Rencontrez la nouvelle équipe de BDC qui rend le financement plus équitable.

Les entrepreneurs sont parmi les plus forts agents de changement dans nos communautés, et comptent également parmi les plus inspirants. Grâce à leur cran, leur ténacité, leur passion et leurs compétences, ils créent une entreprise à partir d’une vision.

Je suis fière d’avoir passé les 26 dernières années de ma carrière à travailler avec des entrepreneurs à BDC. Depuis plus de 75 ans, BDC reste une institution financière dédiée aux entrepreneurs exploitant des petites et moyennes entreprises. Nous ne nous contentons pas de fournir du financement, des conseils, des outils et des ressources, nous établissons également des relations significatives avec nos clients afin de leur offrir un service à valeur ajoutée. 

Au cours de toutes ces années, j’ai pu moi-même constater que le parcours d’un entrepreneur est jalonné de réussites, d’obstacles et de quelques revirements. J’ai également appris que l’accès au financement, aux conseils commerciaux et à un réseau de soutien peut être particulièrement difficile à trouver pour les entrepreneurs mal desservis. 

« Notre engagement est d’écouter et d’apprendre, en travaillant avec nos équipes internes et nos partenaires externes pour comprendre ces défis uniques en se fondant sur la recherche, des conversations et des données. »

Que signifie le terme « entrepreneur mal desservi »? Ces entrepreneurs sont souvent membres de communautés marginalisées; ils peuvent être racialisés, s’identifier en tant que femmes ou en tant que membres de la communauté LGBTQIA2S+, vivre avec un handicap, ou exister dans une combinaison de ces identités. Souvent, ces entrepreneurs sont confrontés à davantage d’obstacles au départ lorsqu’il s’agit de créer ou de développer une entreprise, et ces défis ont été exacerbés par la pandémie. 

Conscients de ces défis, nous avons travaillé à l’élaboration d’une approche inclusive et efficace de la diversité des clients. Notre engagement est d’écouter et d’apprendre, en travaillant avec nos équipes internes et nos partenaires externes pour comprendre ces défis uniques en se fondant sur la recherche, des conversations et des données. Ensuite, nous développerons des solutions produisant des résultats tangibles et mesurables. 

Toute la banque est engagée dans la mise en œuvre de cette stratégie. Ses cinq directeurs régionaux m’aident à mener la charge, chacun se concentrant sur un segment de clientèle précis. Ces cinq personnes ont des idées, des connaissances et des expériences diverses à transmettre, ainsi qu’une passion pour aider les entrepreneurs à atteindre leur plein potentiel et à prospérer dans tous les aspects de leurs activités. 

Je vous présente Monica, Brooke, Chelsea, David et Nancy qui forment l’équipe d’experts en diversité de la clientèle avec laquelle j’ai le plaisir de travailler pour rendre le financement des entrepreneurs canadiens plus équitable.

« Tous les entrepreneurs méritent l’espace et le temps nécessaires pour partager leurs succès et leurs difficultés, en particulier ceux qui sont mal desservis. »

Monica James

Monica James

Directrice Régionale, Clients- Diversité, Winnipeg, Manitoba

La diversité et l’inclusion font partie intégrante de tout ce que je fais à BDC. Depuis que j’ai rejoint la banque, en 2003, je me suis profondément investie dans le soutien et l’orientation des entrepreneurs autochtones, dans l’atteinte de leurs objectifs et dans la célébration de leurs réalisations. Officiellement, je dirige la stratégie nationale de la Banque qui répond aux besoins des entrepreneurs autochtones, afin qu’ils puissent surmonter les obstacles, se développer et prospérer. Je suis également la responsable autochtone de la stratégie interne de BDC pour honorer l’appel à l’action 92 de la Commission de vérité et de réconciliation. 

En tant que fière femme crie de la Nation des Cris de Peter Ballantyne et ayant été élevée dans le nord du Manitoba, mes efforts s’inspirent de mon expérience personnelle. Je comprends les défis uniques auxquels sont confrontés de nombreux entrepreneurs autochtones des régions rurales et éloignées. Je sais également ce qu’il faut pour que les règles du jeu soient responsables et équitables dans le domaine de l’entrepreneuriat et de la finance, et je suis déterminé à faire en sorte que tous les entrepreneurs aient accès aux outils et aux ressources dont ils ont besoin pour réussir en affaires. 

Tous les entrepreneurs méritent l’espace et le temps nécessaires pour partager leurs succès et leurs difficultés, en particulier ceux qui sont mal desservis. J’ai appris que la meilleure façon d’avoir une influence est de croire en leur capacité à réussir, de les aider à développer leur activité, de les soutenir en achetant leurs produits et services, et de créer de la visibilité en promouvant leurs marques auprès des autres.

« Moi-même chef d’entreprise, je comprends le stress qui peut résulter du lancement et de la croissance d’une entreprise. »

Brooke Gordon

Brooke Gordon

Directrice Régionale, Clients- Diversité, Waterdown, Ontario

Je suis passionnée par le soutien aux femmes propriétaires d’entreprises tout au long de leur parcours professionnel, et j’ai rejoint BDC en 2017 avec cet objectif précis. Je combine également près de deux décennies d’expérience dans le soutien aux organisations en matière de planification stratégique et de réalisation de changements. 

Moi-même chef d’entreprise, je comprends le stress qui peut résulter du lancement et de la croissance d’une entreprise. Après avoir souffert du syndrome du côlon irritable (SCI) pendant des années, j’ai eu envie de devenir coach de santé certifiée et d’animer un balado sur ce que signifie vivre en santé. Mon parcours professionnel personnel a influencé mon travail à BDC, non seulement par l’expérience vécue dont je peux m’inspirer, mais aussi du point de vue du bien-être. Les recherches montrent régulièrement que les femmes, entrepreneurs immigrantes, et de minorités visibles ont plus de problèmes de santé mentale et de bien-être, et 51 % des entrepreneurs souhaitent un meilleur équilibre entre leur vie professionnelle et leur vie privée

Si vous êtes entrepreneur et que vous vous sentez stressé, j’ai deux conseils à vous donner. Premier conseil : bougez! Des formes d’exercice plus douces, comme la marche, peuvent vous aider à rassembler vos idées et à faire le plein d’énergie, en plus de faciliter la digestion. Deuxième conseil, réservez du temps à la fin de chaque semaine pour passer en revue vos revenus et vos dépenses de la semaine, et prévoyez ce qui se passera dans 13 semaines. C’est un moyen tangible de développer votre intuition avec les chiffres (pour tous ceux qui doutent de leur acuité financière, sachez que vous pouvez acquérir une compétence en la mettant en pratique). Si l’on considère que la trésorerie est la source de stress la plus souvent mentionnée par les propriétaires d’entreprise, c’est un excellent moyen de favoriser la tranquillité d’esprit. 

« J’ai été à la fois la personne la plus jeune et la seule personne noire dans de nombreux rôles, et je comprends les difficultés et les défis que représente le fait de se retrouver dans des espaces majoritairement blancs. »

Chelsea Prescod

Chelsea Prescod

Directrice Régionale, Clients- Diversité,
Toronto, Ontario

L’autonomisation et la mobilisation des jeunes, des femmes et des entrepreneurs issus de la diversité est la passion qui m’habite. Je crois en l’entrepreneuriat équitable et j’ai choisi cette voie pour pouvoir aider le plus grand nombre possible d’entrepreneurs, en particulier ceux issus de communautés mal desservies, à créer une richesse générationnelle et à faire tomber les barrières systémiques. J’ai un parcours professionnel et entrepreneurial éclectique, et je possède seize ans de leadership dans l’engagement civique. 

En tant que femme d’origine afro-caribéenne, fille d’un chef d’entreprise et d’un entrepreneur en série, j’ai vu et vécu ce que c’est que de diriger une entreprise en tant que personne de couleur. J’ai été à la fois la personne la plus jeune et la seule personne noire dans de nombreux rôles, et je comprends les difficultés et les défis que représente le fait de se retrouver dans des espaces majoritairement blancs. Je sais ce que l’on ressent quand on ne s’intègre pas et que l’on doit « changer de code » pour s’en sortir. En outre, je comprends que l’accès au financement et aux réseaux constitue un obstacle important pour de nombreux entrepreneurs noirs, ainsi que pour d’autres communautés marginalisées par le système. Dans mon rôle, je veux aider ces propriétaires d’entreprise à naviguer dans l’écosystème complexe de l’entrepreneuriat, en veillant à ce qu’ils soient conscients des ressources à leur disposition, de la manière d’obtenir le financement et des nouvelles possibilités qu’offre le marché pour les aider à développer leur entreprise. Il est temps que tout le monde s’assoie à la table.

Ce qui me motive chaque jour, c’est de construire un avenir meilleur et équitable pour mes jumeaux, Justice et Freedom. Je veux qu’ils vivent dans un monde où ils sont jugés sur le contenu de leur caractère et non sur leurs origines. Je veux que leur avenir soit sans limites. Je suis fière de faire partie d’une organisation qui me permet d’être un agent du changement et d’égaliser les chances pour un si grand nombre de personnes. 

« Grâce à cette représentation, j’ai été plus à même de croire qu’en tant que minorité visible, je peux occuper une position d’influence. En étant visible, j’espère montrer à tous les entrepreneurs issus de la diversité qu’ils sont compris et qu’ils sont soutenus. »

Daniel Kim

David Kim

Directeur Régionale, Clients- Diversité,
North Vancouver, BC

L’esprit d’entreprise, c’est une histoire de famille. J’ai moi-même été entrepreneur, et mon épouse et sa mère, deux femmes influentes dans ma vie, sont toutes deux propriétaires d’entreprises. Bien qu’elles aient bénéficié du soutien généreux de leurs clients respectifs, elles ont malheureusement été confrontées, en tant que femmes d’origine asiatique, à la discrimination en tant que minorité visible. 

Dans le cas de ma belle-mère, il s’agissait de l’histoire typique d’une immigrante, avec les obstacles supplémentaires d’une nouvelle langue, le manque de fonds et de connaissances financières, sans compter l’absence de réseau et une compréhension limitée de l’écosystème commercial. De plus, elle avait une famille à faire vivre. Obligée de compter sur sa jeune fille pour interagir avec les institutions, elle évitait souvent de chercher du soutien, car personne ne la comprenait vraiment. Elle rappelait fréquemment à ses enfants l’importance de travailler dur et de persévérer. Le fait de voir quelqu’un en position d’autorité et de leadership qui lui ressemble l’aurait rassurée et lui aurait donné confiance pour développer son entreprise. 

Pourquoi est-ce que je crois que cela aurait pu aider à soulager l’anxiété et le stress de ma belle-mère, qui luttait pour développer son entreprise? Au début de ma carrière bancaire, j’ai fait l’expérience du pouvoir des modèles visibles. J’ai passé un entretien d’embauche avec quelqu’un qui me ressemblait et, bien que je ne l’aie pas consciemment réalisé au début, cela m’a donné confiance et inspiré. Grâce à cette représentation, j’ai été plus à même de croire qu’en tant que minorité visible, je peux occuper une position d’influence. En étant visible, j’espère montrer à tous les entrepreneurs issus de la diversité qu’ils sont compris et qu’ils sont soutenus.

« L’attention portée aux femmes a toujours fait partie intégrante des postes que j’ai occupés à la Banque, et je suis même allée jusqu’à accompagner des femmes entrepreneurs à plusieurs missions commerciales internationales. »

Nancy Goudreau

Nancy Goudreau

Directrice Régionale, Clients- Diversité,
Montréal, Québec

Lorsque je me suis jointe à BDC, il y a 10 ans, après avoir travaillé pendant plus de 15 ans dans le domaine du développement des marchés et du capital de risque, le mandat de l’organisation m’a interpellée, et j’étais ravie de pouvoir utiliser mon expérience et mon réseau pour accélérer le développement des entrepreneurs canadiens. Au cours des premiers mois, j’ai réalisé que les femmes entrepreneurs n’étaient pas à l’aise avec le financement et que la plupart d’entre elles ne savaient pas à quel point BDC était accessible. J’ai eu la chance de croiser la route de la présidente du Réseau des femmes d’affaires du Québec (RFAQ), qui mettait sur pied une merveilleuse initiative visant à développer les entreprises appartenant à des femmes en leur offrant la possibilité de travailler avec de grandes organisations.

À partir de ce moment-là, j’ai eu la piqure et j’ai amorcé mon plus brillant parcours vers l’inclusion, en mettant l’accent sur l’accessibilité pour les femmes. Je suis rapidement devenue présidente d’une grande initiative du RFAQ appelée Développement économique féminin (DEF), qui aide plus d’une douzaine de chefs d’entreprise influents, hommes et femmes, à accélérer et à accroître leur influence dans notre communauté d’affaires. Cette initiative m’a permis de nouer des liens incroyables avec les femmes chefs d’entreprise que j’ai rencontrées, et leurs histoires de réussite sont devenues mes points forts quotidiens, m’inspirant la certitude que je faisais une différence.

Depuis, je suis restée très active en participant à l’élaboration de la stratégie de BDC pour les femmes en entrepreneuriat, qui était déjà bien avancée avant même qu’elle ne devienne officiellement une priorité nationale. L’attention portée aux femmes a toujours fait partie intégrante des postes que j’ai occupés à la Banque, et je suis même allée jusqu’à accompagner des femmes entrepreneurs à plusieurs missions commerciales internationales pour m’assurer qu’elles se sentaient soutenues et habilitées à saisir toutes les occasions qui se présentaient à elles. Maintenant que mon influence s’est étendue à d’autres groupes sous-représentés, je suis très enthousiaste à l’idée de pouvoir reproduire et appliquer cette approche stimulante pour aider leurs entreprises à prospérer et à se développer.

Three steps for building your legacy in line with your values.

Woman lying outside and thinking

How do you leave a legacy? 

Most of us can’t afford to have our name on a building, but the advice on the opposite end of the spectrum — building a legacy in non-financial terms — tends towards vague platitudes about a life well lived. If you want to do more than dance like nobody’s watching, but you aren’t sure how to get started, here are three steps you can take: 

1. Start with a definition. 

If you take it literally, you’ll find that the basic definition of legacy is “a gift by will, especially of money or other personal property” — but its meaning and use are a lot broader. To get clarity on how to leave your legacy, begin by ignoring ‘how’ and focusing on ‘why.’ Do you want your name and story to be remembered? Do you want to make an anonymous impact that lasts beyond your lifetime? Do you want to focus on your family, friends, and close community? Do you have a broader cause that you wish to support? 

All these choices aren’t mutually exclusive — you can contribute to solving the climate crisis and leave behind a book of family recipes — but defining what your legacy means to you is the first step to taking action. Depending on your goals and what you consider most important, the way you allocate your resources to build your legacy will likely differ.    

2. Figure out your resources.

It’s important to spend time on defining your goals because reaching them requires personal resources. That’s not just referring to money — your skills and talents, your time, and even your connections are resources, too. We all have a different mix, with one thing in common: these resources are limited, so how you choose to allocate them matters. 

Start by asking yourself the question: “What can I offer?” You might find you’re able to set aside a portion of your income, or you can commit to a certain number of hours. Whether that money and time goes to charitable causes and writing your memoir, or helping pay for your child’s education and volunteering, is entirely up to you and how you define your legacy.  

3. Find your avenues, with help. 

Seeking out and selecting the method for leaving your legacy becomes a lot more manageable once you’re clear on the impact you hope to have and on what you have to offer— but you may still find countless options even after defining this criteria. Simplify the selection process by considering two more questions: Is it more important to see the impact in your lifetime, or leave a mark after you’re gone? Are your goals better served by continual habits, or singular actions?   

There’s no wrong answer, and for you it might be a mix of all of the above. If you’re unsure, you can look to role models for inspiration — how are leading activists in the cause you’re passionate about making an impact, or how are people you admire leaving their legacy. You can also find experts to help guide you. For example, you can work with a wealth planner on your philanthropic efforts, whether you want to give directly to a cause or set up a private foundation.

Remember, your legacy is not a one-time financial transfer after your death, it’s an accumulation of all you’ve done in your life that leaves an impact. With that broader timeframe in mind, it’s easy to see that your goals and values, the resources you have, and even the avenues available to you will likely evolve. If you live with intention — guided by these three steps and revisiting them as you enter new life stages — your legacy will evolve and you’ll do a lot of good along the way.  

The difference between ESG, SRI, and Impact Investing.

Women considering different investments

If you’ve ever purposefully purchased an eco-friendly product, supported a local small business, or donated to a charitable cause, you already know that the dollars you spend can help build a better future, for your community and beyond. 

Your investments can do the same thing — aligning with your values and having a positive impact — while still generating a return. There are a wide variety of approaches for sustainable investing, and deciding how to incorporate them depends on your goals and needs. We’re covering the basics of three similar but subtly different strategies — environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, socially responsible investing (SRI), and impact investing — to help you understand your options. 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Investing

As the name suggests, ESG investing uses a framework that takes into account three factors when selecting which companies to support: environmental (the effects on the earth), social (the impact on society), and governance (how the company is run). You can focus on one area or all three, and there are even themes within each — from alternative energy to women in leadership. 

There are several companies that calculate and publish ESG scores for corporations, which makes it possible to consider a company’s ESG metrics as part of an investing decision, similar to how their performance would be evaluated. There’s no rule to say how much weight you should give to a company’s ESG score versus traditional financial analysis, but many investors consider both elements as part of their ESG investing strategy.   

Socially Responsible Investing

While ESG provides an extra layer of evaluation alongside traditional financial analysis, socially responsible investing tends to be more rigid in applying ethical guidelines to your investment decisions. It can involve excluding stocks that don’t align with your beliefs, or you can also use positive inclusion — giving your investment dollars to companies that perform better than industry peers on ESG attributes.

So, if a tobacco company has a stellar performance, an ESG investor might still consider that as part of their investment decision. In contrast, a socially responsible investor who draws the line at tobacco will refuse to invest in any stocks that benefit a tobacco company, regardless of how well they do. 

Impact Investing

As the name implies, the goal of impact investing is to generate a measurable impact in an area of need — and that can range from environmental to societal concerns, depending on your personal values. It goes the furthest to tie your personal values to your personal capital, as typically you’ll be prioritizing the positive effects of your investments over your financial returns. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t generate gains with impact investing, they’ll just be weighted with less importance compared to the specific positive impact that comes from your investment — so you might only get back the capital you put in, or see returns below market rates. Areas like conservation, microfinance, and providing access to basic services like housing, healthcare, and education often fall into this category. 

Which investing strategy is right for you?

If all these options sound very similar, that’s because they are. With ESG, SRI, and impact investing, you’re making a choice to consider environmental, social, and governance factors in your investing decision. From there, you can tailor your strategy based on how much weight you give to financial returns versus ESG factors, but you don’t need to think of these as mutually exclusive — making investments aligned with your values doesn’t necessarily mean forgoing returns.   

If you’re not sure where to get started, BMO’s MyESG™ is an easy, interactive tool that helps you to recognize your approach to investing and what you value. When you’re ready to get started, the options span everything from ETFs, to mutual funds, to sustainable portfolios, and can be self-directed or guided by a financial advisor.

According to a recent report, the value of global assets applying ESG data to drive investment decisions was $40.5 trillion in 2020, more than tripling since 2012. That means the options available are growing, too — so all you need to think about is what is right for you.  

Meet Jennifer So, responsible investing expert.

Jennifer So

Jennifer So is a Portfolio Manager with BMO and has been a member of the BMO Asset Management Inc. team since September of 2015. In addition to her work as a Portfolio Manager, Jennifer is a specialist in Responsible Investing with an emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. Jennifer also has knowledge of Investment Banking, Research, Institutional Sales, and seven years of experience as a Chartered Accountant, contributing to her robust knowledge of and experience with finance and banking.

 

My first job ever was… delivering newspapers. 

The thing I enjoy most about being a Portfolio Manager is… no day is the same, I’m constantly learning, working with a smart team, and finding companies that can create long term shareholder value. 

The best advice I received from a mentor was… develop your ability to communicate — written and verbal. Be succinct, combine numbers with a compelling narrative, and be confident. What is the point you want to convey? What is the action item for people to take away?

Investing with the intent to make a positive impact is important because… finding companies that are making a positive impact translates into opportunities for growth, which will translate into better financial performance and address the many sustainability challenges around us.

I would tell my 20-year old self… the key to success is to find a “sponsor.” This is different from a mentor. A sponsor, or, even better, sponsors is someone within your organization that is senior to you and will basically say nice things about you behind your back. They will put your name forward at promotion time, for new projects, and help support your initiatives. The really hard part is finding a sponsor, and often, each time why a sponsor takes a shine to you is different.

“Finally, governments, society, and capital allocators are working together to address the transition to a lower carbon economy and important social justice issues. We can all make a difference.”

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… good habits — they are the compound interest of self-improvement. Many people know that compounding interest (if not, Google it ASAP) builds long term wealth.  

Small choices like a salad over burger, calling the client instead of leaving early, or volunteering for extra assignments doesn’t seem to matter much at the moment. But, as days turn to weeks, those tiny repeatable choices compound. These habits build your skill set and open doors in the future you never imagined.

The one piece of advice I would give someone who is starting to invest is… do your homework, read or listen (e.g., podcasts) to lots of different investors to see what style suits you. You need to have a passion for this business or you won’t last.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am reliving my childhood through the lens of my two sons (8 and 10 years old). I’ve learned to skateboard (kinda), and play Dungeons and Dragons. I am a level 5 elf magic user.

The future excites me because… finally, governments, society, and capital allocators (the Paris agreement, carbon taxes, Greta Thunberg, ESG funds) are working together to address the transition to a lower carbon economy and important social justice issues. We can all make a difference.

Meet Caroline Dabu, Head of BMO Wealth Distribution and Advisory Services.

Caroline Dabu

Caroline Dabu is a strategic marketer, communicator, and Head of BMO Wealth Distribution and Advisory Services. After earning her journalism degree and working for various publications, Caroline transitioned out of journalism to work in Communications in the Financial Services sector. Since joining BMO Nesbitt Burns in 2000 as the Head of Marketing, Caroline has held various leadership roles in Marketing and Client Strategy, and established BMO’s Enterprise Wealth Planning team in 2012. Today, Caroline is responsible for guiding a team of people that provide wealth planning, estate, and advisory services for BMO wealth clients.

 

My first job was… an intern cub reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press. I think I got paid by each word I wrote!

I chose my career path because… I became fascinated by the impact financial decisions can make. After graduating from Journalism School at Carleton University, I worked at Financial Post Magazine and it was such a rush working at the magazine, and in particular, learning more about personal finance. After that experience, I wanted to be in a position to be able to communicate how meaningful of an impact financial decisions have in people’s lives. Taking a communications role at a bank was a pivotal moment that set me on my career path. 

My boldest personal or professional move to date was… to move out of my comfort zone around Marketing and Communications. I moved out of a senior role in Marketing and Communications ten years ago for an opportunity to build up the retirement, financial, and wealth planning area of BMO. It was a risk because I didn’t go to business school, and my career to date had been focused on being a strategic Marketer and Communicator. This role was developing a strategy that not all our businesses bought into at the time, and its value was not well understood. It tested me as a leader in many ways and starting up in a new area required evolving and learning well outside of my comfort areas. This move has broadened my leadership and helped me tackle additional opportunities and challenges in my career. 

The thing I love most about my role as Head, Wealth Distribution & Advisory Services is… working with an incredible team of professionals who are passionate about what they do and the direct impact they can have on helping individuals, families, and businesses achieve their goals and dreams for the future and be prepared for some of the challenges that may come along the way. Our team provides wealth, tax, estate, business advisory, philanthropy and insurance planning, and not a week goes by where I don’t hear about the meaningful difference they are making for BMO Wealth clients and their families. 

Having a wealth management plan is important because… together with your advisor, it helps you identify and get specific around your wants, needs, and goals and helps you stay the course. A plan helps you prioritize what is truly important and gives you the confidence to stay focused even when there are things happening in the short term that can veer you off path. A wealth management plan also gives you the ability to thread all the different aspects of your financial picture together, rather than in disparate pieces.

“The best piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to use their wealth to make a positive impact is to think about how they want to give “meaning” to their wealth, what they are passionate about supporting, and then speaking to an advisor about how to do this strategically.”

One misconception about wealth management is… that it’s intimidating and that it’s not accessible. Wealth management is really about having a comprehensive view of your financial goals and managing how you will achieve them — whether you are a young family with goals to save for your kids’ education, a professional early in your career just starting to make some investments, or if you have a family business and want to plan for your business to be passed on to the next generation. If you’ve got a goal, you need wealth management — whether that means working with a financial planner or a Wealth Advisor.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… being open to feedback and being willing to evolve — this attitude opens up so many more pathways and doors. And embracing every opportunity to learn. (Ok, that’s 3 things!) 

The first thing I would suggest to someone that wants to set financial goals is… categorize your needs, your wants and your wishes — and be specific about them. This will help you prioritize and set a realistic plan. Your needs are what you need to make sure is fully funded, full stop. Then, you can plan for your “wants or must-haves.” Your wishes are your “nice-to-haves” after you can fund the first two buckets.  

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I never saw being a hockey mom in my future! 

The best piece of advice I would give to someone who wants to use their wealth to make a positive impact is… to think about how they want to give “meaning” to their wealth, what they are passionate about supporting, and then speaking to an advisor about how to do this strategically.

I stay inspired by… tackling at least one new personal challenge every year that takes me out of my comfort zone. 

The future excites me because… technology in financial services is accelerating in such a way that we’ll see the convergence of the power of human advice with digital to make personal finance and wealth management even more engaging, easier, and collaborative.

Meet Jill Earthy, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre.

Jill Earthy

Jill Earthy is the award-winning CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre, a non-profit organization that supports women entrepreneurs with loans, education, mentorship, and advisory services throughout British Columbia. An entrepreneur herself, Jill has built two national companies and sold them, spending several years as a leader in the non-profit sector providing support to entrepreneurs afterwards. Currently serving on the national Board of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Women Entrepreneur Organizations of Canada (WEOC), and The Forum, Jill remains a thought leader and active member of her community.   

 

My first job was… working as a Counsellor at a YMCA summer camp. It was an incredible job as I was able to work outdoors with my peers, trying new things and gaining a wide range of skills. I was put into very challenging situations that stretched me, giving me the opportunity to develop leadership skills from a very young age.  

I did not set out with a specific career path in mind, but I did know that I wanted to do work that was purposeful and impactful. I have been fortunate to have found or been given opportunities that align with this goal. When I reflect on my winding path, I see intentional steps of growth and opportunity that I could not possibly have predicted.  

The thing I love most about what I do is… seeing the women I work with realize their dreams and goals. Entrepreneurship is not easy, but when fueled by passion and surrounded by support, anything is possible. I am inspired every day by these women creating the businesses of the future.

Being the CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre is important to me because… we recognize the unique growth pathways of women entrepreneurs. We offer an integrated approach including mentorship, skills development and capital, meeting women entrepreneurs and business owners where they are in their business evolution. As a result, we see them realize their business potential and have the impact they want to have in the world. We are also able to use our established record of success to educate other funders and stakeholders on the different definitions of growth to influence systemic change. 

My best advice for new entrepreneurs is… ask for help. You are not alone, and building a business is hard. We cannot be good at all aspects of business. We are fortunate in Canada to have many incredible resources for entrepreneurs. Sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know, and by utilizing resources and reaching out to entrepreneurs who have forged the path ahead of you, you will be better set up for success. 

“One misconception about women-focused funding is that women are risk adverse. We need to reframe this narrative as women tend to be “risk-astute,” meaning they take calculated risks based on research and consultation.”

I believe in the importance of investing in women… because women entrepreneurs are building incredible businesses having a positive impact in this world. Women entrepreneurs currently receive less than 4% of Venture capital and less than 20% of traditional loans. Less than 20% of Angel Investors in Canada are women and less than 15% are Venture Capital Partners. We need more diverse perspectives making investment decisions to ensure more diverse entrepreneurs and businesses receive funding. I consider myself a micro-investor and an advocate to encourage more women to participate as investors. I have been doing this work for the past 10 years and we are finally starting to see the numbers shift ever so slightly. Having more women investors will lead to a greater distribution of wealth, different types of businesses being supported and more investment into the community. Participation by women as scaling entrepreneurs and investors is essential as we consider economic recovery, and growth. 

One misconception about women-focused funding… is that women are risk adverse. We need to reframe this narrative as women tend to be “risk-astute,” meaning they take calculated risks based on research and consultation. The result is that women access capital in smaller tranches over a longer period of time. This is actually a very strong approach but it does not always align with the existing venture model of growth. As more types of financing emerge, we will see more women access the capital they need for their businesses to grow and thrive. 

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed… it would be always being curious and open to learning and being surrounded by incredible people.   

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I did my undergraduate thesis studying how the size of a person’s eyes predicts how trustworthy they are. This has come in handy in my business career. 

I stay inspired by… reading, learning and spending time in the mountains with friends and family. 

The future excites me because… we are seeing new models emerging that are more inclusive. We are in a time of change when traditionally underrepresented voices are being acknowledged and heard. Incorporating diverse perspectives into decision making across all levels and sectors is hard but critical if we want our country to thrive.

Meet Tanya Hayles, founder of Black Moms Connection.

Tanya Hales

Tanya Hayles is an award-winning writer and storyteller who uses different platforms to encourage thought, create dialogue, and be an agent for change. She is the founder of Black Moms Connection, a global platform and non-profit that provides resources, support, and education for Black women and their families. In addition to being a writer and founder, Tanya’s work ranges from event planning to anti-Black racism advocacy and public speaking.

 

I chose my career path because...it chose me. It started because I liked that when I went to work, it had a bigger purpose than just a paycheque. While I eventually left the non-profit sector to pursue a career in event planning, the sector never left me. 

I started the Black Moms Connection because…I wanted a space to ask culturally relevant questions and get culturally relevant answers. I wanted it to be a safe place to do so without the sexist and racist vitriol lobbed our way as Black women (sometimes from women themselves). 

The thing I love most about what I do is… it is always rooted in the service of others. If I cannot answer how this benefits the moms and their families, I don’t do it. 

My best advice for anyone that cares about a cause and wants to contribute to it would be… to look at who is doing the work. Ask questions about where the money is going. See how you can help an organization grow and be sustainable. It isn’t always money they need. Don’t make them fit your mandate, build a relationship to see how you can both mutually benefit.

“Why are you doing what you are doing? Is it solely for money? If yes, then you are destined to lose your way.” 

Black Moms Connection partnering with BMO for the Rent Bank Grant Program was important because… it showed the value of building authentic and reciprocal relationships. We didn’t ask BMO for money, we asked for amplification. They gave us both and added validation. 

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… authenticity. I am the same person chatting with CEOs and banks that I am on social media (with a few slight filters of course). I don’t promote anything unless I love it. I don’t align with brands unless I can do so enthusiastically without compensation. People can trust what I’m going to do and who I am because I choose my words very carefully and intentionally. 

One tangible way you can build your legacy is… constantly circling back to your why. Why are you doing what you are doing? Is it solely for money? If yes, then you are destined to lose your way. Who is it serving? What problem are you trying to solve? Why are YOU the one to do it?

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know that… I am obsessed with planners, notebooks, and stickers. Yes, stickers. It’s part of my self-care and brings out my inner 8-year old!

I stay inspired by… being connected to the community. I read the posts from our members, the emails from donors, and on the days when it becomes too much, I am reminded that the universe chose me to be here. 

The future excites me because… I have big lofty dreams that do not scare me. I also love that Gen Z is highly impatient to fix the issues that previous generations have been working for decades to solve.

Seven ways to green your shopping.

Woman shopping in a zero waste store

By Khera Alexander

 

Conversation around living a greener lifestyle continues to garner more attention, but what does that actually mean? Is it affordable? Can it really make a difference? Living ethically and sustainably is a journey that takes time to cultivate and maintain, with no singular way to do it. However, if you’re looking for some small steps you can take to make a difference in your own way, consider these 7 ways you can live and shop a little greener.

1. Rethink your everyday essentials and switch to reusable and eco-friendly items.

No one can deny the convenience of taking a short trip to a local drugstore chain to pick up another toothbrush or the ease of ordering household items online from Amazon, but there are ways to maintain that ease without having a negative impact on the environment. About half of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year is for single-use and other disposable items (like that toothbrush) waste resources, leach toxins, and can take hundreds of years to decompose. Many of us have gotten comfortable with using something once and throwing it away, but purchasing items that are reusable or made of recycled materials is a helpful first step towards living more sustainably and being eco-friendly. There are options available for just about any everyday item you may need. From paper towel substitutes to reusable bags and beauty products, many sustainable and environmentally friendly products exist.

2. Shop and eat locally or grow your own produce.

While shopping and eating locally is not accessible to everyone, if you’re able, there are several benefits to it: it’s a financial investment in your local community, you have a better understanding of where your money goes and who it helps, and most often, the food you purchase is sourced from a farmer right in your city or province, which helps reduce packaging waste and gas emissions that arise from transportation. These benefits of local shopping and eating are direct results of community-driven actions taken towards sustainability. You may not be able to get everything on your list, but picking up your produce from a local shop or farmer’s market is an action that helps you, others, and your environment.

“You may not be able to get everything on your list, but picking up your produce from a local shop or farmer’s market is an action that helps you, others, and your environment.”

If you’re interested in taking on a personal project, growing your own produce is an alternative to purchasing locally. You don’t need a ton of space to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs, either — you could start with a container or a small box that can fit comfortably by a window. This is a larger undertaking than simply heading to your local store, but growing your own food can be an enjoyable and meditative way to spend your time — and you happen to be doing something that’s eco-friendly in the process.

3. Rent, repair, shop secondhand, or invest in sustainable clothing and accessories.

Finding trendy or runway-inspired clothing at a reasonable price is ideal for just about anyone, but fast fashion heavily pollutes the environment and exploits poor garment workers around the world. To produce fashionable, affordable clothes, businesses use cheap and toxic materials and inhumane working conditions, making trends available for purchase in as little as two to four weeks. Most of these laborers are women, and almost all of them do not earn a living wage. If none of these harsh realities sit well with you, there are several ways you can be a more conscious clothing shopper. 

A great method is to purchase clothes made sustainably. Though there is no singular definition, “sustainable, ethical fashion” can be thought of as clothing, shoes, and accessories that are made in the most mindful ways possible, with positive environmental and socioeconomic impacts factored in their production. All elements of the production process, from the type of materials used (whether it be recycled, organic, or a combination), how it’s made, and who makes it, to the transportation process is considered and designed to contribute to sustainability. While purchases from brands like Free Label, Tentree, Brother Vellies, Omi Woods, or Girlfriend Collective are investments — sustainably made pieces don’t have fast fashion prices  — you can feel good about where your items come from and they will last you for years.

“Although purchasing sustainable clothes is a wonderful alternative, it’s a luxury and privilege that isn’t available to all of us. If paying for an eco-friendly item is something you can’t do, you still have options.”

Although purchasing sustainable clothes is a wonderful alternative, it’s a luxury and privilege that isn’t available to all of us. If paying for an eco-friendly item is something you can’t do, you still have options: try sewing up holes or tears in any worn clothes you already have and shopping second hand. There are several stores that provide quality used clothing at affordable prices, from your local thrift store to boutique in-store and online vintage shops.

Another way to be a little greener is by renting clothes. Canadian rental platforms like dresst or The Fitzroy give you the feeling of having gone shopping without constant consumption and a lot of clothes piling up in your closet. For a fee, these services will ship a select number of items right to your door and you can wear them for an allotted amount of time. All you have to do is ship the clothes back (often for free) and the company will take care of cleaning the items for the next rental. 

4. Repair, shop secondhand, and try purchasing other sustainable goods.

Most, if not all of us love a good deal on things like electronics and home furnishings. Being able to spend money on items we consider fairly priced and of value is important, but we often don’t have the full scope of the damage it can do to the people that made it, our own bodies, and our planet. In 2019, electronics contributed to 53.6 million tonnes of waste globally, and in the United States alone, over 12 million tonnes of furniture is thrown out every year. There are smaller, simpler steps you can take to be more environmentally friendly if you need a new nightstand or another smartphone.

If you have a tablet that’s glitchy or a chair with a wobbly leg, try repairing it first. Taking the time to send a product in or fix a piece of furniture as a DIY project can save you a little to a lot of money, depending on the item. Many times, we can be more interested in replacing or repurchasing things because of how affordable a product might be or to simply have something new, but the items we’re quick to throw away are salvageable and might just need a little sprucing up. 

“Many times, we can be more interested in replacing or repurchasing things because of how affordable a product might be or to simply have something new, but the items we’re quick to throw away are salvageable and might just need a little sprucing up.”

Have you ever considered purchasing electronics and furniture second hand? If not, this option is a way to have exciting, new items while reducing the number of products that end up in landfills. Refurbished electronics, furniture stores, vintage shops, and community-based marketplaces are an internet search away, and they can save you money while you take home a product that’s as good as new or unique with tons of character.

If you need a new couch or new headphones, try shopping with environmentally friendly brands. While we can’t ignore that eco-friendly electronics can be harder to find, brands like The House of Marley and Nimble provide products made from natural and recycled materials. Furniture and other home goods that have been made sustainably are also not the easiest to find and are more expensive, but if you can afford to invest in eco-friendly furniture, it’s something worth considering — and there are brands making quality, timeless items that will outlast any furniture that was made with cheap materials, preventing you from throwing out goods every few years when you move or redecorate.

5. Purchase from B Corp businesses.

Businesses that are B Corporations operate with the environment and people in mind. These certifications are given by B Lab, a non-profit organization that created standards for environmental and societal change organizations need to meet in order to be certified. Certified organizations don’t just focus on money — making a positive change is integral to their business goals as well. 

B Corp companies use their businesses and profits to address environmental issues, social inequalities, and treat their employees fairly. Not all businesses are able to become certified; the process is extensive and rigorous, which adds a level of legitimacy and credibility to any business that successfully becomes a certified B Corporation. To be certified means that the company operates ethically and does exactly what they claim to do, from their production processes and work environments to their environmental and societal initiatives. If you want to be more eco-friendly, you can put your money toward buying  products from certified organizations that align with your ethics and beliefs. In doing so, your money can contribute to the environment, the community, and employees.

6. Recycle, donate, and sell thoughtfully.

Instead of reflexively putting items you no longer want in the trash, consider donating them or selling them to family, friends, or on online marketplaces and consignment shops. In many cases, people would love to purchase an item you already own because they can’t afford the full price or have to prioritize more important purchases. You can help them by donating, gifting, or selling your pieces. 

There will always be items that you won’t need more than once after you’ve used it or unboxed it. Recycling the right things as much as you can is a helpful way to reduce trash and responsibly get rid of items. Recycling is different depending on where you’re located — you may need to do some research to properly dispose of items in your area — but there are a couple of things you should keep in mind as you recycle. Clothing, containers with leftovers, food waste, appliances, electric cords, plastic bags, and propane cylinders can’t be recycled alongside your traditional (clean) glass, steel, and paper products. Confirm what can be recycled in your area and learn how to responsibly dispose of these items. Combining recyclable material with what can’t be recycled will not be organized by someone else — and your entire collection of items could end up in the trash. 

“Combining recyclable material with what can’t be recycled will not be organized by someone else — and your entire collection of items could end up in the trash.”

In addition to the packaging we recycle, our old appliances and smartphones should be disposed of more mindfully. The University of British Columbia reported that in 2016, only 20% of our global electronic waste — otherwise known as e-waste — was recycled properly. E-waste is made of any electronic equipment that we no longer want such as cables, batteries, fluorescent lights, and of course, our smart devices. Casually discarding these products is more common than we realize; globally, we created 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste in 2019, with that number projected to increase as the years go on. Donating or safely recycling our electronics prevents toxic components like mercury and lead from leaking, and any material that is salvageable can be recovered and reused. Check with your local municipality on how to properly dispose of your electronics, but organizations like the Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA), BestBuy, TerraCycle, and Recycle My Cell offer services as well.

7. Resist the urge to purchase something unless you actually need it.

It’s easy to get swept up into the idea that by shopping, we will feel restored. We get excited about having new things — and we all succumb to that in our own ways. Although this is something many of us can relate to, our collective over-consumption has a detrimental impact on others and the environment. Though resisting the urge to have new things is challenging, one of the most vital ways we can shop greener is to buy less. Wait until you actually need something to make a purchase, and if you find yourself suddenly having several items in your cart, ask yourself, do I really need this? Taking a moment to pause and reflect on your potential purchases could help deter you from buying something “just because.”

This executive is committed to environmental change with the BMO Climate Institute.

Sharon Haward Laird

Sharon Haward-Laird, General Counsel and Executive Committee Lead for Sustainability at BMO Financial Group, shares how BMO is leveraging their commitment to sustainability with its new platform, the BMO Climate Institute.

 

By Shelley White

 

As the world races to transition to net zero emissions, every one of us has a role to play, says Sharon Haward-Laird, General Counsel of BMO Financial Group. 

Financial institutions will be a crucial part of the solution, she adds, particularly when it comes to the significant task of financing the development of clean and renewable energy sources.

“There will be a significant amount of financing required for the scale of the transition that needs to happen,” says Sharon, who championed BMO’s recent statement of its climate ambition: to be their clients’ lead partner in the transition to a net zero world. “It’s trillions of dollars a year, from a global perspective. Government alone is not going to be able to do that.” 

Aligned with BMO’s long-standing commitment to sustainability and support of the Paris Agreement, the bank recently launched an industry-leading platform for change, the BMO Climate Institute. This virtual hub will bring together science, analytics, expertise and partners to understand the financial risks and opportunities related to climate change and transition, for the bank’s clients and the bank itself. 

BMO promotes sustainability through lending, investing, underwriting and advising companies on sustainability strategies, Sharon explained, and the BMO Climate Institute will be a key resource and source of expert advice for BMO’s clients. 

The inspiration for the BMO Climate Institute is the concept of convening stakeholders, leading information and best practices at the intersection of climate adaptation and finance, driving thought leadership and providing best practices for clients. 

“The mission of the BMO Climate Institute makes it clear that our climate ambition isn’t about BMO, it’s about our clients,” Sharon says. “It’s about creating a space where all stakeholders — BMO, clients, experts in the field, academics, government regulators — can come together and help solve the complex problems presented by the transition to a net zero world, and the opportunities that it creates for our clients to play leading roles in it.” 

Sharon notes that BMO’s purpose is to “boldly grow the good in business and life.” It’s a philosophy the company takes seriously, she says. 

“When we have experience actively participating in the transition to a net zero world in our own operations, it’s easier for us to act as our client’s advisor in making their own transition — because you learn as you go.”

BMO was one of the first major banks to sign the UN Principles for Responsible Banking, and the bank is committed to aligning its business strategy with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. BMO is a pioneer in sustainable finance, recently announcing its goal to more than double its sustainable finance commitment, deploying $300-billion in green, social and sustainable lending, underwriting, advisory services, and investment by 2025. 

BMO also is dedicated to finding innovative ways to minimize the environmental impact of its own operations. Proudly carbon neutral since 2010, in 2020 BMO reached its goal to match 100 per cent of its global electricity use with electricity produced from renewable sources. Now, through operational efficiency improvements and building upgrades, BMO has set a new science-based target to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. 

These actions aren’t just important because every company needs to do its part, Sharon says. They also position the bank to share expertise and best practices with clients. 

“When we have experience actively participating in the transition to a net zero world in our own operations, it’s easier for us to act as our client’s advisor in making their own transition — because you learn as you go,” she says. “What worked well? What could you have done differently? We can connect with clients that may be at an earlier stage in their transition and support them with the benefit of our experience.”

While the conversation around the transition to a net zero world and the development of clean energy sources often revolves around the costs and challenges of this process, Sharon points out that it’s important to remember the vast opportunities that exist as well.

Sharon notes there are two major categories of how climate will affect the economy and the business world. On the one hand, there are the costs associated with a transition to a net zero world and development of clean energy. On the other, there are the physical risks of climate change, and that’s another major priority for the BMO Climate Institute. 

A new climate analytics lab, built by BMO’s Sustainability team and BMO Enterprise Artificial Intelligence (AI) Labs with external partners, will enable the bank to analyze climate-related risks and opportunities facing the financial sector and key client industries. The platform leverages geospatial data and scientific modelling to generate actionable insights — all in service to clients, Sharon says.

“It allows us to analyze all kinds of different physical hazards, both today and in the future, based on different climate scenarios,” she explains. “Things like wildfires, extreme weather events, coastal flooding — we’re able to model these with geospatial data and satellites. We built this platform for analysis of our own assets, and we want to use it to have value-added conversations with clients about the types of challenges they’re facing too.”

“I don’t want to leave a world for my kids and grandkids that’s a mess for them to clean up. I think we have a responsibility not to push the problem out into the future to be resolved by somebody else.”

One tangible example is around the effects of climate change on real estate. Sharon says that the analytics lab is also working on capabilities to model the transition to clean energy, in order to understand the economic impacts for different sectors. 

“What will the decarbonization pathways look like? Where are we now and where are we going to end up?” she says. “And for individual clients, how much will that cost and what are optimal investment structures?”

BMO’s sustainability team is developing capabilities to do this kind of modelling, and are exploring a variety of different tools and methodologies. As data availability becomes more widespread and data quality continues to increase, the opportunities will increase exponentially, she adds.

“This isn’t a two-year thing. The transition to a net zero world is going to take a considerable amount of time,” she says. “There’s a huge opportunity here for us to grow with our clients, and we want to make sure that we’re experimenting with different analytical tools in the meantime.” 

As the mother of young adults, Sharon says her children’s passion about climate change is one of the things that has inspired her in her role in BMO’s sustainability work.

“I have three kids and I’m not a grandmother yet. But when you think of the urgency of the transition that must happen by 2050, and the concrete steps that need to be taken now, I don’t want to leave a world for my kids and grandkids that’s a mess for them to clean up,” she says. “I think we have a responsibility not to push the problem out into the future to be resolved by somebody else.”

Transforming the world into a place where clean energy is the norm will take the work of many generations, she says.

“But I think we have the chance now to really get the work started.”

5 ways you can negotiate continuing working from home.

woman working from home

By Fotini Iconomopoulos

Many of us are excited about getting the heck away from the home office and back into civilization, but others are… not so eager. 

Maybe you’re not ready just yet or maybe you want this arrangement to become permanent. Whatever the situation, there are things that you can do that will help you in your negotiation with your employer. In fact, I’ve been helping folks with employer negotiations like these for years, and COVID-19 just made working from home requests a lot easier — you’ve been trialing this (hopefully successfully) for over a year!

I always advise to keep track of the successes and wins you’ve had while working from home, and to lay the groundwork by dropping them into your conversations regularly. But even if you haven’t been doing that, you can make up for it with the steps below:

1. Position yourself for success

Before you even propose continuing working from home, make sure you make your employer aware of how well it’s been going. How did you make the transition seamless with your team? Did you increase productivity? Any big wins to bring up (despite the chaos)? Have you been more accessible without fighting traffic? If you have some quantitative results, even better. The more positive things you have to share about this remote work experience, the harder it will be for them to deny your request.

2. Consider it from their perspective

‘They’ are both your peers and your employer. Consider how your remote work will affect others. If you think they might have some objections, consider those now so you can address them and handle them before your employer has a chance to raise them. You’ll be acknowledging their concerns and building trust. Especially if you have solutions or learnings for their concerns.

3. Share testimonials and best practices

You already brought up some benefits earlier and now you can use the social smell of what others are doing and how they’re doing it successfully. Share testimonials from colleagues, clients, and other departments if you’ve got them. Other industry leaders and organizations who have already declared that remote work will be around for a while are a great way to use peer pressure to your advantage. A company with similarities to yours will be most compelling — so don’t pick some culture that seems like apples to oranges to them.

4. Be specific

Proposing a trial is usually an easy way to success (as it usually brings enough momentum to continue down that path) and you just had a lengthy trial run to work to your advantage. If you’ve figured out a formula for success, this is the time to lay out the plan. If it’s x number of days per week/month in the office, a rhythm of regular meetings or communication, specific working hours, or any other process that has made this a successful trial, be sure to spell it out.

5. Ask questions

Questions always come up because carefully crafted ones will get the others to convince themselves and make things less adversarial. Asking questions is something you also need to be prepared with in case you get resistance. Dig deeper than what they’re saying at face value. ‘How’ or ‘what’ questions are always my favorites: “How can we adjust this plan to make you more comfortable? What specifically about this is important to you?” Be ready to get them into problem solving mode before you just give up.

As I’ve said before, negotiations don’t have to be combative. Implementing a few of the tips above will make it a discussion instead of a boxing match.

 

Fotini Iconomopoulos

Fotini Iconomopoulos

Nicknamed “the negotiator” as a child, Fotini Iconomopoulos is an award-winning negotiation consultant, keynote speaker, MBA instructor, and author of Say Less, Get More: Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want. Based in Toronto, she works with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small business entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals, and is regularly featured in the media sharing her expertise. You can learn more about her work and find more of her tips at fotiniicon.com

Meet the new team at BDC making financing more equitable.

Entrepreneurs are some of the strongest agents for change in our communities, and some of the most inspirational as well. They use their grit, tenacity, passion, and skills to build a business out of a vision.

I’m proud to have spent the last 26 years of my career working with entrepreneurs at BDC — which for over 75 years has remained a dedicated financial institution for entrepreneurs operating small to medium-sized businesses. We not only provide financing, advice, tools and resources, we also build meaningful relationships with our clients to provide value-added service. 

Over all those years, I’ve seen firsthand how the entrepreneurial journey can be filled with successes, hurdles, and a few pivots. I’ve also learned that access to financing, business guidance, and a supportive network can be particularly challenging for underserved entrepreneurs to find. 

What does it mean to be an ‘underserved’ entrepreneur? They are often members of marginalized communities; they may be racialized, identify as women, identify as members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, be living with a disability, or exist within a combination of these identities. Often, these entrepreneurs face more barriers to entry when it comes to starting or growing a business — and these challenges have been exacerbated through the pandemic. 

“Our commitment is to listen and learn, working with our internal teams and external partners to understand these unique challenges through research, conversations, and data.”

Acutely aware of these challenges, at BDC we have been working to develop an inclusive and impactful approach to Client Diversity. Our commitment is to listen and learn, working with our internal teams and external partners to understand these unique challenges through research, conversations, and data. Then, we will develop solutions with tangible, measurable outcomes. 

The whole bank is engaged with delivering this strategy, with five regional managers, each with a specific client segment focus, helping me lead the charge. These five individuals have diverse insights, knowledge, and experiences to share, plus a passion for helping entrepreneurs reach their full potential and thrive in every aspect of their business. 

Below, meet Brooke, Nancy, Monica, David, and Chelsea — the team of client diversity experts I have the pleasure of working with to make funding for Canadian entrepreneurs more equitable.

"All entrepreneurs deserve the space and time to share their successes and struggles — especially those that are underserved."

Monica James

Monica James

Regional Manager, Client Diversity, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Diversity and inclusion are weaved into everything that I do at BDC. Since joining the bank in 2003, I have been deeply invested in providing support and guidance to Indigenous entrepreneurs, championing their goals, and celebrating their accomplishments. Officially, I lead the Bank’s national strategy addressing the needs of Indigenous entrepreneurs, so they can overcome barriers, grow, and thrive. I’m also the Indigenous Lead for BDC’s internal strategy to honour the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #92

As a proud Cree woman from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and having been raised in northern Manitoba, my efforts are informed by my own personal experience. I understand the unique challenges many rural and remote Indigenous entrepreneurs face. I also know what is required for an accountable and equitable playing field in the realm of entrepreneurship and finance, and I’m driven to ensure that all entrepreneurs have access to the tools and resources they need to be successful in business. 

All entrepreneurs deserve the space and time to share their successes and struggles — especially those that are underserved. I’ve learned that the biggest ways I can have an impact are believing in their ability to succeed, helping to nurture their business, supporting them by purchasing their products and services, and creating visibility by promoting their brands to others.

"I’m also an entrepreneur myself, so I understand the stress that can come from starting and growing a business."

Brooke Gordon

Brooke Gordon

Regional Manager, Client Diversity, Waterdown, Ontario

I am passionate about supporting women business owners through their entire business journey, and I joined BDC in 2017 with that specific goal — plus nearly two decades of experience supporting organizations in strategic planning and effecting change. 

I’m also an entrepreneur myself, so I understand the stress that can come from starting and growing a business. After suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for years, I was inspired to become a certified health coach and host a podcast about what it means to live a healthy life. My personal business journey has informed my work at BDC not only through the lived experience I can draw from, but also from the perspective of wellbeing — research consistently shows that women, entrepreneurs of immigrant origin, and visible minorities have more mental health and well-being challenges, and 51% of entrepreneurs want a better work life balance.  

For any entrepreneur feeling stressed, I have two tips I can share with you. Number one: get moving! Gentler forms of exercise, like walking, can help focus your thoughts, ease digestion, and replenish your energy. Number two: set aside time at the end of each week to review your income and expenses for that week, and forecast what you expect to happen 13-weeks from now. It is a tangible way to build your intuition with the numbers (for anyone doubting their financial acumen, know you can learn a skill by putting it into practice), and considering cash flow is the most often mentioned source of stress from business owners, it’s a great way to create peace of mind. 

"I have been both the youngest person and the only Black person in many roles, and I understand the difficulties and challenges navigating oneself in predominantly white spaces."

Chelsea Prescod

Chelsea Prescod

Regional Manager, Client Diversity,
Toronto, Ontario

Empowering and mobilizing youth, women, and diverse entrepreneurs is the work that I live and breathe. I believe in equitable entrepreneurship and chose this path so I could help as many entrepreneurs as I can, particularly those from underserved communities, to build generational wealth and break down systemic barriers. I have an eclectic professional and entrepreneurial background, as well as sixteen years worth of leadership in civic engagement.  

As a woman of Afro-Caribbean descent who is the product of a business leader and a serial entrepreneur, I have seen and experienced what it is like to run a business as a person of colour. I have been both the youngest person and the only Black person in many roles, and I understand the difficulties and challenges navigating oneself in predominantly white spaces. I know what it feels like to not fit in and have to ‘code switch’ to get by. Moreover, I understand that access to financing and networks are significant barriers for many Black entrepreneurs, as well as other systemically marginalized communities. In my role, I want to help these business owners navigate the complex entrepreneurial ecosystem, ensuring they’re aware of the resources available to them and how to get the financing and new market opportunities they need to scale their business. It is time that everyone gets a seat at the table.

What drives me daily is building a better and equitable future for my twins, Justice and Freedom. I want them to live in a world where they are judged by the content of their character and not their background. I want their future to be limitless. I am proud to be part of an organization where I can be an agent of change and level the playing field for so many.

"With their representation, I was more able to believe that as a visible minority, I can be in a position of influence. By being visible, I hope to show all diverse entrepreneurs that they are understood — and they are supported."

Daniel Kim

David Kim

Regional Manager, Client Diversity,
North Vancouver, BC

Entrepreneurship runs in my family. I’ve been an entrepreneur myself, and my spouse and her mother two influential women in my life — are both business owners. They have experienced the generous support of their respective customers and unfortunately, as women of Asian descent, faced discrimination as a visible minority. 

In my mother-in-law’s situation, it was the typical immigrant story — with the added barriers of a new language, little funds and a lack of financial literacy, plus no network and a limited understanding of the business ecosystem. And she had a family to support. Having to rely on her young daughter to interact with institutions, she often avoided seeking support, as there was no one who fully understood her. Instead, she frequently reminded her children of the importance of working hard and persevering. Seeing someone in a position of authority and leadership that looked like her would have given her comfort and confidence when growing her business. 

Why do I believe that could have helped with my mother-in-law’s anxiety and stress as she struggled to grow her business? Early in my banking career, I experienced the power of visible role models. I interviewed for a role with someone who looked like me, and though I didn’t consciously realize it at first, that sparked a sense of confidence and provided inspiration. With their representation, I was more able to believe that as a visible minority, I can be in a position of influence. By being visible, I hope to show all diverse entrepreneurs that they are understood — and they are supported.

"Focusing on women has always been an integral part of the positions I’ve held at the Bank — I’ve gone as far as accompanying women entrepreneurs on several International Trade Missions."

Nancy Goudreau

Nancy Goudreau

Regional Manager, Client Diversity,
Montreal, Quebec

When I joined BDC 10 years ago — after more than 15 years working in the market development and venture capital space — the mandate of the organization called to me, and I was thrilled to be able to use my experience and network to accelerate the development of Canadian Entrepreneurs. In the first few months, I realized that women entrepreneurs weren’t comfortable with financing, and most didn’t know how approachable BDC was. I was fortunate to cross paths with the President of the Reseau des Femmes d’Affaires du Quebec (RFAQ), who was building a wonderful initiative aimed at scaling women-owned businesses by providing them with opportunities to work with large organizations.

From then on I was hooked, and began my best and brightest journey into inclusion, with a focus on opening doors for women. I quickly became president of a great initiative at RFAQ called Développement Économique au Féminin (DEF), helping more than a dozen influential business leaders — both men and women — to accelerate and grow their impact in our business community. It led me to form incredible bonds with the women entrepreneurs I met, and their success stories have become my daily highlights, inspiring me with the knowledge that I was making a difference.

Ever since, I stayed highly involved by helping develop BDC’s Women Entrepreneur Strategy, which was going strong even before it was officially made a national priority. Focusing on women has always been an integral part of the positions I’ve held at the Bank — I’ve gone as far as accompanying women entrepreneurs on several International Trade Missions, to ensure they felt supported and empowered to take on any opportunities coming their way. Now, to see my influence grow to include other underrepresented groups, I’m beyond excited to be able to replicate and apply this nurturing approach to help their business thrive and grow.

How Diane Scott made a late-career pivot to focus on giving back.

Diane Scott

By Hailey Eisen 

Diane Scott couldn’t have planned a career as dynamic as the one she has. Five years ago, it didn’t exist.

As Chair and CEO of JMCC Group, Diane sits at the helm of Canada’s only woman-led international medical cannabis company. She built the business from the ground up and today operates on four continents and the Caribbean.  

JMCC, which stands for Jamaican Medical Cannabis Company, was founded in 2016. After more than a decade working in New York and London in the global financial services and technology industries — including work in the financial services practice of presidential candidate Ross Perot Sr — Diane felt burnt out and in need of a restart. “After all those years I wasn’t loving what I was doing anymore, and I didn’t like the person I had to be to do it,” Diane recalls. 

Taking a career pause gave her the opportunity to return home to Toronto after 17 years. “I sold my apartment in New York and came home to the town I was raised in to reflect. Suddenly I had five acres to look after, and I had to learn how to garden.”

While her next steps weren’t clear, Diane felt fortunate to have the time and resources needed to regroup. She’d been following the medical cannabis industry closely for some time and saw its potential from an investment perspective. In 2014 she started making investments in Canadian cannabis companies. 

What followed was a sequence of events which led Diane to explore cannabis farming in Jamaica. She was asked to consider investing in a family farm on the island, and while she initially said no as she felt only comfortable dealing with Canada, the idea stuck with her. 

“I took a conference call with the family who were looking to convert their sugarcane farm into medical cannabis. While we didn’t end up taking that opportunity, it made a few things very clear,” she says. First came the understanding that growing medical cannabis outdoors — what she calls a ‘natural grow’ in proprietary greenhouses — would ultimately be better for the end patient than growing it in big warehouses. And second, Diane came to learn that Jamaica has the most optimal growing environment, combined with regulations in line with what you’d see in Canada, Germany, and Australia. 

“We both reject the notion that you have to compromise profit in order to do good.”

Soon after Diane and a close friend in London, Tom Speechley, decided to build and launch a global venture capital business, SX2 Ventures. Their goal was to support innovation and long-term value creation in the human care sector, with a focus on life sciences, longevity, specialized care and emerging market healthcare solutions. “We were clear when we started that we wanted to do more with our investments. Rather than solely focusing on financial returns, we saw an opportunity to direct our funds to have a positive impact,” Diane explains. “We both reject the notion that you have to compromise profit in order to do good.” SX2 was an early expression of an environmental, social, governance (ESG) investment model years ahead of today’s standards. 

It was upon this ethos that JMCC was founded. “Starting SX2 naturally led us to create JMCC because we found there was nothing like it in the world. We saw the need, and believed that if it didn’t exist, we should build it.” After nine months of due diligence in the Jamaican market, Diane got on a plane to visit the island. 

“The huge learning curve for me became about the science and medicine,” she explains. And to help grow the business, Diane turned to people who she knew and trusted. “As an entrepreneur, you need to know your own strengths. We can’t be great at everything, so you need to build a team that’s great at everything.” Starting with her well-established network, Diane began to build the JMCC team, both in Jamaica and internationally. While Tom continued to run SX2, Diane focused on JMCC — taking a “divide and conquer approach.”

Diane knew her strategy with JMCC was unconventional from the get-go. “Being a female CEO who had chosen to do things differently than they were being done in Canada at the time, not going public, not growing in a big warehouse, cultivating on an island — I wasn’t making the most popular choices,” she recalls. Even still, she was clear on her vision and happy to be occupying a place that others were not.  

And her outside-the-box thinking paid off. In the five years since its inception, JMCC has become a fully integrated medical cannabis company, operating with a self-contained supply chain — from propagation and cultivation of raw materials supply, product development, manufacturing and packaging, through to global logistics and distribution. “We are the leading global provider of premium Jamaican medical cannabis products and services to the world.” 

She’s also in the final stages of organic certification, which should be in place by later this year. “Not many others can say they’re naturally grown, organic, and control their supply chain from start to finish. This allows us to ensure the highest possible quality patient experience,” explains Diane. “For JMCC, patient quality is at the center of everything we do. It has to be.” 

The company also just completed a joint venture in the Channel Islands, UK to establish a JMCC distribution hub in order to ensure seamless and timely prescription fulfillment to UK patients, and has expanded into an exclusive distribution agreement for the Australasian Region. 

Being a woman running a global medical cannabis company is unprecedented (the industry is dominated by men), but it has pushed Diane even harder to ensure an environment of equality for everyone on her team. “I’ve made it clear for all the women and teams I work with, that we are a company that will find the best talent — regardless of gender, religion, or sexual orientation — and that everyone who joins us has to believe and respect this.” 

Diane and her partner’s commitment to do their part to leave the world a better place has carried over in other ways to JMCC. “This is more than impact investing. We focus on profitable businesses that also are committed to doing good in the community,” she says. “We created the JMCC Foundation, and have committed to reinvest 10% back into communities, education, scientific research, and the medical cannabis industry.” 

“The idea of giving back has become more important to me the older I get. Societal benefit is as important as financials or unique value propositions when looking at an investment.

This includes working with academic institutions to support trials — such as an epilepsy trial being conducted via a Canadian university, which JMCC will provide the cannabis for at their own expense. They’re also one of only five companies in the world chosen to support Drug Science’s Project T21 — which is deemed to be the largest observational evidence-based study in the world, with a target of 20,000 UK patients.  

“The idea of giving back has become more important to me the older I get. Societal benefit is as important as financials or unique value propositions when looking at an investment. In SX2 and the companies we fund, we look for investment opportunities with those who share our vision for this.”  

Personally, Diane carries on that legacy with her involvement in community initiatives beyond her work. She’s a patron of a small school in Maasai Mara, Kenya on a 3,000-acre conservation area protected by the Kenyan Government. She was introduced to the school while on a business trip in Nairobi. “I had decided to stay over for a weekend and go on safari, and I met the manager of the safari who offered to take me to the local school,” she says. Since connecting with them, Diane has sponsored a water harvesting program that has allowed the school to harvest rainwater rather than the village mothers having to bring it from the river, which can be very dangerous. She’s also organized a program to ship books and sporting equipment from Canadian children to the children at this school, who are now learning to read in English. 

Diane is also a Royal Patron of the Royal Ontario Museum (also known as the ROM, in Toronto) and an Activator for SheEO, an organization which has built a $1B fund to help women-led businesses. SheEO is focused on investing to help with the ‘worlds to do list’.  She’s also a mentor and advocate for women, encouraging others to have confidence in themselves and their decisioning. 

“I think as women we don’t always feel like we deserve to be at the Board table, but the truth is, most of the time we’ve earned the right to sit in that seat,” she says. “Use your voice, share your knowledge and experiences, and contribute your thoughts as diversity always leads to better decision making.”  

She also has advice for anyone who is feeling the same sense of burnout and dissatisfaction she was before her pivot: “Doing what you love should be a career goal,” says Diane. “I don’t think people prioritize that enough.” 

How Nicole Neuman overcome gender barriers in engineering and became an international expert in her field.

Nicole Neuman

By Karen van Kampen

 

As a young girl, Nicole Neuman was very quick at learning new things. But picking up new concepts without a lot of effort had an unintended side effect, she says: “A lot of boredom.” So Nicole tried a variety of activities, from car repairs, to cooking, to metal and wood work. In university, she took all her pre-law and pre-med courses and completed most of her chemistry major before choosing engineering as a career. 

After more than two decades in the industry, Nicole has become an international expert in her field. As President and CEO of Synergy Engineering Ltd., she leads a team of electrical, instrumentation, and control engineers to design and supply turnkey projects around the world, primarily to the mining industry, as well as local infrastructure and industrial projects. 

Her impressive achievements are being recognized: Nicole was the 2020 winner of the Innovation Award, a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that honours a forward-thinking entrepreneur who has demonstrated outstanding leadership within her company and industry while setting standards for originality, quality, and successful management. 

Looking back, Nicole says, “I was always very driven growing up.” When she started babysitting at the age of 12, Nicole made a resume and business cards. In high school, she saved up her money from lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons to buy a snowboard as well as a car so that she could get to the hills at Whistler. From 1993 to 1995, she competed in snowboarding while attending university.  

In the mid-nineties, it wasn’t commonly accepted for women to be in electrical engineering — but this didn’t deter Nicole, who joined Synergy as a co-op student in 1995, while studying at Simon Fraser University. Three years later, she joined the company full-time. As she worked her way up in her field, Nicole experienced first-hand what it was like to be a woman in engineering. 

“I was met with hostility with a capital H,” she says. In one instance, Nicole was hired by a local mine to conduct a training course in an area in which she was an international expert. When she asked a conference room of engineers to open the manual that she had created, most of the men shut their binders, put their heads down, and closed their eyes, refusing to follow along. “I just carried on. What can you do?” she says. “When I left, I cried in my car, thinking, what am I doing here? Why am I doing this to myself?” 

As an entrepreneur, Nicole says it’s important to surround yourself with a network of like-minded mentors who have encountered similar barriers, as well as mentors with inspiring attributes that you admire. When you discover characteristics within yourself that help you to excel, she says, then you become a leader who others look to for inspiration. “That’s really empowering,” says Nicole. “Once you get to that stage, you want to keep growing because you want to keep leading, keep demonstrating.” 

Nicole has several powerful women mentors in her industry as well as a couple of men mentors who were early adopters to accepting women in the business. She says it’s important to see herself as an engineer in the mining industry rather than a woman in engineering. “There is this whole sentiment of going up against it, but you really need to think of it as joining it; joining the team,” she says. 

In 2015, there was a downturn in the mining industry, and Synergy faced a few hard years. Nicole was Executive Vice-President after working her way up in the company, and along with her team, she began targeting other markets and diversifying Synergy’s client base. 

At the end of 2019, Nicole took over as President of Synergy. Today, the company has between 50 and 60 employees and has expanded the manufacturing side of the business, with half of the employees in engineering and half in manufacturing. Nicole’s goal is to manage multiple projects with multiple teams at once to avoid downtime between projects. 

Nicole has worked hard to foster connection within her company and once COVID is over, she will continue focusing on team building and nurturing company morale that emphasizes personal values. “Our employees, I want what they do to have mattered to them, to have mattered to their children and grandchildren,” she says, adding that her long-term goal is to leave a legacy in which she looked after her company’s projects and the employees who ran them. “I want to leave a positive influence in people’s lives,” she says.  

Nicole has a strong relationship with her 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. She volunteers as treasurer for hockey and Brownies, roles that keep her connected with her kids’ activities. Nicole recognizes her children’s drive and dedication for things that interest them. “I think they thrive to succeed in certain areas because they witness this of me,” she says. 

Since she was a girl, Nicole has always had a strong character. Reflecting on her experiences and challenges along the way, she says, “It has certainly crafted me into the strong individual that I am today.” 

How a decade of war in Syria has led to serious gender-based human rights violations.

Syrian girl holding Syrian flag.

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk

 

This year marks ten years since the Syrian uprisings against the president started and the country spiralled into a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands and pushed around eighty per cent of the population into poverty. The protestors demanded freedom and justice, and yet many were forced to flee their homes, escaping wide-scale brutality and state persecution. The violent conflict between the government, backed by Russia and Iran, and the opposition, supported by the West, as well as several Gulf Arab states, has quickly turned the country into a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.    

Since the outbreak of the war, women have been disproportionately affected. They have to not only deal with the dangers of the war but also cope with gender-based discrimination. The ongoing armed conflict has intensified gender-related violence in Syria and has led to a rise in rape cases, as well as instances of forced and child marriage.

Conflict fuelling gender-based abuse   

Syrian society, where traditional gender norms dictate acceptable social behaviours, allows for the degradation of women. As a result of the ongoing armed conflict, misogynistic practices such as domestic violence have intensified, putting women and girls more at risk of sexual abuse and oppression than ever before.    

Since the beginning of the war, more than twelve million Syrians have been internally displaced or are living as refugees. As a report published by Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom revealed, women represent around 50 per cent of all Syrian refugees. In camps and shelters for displaced people, women and girls are more susceptible to violence than men and boys. 

In these settlements, women often fall victims to sexual exploitation and, having limited mobility, cannot escape those who hurt them. Moreover, with no sources of income, many hope that marriage could bring them and their daughters physical and financial security. Sadly, young girls who are married off to older men in exchange for money end up taken away from their loved ones and find themselves trapped in abusive relationships. 

Sexual violence as a weapon of war

Over the last ten years, rape became a common occurrence and sexual violence has been used by both the Syrian government and extremist jihadist groups to achieve their respective strategic goals. They use rape to spread ‘terror and humiliation to the population’, as the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict reported. Jihadists belonging to the Islamic State would rape girls as young as twelve years old and force them into sexual slavery. Through ingraining fear in the Syrian population, they aimed to enhance their governance and authority. Additionally, selling women to new recruits would help them get money to fund their activities. Similarly, the Syrian government and associated militias regularly rape women at checkpoints and during house searches to show their superiority and demand compliance. Rape became a tool used by parties complicit in the Syrian conflict, becoming a harmful pattern serving to demonstrate who holds more power.

Moreover, in a country where the honour of a woman is considered sacred, rape is being used to cause unrest amongst the population. Women and girls who have been raped are often the ones who have to face the consequences of the acts of their perpetrators. The patriarchal culture dictates that if a woman is raped, her honour is violated. In such circumstances, entire families experience stigma and social exclusion. Hence, in Syria, women are being killed for allegedly bringing dishonour upon their families.

Women’s empowerment crucial to restoring peace 

Looking at the Syrian war from the gender perspective and recognising how severely women have been affected by it is crucial to restoring peace. To protect and empower women, it is necessary to examine the challenges they face as a result of the war as these are highly specific to their gender. It is clear that the prevailing insecurity caused by the conflict has been particularly harmful to women. The problems that existed even before the war, have now been aggravated to the point where Syria has become the world’s third most dangerous country for women

Syrian women have to deal with dual oppression; that of years of armed conflict and that of gender-based violence. Hence, the humanitarian responses to those affected by the war need to be altered to provide Syrian women and girls with better protection. The implementation of durable peace can only be achieved if women’s rights are preserved. Otherwise, even once the fighting stops, women will have to cope with discrimination and limited possibilities to rebuild their lives. As the fighting in Syria continues, however, the world is yet to see what the position of women will be in the post-war period.

Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Katarzyna Rybarczyk is a Political Correspondent for Immigration News, which is a media platform that helps to raise awareness about migrant injustices and news around the world and helps people get immigration advice. She writes articles about the struggles of refugees and security concerns facing women around the world. Through her articles, she wants to promote human rights and raise awareness about topics that do not get enough attention. She also currently serves as a Volunteer Translator for the United Nations Volunteers Regional Office for West and Central Africa.

How this beauty entrepreneur successfully built a purpose-driven company.

Jenn Harper

By Khera Alexander

Jenn Harper had no intentions of becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, she didn’t think that was something that was even possible. And then in a dream one night, Jenn was visited by happy, smiling Indigenous girls wearing lip gloss. This dream was vivid, and it sparked an idea in her that she didn’t think of previously: to build a beauty brand with a purpose.

“Wanting to recreate this joy for those Indigenous kids that were in my dream was essentially the foundation of how I began this journey,” Jenn says.

Jenn had already done a lot of work on herself: she had overcome personal struggles, recovered from alcoholism, and learned more about who she was, her culture, and the lineage from which she descended. She was ready and determined to work on building her business, Cheekbone Beauty. She wanted to make a positive impact, invest in her community, and run a business that would do its part to help the environment — not hurt it.

Jenn also wanted Cheekbone Beauty to be a symbol of representation and something Indigenous youth could take inspiration from. Jenn had experienced the intergenerational trauma of North America’s colonial past and current settler colonial environment that has harmed Indigenous nations. “For many years, part of my addiction came from this deep shame of actually being an Ojibwe woman,” she says, adding that she wanted to do her part to subvert the miseducation and share more positivity for the next generation of children. “Can we change this narrative for our kids? Can we give them good stories to see? They don’t have to be ashamed of who they are and where they come from, and they can use their wonderful, incredible gifts, all these things that are innately Indigenous. It’s an amazing culture with really powerful teachings and stories.”

“It’s not about this Western view of, how much can I attain for myself? An Indigenous view of success is about how much you can give back to your community, and thinking about our actions today and how they impact the next generations.”

Jenn started with the basic steps: gaining an understanding of how products are made, what a supply chain is, and what channels she could use for sales. She wanted to create high-performing beauty products that were cruelty-free and without harmful ingredients. As she progressed, industry experts encouraged her to focus on profitability only, but Jenn continued to push forward in her pursuit of being of service to others while building Cheekbone. 

“I fought all of the pushback from business advisory boards and mentors saying, ‘No. This is the only reason I’m doing it. And if we can’t weave that in as part of the foundation, then it’s not going to work,’” she said. Little by little, Jenn built Cheekbone Beauty from the ground up and on her own terms, tapping into her culture to inform some of her decision-making. “It’s not about this Western view of, how much can I attain for myself? An Indigenous view of success is about how much you can give back to your community, and thinking about our actions today and how they impact the next generations.”

In business since 2016, Cheekbone Beauty is still a young brand — but they have already made significant strides aligned with their three sustainability pillars: Economic good, educational good, and environmental good. “We add it into every part of the business,” explains Jenn. 

Their SUSTAIN Lipstick line, for example, has a tube that uses 85% less plastic and is made of biodegradable paper — and once it’s used up, the packaging can be separated by the consumer for recycling and compost. Each shade is either named after the earth, the land, or after the word that means “on the land or earth” in one of the over 7000 Indigenous languages. Plus, “For every one that is purchased, there is one going back to an Indigenous youth somewhere in some community.” 

They also sell a Give Box seasonally, featuring both Cheekbone items and natural and sustainable products from other North American brands, with a large portion of the proceeds going to a charitable cause. “Usually in spring and summer, we’re planting trees. Last spring, we got water and solar power to a family from the Navajo reservation in the United States. We’re always just looking for streams of giving, different ways that we can add that layer of giving into everything that we do,” Jenn says.

Cheekbone Beauty has been able to invest in Indigenous communities by donating over $108,000 to a number of causes. One of these initiatives is Shannen’s Dream, an organization that works in tandem with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS) to address educational disparities between Indigenous youth and non-Indigenous youth. In the future, Jenn has plans to create a scholarship program to help fund the education of Indigenous students. 

On the environmental front, she has goals to eliminate single-use plastic products, provide refill options, and have all packaging be biodegradable and compostable by 2023. The company is also looking into a recycling initiative to safely dispose of their products. “Internally, we’re trying to figure out what it could look like if we could create some kind of program where we’re the ones taking back the product, so that our customers know something really positive is happening with that product at the end of that packaging life,” Jenn says. 

“The reality is, in every situation, it’s not black or white. When it comes to a sustainability journey, every choice is different for every product.”

Jenn credits her business’ success to being directly linked to how much Cheekbone values giving back. “When I think about the success in such a short time that we’ve had in the growth, it’s certainly because people feel how important that give back is to us,” she says. For any business that also cares about sustainability or being purpose-driven, Jenn points to authenticity and communication as key to success. 

“A business has to be very transparent about their supply chain, how they operate, and how they source products and ingredients,” advises Jenn. “With our SUSTAIN Lipstick, we were open and honest about that process, making sure that the organization is giving the right information to support the consumer with the product at the end of its life, and anything there in between.”

Jenn can empathize with any customer that may feel overwhelmed when attempting to shop sustainably, but wants for people to find what works best for them. “The reality is, in every situation, it’s not black or white. When it comes to a sustainability journey, every choice is different for every product. Plastic, glass, or aluminum, they all have a place, and that’s why it’s hard,” Jenn says. “It’s up to each individual consumer to decide on the consumer they want to be, and then do the research,” she says. 

For consumers who are skeptical of the difference they can make as an individual, Jenn encourages thinking of your efforts as part of a community. 

“It takes one person to start building that community, and be a part of a community, and share what they know with the community,” says Jenn. “We can’t do it alone. We just can’t, and that’s why we need each other. We need to find people that you connect with and realize, even though you are on your own, and though you’re making those small steps and changes, then it’s going to be about your example and you spreading that into your community.”