Can a business make the world a better place? Yes, when they’re concerned about more than their bottom line. From their sustainable practices to the social causes they support, these nine companies — all women-owned and run — are doing their part. Now all they need is your support.
Omi Woods contemporary heirloom jewellery pieces consist of coins, cowries, women icons, and more — all connected to Africa and the diaspora. Designed by Ashley Alexis McFarlane, they are not only a celebration of history and culture, but also a symbol of the continued fight for racial equality today. Everything is individually and ethically handmade with conflict-free fine metals, including fair trade African gold sourced from small-scale artisanal mines that support the well-being of miners and their communities by paying miners a fair wage and contributing to improved health care, education, safety and living conditions on the continent.
Ashley Alexis McFarlane was raised in Toronto, with Jamaican-Ashanti-Maroon heritage. Her first fashion business — called Asikere Afana, opened in 2011 — mainly sold dresses made from African fabrics. Inspired by the sentimental power of the jewellery pieces passed down from her grandmother, she pivoted the brand, transitioning to African-inspired jewellery under the Omi Woods name in 2016. She was recognized in 2020 as a finalist for the Global Etsy Design Award, making it into the top ten in the jewellery category (for context, Etsy has over 2.5 million sellers).
If you’ve ever tried to find a protein bar that’s healthy but also tastes good, you know it’s not easy. Heavenly Dates founder Suha Elrafih is on a mission to change the perspective on what healthy food should taste like. Her gluten-free bars have no added sugar, instead of relying on the natural sweetness of dates. With flavours like Burnt Almond, Apple Pie, and Goji Berry, each bar is delicious while also being packed with nutrients. They’re locally made in London, Ontario, and a portion of sales supports a local London charity called 4 Sisters 4 Kids.
Suha Elrafih is first-generation Lebanese-Canadian. A hair stylist by trade, Suha started Heavenly Dates because her younger brother was having health issues and had to adopt a more vegetarian diet. In doing so, he needed to find other ways to add protein to his diet and started buying bars — but couldn’t find one with a taste he enjoyed. Suha decided she was going to make clean, healthy, protein-packed bars for her brother, and Heavenly Dates was born.
Wooly Doodle is an ethically handmade clothing company that uses sustainably sourced materials. Their eco-friendly clothing is size-inclusive, gender-neutral, and made for the whole family — from babies to adults. Since all of their fabrics are exclusively knit and dyed in Ontario, they’re not only able to keep a close eye on quality, but also keep things local — meaning less shipping-related pollution. Plus, all of their products (the baby clothes especially) are known for being extra soft.
Elizabeth Suni started sewing in 2015. After losing a baby at 26 weeks, she found herself drawn to sewing as a form of healing. When Elizabeth gave birth to her son sometime later, she continued to sew in her spare time while navigating motherhood. People began to notice her creations. Cut to 2018 and Elizabeth was able to quit her corporate job and pursue her dream of running Wooly Doodle full-time. Within a year, Wooly Doodle hit 20K followers on Instagram, and Elizabeth was named Entrepreneur of the year at the 2019 Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.
Olivia Ho, founder of The Give and Grow, creates planters out of basketballs and fills them with plants from a local florist. It started as a pandemic project and quickly grew — even catching the attention of the Toronto Raptors. Not surprising, considering some of the planters are cleverly named after some of Olivia’s favourite players: the Derrick Rose planter is a rosy pink, the D’White Howard planters is a clean white, and the Clay Thompson planter has a clay-like finish. A portion of proceeds from each planter purchased goes towards The Give and Glow’s youth programming in Toronto; run in partnership with local community organizations, Olivia hosts workshops for young women to bloom into their true selves.
Olivia Ho is passionate about two things: sports and community. By day, she’s a cardiac sonographer. She pours the rest of her time into playing sports, coaching youth through the MLSE LaunchPad, and building The Give and Grow. It’s the perfect way for her to blend her love of basketball with her passion for growing community. She hopes to continue being able to plant the seeds for the next generation of young women to root for each other and grow up — together.
PleaseNotes is a line of goods created to help you become your favorite version of you — from guided journals, to affirmation-filled sticky notes and cards, to coaching programs. Founded by Cheryl Sutherland, the business was inspired by her own journey of leaving a corporate job and using affirmations, journaling, and other personal development practices to build confidence and clarity. Her latest product is the Inclusion Notebook, co-created with Inclusion & Diversity specialist Jamile Cruz of I&D101. Filled with introspective lessons and exercises, the aim is to help individuals with their unlearning process, and guide them towards Allyship and anti-racist activism.
About Cheryl Sutherland:
Cheryl Sutherland is a Transition Strategist, Speaker and Entrepreneur who turned her personal growth journey into a purposeful business. Splitting her time between Toronto and Los Angeles, Cheryl is on a mission to inspire women to step into their own power by building confidence, clarity, and creativity. Since launching in 2015, PleaseNotes has been featured in InStyle, Huffington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, and more.
Victoria and Paula Watts started Pasta Tavola because of their Nonna. She used to serve the most delicious meals at her table — tavola means table in Italian — and they were inspired by her love of high-quality ingredients and slow-cooked food, prepared with love. Their ravioli and sauces are made with Canadian-sourced ingredients, and they’re a quick meal — it’s only six minutes to flavourful pasta that has a higher than industry standard filling to dough ratio. Most recently, Paula and Victoria launched plant-based ravioli, a vegan and non-GMO product that is the first of its kind in the Canadian market.
About Victoria and Paula:
Victoria and Paula Watts are sisters who live and work in Belleville, Ontario. They grew up visiting their Nonna in an Italian neighbourhood where “everyone had a garden that seemed to spill into the neighbours, like one continuous garden.” Each visit, they would get out of the car and eat tomatoes right off the vine. This is what inspired the idea for them to work together and use real, simple, and fresh ingredients for busy people (like themselves) who still want delicious food.
Amandine Sol Botanicals is run by a mother-daughter duo with a simple mission: to provide all-encompassing skin care for everyone. Their two products are multitaskers, targeting a number of skin needs and concerns by mixing botanical ingredients like marigold oil and squalene with clinically proven skincare ingredients like vitamins A and E. Every step of their creation process is sustainable and environmentally conscious, and they also prioritize social responsibility in their community by contributing to select foundations.
Amandine Arzan was on the path to becoming a lawyer when she found her true passion: skincare. As someone who always had her own skin issues, Amandine had a hard time finding skincare that was safe, effective, and felt luxurious. After leaving the city of Toronto and moving to a farm with her family, she decided to drop out of law school and start the company with her mother, Heather. They began learning the natural extraction of their farm’s very own botanical ingredients.
In her Indigenous Studies course at Mount Royal University, Alexandra Daignault was challenged to bring resistance into her everyday experience. On a normal morning at her local coffee shop, she had a sudden realization: at this coffee shop, she could buy coffee that supported small farms and Indigenous communities all over the world, but what about Canada? In an effort to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people, she started Sarjesa, offering teas that are “radically tasty, steeped in solidarity, and sourced in community.”
Alexandra Daignault is a proud Indo-Caribbean woman, passionate activist, and tea lover (she recommends you try their Peppermint or Earl Grey blends!). She is forever inspired by the women around her, their experiences, and most of all, their resilience. Alexandra is a full-time teacher, who runs Sarjesa as a side business, with hopes of continuing to support violence-prevention programming in Calgary in bigger ways as the business grows.
Victoria Mierzwa and Katerina Juskey believe that scent is part of your personal journey. The friends brought that belief to life when they founded LOHN, a candle and perfume oil company, in 2018. Created to immerse you in a vibrant world of scent, their candles are all handmade in small batches with organic coconut and soy wax and deliver quality at an approachable price. With collections inspired by the ancient trade routes that were developed, in part, around the pursuit of perfume ingredients, they’ve grown into one of Canada’s top candle brands, carried in over 100 retailers across North America.
About Victoria and Katerina:
Victoria and Katerina were high school friends who went to different universities, but both came out with degrees in chemical engineering. As they kept in touch over the years, it became obvious that neither of them wanted to work in the traditional chemical engineering space. After spending time in cosmetic product development, they decided to take their knowledge and start their own venture.