of planning what to do next with my company. All to be in good order before the end of day yesterday. While some are flourishing in their uninterrupted time with their children, I’m grieving the loss of my professional existence. The one that had me working so hard to build a profitable company, one that employed 90% women and supported entrepreneurs of all genders. I miss being CEO.

Are other parents out there like me, who’ve found themselves sitting on the floor, muted on a work call, surrounded by sprawling lego and upside down yogurt cups thinking, “who am I anymore? How long do I have to pretend I’m holding it together? Who will I be when this is over?”

My question to you, reader, is this: is now the time for professional redefinition?

We are struggling to maintain all our identities. Women, particularly in heterosexual relationships, take on the majority of the household and parenting duties. There isn’t a 50/50 share of work-from-home-and-parent-kids ratio in many households that I know of. Even if we are the leaders of fortune 500 companies (I’m not… yet) we are still the ones expected to lead pandemic caregiving duties. Also worth noting that it is women who have professionally taken the largest brunt of the economic fallout: often women, people of colour and new immigrants own local businesses. We own the restaurants, cake-shops, dry-cleaning, salons and law offices that fill your main street. As the lower-income earners to male counterparts it’s likely women who are considering not going back to work. We’re holding many precarious roles.

 

“The reality is, we can’t easily make strategic decisions, or even minor shifts when we are in an unstable environment. We could perhaps attempt to, but it’s a lot better use of time to take a breather and wait it out.”


In order to regain some sense of self, I’ve found myself grasping to control an uncontrollable environment. The rainbow schedules and endless zoom social hour invitations are examples of our brains looking for normalcy and order. 

What brings me hope is that thriving in unrealistic expectations is one of marginalized business owners’ strongest assets. I don’t believe that working from home with screaming children and late night business meetings is anyone’s ideal picture of a “new normal”. The reality is that nothing about this world is normal and it’s not worth our limited energy to repurpose our sense of self to fit within it. For those who have worked hard to build their identity in a system stacked with barriers, it’s worthwhile to preserve our sense of self during a societal collapse, however temporary the collapse. I’ve spiralled into a thought monster about the new world and how we will manage many times. The reality is, we can’t easily make strategic decisions, or even minor shifts when we are in an unstable environment. We could perhaps attempt to, but it’s a lot better use of time to take a breather and wait it out.

How can we survive our loss of professional identity in a crisis?

First and foremost, don’t try to redefine what is undefinable. There is nothing that brings me more stress in this pandemic crisis than uncertainty. Strategic planning is rendered useless when new government programs, restrictions and infection rates repeatedly change. If we could stop trying to grasp what we can’t hold, we might be in a more restful situation to gear back up when the time is right. 

Find small ways to remember your “why”. For me, one of the main catalysts for starting The Workaround was to support families, particularly families who don’t fit within the stereotypical household norms. What helps me remember that I’m still helping families is the notion that I’m largely leaving them alone. We aren’t building virtual communities or daily check-ins. I know our members don’t have the capacity to participate and the best thing I can do right now is stay out of their way.

Don’t wear the mask of someone you never were. If your old identity did not include weekend watercolor paintings and evening knitting sessions, this temporary crisis world doesn’t have to either. One thing missing from all the “learn a new skills” rhetoric is that the pressure to be a better version of ourselves can pull us further away from the selves we know, adding more shame and guilt about that lack of productivity. If sales forecasts and marketing podcasts were your jam before, find a way to bring them into your day now. You do not need to be a new person in a temporary state.

 

Meet Maryam and Nivaal Rehman, twin activists and journalists

Maryam and Nivaal Rehman became activists when they were just eight years old. The now 18-year-old twins have since worked in their local and global community for causes including girls’ education, climate justice, gender equality and inclusivity. Through their non-profit, The World With MNR, their YouTube channel and social media platform, they are using advocacy, storytelling and development to take action and inspire others to do the same.


We started “The World With MNR” because…
 We wanted to create an organization through which we make a difference, and also inspire others to do the same. We fight for the causes we care about like Gender Equality, Climate Justice and Inclusivity, while also telling the stories of the people we have worked with and inspire others to take action for these causes as well. 

Our proudest accomplishment is… Becoming filmmakers for the Walt Disney Company and the UN Girl Up Campaign #DreamBigPrincess Project. Our film, which featured MP Celina Caesar Chavannes, was seen by millions of girls around the world and the project unlocked a $1 million donation from Disney to Girl Up, supporting its incredible leadership programs for girls worldwide. We are still inspired by all the films created as part of this campaign, our fellow filmmakers, and the impact we were all able to have.

Our boldest move to date was… Finishing high school a semester early to return to Pakistan and film our documentary. Throughout high school, we always wanted to create a film about girls’ education in Pakistan, but did not have a chance to visit Pakistan to film it because of our school commitments. To pursue this dream, we worked with our guidance counsellor and made a plan through which we could complete our required high school credits in advance, and spend our final semester of high school in Pakistan to create our film “Destined To Soar.” 

We surprise people when we tell them…  Our age. Ever since we began to attend conferences, summits and events globally, we have often found that we are the youngest people in the room. As we introduce ourselves or share our story, the one thing that surprises people the most is how old we are.

Our most surprising interview was…  with Madame Christine Lagarde at the G7 Finance and Development Ministers’ Meetings in 2018. We ran into her as we arrived at the event venue in the morning and she stopped her whole delegation to ask us if we were the twins who were going to interview her later that day. When we spoke to her again prior to our interview and told her our story, she would fill in different moments from our lives like when we worked with girls in our village in Pakistan, because she had already learned so much about us before the interview!

Our biggest obstacle was… Finding the balance between our school, extracurriculars, and our activism. We wanted to make sure we were giving all of our energy to our school work, the eight clubs we were the leaders of in high school, and our activism work, which often included travelling worldwide or spending countless hours working while we were still in Canada. It left us with little time for self-care and ourselves, which is what made finding the balance between all of these parts of our lives so difficult.

We overcame it by… developing a strict schedule, and sticking with it. We also had the immense support of our teachers and our parents, who would work with us to help meet the needs of sometimes overlapping commitments and help us organize our time more efficiently, without wearing ourselves out too much.

Our most memorable interview was…  Our interview with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malala Yousafzai during Malala’s Girl Power Trip in 2017. It was our first time conducting a Live interview, and we were nervous, but both PM Trudeau and Malala were so kind and down-to-Earth so all our nervousness went away. During that time, we realized how everyone is equally important in this fight for gender equality and everyone can make a difference.

Our best advice from a mentor was…  Self-doubt and “negative self-talk” is part of an outdated program in our brains which thinks it is keeping us safe by keeping us small. So whenever you are doubting yourself, know that it is not you talking, but it is that outdated program in your brain, who you can choose to not listen to. This advice was given to us by Julie Carrier, who is an incredible role model for us, and learning this helped us overcome self-doubt when approaching different dreams of ours. 

Our advice for other young people with causes they care about is…  To start by taking action in their local community, for one cause they care about. The world has so many big problems and it is easy to feel like you can’t do anything to solve them, but by starting somewhere locally, you can make a big difference and open up doors to expand your impact.

The message we would like to tell the whole world is… Your dreams are worth pursuing. If you work hard and stay dedicated, you will find that the universe has a way of helping you realize your dreams. It may take a while, but eventually, you will be rewarded for your hard work with your dreams either coming true exactly how you envisioned them, or in an unexpected, but equally exciting way.

If you googled us, you still wouldn’t know… How to tell the difference between us 🙂

We stay inspired by… Reading books about people who we look up to.

The future excites us because… We like to dream big, and are excited by the idea that someday, those dreams will come true.

Our next step is… Pursuing bigger and bolder dreams.

 

How to follow a path guided by passion and values.

One of the most common questions we get asked is, “What do you want to do when you’re older?” 

In this fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in, society pushes us to make a decision about the rest of our lives at a time when many of us have not even discovered who we are, let alone who we want to become. Our answer to the aforementioned question varies tremendously, often being a version of “We still don’t know yet,” mostly because we still don’t know exactly what we want to do, or what the map of our lives looks like. What we do know is what we are passionate about and what motivates us to keep going. In the process of discovering these things, we have found out more about ourselves, and come closer to determining what we want to do.

Our pursuit of discovering our passions and realizing them has led to opportunities beyond our imaginations. We have been everywhere — from interviewing PM Justin Trudeau and Malala Yousafzai, to making a film about girls’ education in Pakistan. We are always so honoured and thankful for the opportunities we have had, especially because each has led us to discovering more about ourselves, as well as the potential all young people have in making a difference right now. 

The truth is, there is so much we can do to pursue our passions and change the world even while we are in school or university, without having to wait until we begin our careers. Over the years that we have been able to work as activists, journalists and filmmakers, our experiences, as well as all the incredible young people we have met along the way, have proved to us that we truly are the leaders of today. In the process of doing what we love or are passionate about, we will be able to find our calling, and potentially discover the answers to questions like what we want to be when we grow up, too. 

 

“While we still don’t know the exact answer to what we want to do when we are older, we’re satisfied with being on a journey of discovery for now, and further exploring exactly who we are, before determining who we want to become.”

 

One of the greatest lessons that we have learned, and we encourage all young people to discover themselves, is the importance of dreaming big. The first time we recognized the power of dreaming big was when we met our hero, Imran Khan (now Pakistan’s Prime Minister), despite everyone around us (including staff members of Khan’s political party) telling us it was impossible. We were thirteen years old at the time, and spent months sending emails and making countless calls, trying to meet with one of the most important people in Pakistan. 

It was our determination and perseverance which allowed us to meet Imran Khan at his home, and personally deliver a donation we had fundraised at our middle school, for the second Cancer hospital he was building in Pakistan. Everyone we knew couldn’t believe it, and to be honest, neither could we. But throughout his life, Imran Khan never gave up on his dreams despite what other people said, and after we met him, realizing one of our biggest dreams at the time, neither have we. 

If Imran Khan taught us the importance of dreaming big, then being filmmakers in Disney’s Dream Big Princess campaign taught us to redefine our dreams, and stretch the limits of our imagination, because anything is possible. We grew up watching Disney movies, and creating amateur films using our mom’s video camera. If you told those little girls that one day they would be making their first professional film with the Walt Disney Company, they would have never believed you. In fact, being part of such an incredible project, and being chosen from thousands of applicants globally to participate, is still unbelievable. What we know for sure is that the Dream Big Princess project has left a profound impact on our outlook of life, and has helped us pursue bigger, bolder dreams than ever before. 

Perhaps the most important lesson of all has been discovering what we value the most, and what motivates us to keep going. We identified this during the most fulfilling moments of our lives, which have been working with girls in our village in Pakistan, and empowering them to continue their education. We have been working in that community since we were eight years old, and spending time with the girls there is always so inspiring for us. 

Supporting other girls and young people in general, while striving to create equal opportunities for them to realize their dreams is tremendously important for us. During this process, we have also found out more about the intersectional nature of causes like gender equality, climate justice and inclusivity. For the girls in our village, the disproportionate impacts of climate change that they have to face prevent them from consistently going to school. It has been first hand experiences like this, which have led us to make Gender Equality, Climate Justice and Inclusivity the focus areas of our non-profit, The World With MNR

Today, we study many topics related to social issues and justice at university, while being storytellers, activists and the co-executive directors of our non-profit, among other involvements in our local and global community. While we still don’t know the exact answer to what we want to do when we are older, we’re satisfied with being on a journey of discovery for now, and further exploring exactly who we are, before determining who we want to become.

 

Meet Michele Young-Crook, advocate, author, and CEO National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association

As CEO of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA), Michele Young-Crook is striving to make NATOA the centre of excellence in Trust and Investment — as well as making sure the needs of Indigenous women and Indigenous Youth are being met. Anishinaabe/Bear Clan herself, Michele is driven by her deep connection to her Indigenous culture, despite not being raised in the traditional ways of her ancestors. This is passed along through much of her work in public speaking, and she also shared her incredible story in Unbreakable Spirit, the bestseller she co-authored. 


My first job ever was…
a hostess for a restaurant.

I became involved in NATOA because… I was working for a woman who was a consultant in the Indigenous space, and it was at her event that the organization was founded. From the start they needed a volunteer to do admin work, and I put myself forward.

My proudest accomplishment is… being secure in my decisions as a mother. I was always so insecure about my parenting capabilities, and now I’m confident that I am doing the best I can for my three children. When I had my first at the young age of 23 my whole life changed and it filled me with such doubt.

My boldest move to date was… going from having a career and full-time work, to NATOA on a part-time basis with two small children — and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work.  I took a leap of faith in an organization that I was so passionate about and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I surprise people when I tell them… I am an introvert and homebody; most people assume I am an extrovert because of my work — and when I did stand-up comedy for a few years.

My biggest obstacle was… balancing my personal and professional life; I found it very difficult to “keep it together”.  

I overcame it by… prioritizing and making sure that when I was home, I was present with my family and that every child once a week would get 3 hours of my time for just them.  When I was away from work which was 3 nights minimum a week prior to COVID, I made sure I was giving my full attention to work when in meetings.  When I travel every morning before school and every evening before bed I facetime my children no matter the time zone.

My best advice from a mentor was… don’t be afraid to make mistakes; it’s from those mistakes you will grow the most.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… don’t put so much pressure on yourself, you’re only human. 

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… cuddle with the kids and watch a show.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I used to work in car sales.

I stay inspired by… my family, and strong women.

The future excites me because… you never know where you will be or what you will be doing, I would have never guessed 10 years ago I would be where I am today.

My next step is… to finish my book and get it off to the publisher.

How I’m keeping up my balancing act.

From the moment I gave birth to my first child, I knew I was in for a lifetime of making sure she felt and knew that I loved her and that I would be there no matter what. Well, what I didn’t consider at the age of 23, was that one day I was going to be a CEO with a travel schedule that wouldn’t necessarily permit me physically being there every time she needed me.

For the first nine years after having my daughter (and newest addition, a son), I was always there, probably more than she wanted. I never missed a dance class or soccer game, and when one of them was sick I was the one sleeping on the floor of their room to make sure they were alright, and had a sense of comfort knowing that Mommy will always physically be there.

For the past two years, and now a total of three little ones, I have been living out of hotels and suitcases. The first year of this transition from a staff member to an executive role was nothing short of an emotional shock. I was missing gymnastics, dance recitals and school performances. I wasn’t there when one had a nightmare or woke up with a fever. I felt like I was failing in the role of motherhood but thriving in my role with National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association. 

When I became CEO in May of 2019, I knew I was going to be even busier and that I was going to see even less of my beautiful children. It hit me hard. I went into a mental state of guilt and as such, started parenting out of guilt. I had trouble saying no to them and I sometimes let them do whatever they wanted, like staying up too late or eating candy before dinner. 

After counseling and looking for advice from women I looked up to, I realized I needed to change my mindset and develop a new normal. By doing that, I have managed to balance motherhood and CEO life. Remember though — when you’re balancing, you sometimes tilt to one side over the other, so when I feel that tilt I make sure to recentre myself.

 

Redefine your family routine. 

Kids thrive with routine, and so when I was home, I would always wake up with them and get them ready for school. Now, no matter what time zone I am in, I have them FaceTime me when they wake up and show me what they’re going to wear that day. After they’re loaded up in the car, they call me on the car system to tell me what they dreamt about. Something as small as that made such a difference in their attitude toward my work and their grumpy mornings. I then thought I could do a bit more and started FaceTiming when they were going to bed. The two small ones would read me a book and the big one would tell me about all the latest drama and how she was feeling in that moment. This has become our normal, and such small adjustments to my schedule gave me a renewed sense of trust in my motherhood skills. 

 

Give your undivided attention. 

When I was home, I felt that I wasn’t working “hard enough” because when I travel, I am in work mode 22 hours a day. Two hours are Mom mode. Being present at home when I was there became much more effective and because of this, when my kids were around, I am in full Mom mode; my laptop stays closed, I don’t open emails from my phone, and I don’t take any work calls. I make the most of the time we do have each day by giving my undivided attention during our time together. I began to implement this by working only when they were at school and before they woke up, that way it was easier to be a mom when they were with me. In addition, I try my best to resist taking an unscheduled break by scrolling through social media sites. By giving my work my full attention while there, it frees up time that can be spent with my family in the evening.

 

Learn how to say ‘No’ — and what to say ‘Yes’ to. 

If you have a type ‘A’ personality like me, you probably over commit to everyone. You are on boards, committees or volunteering for a school while trying to keep a perfectly clean house. However, an overworked mom or an employee is not a productive one. So I learned to say ‘No’ to people, both professionally and personally. This was important so that I didn’t take on more than I could chew and lose out on time with my kids. Obviously, you don’t need to turn down every invite for a work event or a friend’s party, but you do want to avoid putting so much on your already full plate that you don’t get quality time with your family. 

I do tend to say ‘Yes’ to things that will allow me to bring my family along. Instead of a night out on the town, I will go to a friend’s house where my family can come with me. At our home, we try to only use a babysitter when our youngest is already asleep. Since the evening time together is already so limited, we try not to cut into it whenever possible.

 

Make yourself part of the balance equation.

Now don’t get me wrong, family and work are not the only things that matter. I found allocating time for myself helped greatly with my mental wellbeing. It also assisted with the development of more patience for work and family issues when they arose. Taking the time to relax and recharge can help you succeed in both areas of your life. 

What “you time” looks like for you won’t necessarily look the same to me. Visualize things you like to do and that help you recharge. For me, it might be scheduling a massage or reading a book in the bath. Other times, it may just be getting out of the house and running some errands without bringing my whole family along. If you’re a single mom, take your friends or family members up on their offers to watch your kids. As much as moms are superheroes, even they need help sometimes, otherwise the Justice League would not exist. 

Successfully juggling the roles of a career and parenting is daunting even under the best conditions. But once you’ve eliminated the things that are unproductively eating up your time, and learn to be present in the moment, then not only will your work and family roles become more enjoyable, they will thrive. 

 

Meet Ony Anukem: Social Media and Content Manager at Women of Influence & Show Host of Twenty5 Podcast

Growing up as the first of four daughters, gender equality and leadership came naturally to British-import Ony Anukem. By day, she is the Social Media and Content Manager at Women of Influence — but she also wears another hat as the Show Host of the Twenty5 Podcast, a bi-weekly interview podcast that she started to guide young women through their mid-twenties. Since launching in July 2019, her podcast has featured as the #1 Society & Culture Podcast on the Apple podcast charts in several countries and has accrued over 10,000 plays in 50+ countries.

 

My first job ever was… was working as an entertainer for a kids party company, I used to get paid £25 (C$43.65) for a two-hour party. We hosted all kinds of parties from Disney Princess parties to Murder Mystery parties — as first jobs go it wasn’t that bad!

My favourite thing about working for Women of Influence is… the amazing women I get to work with, from the WOI team to all the inspiring and accomplished women in our community that I get to profile and interact with at events.

I decided to start the Twenty5 Podcast because… like many other women, I had grown up with ridiculous expectations of where I should be in my life by 25. As my birthday neared, I thought ‘I can’t be the only woman feeling like this’ and so I started discussing it with my peers and establishing a trend. I eventually started my podcast on my 25th birthday last year, as a platform to get advice from older women on what they wished they knew at 25. I talk to my guests about everything from relationships and career development to mental health.

My proudest accomplishment was… at 18 co-founding ASIM (A sister in Me), a community organization made up of over 260 members from diverse backgrounds, professional industries and areas in the UK, with a common goal of positively using our influence to help girls and women in our community unleash their full potential.

My boldest move to date was… a literal move. In January 2019, I left my family and friends in London, England and moved to Toronto with my life packed into four suitcases and my handbag. People always dream of things that never end up happening because life gets in the way or they don’t end up pursuing it, I’m really glad that moving to Canada wasn’t just talk for me. In my year and a half of being here, I have learnt so much and grown so much, and I have decided to base myself here for the foreseeable future.

 

“It’s easy to miss out on opportunities in life trying to be perfect, I have to remind myself constantly that perfection doesn’t really exist — you just have to go for things sometimes.”

 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I have been to 31 countries and I’d like to see the rest before my time is up.

My best advice from a mentor was… “don’t aim to be perfect, aim to be present!” If you never put your product on the market, nobody will ever be able to buy it. If you don’t finish a job application, it’s impossible to be shortlisted for the job. It’s easy to miss out on opportunities in life trying to be perfect, I have to remind myself constantly that perfection doesn’t really exist — you just have to go for things sometimes.

A piece of advice that I often give but struggle to follow is… don’t expect somebody to act a certain way just because that’s how you would act. I really love the quote ‘expect the unexpected’ — that goes for life events but also people’s behaviour, I try not to project myself or my feelings onto people, but it can be hard sometimes!

My biggest setback was… completing my Masters in Law and then deciding I didn’t want to become a lawyer. I had been saying that I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child and suddenly having this epiphany frightened me.

I overcame it by… leaning into the things that I was good at and passionate about and eventually, I found myself at the intersection of gender equality and media.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I can do a pretty convincing Southern accent. I always tell people that my alter ego is a Southern Belle.

I stay inspired by… learning about the achievements of other women, I just think ‘if this woman can achieve X, then there is nothing me from achieving Y.’

The future excites me because… all through the global pandemic has been really terrifying on so many fronts, we are on the brink of change and I’m hopeful that we will see many positive changes come from this time.

At 25, I wish I knew more about financial management.

In Episode 1 of the Twenty5 Podcast, I am joined by Caroline Anukem (my mother) and she shares that at 25 she wishes she knew more about financial management. We talk about everything from millennials spending habits to what it’s truly like to live your ‘best life.’ Here is an excerpt from Season 1, Episode 1.

 

 Ony: For those of you that don’t know, I’m based in Toronto and my mum is in London. We’re doing this call over the phone even though she’s gonna be joining me here next week. For the benefit of those that don’t know you can you give us a brief introduction?

Caroline: I’m Caroline Anukem, also known as, Mama, AK, sis and several other names. I am a mother of four wonderful ladies — and I can say ladies because they’re all adult ladies. I am married to Stanley Anukem and I have worked with the education sector for the last 26 years. I am from a legal background, studied law and went into education.

Ony: This is really exciting having you on the podcast as my first of 25 women that I am speaking to for the series. The first woman I ever knew, and the first woman I ever loved! So it’s great to have you on here with me today.

Caroline: I love you right back darling!

Ony: Let’s just jump into it… so you said at 25 you wish you knew more about financial management — can you expand on that a bit? What, in particular, do you wish you knew about financial management?

Caroline: Growing up, I came from a family where pocket money wasn’t really the done thing. We got money for whatever we needed and we asked for it on an as and when basis, and I didn’t have a good idea of managing money that well. I think it came from that not having that experience from the very beginning. I didn’t strategize my financial planning and always thought there was a lot of time.

One thing that takes out to me particularly was when I was 25, somebody was talking about pensions and I nearly fell off my seat because I thought it was light-years away. I really wish at that moment, I got into that habit of being a bit like a honeybee and just having that little stash regularly for a rainy day. I was very good at putting money aside for a specific event, but not on that never-never and I think just greater financial awareness of saving plans, ISAs, TESSAs would have have been so useful. This is one of the things I advocate to be taught in schools now, that younger children from a very early age, get taught this in Maths rather than just trigonometry and algebra. Having a situation where they actually learn, and have practical exercises on saving and investing and things like that.

Ony: Would you say that the lack of financial knowledge was a generational thing? Would you say that 25-year-olds now are savvier? Or do you think the same sort of thing is repeating itself?

Caroline: There is a lot more information out there these days about finances, but a lot of the 25-year-olds I see at the moment are living their best life, and it’s great to live your best life — travelling, going out of posh brunches, orders coming in every day beautiful outfits from PLT etc. But I think a lot of them are still unaware and aren’t actually thinking about that thinking about the long-term. And also in particular in London, house costs are quite high, and one of the first investments that a lot of people saved for was a house in my generation, so when you started putting away your house — that was your motivation to save.

Ony: I guess for the average 25-year-old (in London and I would say even here in Toronto) buying a house at 25, just isn’t a realistic goal to set. Those who are savvier and better at saving look outside of the central (downtown) area to buy a house, because the reality is living in the area that you grew up in (for most people) isn’t really possible.

Caroline: So just to go back to your initial question on whether 25-year-olds today are savvier than my generation — yes and no. They have greater awareness, but they’re living a slightly different lifestyle in my generation. Back those who saved and put money aside, it wasn’t so much because of financial awareness but more a natural inclination.

Ony: At 25 you mentioned feeling like you had a lot of time to get your finances together. How, at that time, did you see the next 25 years playing out?

Caroline: I didn’t think I was in a bad financial position, but just looking back I could have made decisions then that perhaps would have left me in a better position: there was living, there was saving but I think back I could possibly have bought more than one property with better financial management, I could have invested in stocks and shares. Those kinds of investments would have made a very big difference.

Now at 25, if you’d asked me to look to 40 to 50, I didn’t have a clear vision of what I would have wanted at that time. And I think in having the vision that then leads you to create the path or the progression routes to get to that point.

Ony: Do you have any other advice that you would give to 25-year-olds now or any advice that you would tell your 25-year-old self?

Caroline: This piece of advice that I’m going to give now — I suppose it’s something that I’ve actually learned from you, rather than advice that I’ll give you but I just hope to keep on using it and all others do. It’s the SatNav approach to life. Planning. It’s important to take a little bit of time to plan, you don’t have to be orchestrating every move but really map out a plan. That’s what I would ask every 25-year-old to do: create a vision board. And just plot it. you’re not being held to it, you’re not accountable. But that’s not to say that you can’t take different routes, because life throws various things others that we don’t legislate for. However, having this vision board in place, you really stop and it helps you visualize where you want to be.

Listen to more Twenty5 Podcast episodes here and follow the podcast on Instagram @Twenty5Pocast for the latest updates.

The Scotiabank Women Initiative has something for every women-owned, women-led business.

By Shelley White

 

The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ has had a strong start since launching in December 2018, but according to Geneviève Brouillard, there’s much more to come.

Geneviève, who is Senior Vice President for Québec and Eastern Ontario at Scotiabank and an Advisory Board member for The Scotiabank Women Initiative, is endlessly enthusiastic about the bank’s expanding efforts to support women-owned and women-led businesses across the country — especially now in these unprecedented times.

“There is still so much potential,” says Geneviève. “We committed to allocate $3-billion in funding over the first three years, and after one year, we’ve already deployed $1-billion. We want to become the banking partner of choice for women-owned and women-led businesses in Canada, so I see this program becoming a Scotiabank signature as we go forward.”

“Hitting that $1-billion financing milestone was only one part of the program’s successful first year,” Geneviève notes. Scotiabank also invested in Disruption Ventures, Canada’s first private, female-founded venture capital fund investing in businesses founded by women.

Throughout 2019, 1500 women entrepreneurs and women business leaders across Canada were able to take part in the program’s educational Un-Mentorship Boot Camps™ and group mentoring sessions, building skills and expanding their networks. The Scotiabank Women Initiative also collaborated with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs to launch a new bilingual podcast series called “The Go-To: For Entrepreneurs in the Know,” offering business and entrepreneurship essentials.

The program expanded its reach in early 2020, teaming up with networking organization Réseau des Femmes d’Affaires du Québec (RFAQ) to launch a series of events across the province throughout the year. 

“RFAQ is a non-profit organization with two thousand members that empowers women entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses and break into foreign markets, as well as businesswomen who want to excel in their careers,” Geneviève says. “It is a great match for us because we have a common goal, to support women entrepreneurs in Québec.”

“These made to measure events will enable women to learn from each other, build relationships and enhance their skills to take their business to the next level,” says Geneviève. “With this partnership with RFAQ, we’re making a statement about Scotiabank’s intention to grow in Québec, to be a part of the community we live and work in.” 

The Scotiabank Women Initiative has taken further steps to expand in Québec and created a new role to lead these efforts. This dedicated team member brings a strong understanding of the market and extensive experience working with women entrepreneurs, building programs and value-added content. 

The Scotiabank Women Initiative is continuously working to identify improved approaches to provide meaningful, forward-thinking support to women-owned and women-led businesses. Recently, the program sponsored Femmessor, a non-profit organization supporting women entrepreneurs across 17 regions of Québec. The Scotiabank Women Initiative and Femmessor are aligned in supporting women entrepreneurs in Québec through experts who are providing free advisory services to those currently affected by COVID-19.

The program also continues to build out online resources on its Knowledge Centre and is continuing to evolve its approach to communicating with clients through virtual events, webinars and podcasts.

 

“I want to make sure that as a legacy, I can help get more women into leadership roles like mine and others at Scotiabank. What are the actions we can put in place to make sure we unite that passion and that world of possibility for women?”

 

“Another important milestone for the program this past year was the launch of a research report that outlines unique insights into how women entrepreneurs approach the financing and growth of a business,” says Geneviève. The Scotiabank Women Initiative report, which was released in March 2020, was based on a study of small business owners in Canada. Entitled “Financial Knowledge & Financial Confidence – Closing Gender Gaps in Financing Canadian Small Businesses,” the study found that while women business owners’ loan applications are more likely to be approved, women business owners are less likely to apply for business loans. It also found that on average, the financial knowledge of women business owners is lower than their counterparts, men business owners. 

The report concluded that if woman business owners in Canada are to achieve their growth potential, education and other interventions must focus on both financial knowledge and financial confidence. 

Geneviève says that The Scotiabank Women Initiative is aimed at closing the gender gap, tackling unconscious bias and ensuring women have the resources they need to succeed.

“We want women to increase their part of the economic fabric of society,” she says. “That’s why The Scotiabank Women Initiative needs to be there to provide that capital to women, offer that full suite of financing solutions as well as mentorship and education.”

“Mentorship is a core part of the program mandate,” says Geneviève, “and it’s something that they are hoping to expand on.” An executive with 30 years’ experience in banking, Geneviève says mentoring has been an important part of her own career trajectory. 

“Mentoring is providing a non-judgmental space that can help people make better decisions personally and professionally. This can have a great impact on people,” she says. “I personally have taken risks and grown because of mentors. Sometimes when I was scared of an offer or a challenge, just getting a text from a mentor saying, ‘Yes, you can do it,’ helped me become who I am today.”

Geneviève says she is also committed to helping talented women attain leadership roles, both through her Advisory Board role with The Scotiabank Women Initiative and through her current role as Senior Vice President.

“The one challenge I still have is bringing more women along with me,” Geneviève says. “I want to make sure that as a legacy, I can help get more women into leadership roles like mine and others at Scotiabank. What are the actions we can put in place to make sure we unite that passion and that world of possibility for women?”

She has some words of advice for women entrepreneurs hoping to grow their businesses and become the leaders they want to be.

“Be bold. Network. And get advice from your banker.”

Meet Laura Didyk: the National Lead for BDC’s Client Diversity Strategy

Laura Didyk

Since joining The Business Development Bank of Canada — better known as BDC, the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs — in 1994, Laura Didyk has had the opportunity to work with all types of business owners, at all stages and industries, helping them access the advice and capital needed to grow and succeed. An ally and advocate for underserved business owners and leaders throughout her career, from 2018-2020, she led BDC’s national Women Entrepreneurship Strategy which provided more than $1.4B in financing to over 5,000 women entrepreneurs over three years. Today, Laura leads the bank’s national approach to support Canada’s diverse entrepreneurs, including women, helping their businesses, and our economy, thrive.

 

My first job ever was…. scooping ice cream and making milkshakes at our neighborhood ice cream shop for the summer. In fact, the owners asked me to manage it one summer and it was my first taste of entrepreneurship and what it takes to run a business.

The best part of my role at BDC is… helping business owners reach their goals. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing an entrepreneur move from an idea, to a business plan, to a viable business and success (and of course the whole range of emotions in between).

My proudest accomplishment is… the thousands of businesses I have helped over the years, my great marriage of 22 years, and bringing up two beautiful confident daughters.

I surprise people when I tell them… I took actuary science in university.

My best advice from a mentor was… never turn down an opportunity that is presented to you.

My best advice to women entrepreneurs is… lean on the community around you; we all want you to succeed.

The best lesson I’ve learned from women entrepreneurs is… courage and resilience.

 

“There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing an entrepreneur move from an idea, to a business plan, to a viable business and success.”

 

My biggest setback was… when she was two years old, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I overcame it by… staying positive, learning as much as I could about the disease, listening to the advice of specialists, and leaning on my community of family and friends. Today, our 17-year-old daughter is able to maintain a great quality of life and do most of the things she loves, like skiing, rowing and hiking!

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… don’t take on too much, it is ok to say no.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… take French lessons.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I love to eat! I especially love eating out and make sure that I try a new restaurant every time I eat out. It is fun for me and I love supporting local businesses!

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… network, network, network.

I stay inspired by… going out and meeting women entrepreneurs.

The future excites me because… the world has realized the value in diversity. We need to seize the opportunity to make an impact.

My next step is… to work myself out of a job — because we hopefully won’t need a women entrepreneur strategy in the future.

 

How a global pandemic might change businesses for the better.

By Hailey Eisen 

 

As COVID-19 upends economies and alters how business gets conducted, organizations must think beyond the bottom line – especially when dealing with customers and employees. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for leaders to consider the ways in which their values are reflected through their business practices,” explains Kate Rowbotham, professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business. 

Kate says that businesses should focus their efforts on these three areas: communication, compassion, and flexibility. 

 

Communication is more important than ever. 

“Communication is extremely important because of the uncertainty we’re all facing,” Kate explains. “As everyone tries to make sense of this situation and understand the impact it will have on our lives, organizations must be completely transparent with employees and customers.” 

In the absence of talking face-to-face, communications can come in the form of emails, phone calls and virtual meetings. “I think some companies are doing better at this than others, and that relates to how good companies are at communicating in normal times,” Kate says.

So, what does good communication look like in a crisis? The keys are openness, honesty, and clarity on things such as compensation, work-from-home expectations, and what support an organization can offer. 

“Employees will be looking to leaders to model the behaviours they’re expecting from others,” she says. When leaders don’t know the answers, it’s better that they say so. “It actually makes me happy to see a leader say ‘I don’t know,’ to admit that they’re as unsettled as the rest of us, and to seek out answers rather than pretending they have them all.” 

 

“It actually makes me happy to see a leader say ‘I don’t know,’ to admit that they’re as unsettled as the rest of us, and to seek out answers rather than pretending they have them all.” 

 

Compassion is the only acceptable response. 

“This virus is affecting people in different ways, and many will be touched directly or indirectly by its impact.” With so much suffering happening around the globe, there’s really no way to respond but with compassion, Kate says.

That means tampering expectations — especially workloads. “With friends, social supports, exercise, and other things that we typically advise employees to turn to in times of stress inaccessible to many of us, companies have to carefully consider the impact of stress on productivity.” 

If we can’t expect ‘business as usual’ then what is the ‘good enough’ option for these unprecedented times? It’s a question Kate would like to see organizations ask themselves. Developing and working within ‘good enough’ standards will help reduce stress, and may even boost productivity.

 

Flexibility means rethinking how work should be done. 

As we move further into what has now become a ‘new normal,’ we know that everyone’s responsibilities at home, stress levels, and availability will differ. Thus, flexibility is important. 

Allowing employees to control their day and determine when and where they can get work done, will help increase productivity. “We’re all beginning to think about what productivity means, where it happens, what tools are needed to support it — and this could lead to lasting changes in the traditional workday.” 

Employees should be included in decision making and given autonomy to determine what works best for them. “In times of uncertainty, many people feel more comfortable with direction and guidance, so the key is balance,” Kate says.

Many are watching to see how organizations align their behaviour with their values. As an example, Kate recalls a story of a hotel in British Columbia that had to lay off all its employees, but found each of them another job first. “We are also hearing stories of CEOs taking pay cuts or dropping their salaries to zero in order to continue paying their employees,” says Kate. “We’ve seen grocery store chains go above and beyond to take care of their employees and communicate with their customers transparently. As an example, Loblaws was one of the first to raise employees’ salaries.”

With so many changes rolling out so quickly, Kate believes a lasting impact is inevitable. “I’ve always drawn on Management Professor Linda Hill’s work in my teaching, and one thing she talks a lot about is managers really getting to know their employees and who they are,” Kate explains. 

Interestingly, social distancing may give leaders and teams the opportunity to really get to know one another and develop new techniques to work together. Even when they’re apart.