Meet Noëlla Coursaris Musunka: an International Model & Philanthropist advocating for girls’ education

Congolese-Cypriot International Model, Noëlla Coursaris Musunka credits her first trip back home, at 18 after 13 years living in Europe, as the catalyst for her philanthropic endeavours. Beyond the catwalk, Noëlla is also the Founder & CEO of Malaika, a grassroots nonprofit that works to educate and empower girls and communities in her home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A unique, fearless, and elegant spokesperson, and the face of leading beauty and fashion campaigns across the globe, she is a voice for the power of girls’ education worldwide. Founded in 2007, Malaika’s education and health programs are today impacting thousands of lives and are all offered free of charge. Noëlla has shared her insight at a number of world-class forums spanning the Clinton Global Initiative and the World Economic Forum in Davos to the university halls of Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and MIT. In 2017, Noëlla was named one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential & Inspirational Women of the Year, and in 2018, she received an award at the 100 Years of Mandela celebration.


My first job ever was… Supporting younger students with their homework. I had a few little jobs as I was doing my Business Management degree and they all taught me to value every person at every level. 

The biggest lesson that I have learned from my career professional model has been… That every job is an opportunity to give back and raise the profile of important issues in society. I have always built in some sort of fundraising or support for Malaika in my work with brands. 

One of the highlights of my modelling career has been… Working with some incredible brands that have excellent values and want to help make the world a better place through the way they produce their products and distribute them. Also working with some great people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. 

I decided to become a philanthropist because… I saw a need and wanted to help. I felt it was important to raise awareness of the need for girls to have an education because it is their right and will benefit their community and society as a whole but I didn’t just want to speak about it. I wanted to act and make it happen in the DRC. 

I got the idea to set up Malaika from…My first trip back to the Congo at the age of 18 having grown up in Europe. My father died when I was five and my mother sent me to live with family in Europe so I could obtain an education. When I returned I was shocked to see the poor living conditions my mother was living in and the number of girls not attending school. It was socially acceptable for boys to be given more opportunity when it comes to education. At that moment I thought something needed to be done and the idea grew as I spent the next few years studying and working.

My proudest accomplishment is… My children, JJ and Care, first and foremost. They remain my priority and I am already proud of who they are becoming. I am very proud of Malaika and so opening the school was a significant accomplishment in my life. Seeing the girls grow and develop year-on-year always makes me extremely grateful that I’ve been able to start something that then a team of international volunteers and staff, along with our generous and supportive donors, have grown and developed to be what it is today. Opening our first well and our 20th well was also a special moment due to the impact we knew it would have on the community by protecting them from waterborne illness and disease. 

My boldest move to date was…The first time I went to New York for a modelling campaign. 

I surprise people when I tell them… I don’t take a salary to run Malaika.

My biggest hope for the girls in my school is…That they are healthy and happy. 


“Being a mother, leading a non-profit organization, being the ambassador for the Global Fund for AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria…, as well as my modelling career — it all takes time and involves travel and time away from the family.” 


My best advice from a mentor was…To stay focused on my mission and not get sidetracked by all the needs that present themselves but continue to strengthen what we have already. 

My biggest setback was…Not having my parents around when I was growing up. My father died when I was five and my mother sent me to live with family in Europe as she knew it would open up more opportunities for me to gain an education. It was painful and challenging but it helped me to become self-sufficient and very driven.

I overcame it by… Choosing to make the best of the opportunities I had been given and not focusing on the loss. 

One piece of advice that I often give but find it difficult to follow is… To sometimes say no. 

The best thing about what I do is… Going to the Congo each year and seeing the difference that Malaika is making by empowering an entire community via our school, community centre.

The most challenging thing about what I do is… Balancing it all. Being a mother, leading a non-profit organization, being the ambassador for the Global Fund for AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, doing various speaking engagements and events to raise awareness of girls’ education, as well as my modelling career. It all takes time and involves travel and time away from the family. 

While social distancing, I’m spending my time… Homeschooling my children and enjoying the time with them. I spend so much time travelling and working away from home in normal circumstances that I relish the opportunity to spend time with them. Of course, I am still working to try and support the community in Kalebuka where we have had to close our school and our programs at the community centre. This is a huge challenge for our students and their families as the price of food has gone up in the area and they were receiving two meals a day from the school and from our agriculture where we grow food for the school canteen. We have launched an emergency fund to feed 60 families per week and are doing awareness-raising about hygiene through our 20 wells. 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a very sensitive person and I was a tomboy when I was little. 

The future excites me because… So much is happening to help elevate Africa and education for girls. We are also producing a template to support others to duplicate Malaika as a community-based model that will suit any context. We will also see our first graduate students in the next few years and I can’t wait to see how their lives unfold and also how the community develops and further reaches its potential. At our community centre, we also provide education to adults and youth. We teach literacy and math and also entrepreneurship and sewing. We already have a brand called Mama Ya Mapendo, which includes accessories and bags made by women who have been educated at our centre. Presently they are sewing masks that we are giving to people in the community to help protect them from getting COVID-19. I’m excited to see how other businesses will develop over the coming years and how they will give back to the community, as Mama Ya Mapendo is doing now in this current crisis.

Q&A: How Debbie Fung is adapting to a new normal.

In 2007, Debbie Fung co-founded Yoga Tree Studios with one studio in Thornhill and a vision to create a yoga community that was inclusive and accessible to all. Today, she’s built the business into an award-winning brand with five premiere locations across the GTA, offering 2000 classes a month. When COVID-19 forced doors to close, Debbie had to pivot at lightning speed to digitize her services and keep her community connected. 


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

Yoga Tree social media channels, and pivoting to an online platform. 


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

How to weather this storm, and continue the momentum of growth we have achieved through these years to overcome the changes COVID-19 is forcing on businesses.  


What has been your most successful solution so far? 

Changing the way we communicate and connect with our community by expanding our programming online immediately once our doors closed on March 15, 2020. 


How have you been staying connected with your customers and employees?
Before COVID-19, our company had already leveraged the use of many softwares including Egnite, Homebase for employee/instructor schedule management, database management via Mindbody and other software’s to support our daily operations. 

But when city-wide quarantine order was put into effect, #Virtualislife!  

With customers, we are connecting daily via our social media platforms and have been offering free daily Instagram LIVE classes since March. This week, we’ve launched our LIVE virtual classes where our teachers now can see each student’s pose and suggest modifications and verbal adjustments. Yoga on Demand was also launched this week to offer students with HD quality classes that can be streamed on TV.

We are also staying connected with our team via virtual meetings, group chats and collaboration through Egnite.  


“Having a clear and realistic picture of where your business stands financially will help you make good decisions as you move forward.”


What financial resources are you tapping into?

Unfortunately, we had to place part of our operations staff in furlough in hopes that we can weather the storm and hire them back ASAP. Rent is the next challenge for many small businesses, with no income, it makes it extremely challenging to pay full rent without any streams of revenue coming in. This is the case for many facilities across the country. We are currently rallying together with other small business owners via to plead for rent relief measures for small businesses. 

It’s going to take a while (even if the city allows the non-essential business to open) for our city to return to its normal state. This includes having enough cash flow to sustain several slow months with decreased customer foot traffic and sales post-COVID. We have applied for the $40K loans for eligible businesses that are federally backed but this doesn’t solve all the problems with cash flow.

We need to continue to focus on digital transformation and in contrast, it is not something that enterprises can implement as a temporary project. At Yoga Tree, COVID-19 has fast-tracked our digital transformation — but it is here to stay. We are rethinking our business model and our strategy and accommodating to work from home needs that most likely will be the new normal when this is all over.  


What has surprised you? 

When the first COVID-19 case was reported in Toronto on January 25, 2020, we immediately issued a notice to all students with all the safety measures our studio put into place, including hand sanitizing stations, updated cleaning protocol and the installation of medical-grade air purifiers in each studio room. I think we’ve been transparent in communicating with our members as things unfolded and feel that COVID-19 was something that didn’t appear overnight and surprised us. 

What surprised me was that we are more resilient and adaptable than I thought. We quickly found solutions to difficulties and adjusted our actions accordingly to make it work.  


How far ahead are you planning? 

Before COVID-19, we were ready to break the ground at our newest Yorkville location. Our focus has now changed since COVID-19 and we are now prioritizing digital transformation at Yoga Tree.  


What keeps you positive?

Our community online! There’s so much love, support and gratitude with this community and each individual is trying to uplift each other by leaving positive affirmations after our live classes and by taking care of their mental and physical wellness. 


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

Take the time to fully understand your current position.

Having a clear and realistic picture of where your business stands financially will help you make good decisions as you move forward. With everything that’s happening right now, we will be at an all-time low and might overborrow from institutions. Knowing how much you need to cover current expenses is a great start, but also don’t over-forecast on loans and sink yourself deeper into unmanageable debt. 

Although government-backed loans are helpful, it requires you to take out at least 50% of the loan in the first six months and if it’s not managed properly, it will do more harm than good for a small business. 




FOIRE AUX QUESTIONS : Comment Debbie Fung s’adapte-t-elle à une nouvelle normalité?

En 2007, Debbie Fung a cofondé les studios Yoga Tree avec un premier emplacement à Thornhill et une vision pour créer une communauté de yoga qui soit inclusive et accessible à tous. Aujourd’hui, elle a fait de cette entreprise une marque primée qui possède cinq studios bien situés dans la région du Grand Toronto et offre 2 000 cours par mois. Lorsque la
COVID-19 l’a forcée à fermer ses établissements, Debbie a dû se retourner à la vitesse de l’éclair pour numériser ses services et maintenir sa communauté connectée. 


À quels aspects de votre entreprise consacrez-vous le plus d’énergie et d’attention?

À nos comptes dans les médias sociaux et à la transition vers une plateforme en ligne. 


Quel est le problème le plus important que vous essayez de résoudre?

Trouver des solutions pour traverser cette tempête et poursuivre la croissance que nous avons connue ces dernières années, afin de surmonter les changements que la COVID-19 impose aux entreprises. 


Quelle a été votre solution la plus fructueuse jusqu’à présent? 

Changer notre façon de communiquer avec notre communauté en élargissant notre programmation en ligne dès la fermeture de nos portes le 15 mars 2020. 


Comment êtes-vous restée en contact avec vos clients et vos employés? 

Avant la crise de la COVID-19, notre entreprise avait déjà commencé à utiliser plusieurs logiciels, dont Egnite, Homebase pour la gestion des horaires des employés et des instructeurs, Mindbody pour la gestion de la base de données, et d’autres logiciels pour soutenir nos activités quotidiennes. 

Mais lorsque la directive de mise en quarantaine a été appliquée à l’échelle de la ville… #VieVirtuelle! 

Nous gardons le contact avec nos clients au quotidien par les médias sociaux et offrons des séances gratuites tous les jours en direct sur Instagram depuis mars. Cette semaine, nous avons lancé nos classes virtuelles en direct. Nos enseignants peuvent désormais voir la pose de chaque élève et suggérer de vive voix des rectifications. Yoga on Demand a également été lancé cette semaine pour offrir aux élèves des cours de qualité haute définition pouvant être diffusés en continu sur un téléviseur. 

Par ailleurs, nous restons en contact avec notre équipe en organisant des réunions virtuelles et des discussions en groupe, et en collaborant grâce à Egnite. 


Sur quelles ressources financières comptez-vous?

Malheureusement, nous avons dû mettre à pied temporairement une partie de notre personnel d’exploitation dans l’espoir d’être capables de traverser la tempête et de le réembaucher dès que possible. Le loyer est le prochain défi pour de nombreuses petites entreprises. Sans aucune source de revenus, il est extrêmement difficile de payer le loyer en entier. De nombreux établissements d’un bout à l’autre du pays sont dans la même situation. Nous nous rallions actuellement à d’autres propriétaires de petites entreprises par l’intermédiaire du site pour plaider en faveur de mesures d’allègement des loyers. 

Il faudra un certain temps (même si les entreprises non essentielles peuvent rouvrir) pour que notre ville revienne à la normale. En outre, il faut disposer de liquidités suffisantes pour faire face à plusieurs mois de ralentissement, avec une diminution de la fréquentation des clients et des ventes dans l’après-COVID-19. Nous nous sommes inscrits au programme de prêts de 40 000 dollars pour les entreprises admissibles soutenu par le gouvernement fédéral, mais ça ne résout pas tous les problèmes.

Nous devons garder le cap sur la transformation numérique, et ce n’est pas quelque chose qu’une entreprise peut mettre en œuvre de façon temporaire. La COVID-19 a accéléré notre transformation numérique – mais cette dernière est là pour rester. Nous sommes en train de repenser notre modèle d’affaires et notre stratégie et de nous adapter au besoin de travailler à domicile, qui sera très probablement la nouvelle norme lorsque tout ça sera terminé. 


Qu’est-ce qui vous a surprise? 

Lorsque le premier cas COVID-19 a été signalé à Toronto le 25 janvier dernier, nous avons immédiatement diffusé un avis à tous les élèves en soulignant toutes les mesures de sécurité que notre studio avait mises en place, notamment des stations de désinfection des mains, des procédures de nettoyage révisées et l’installation de purificateurs d’air de qualité médicale dans chaque pièce du studio. Je pense que nous avons fait preuve de transparence dans nos communications avec nos membres au fur et à mesure de l’évolution de la situation, et je pense aussi que la situation de la COVID-19 ne nous a pas surpris parce qu’elle n’est pas arrivée du jour au lendemain. 

Ce qui m’a surprise, par contre, c’est que nous sommes plus résistants et plus souples que je ne le pensais. Nous avons rapidement trouvé des solutions aux difficultés et avons adapté nos pratiques en conséquence pour que tout fonctionne. 


Quel est votre horizon de planification? 

Avant la crise de la COVID-19, nous étions prêts à lancer nos activités à notre nouvel établissement de Yorkville. Mais notre objectif a changé depuis, et la priorité est désormais la transformation numérique de Yoga Tree. 


Qu’est-ce qui vous fait garder le moral?

Notre communauté en ligne! Il y a tellement d’amour, de soutien et de gratitude dans cette communauté, et chacun essaie de motiver les autres en laissant des commentaires positifs après nos cours en direct et en veillant au bien-être mental et physique de tous. 


Quel message voulez-vous faire passer aux entrepreneurs en ce moment?

Prenez le temps de bien comprendre votre situation actuelle.

Avoir une image claire et réaliste de la situation financière de votre entreprise vous aidera à prendre de bonnes décisions à mesure que vous progresserez. Avec tout ce qui se passe en ce moment, nous atteindrons un creux historique et risquons de nous surendetter. Savoir de combien vous avez besoin pour couvrir vos dépenses courantes est un bon début, mais vous devez éviter de trop emprunter et de vous retrouver avec des dettes insoutenables.

Bien que les prêts garantis par le gouvernement soient pratiques, il faut les utiliser au moins à moitié au cours des six premiers mois et, s’ils ne sont pas gérés correctement, ils feront plus de mal que de bien à une petite entreprise. 

Q&A: How Jamie Hoobanoff is adapting to a new normal.

Jamie Hoobanoff is Founder of The Leadership Agency, the recruitment partner of choice for North America’s fastest-growing startups. Coming from the corporate world, Jamie launched her firm in 2017 and has continued to grow it ever since; expanding into the US in just 18 months. opening an office in NYC, and earning multiple awards. A disruptor in the HR and recruitment space, Jamie contributes her expertise to The Globe and Mail, CBC, Inc., and HRD Magazine, and she’s on the Forbes HR Council.


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

Right now, I am concentrating on Operations and Business Development. 


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

Financing is taking up a great deal of my time. But most importantly, I am dedicated to understanding what challenges our existing and potential new clients are struggling with and are trying to solve right now. We want to help. It’s not the same for everyone, and if you approach each situation as if there were a cookie-cutter solution, you will inevitably run into a whole other set of problems.


What has been your most successful solution so far?

We have pivoted to two solutions that have been immediately adopted in the market.  One of the solutions is simply helping. We have a unique set of skills and expertise in the marketplace — and this is not only valuable for clients but also for candidates.  So, we are leading with a ‘help first’ mentality for both groups.  

We also have a unique approach to connecting people. We don’t follow traditional ways of doing business.  So, instead of slowing down, we’ve launched a proactive sourcing solution that helps employers who are currently hiring engage with top candidates in the market. It also allows those clients experiencing a temporary hiring freeze to continue with their recruitment process. That way, once the freeze is lifted, they will be able to make their hires immediately, without further costly delays. People are going to want to make up time. We can help.   

We knew we had to act quickly and adapt our services for our clients — as well as for our own business. We had to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone — now more than ever — all while leveraging our industry expertise.  It’s now or never. Typically, when launching a new product or service, it requires the investment of capital, resources, and R&D. Our reality is that we don’t have that kind of time. No one does right now. We are agile and not afraid of taking risks. Dreading failure is much worse than the actual experience of setbacks. 


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

The first thing we did was immediate outreach, extending and creating a space to offer advice, support, and help.  We launched an initiative that allowed small business owners and entrepreneurs to book time directly in my calendar every Thursday for 12 minutes.  We are doing this to offer any support we can regarding recruitment, HR, business operations, extend our knowledge of financing and resources available.

Our motivation for this is to be a pillar in our community but also so that we can learn from other business owners, leaders, and peers.  The more we know about what everyone is struggling with, the better we can adjust to establish value and to improve our own business practices.

We have also launched another initiative that helps people who have lost their jobs. These workshops are an open and safe space that allows people to network and get advice on how to build a resume, prepare for an interview, and how to apply for jobs during these times. Our intent here is to help candidates successfully navigate the changing job market right now. 

With our own employees, we take the approach of communicating and then over-communicating. During a period of uncertainty such as we’re experiencing, when many people are feeling anxious, it is especially important to provide clarity and resources to your teams, clients, and the greater community.  Instilling trust in your team that their safety is at the forefront of any business decision, and that when this is over they will have a place to come back to.  


“This may be a cliché, but I truly mean it: GO ALL IN ON YOURSELF!  Give it your all. Do not wait until you have all of the answers.”


What financial resources are you tapping into?

I have spent approximately 40% of my time learning, lobbying, applying, and asking SO many questions about the financing options that are available.

What I have taken from this journey is that money is available, and it’s available at an unprecedented rate.  However, it’s not all the same. Loans, grants, investments (debt or equity), they all have very different terms.

KNOW your terms, and if you don’t, ask more questions. You have to be your own advocate, and you have to be heard.  Personally, I am making decisions about my financing for the long-term future of my business. We have all experienced a massive amount of change, and this is going to continue for the foreseeable future.  We have had to make tremendous sacrifices. Once I was able to wrap my head around the short-term and immediate changes to my business and finances, I was able to start looking at this as an opportunity to grow my business with capital that is available and with terms that weren’t available previously.  

As entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our vision, and our people.  I personally want to emerge from this with an AMAZING company that is stronger than it was before, with a growth plan that is fueled by capital, and with the people that helped build it.  So, my decision has been to take the capital and put it towards the future of the business.  

Establish a relationship immediately with the BDC, your bank, and the EDC.  Be very honest with yourself. Establish your immediate financial challenges, your 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month challenges.  

What has surprised you? 

I am so moved and surprised by how everyone genuinely wants to help, and many are helping in ways that I have never seen before.  We are all struggling, personally and professionally, but at the same time, we are all so willing to help someone other than ourselves. I have seen this universally, and it heartens me.  


How far ahead are you planning? 

We have a plan for the next 12-months. 


What keeps you positive?

Gratitude and kindness.  What you put out into the universe; you will get back.


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

You are not alone! I think a lot of business people and business owners look at their business as though it is something they can control.  But that’s simply not the case. Certainly not now. You haven’t lost control, and you are not failing. We are experiencing history in the making — and no one can control that.

This may be a cliché, but I truly mean it: GO ALL IN ON YOURSELF!  Give it your all. Do not wait until you have all of the answers. You don’t have time to wait, and you may never get them anyway. So, let your instincts kick in and take a few risks.  If you wait until you have all of the information, it might be too late. Move quickly but with purpose. Use the information that is available to you, and then trust your intuition.

Les entreprises se transforment et les gens doivent passer en premier

Jamie Hoobanoff

En cette période d’incertitude, il est important de rester solidaires. Au vu des événements actuels, il est clair que bon nombre d’entreprises et de dirigeants vivent leur lot de difficultés. C’est dans cet esprit que nous avons demandé aux experts de nous dire exactement ce qu’ils font (en tant que fondateurs, talents et responsables des RH) pour adapter et appliquer les meilleures pratiques d’affaires et de ressources humaines durant cette période de changements tumultueux.

Et ça comprend l’embauche. Des entreprises continuent de se développer, d’ajouter de nouveaux membres à leur personnel et de se faire concurrence pour attirer les talents. La plupart d’entre elles ne font que modifier leurs processus afin de garantir la santé et la sécurité de leurs employés actuels et potentiels.

Voici un aperçu des changements récents en matière d’embauche et des meilleures pratiques que les entreprises peuvent appliquer pour protéger leur équipe. Indice : le thème commun est que les gens passent en premier.

Communiquer, voire surcommuniquer

Dans une période d’incertitude comme celle que nous vivons, où de nombreuses personnes sont anxieuses, il est particulièrement important de fournir des éclaircissements et des ressources à vos équipes, à vos clients et à la communauté dans son ensemble. Assurez-vous que vos employés savent que, tant que le travail se poursuit, leur santé et leur sécurité restent la priorité absolue.

C’est le moment de communiquer plus que nécessaire pour réitérer vos valeurs et votre mission en tant qu’organisation auprès de vos employés, de vos candidats, de vos clients, de vos partenaires et de la communauté. Ça permet de comprendre votre entreprise et votre plan pour aller de l’avant.

 « Les entreprises en démarrage dépendent des trois C : communication, collaboration et correction de trajectoire. Le plus grand défi pour nous était de savoir comment préserver nos valeurs dans un monde où l’on ne peut pas communiquer et collaborer en personne. Une de nos solutions a été de mettre en place un canal Zoom disponible 24 heures sur 24, 7 jours sur 7 pour nos employés. Tous peuvent l’utiliser pour parler immédiatement à leurs collègues. Or, nous avons rapidement constaté qu’un seul canal ne suffisait pas et qu’il fallait en ajouter d’autres. »

– Hamed Abbasi, chef de la direction de Plooto

Le succès du travail à distance repose sur la communication. Les gens doivent savoir qu’ils font toujours partie d’une équipe et que les affaires continuent, même s’ils ne viennent pas physiquement au bureau. Organisez régulièrement des appels d’équipe ou des réunions vidéo pour tenir tout le monde au courant des livrables et éviter qu’il se sente isolé.

Tirer parti de la technologie

De plus en plus d’organisations annulent toutes les interactions en personne, y compris les entretiens d’embauche, au profit de rencontres virtuelles. Il existe de nombreuses applications et plateformes qui permettent de faire des appels et des conférences vidéo de haute qualité.
Ces mêmes technologies peuvent également être utilisées pour remplacer les grandes réunions d’équipe en personne, et sont de plus en plus considérées comme une solution de rechange aux voyages d’affaires.

C’est on ne peut plus sensé. Il n’est pas nécessaire que les entreprises mettent leur personnel en danger en faisant venir des candidats pour des entretiens sur place. Dans un avenir prévisible – jusqu’à ce que la crise se résorbe – toutes les entreprises devraient faire appel à la technologie pour les entretiens d’embauche.

Si vous avez des candidats à l’embauche, ne les laissez pas dans l’ignorance : ils doivent connaître votre situation et vos politiques. Communiquez fréquemment avec eux et tenez-les au courant. Le fait que vous vous souciez de leur sécurité et de celle de votre personnel est un message fort au sujet des priorités de votre organisation et de votre marque employeur.

Une partie importante de l’entretien en personne consiste à exposer les candidats à la culture de l’entreprise. Comme ce n’est plus possible en personne, préparez votre « bureau virtuel » pour les entretiens. Portez une attention particulière à l’arrière-plan, à l’aspect et à la convivialité de votre environnement, car le candidat les étudiera pour se faire une idée du lieu de travail. Dans vos communications avec les candidats à l’embauche, veillez à utiliser des photos, des vidéos, des images de marque et d’autres éléments qui véhiculent la culture de l’entreprise, tels que des articles de blogue, des événements commerciaux, etc.

Les candidats voudront toujours apprendre les mêmes choses sur un employeur potentiel, donc en période de contact à distance, vous devez trouver d’autres moyens de faire passer l’information.

Travail à distance

Une liste de plus en plus longue d’entreprises (Shopify, Google et Twitter, pour n’en nommer que quelques-unes) ont indiqué à tous leurs employés qui peuvent travailler à distance qu’ils travailleront chez eux au cours des prochaines semaines.

« Dès le début, nous avons décidé de procéder à une transition complète vers le travail à distance et nous avons clairement fait comprendre à nos employés que cette décision était tout autant motivée par la volonté de soulager l’angoisse liée aux déplacements que par celle de limiter la propagation du virus. Nous sommes conscients que beaucoup de nos employés s’occupent de leurs enfants, de leur famille, de leurs animaux de compagnie… et nous nous sommes efforcés de rappeler ces obligations à l’ensemble du personnel, l’encourageant même à présenter virtuellement ses proches à ses coéquipiers. »

– Devon Siegel, vice-président, Employés de Reonomy

Faire travailler vos employés à distance présente deux avantages : ça les protège, et ça réduit le nombre de personnes qui entrent dans le lieu de travail et qui peuvent avoir été en contact avec le virus sans le savoir.

Quelques conseils pour exploiter efficacement le travail à distance

Définissez clairement vos attentes avec votre équipe avant de commencer à appliquer vos politiques sur le travail à domicile. Les attentes concernant le degré de connectivité, les heures de disponibilité, la fréquence des communications et les rapports doivent être énoncées.

« Nous communiquons plus que nécessaire pendant cette période. Nous organisons régulièrement des réunions d’équipe sur Google Hangouts, publions plus d’articles sur le blogue interne et gardons tout le monde sur Slack. De plus, nous essayons de trouver des activités d’équipe numériques, comme de brèves pauses de jeu pendant la journée, pour que tout le monde ait l’occasion de s’amuser ensemble (à distance, bien sûr!). »

– Blair Livingston, chef de la direction de Street Contxt

Les entreprises en démarrage et les entreprises en forte croissance ne peuvent interrompre soudainement leur trajectoire à cause d’une crise externe. Peu d’organisations peuvent résister à un tel ralentissement. Heureusement, grâce à des politiques bien réfléchies et à une utilisation stratégique de la technologie, vous n’avez pas à le faire. Même si les choses ne se déroulent pas exactement comme d’habitude, vous pouvez poursuivre le travail tout en protégeant la santé et la sécurité de tous.

Prenez soin de vous. Ensemble, nous allons nous en sortir.

Jamie Hoobanoff

Jamie Hoobanoff

Jamie Hoobanoff est la fondatrice de The Leadership Agency, le partenaire de recrutement de choix pour les entreprises en démarrage qui connaissent la plus forte croissance en Amérique du Nord. Issue du milieu des affaires, Jamie a lancé son cabinet en 2017 et n’a cessé de prendre de l’expansion depuis, s’implantant aux États-Unis en 18 mois seulement. Elle a ouvert un bureau à New York et a remporté de nombreux prix. Révolutionnant le domaine des ressources humaines et du recrutement, Jamie apporte son expertise au Globe and Mail, à la CBC et au magazine HRD, et elle fait partie du conseil des RH de Forbes.

FOIRE AUX QUESTIONS : Comment Jamie Hoobanoff s’adapte-t-elle à une nouvelle normalité?

Jamie Hoobanoff est la fondatrice de The Leadership Agency, le partenaire de recrutement de choix pour les entreprises en démarrage qui connaissent la plus forte croissance en Amérique du Nord. Issue du milieu des affaires, Jamie a lancé son cabinet en 2017 et n’a cessé de prendre de l’expansion depuis, s’implantant aux États-Unis en 18 mois seulement. Elle a ouvert un bureau à New York et a remporté de nombreux prix. Révolutionnant le domaine des ressources humaines et du recrutement, Jamie apporte son expertise au Globe and Mail, à la CBC et au magazine HRD, et elle fait partie du conseil des RH de Forbes.


À quels aspects de votre entreprise consacrez-vous le plus d’énergie et d’attention? 

En ce moment, je me concentre sur l’exploitation et le développement commercial. 


Quel est le problème le plus important que vous essayez de résoudre?

Le financement occupe une grande partie de mon temps. Mais surtout, je m’attache à comprendre les défis auxquels nos clients actuels et potentiels sont confrontés et tentent de résoudre en ce moment. Nous voulons aider. Tout le monde ne vit pas la même chose, et si l’on aborde chaque situation avec des solutions toutes faites, on se heurte inévitablement à toute une autre série de problèmes.


Quelle a été votre solution la plus fructueuse jusqu’à présent? 

Nous nous sommes tournés vers deux solutions qui ont été immédiatement adoptées sur le marché. L’une consiste simplement à aider. Nous disposons d’un ensemble unique de compétences et d’expertises – et c’est précieux non seulement pour les clients, mais aussi pour les candidats. C’est pourquoi nous agissons d’abord et avant tout en apportant notre aide à ces deux groupes. 

L’autre solution consiste à privilégier une approche unique pour mettre les gens en relation. Nous ne suivons pas les pratiques traditionnelles. Ainsi, au lieu de ralentir, nous avons lancé une solution de recherche de candidats proactive qui aide les employeurs qui embauchent actuellement à entrer en relation avec les meilleurs candidats sur le marché. Elle permet aussi aux clients qui vivent un gel temporaire de l’embauche de poursuivre leur processus de recrutement. De cette façon, une fois le gel levé, ils pourront procéder à leurs embauches immédiatement, sans autres retards coûteux. Les gens vont vouloir rattraper le temps perdu. Nous pouvons les aider. 

Nous savions que nous devions agir rapidement et adapter nos services pour nos clients – ainsi que pour notre propre entreprise. Nous devions sortir de notre zone de confort – alors plus que jamais – tout en tirant parti de notre connaissance du secteur. C’était maintenant ou jamais. En général, le lancement d’un nouveau produit ou service nécessite l’investissement de capitaux, des ressources ainsi que de la recherche et du développement. Mais la réalité, c’est que ni nous ni personne d’autre n’avons ce luxe en ce moment. Cependant, nous sommes agiles et n’avons pas peur de prendre des risques. La crainte de l’échec est bien pire que l’échec lui-même. 


Comment êtes-vous restée en contact avec vos clients et vos employés? 

La première chose que nous avons faite a été de nous rapprocher immédiatement des gens, en créant un espace pour offrir des conseils, du soutien et de l’aide. Nous avons lancé une initiative qui permet aux propriétaires de petites entreprises et aux entrepreneurs de réserver du temps directement dans mon agenda chaque jeudi pendant 12 minutes. Nous le faisons pour offrir tout le soutien possible en matière de recrutement, de ressources humaines et d’activités commerciales, et pour approfondir nos connaissances sur le financement et les ressources disponibles.

Ce que nous voulons, c’est être un pilier dans notre communauté, mais aussi pouvoir apprendre des autres propriétaires d’entreprises, des chefs de file et de nos pairs. Plus nous en savons sur les difficultés de chacun, plus nous pouvons nous adapter pour apporter de la valeur et améliorer nos propres pratiques commerciales.

De plus, nous avons lancé une autre initiative qui aide les personnes qui ont perdu leur emploi – des ateliers qui constituent un espace ouvert et sûr où l’on peut faire du réseautage et obtenir des conseils sur la manière de rédiger un curriculum vitæ, de se préparer à un entretien et de postuler à un emploi en cette période difficile. Notre objectif est d’aider les candidats à bien s’orienter sur le marché du travail en pleine mutation. 

Avec nos propres employés, nous adoptons l’approche de la communication, voire de la surcommunication. Dans une période d’incertitude comme celle que nous vivons, où de nombreuses personnes sont anxieuses, il est particulièrement important de fournir des éclaircissements et des ressources à vos équipes, à vos clients et à la communauté dans son ensemble. Il faut que votre équipe sache que sa sécurité est au cœur de toute décision d’affaires et que, lorsque la situation se résorbera, elle aura un endroit où revenir. 


Sur quelles ressources financières comptez-vous?

J’ai passé environ 40 % de mon temps à me renseigner, à faire du lobbyisme, à soumettre des demandes et à poser d’innombrables questions au sujet des options de financement disponibles.

Ce que j’ai retiré de tout ça, c’est qu’il y a de l’argent de disponible, et ce, à un taux sans précédent. Mais tout ne s’équivaut pas. Les prêts, les subventions et les investissements (par emprunt ou par participation au capital) s’accompagnent tous de conditions très différentes.

Sachez quelles sont vos conditions, et si vous n’en savez pas assez, renseignez-vous davantage. Vous devez voir vous-même à votre intérêt et vous faire entendre. Personnellement, quand je prends des décisions concernant mon financement, je pense à l’avenir à long terme de mon entreprise. Nous subissons tous des changements majeurs, et ça ne va pas cesser de sitôt. Nous devons faire d’énormes sacrifices. Quand j’ai bien compris les changements immédiats et à court terme dans mon entreprise et mes finances, j’ai commencé à les voir comme une occasion de prendre de l’expansion grâce aux capitaux disponibles et aux conditions qui n’étaient pas offertes auparavant. 

En tant qu’entrepreneurs, nous avons une responsabilité envers nous-mêmes, notre vision et notre personnel. Je veux sortir de cette crise avec une entreprise impressionnante et plus forte qu’avant, avec un plan de croissance alimenté par des capitaux, et avec les personnes qui ont contribué à notre création. Ma décision a donc été de consacrer les capitaux à l’avenir de l’entreprise. 

Établissez immédiatement une relation avec BDC, votre banque et EDC. Soyez très honnête avec vous-même. Déterminez quels sont vos défis financiers dans l’immédiat et sur trois, six et douze mois. 


Qu’est-ce qui vous a surprise? 

Je suis tellement émue et surprise de voir à quel point tout le monde veut vraiment apporter son aide, et beaucoup le font d’une manière que je n’avais jamais vue auparavant. Nous éprouvons tous des difficultés, tant sur le plan personnel que sur le plan professionnel, mais en même temps, nous sommes tous prêts à aider les autres. Je vois ça partout, et ça me fait chaud au cœur. 


Quel est votre horizon de planification? 

Nous avons un plan pour les douze prochains mois. 


Qu’est-ce qui vous fait garder le moral?

La gratitude et la gentillesse. On récolte ce que l’on sème.


Quel message voulez-vous faire passer aux entrepreneurs en ce moment? 

Vous n’êtes pas seul! Je pense que beaucoup de gens d’affaires et de propriétaires d’entreprises considèrent leur entreprise comme quelque chose qu’ils peuvent contrôler. Mais ce n’est tout simplement pas le cas. Certainement pas maintenant. Vous n’avez pas perdu le contrôle, et vous n’êtes pas en train de tomber. Nous sommes en train de vivre l’histoire – et personne ne peut contrôler ça.

C’est peut-être un cliché, mais je le pense vraiment : donnez tout ce que vous avez! N’attendez pas d’avoir toutes les réponses. Vous n’avez pas le temps d’attendre, et vous risquez de ne jamais les obtenir de toute façon. Laissez-vous guider par votre instinct et prenez quelques risques. Si vous attendez d’avoir toute l’information, il sera peut-être trop tard. Agissez rapidement, mais en visant un objectif. Servez-vous de l’information que vous avez, et faites confiance à votre intuition. 

Meet Yael Benarroch, a mother of six with a recruiting agency for working moms

Yael Benarroch spent 17 years as a senior trade marketing and sales professional before leveraging her experience in a new entrepreneurial direction — while on parental leave with twins. An energetic mother of six, her boutique recruitment agency, MOMforce, is dedicated to helping professional women partner with employers who understand that women can commit to meaningful, demanding careers while raising families. She’s not only helping professional mothers thrive in the workforce by connecting them with world-class employers that respect work-life balance, she’s also helping employers achieve their gender diversity goals, bringing them loyal, highly-skilled talent. 


My first job ever was… a hostess at the Pickle Barrel.

The idea for MomForce came to me when… I was 9 months pregnant with my twins, and my (hard-working, talented) close friend told me that she was too embarrassed to tell her manager that she was pregnant, because she thought he may feel like she was “taking advantage” by going on maternity leave again. This (along with several other events) sparked my passion for advocating for professional mothers and expunging the taboo of pregnancy and motherhood from the recruitment/hiring process.   

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was personally affected by a problem that I quickly realized impacted millions of women. I wanted to do my part to help resolve it.  

I surprise people when I tell them… Considering the average family in Canada has 1.6 kids, nothing surprises people more than when I tell them that I have six. 

My proudest accomplishment is… Being able to manage my time between caring for my six kids, including my newborn twins, while launching a new business.

My best advice to people starting out in business is… There will be setbacks. Expect them. Focus on your mission and purpose to get you through those tough times.

The once piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… being patient and being comfortable in the grey zone.


“Take every setback and feel confident that it’s part of the journey. Learn from it, gain strength from it, and let it propel you forward.”


My best advice from a mentor was… the biggest opportunities are sometimes disguised as challenges and hardships. Take every setback and feel confident that it’s part of the journey. Learn from it, gain strength from it, and let it propel you forward.

I would tell my 20-year old self… to keep working hard, have your priorities clear and straight and follow through with your goals — even if they take longer than expected to achieve, stay positive and stay on course.

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… network, network, network. Connect with people that share a passion for your mission and/or are experts in the field. These people will help you navigate through the journey.


I stay inspired by… knowing that a service like MOMForce will help my 5 daughters feel confident that they can achieve their professional dreams while raising a family. They will be raised knowing that the two are not mutually exclusive.

My next step is… to continue making MOMforce a trusted service for both companies seeking top talent and professional moms looking for family-friendly organizations to maintain and advance in their careers

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… slowly sip a hot coffee from start to finish without interruption. 

How Rola Amer went from pharmaceutical marketing to children’s fashion.

When Rola Amer enrolled in the Executive MBA program at Smith School of Business, she intended to return to her career in pharmaceuticals. But she soon realized she was an entrepreneur at heart — and as a working mother of two struggling to keep up with clothes shopping for her kids, she saw a problem she could solve for many other parents. The founder of Choulala Box shares her story.


By Hailey Eisen 


Every entrepreneur has a story of how they started their own company. Rola Amer’s leap from the corporate world was fuelled by a combination of gut instinct, confidence earned during an Executive MBA program, and her struggles shopping for kids’ clothes. 

Rola was well into a career with Hospira, an American pharmaceutical company (now part of Pfizer). Having been pegged as “top talent” within the company, she was climbing the ladder at an impressive speed. She’d gone from sales to regulatory affairs and clinical research. Eventually, she found her niche in marketing. 

“I was focused on goals and metrics. If they dangled the carrot, I would jump for it. I loved and thrived in that environment,” Rola explains, from her home office in Montreal. 

“While I was still in my 20s,” she recalls, “I had ownership of profit and loss statements, had my own business unit and a national sales team and manager working under me, and I travelled a lot. I was fully living the corporate lifestyle.”  

Today, Rola’s professional life looks much different. 

She’s at the helm of Choulala Box, a sustainability-focused company that encourages kids to learn about clothes and the art of self-dressing, while providing parents access to curated pieces of clothing from a number of brands. 

Her entrepreneurial journey came after a challenging first maternity leave, during which Rola found herself feeling lonely and unstimulated. She headed back to work eagerly. But three years later, when she got pregnant with her second child, an idea began to take shape. “Pfizer was buying our company, and while I wasn’t worried about job security, I began to think about what I could do to bring more value to myself and my career.” 

Having grown up in a family that empowered women to educate themselves, Rola says she had always considered post-graduate education. Knowing she’d be heading into another maternity leave, the idea of doing an Executive MBA while she was “off work” started to feel exciting. 

And so, seven months pregnant, Rola began an 18-month Executive MBA through Smith School of Business. The school’s national program enabled her to take part from Montreal, while connecting her to participants from across Canada. She intended to go back to her job, armed with more business expertise. Unexpectedly, one of her biggest takeaways from the program was a level of self-confidence she’d never had before. 


“As a working mom of two, I had really found it impossible to shop for my kids’ clothing. Shopping in a mall with babies and small children was a huge challenge, and I didn’t want to spend my weekends running around.” 


“I thought I was super-confident. But I was really driven by other people’s validation and approval,” she says. “The MBA really changed that. The level of thinking was way up, I excelled in the program, and thrived as a member of my team. This was all the validation I needed.” 

The program also gave her a new understanding of her own capabilities. “Interestingly,” she recalls, “prior to starting the MBA, I was connected with an industrial psychologist for a series of interviews and testing. He said to me, ‘You’re one of the most unique people I’ve met in the corporate structure. You’re an entrepreneur, and while you’ll continue to thrive in your career, you’ll get to a point where you’ll find something lacking — and ultimately, you’ll be unhappy. That’s when you’ll pivot.’”

Rola kept that advice in mind, but she still had no intention of leaving the corporate world. After heading back to her job, however, she says her body began to revolt. “I was experiencing extreme anxiety, and I started to hate going to work.”

The time had come to step out on her own. Enter her adventures in buying children’s clothing. 

“As a working mom of two, I had really found it impossible to shop for my kids’ clothing,” Rola explains. “Shopping in a mall with babies and small children was a huge challenge, and I didn’t want to spend my weekends running around.” 

Shopping online wasn’t much better. She found herself buying items she didn’t really like, and her purchases weren’t sensible. Dressing her kids every day, she struggled finding pieces that worked together. “There were always clothes in their closets with tags on them that they’d never wear. I knew there had to be a simpler way for all of this.” 

In 2017, clothing subscription boxes weren’t really a thing yet. Montreal-based Frank and Oak had done it for men’s fashions, but nothing existed for kids. Rola’s original plan for Choulala Box was to deliver capsule wardrobes for kids (sizes 2 to 6), which she would curate. Her goal was to simplify the shopping process, giving parents 10 pieces of clothing to mix and match in a far more sustainable way. The clothes would always be high quality and versatile. 

Rola quickly came to realize that her customers loved the concept but wanted to customize. They wanted to choose pieces for their children, personalizing their orders. More online services such as hers were beginning to come to market in the U.S., and Rola aimed to set herself and her business apart. 

During a brainstorming session, she came up with the term BLAST™ (which she soon after trademarked). The acronym stands for “bottoms, layering, accessories, socks/shoes, and tops” — all elements of a basic wardrobe. The Blast™ method makes it easier for kids to dress themselves, having items that all work well together to choose from, and empowers them to feel more confident and independent while having fun with their daily dressing. Rola also created a 49-card deck of cards to teach kids wardrobe basics.

The concept has earned her a lot of press, including stories in Goop, Motherly, and L.A. Parent. “We now have a subscriber base in the thousands and our conversion rate is 125%,” Rola says. “But it’s been a huge amount of work — way more work than doing an MBA with a newborn.” 

Despite sleepless nights and huge learning curves, Rola says she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her pivot came at the perfect time and the result keeps her learning and growing. She’s excited for the next ideas she’s working on to further transform Choulala Box.  

Good question: Should I accept every LinkedIn request that I receive? Leslie Hughes shares her advice.


“Now that virtual networking is taking off, I’m noticing a few more invites coming in on LinkedIn, often from people I don’t know. What’s the protocol on these kinds of connections? I’m not sure which ones to ignore or accept — but I always feel a little guilty not saying yes.” 


Leslie Hughes
Principal, PUNCH!media & LinkedIn Optimization Specialist

Leslie Hughes is a LinkedIn Optimization Specialist, Professor of Social Media, Corporate Trainer, Principal of PUNCH!media, and author of CREATE. CONNECT. CONVERT. She was called a “Social Media Guru” by CBC Radio and was featured on CTV’s The Social discussing how to manage your digital identity. Leslie has been working in digital marketing since 1997 and founded PUNCH!media in 2009.


I believe that we should be building a network of quality connections instead of just randomly accepting every request.

I say this for three reasons:

EVERYONE is not a strategy.
In marketing, your goal is to connect with the right people. So, if you only serve clients in one specific geographic location (i.e. North America), you don’t need to connect with people on the other side of the world — unless you believe there is reciprocal value for connecting with them.

Keep your newsfeed clutter to a minimum.
When you connect with someone, you will see their status updates. I would rather read updates from people I’m interested in, as opposed to having a newsfeed full of irrelevant content from people I don’t know.

Avoid SPAM.
When you qualify the people in your virtual network, you’re much less likely to receive SPAM. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many people pitch their services without initiating a conversation with me first. If they did this, I would immediately remove them from my network.

Another way to qualify whether or not you should accept that connection request is to ask yourself: “Would I exchange business cards with this person?” 

To obtain new opportunities, it’s important that you continuously build upon your existing network of connections. You definitely want to add new people that you want to get to know into your audience or sales funnel.

Here are three ways to manage or respond to inbound connection requests from strangers:

  1. Respond without accepting their connection request.

You may not have noticed, but there’s an option to message individuals who have sent you a request before you accept their invite. (Not sure how to do it? Check out my video explainer.) You can put the onus back on the person who has sent you the connection request with one of the following replies:

“Thank you for the invitation to connect. Can you refresh my memory as to how we know each other?”

“Thank you for the invitation to connect. I only accept connection requests from people I know. Let’s get to know each other! Please tell me a little bit about what you do, and who you help.”

“Thank you for the invitation to connect. Do you have any questions about (services you provide), or are you just looking to build your network?”

If they don’t answer, don’t add them to your network. Each person should bring some sort of value to this professional relationship.

  1. Accept their connection request, and begin a conversation

If someone looks like they could be an interesting connection, accept their request and begin a dialogue with them. Use icebreakers about information you’ve gathered from their profile, or acknowledge a mutual connection you have in common.

You could message them the following: “Thank you so much for connecting with me here on LinkedIn. I see on your profile that you know Susan Smith. I used to work with Susan at ABC Company. I’d love to know more about your business and how we could work together. Can we set up a meeting to talk?”

Remember, you must put the “social” into Social Media. Each micro-moment you have with someone will help to build trust over time.

  1. Simply click “Ignore”

If someone is clearly not going to be a valuable connection in your network, then you can click “Ignore” — rest assured, LinkedIn will not send them a notification that you have rejected them.

And my final tip: While we are connecting with people virtually from device-to-device, use the same kind of strategy and etiquette you would use if you were to encounter that person face-to-face. At the end of that device, we are connecting human-to-human.

How Milica Kostic went from a Deloitte consultant to a Vogue-profiled designer.

When Milica Kostic began her consulting career at Deloitte, she came up against a common problem: finding an everyday bag that could fit her laptop, as well as appeal to her personal aesthetic. Anything elegant and professional lacked room and functionality — an issue that became more pronounced as she moved up in her career and began travelling every week for work. 

With planes and carry-on limits to contend with, extra essentials to carry, and more needs to be served — there wasn’t one handbag that could take her from the airport, to the office, to a dinner out. 

“That’s really when that pain-point became so much more prominent in my mind, and the initial idea started to form,” says Milica. “I realized there was a significant need in the market for designs that would be both functional and sophisticated for the professional woman.” 

Not an entrepreneur by nature, it took another push for Milica to consider meeting this need herself — and it came on a vacation to Tuscany. Her tour group visited some local tanneries with open workshops, and she learned about the rich history and quality of the leather industry in the region. “And that’s when something clicked,” she says. “The vision started crystalizing, and a few months after I got back, I started putting pen to paper.”

“I realized there was a significant need in the market for designs that would be both functional and sophisticated for the professional woman.” 


She began working on a novel handbag design, from the inside out. “I started by thinking about everything that the average professional woman needs in her handbag, as well as how to make it organized — so you’re not in the middle of a meeting rummaging through your bag to find something,” says Milica. 

What she ended up with became her signature interior, with a padded laptop pocket, multiple compartments to store essentials, including separate water bottle, passport and key pockets, and smart features like interior zippers and pen holders. It was all wrapped in a simple and elegant exterior. 

“I cannot draw for the life of me, so my first design was on a piece of paper in a coffee shop, with explanations all around,” says Milica, laughing. “It did not resemble a bag.” 

She hired a designer to create drawings that could be used by a manufacturer, started drafting a business plan for Voylan and within a year she was back in Tuscany to get the production process started. She knew the quality had to speak for itself, so took her time visiting tanneries, sourcing the best possible leather, and prototyping with manufacturers before selecting a family-run workshop and going into production.

Milica’s idea for a sophisticated, go-to line for corporate travellers first came to life in the Voylan Manhattan Tote.

In August of 2019, Voylan debuted with three handbag styles, hand-crafted with their signature compartmentalised interior. By November, Milica had received an email from British Vogue letting her know they loved the line and wanted to include it in their designer profile section. 

“We were a recently launched brand, so it was surreal to hear from them,” says Milica. “Not only was it an incredible honour, but also strong reinforcement that we’re on the right track.” 

Her business has also been validated by great feedback from her customers — but that doesn’t mean the process of launching Voylan has been without its challenges. 

“Going from employee to entrepreneur is a huge transition, and it takes even more discipline and accountability than I imagined,” says Milica. “There are always things you would do differently in hindsight, especially in situations where you are learning on the go. What I am trying to focus on is to learn from everything and continuously improve based upon those past experiences.”


“Going from employee to entrepreneur is a huge transition, and it takes even more discipline and accountability than I imagined.”


In addition to inspiring the design, Milica credits her consulting background with giving her the confidence to pursue the venture, and the capabilities to launch it successfully — from asking the right questions, to being comfortable with ambiguity.

“Being an entrepreneur, it is really hard to anticipate anything in the future — but it’s still important to make those plans,” she says. “You have to have a vision that you can anchor yourself to.” 

Milica’s vision for Voylan includes expanding the product line — they’re introducing wallets in the fall, with more products coming next year — while staying true to their commitment to provide exceptional quality, create investment pieces that are still accessible, and address the needs of professional women. For Milica, that’s as much style as it is functionality. 

“I have always seen fashion as a form of art and one of the ways by which we communicate a little bit about ourselves,” says Milica. “The fact that it is now a business I am growing is a huge source of personal satisfaction.”

Five tips for managers who have employees working from home with kids.

By Katie Diamond


To quote the Pussycat Dolls: “Be careful what you wish for, cuz you just might get it.” Working from home is the dream for many professional moms. It affords flexible hours, the ability to see your kids throughout the day, and of course, it comes with the ideal dress code: leggings. 

When we’re appropriately set up from an equipment, space, and childcare standpoint, yes — working from home can be awesome. But when thrown into it with little warning, cancelled school, a super competitive caregiver market, and no known end-date, “the island of adults” (as one member of our community described her office) sounds luxurious. 

I’m currently WFH with my husband, our three-year-old — who has an extreme preference for Daddy and is in a tiresome inquisitive phase — and our 10-month-old, who decided that this week was the perfect time to start crawling, pulling up on things, sprouting teeth, and crying every time I leave the room. It’s not easy to get any work done. With the closures of schools, daycares, playgroups, music classes, and offices, millions of moms and dads have found themselves in the same stretched position.

As managers and leaders, we can think of this as a moment of truth. How we manage through this crisis will be proof points on whether we are genuinely there to help working parents navigate work/life congruence, now work/life entanglement.

It would be absurd to imagine that parents with children at home will have undisturbed attention through the workday. If you haven’t experienced that conflation, imagine a boomerang, but of the human kind. You send it out (equipped with a snack, game, book or screen), and before you know it… whack! It’s back smacking you in the face. So, while you can expect these parents to find and embrace strategies to manage disruptions and optimize focus time, their human boomerangs are not designed to self-entertain for hours and days on end.


“It would be absurd to imagine that parents with children at home will have undisturbed attention through the workday.”


Here are five things to do and consider that we learned from The Sophia Project — in-depth interviews with 150+ working moms we conducted for Hacking Sophia, a digital platform designed to support women juggling careers and young kids. These findings are acutely applicable as our ‘islands’ take on new meaning: 

1. Communicate with Radical Clarity

There will be fewer opportunities to “pop in” and clarify discussions and next steps. And every follow-up email, text, Slack message, is a potential distraction that risks a downward spiral of productivity. So clarify expectations, ensure alignment, and create check-ins so precious thinking time is allocated effectively. And, importantly, openly communicate that it’s not an exercise in micromanagement, but instead an intent to reduce miscommunication and achieve time well spent — a valued currency of the time-starved (working parents all the time) and now, the isolated (working parents in this COVID-19 world).

2. Declare War on Time Sucks

Time sucks are maddening for the time-starved in business-as-usual situations — and are agonizing when you’re trying to optimize work efficiency). Think: ‘reply all,’ ‘I have a quick request’ or ‘quick question’ (which are NEVER quick), ‘it would be great if you could jump on a call,’ or ‘can you do a write-up on x?’ Challenge the need for each email, small request, conference call — does it really move the business ahead? Is it worth sacrificing precious heads-down time?

3. Play the Subtraction Game

Fiercely prioritize, which is not just striking off ‘nice tos’ but also what’s not urgent. Delegation still matters, but be ruthless about whether what is being delegated is mission-critical. And here’s a tip: regularly subtract. Week to week, to-dos will be added. Subtract at least one for each you add by either completing or de-prioritizing it. That applies to your work and what you distribute to others.

4. Is Video Really Necessary? 

To Zoom or Not to Zoom? It feels like a perfect solution for connecting given the ‘higher touch’ experience of video — but no one wants to look like she hasn’t had a chance to shower when on video chat, which at the best of times can make us all look like trolls. Ask: is video necessary or will audio do? (And that’s after asking, ‘Is the call necessary at all?’). Think about what other ‘professional expectations’ need to be relaxed. Are you going to comment if someone attends a call in a t-shirt rather than a button-down? Hair in a ponytail? Kid sitting on the sofa in the background (or running in requesting snacks)? Be ready for and patient with interruptions.

5. Relieve Technology Soul-Suckers

Tech hiccups are soul-suckers that feel even more significant as we navigate working from home with less IT support (either official or the trusty coworker who can solve any tech issue). That gut-wrenching feeling when tech fails you is intensified when time is even more scarce. Consider whether your new stay-at-home team has the technology needed to support productivity: hotspots to support extra wi-fi needs (when every device in the home is likely running, draining wi-fi), monitors, keyboards, or laptop stands to make home workstations ergonomic, noise-canceling headphones, to name a few.

And, if we dare add an apple to the above oranges: simply ask, from time to time, “How’s it going there?” and “Can I help in any way?” Remind them that their work is valued. Even with many check-in calls, texts or messages, sitting home alone you can be left wondering, does what I’m working on matter? Your concern, consideration, and validation — if delivered with authenticity — goes a long way.

Yes, we all love our children and when we go off to work, can harbor a desire to spend more time with them. But in the spirit of ‘be careful what you wish for,’ we’re now literally managing the collapse of work/life separation. How are you going to lead? Manage? It’s these moments of ‘beautiful constraint’ that can define if you are really walking the walk and helping working moms and dads cope, or if you are just checking the box. 

Katie Diamond

Katie Diamond

Katie Diamond is an experienced brand strategist who has enabled organizations
to identify innovative growth opportunities and activated grassroots marketing
campaigns, most recently leading Equinox’s Canadian marketing team. Together
with Janet Winkler, Katie co-founded Hacking Sophia, a digital platform delivering
career and parenting solutions to women living in the Cram it all in Years – when
career collides with kids.

Meet Angela Aiello: aka ‘Super Wine Girl’ who has tasted over 10,000 wines in her 20-year career

With 20 years of experience in the wine, spirits and food business, Angela has a wealth of experience and knowledge with the millennial market. Her expertise lies around consumer behaviour, social media marketing, experiential tasting events, building brand awareness and global wine/food/drink trends and education. She has also hosted educational seminars, panel discussions, and was previously the Wine Editor for an international magazine. She has written about, wine, food and drink for many lifestyle publications, and has produced/hosted national on-air TV and radio segments – including live-to-air showings and has mastered the art of online videos. Known as @SuperWineGirl, her career has been about democratizing wine and giving consumers the keys they need to be their own wine critic.


My first job ever was… at a Pizzeria in a town called Smithville, swinging pizzas and deep-frying chicken wings! 

I realized that I had a passion for wine… when I moved to the big city and had no friends, but a lot of wine – and I knew a lot about them! 

For me, the perfect glass of wine is… poured at the perfect temperature in a beautiful glass. Right now I’m sipping great Chardonnay or Grenache-based blends.

My proudest accomplishment is… having travelled to over 14 countries to learn about wine, including working in a cellar for harvest in the South African Winelands in 2018. 

My boldest move to date was… incorporating a business, expanding a business and pivoting a business. 

I surprise people when I tell them…I’ve tasted over 10,000 wines in my career! 

My best advice to people thinking of formalizing their interest in wine is…be prepared to work hard and long, the wine business looks luxurious, and there are moments that are, but the majority of time is spent hustling. 


“The wine business looks luxurious, and there are moments that are, but the majority of time is spent hustling.”


My best advice from a mentor was… you’re a rockstar, just keep hustling. 

I would tell my 21-year old self… in 15 years, you’ll look back and be proud of what you accomplished. 

My biggest setback was… stretching myself too thin over business opportunities.

I overcame it by… hiring a consultant to research the business and give me guidance.

The best thing about what I do is… tasting the world and telling my stories to others through social media, celebrity and chef interviews and constantly learning about the world at the same time.

The most challenging thing about what I do is… staying healthy and humble through bottles and egos.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would…spend more time in grocery stores and prep more meals! 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I have size 6 feet! 

I stay inspired by…meeting with mentors and mentees and travelling as much as possible.

My next step is…to complete my book – it’s about sex, wine and pizza! Follow my IG account for wine recommendations “Juice du Jour” and have all of your wine questions answered by @SuperWineGirl.

Cinq conseils pour les gestionnaires qui ont des employés travaillant à domicile avec des enfants

Katie Diamond

Comme l’ont dit les Pussycat Dolls : « Be careful what you wish for, cuz you just might get it » (Faites attention à ce que vous souhaitez, car vous risquez de l’obtenir). Travailler à la maison est le rêve de nombreuses mères professionnelles. Ça leur permet d’adapter leur horaire, de voir leurs enfants durant la journée et, bien sûr, d’adopter le code vestimentaire idéal : une tenue (très) décontractée. 

Lorsque le matériel, l’espace et la garde des enfants sont bien organisés, oui, travailler à la maison peut être merveilleux. Mais si l’on doit le faire sans préavis, que l’école est annulée, que les gardiennes se font rares et qu’on ne sait pas quand la situation va se régler, l’« île des adultes » (comme une membre de notre communauté appelle son bureau) est un grand luxe. 

Je suis actuellement en télétravail avec mon mari, notre enfant de trois ans (qui a une préférence marquée pour son père et est dans une phase de curiosité épuisante) et notre bébé de dix mois, qui a décidé cette semaine que le moment était bien choisi pour commencer à ramper, à grimper, à faire ses dents et à pleurer dès que je quitte la pièce. Pas facile, dans ce contexte, d’accomplir quoi que ce soit. En raison de la fermeture des écoles, des garderies, des groupes de jeu, des cours de musique et des bureaux, des millions de mères et de pères se sont retrouvés dans la même situation tendue.

En tant que gestionnaires et dirigeants, nous pouvons voir ça comme un moment de vérité. Notre façon de gérer cette crise déterminera si nous sommes vraiment là pour aider les parents qui travaillent à trouver un équilibre entre leur vie personnelle et leur vie professionnelle – difficile en temps normal, un véritable casse-tête en ce moment.

«Il serait absurde d’imaginer que les parents ayant des enfants à la maison peuvent rester concentrés tout au long de leur journée de travail.»

Si vous n’avez pas encore vécu cette situation, imaginez un boomerang, mais vivant. Vous l’envoyez au loin (équipé d’une collation, d’un jeu, d’un livre ou d’un écran), et dans le temps de le dire… paf! Il vous revient en pleine face. Vous pouvez vous attendre à ce que ces parents trouvent et adoptent des stratégies pour gérer les perturbations et optimiser le temps de concentration, mais leurs boomerangs vivants ne sont pas conçus pour se divertir par eux-mêmes pendant des heures et des jours entiers.

Voici cinq choses à faire ou à envisager que nous avons apprises du projet Sophia – des entretiens approfondis avec plus de 150 mères qui travaillent que nous avons menés pour Hacking Sophia, une plateforme numérique conçue pour aider les femmes à jongler avec leur carrière et leurs jeunes enfants. Ces constatations sont d’autant plus pertinentes que nos « îles » prennent une nouvelle signification :

1. Communiquer avec une clarté radicale

Il y aura moins d’occasions d’intervenir et de clarifier les discussions et les prochaines étapes. Et chaque courriel, texto ou message Slack de suivi est une distraction potentielle qui risque de faire chuter la productivité. Il faut donc clarifier les attentes, veiller à ce que tout le monde avance dans la même direction et créer des points de contrôle pour que le précieux temps de réflexion soit alloué efficacement. Et, surtout, vous devez faire savoir clairement que ce n’est pas un exercice de microgestion, mais plutôt une intention d’éviter le manque de communication et d’optimiser l’utilisation du temps – une denrée précieuse pour ceux qui n’ont en pas assez (les parents qui travaillent, peu importe le contexte) et maintenant ceux qui sont isolés (les parents qui travaillent, en cette période de pandémie).

2. Déclarer la guerre aux chronophages

Les chronophages, c’est-à-dire les activités qui « mangent notre temps », sont déjà assez contrariants en situation normale – ils sont hautement nuisibles quand il est nécessaire d’optimiser l’efficacité du travail. La liste est longue : « Répondre à tous », « J’ai une demande urgente », « J’ai une petite question » (il n’y a PAS de petite question), « Ce serait bien si vous vous joigniez à l’appel », « Peux-tu me faire un compte rendu sur… », etc. Remettez en question la nécessité de chaque courriel, petite demande, conférence téléphonique, etc. – est-ce que ça va vraiment faire avancer les choses? Ne feriez-vous pas mieux de mettre ce temps ailleurs?

3. Le jeu de la soustraction

Établissez rigoureusement vos priorités, en éliminant les tâches qui ne sont pas absolument nécessaires ou urgentes. Il est toujours important de déléguer, mais demandez-vous si les tâches que vous déléguez sont essentielles à la réalisation de vos objectifs. Et voici un conseil : procédez régulièrement à des soustractions. De semaine en semaine, des tâches s’ajouteront. Pour chacune qui apparaît, éliminez-en au moins une autre, soit en l’accomplissant, soit en la dépriorisant. Ça s’applique autant à vos propres tâches qu’à celles que vous déléguez.

4. La vidéo est-elle vraiment nécessaire?

La vidéo semble être la solution parfaite pour rester en contact en raison du « rapprochement » qu’elle permet, mais personne ne veut ressembler à un épouvantail ou avoir l’air de ne pas avoir eu le temps de prendre une douche. Demandez-vous si la vidéo est nécessaire ou si le son seul ferait l’affaire. (Et si l’appel lui-même est nécessaire…) Réfléchissez aux autres « attentes professionnelles » qui devraient être assouplies. Allez-vous dire quelque chose si quelqu’un assiste à un appel en t-shirt plutôt qu’en complet? Avec une queue de cheval? Ou si un enfant est assis dans le divan en arrière-plan (ou entre en trombe pour demander une collation)? Attendez-vous à des interruptions, et restez patient lorsqu’elles surviennent.

5. Barrer la route aux draineurs d’énergie

Les problèmes technologiques drainent notre énergie, d’autant plus si nous travaillons à domicile avec moins de soutien informatique (sans un vrai informaticien, sans un collègue qui peut résoudre n’importe quel problème technique). Et ce sentiment désagréable que l’on éprouve quand la technologie nous laisse tomber est encore plus intense lorsque le temps se fait rare. Demandez-vous si votre nouvelle équipe à domicile dispose de la technologie nécessaire pour rester productive : des points d’accès pour répondre aux besoins supplémentaires en Wi-Fi (au cas où tous les appareils de la maison fonctionneraient en même temps et satureraient la connexion), des écrans, des claviers, des supports pour ordinateurs portables pour rendre les postes de travail à domicile ergonomiques, des casques antibruit, etc.

Et, par-dessus tout, pensez à demander à votre équipe de temps en temps comment elle va et si vous pouvez faire quoi que ce soit pour l’aider. Rappelez-lui que son travail est précieux. Même si vous communiquez fréquemment avec eux, que ce soit en les appelant ou en leur envoyant des messages, vos employés, seuls chez eux, peuvent finir par se demander si ce qu’ils font compte vraiment. L’attention que vous leur accordez et les compliments que vous leur faites ne manqueront pas de faire effet.

Oui, on aime tous ses enfants, et quand on part travailler on regrette de ne pas pouvoir passer plus de temps avec eux. Mais pour revenir à ce que chantaient les Pussycat Dolls, on dirait bien que notre souhait s’est réalisé, et nous assistons maintenant à l’effondrement du mur entre notre vie professionnelle et notre vie personnelle. Comment allez-vous diriger? Gérer? C’est dans les moments comme ceux-ci que vous avez l’occasion de montrer que vous voulez sincèrement aider les mères et les pères qui travaillent à s’en sortir, au lieu de simplement vous en tenir au minimum.

Katie Diamond

Katie Diamond

Katie Diamond est une stratège de marque expérimentée qui a permis à des organisations de repérer des occasions de croissance innovantes et qui a lancé des campagnes de marketing locales. Elle a récemment dirigé l’équipe marketing canadienne d’Equinox. Avec Janet Winkler, elle a fondé Hacking Sophia, une plateforme numérique qui propose des solutions de carrière et d’éducation des enfants aux femmes qui sont rendues à cette époque de leur vie où elles manquent de temps pour tout – lorsque la carrière entre en conflit avec les enfants.

Meet Jasmine Daya: a personal injury lawyer with a passion for the kitchen

Jasmine Daya is a lawyer and the Managing Principal of Jasmine Daya & Co. She is also Author of Law Girl’s Bump in the Road and JD in the Kitchen, blogger, podcaster and speaker. Jasmine has always viewed herself as an advocate and naturally chose a legal specialization in the area of personal injury, with a particular focus on claims involving minors, club assaults, particularly those involving bouncers or nightclub security, bullying and cyberbullying which is a developing area in the civil law context, elder abuse, personal injury claims arising from landlord negligence, fatality claims and catastrophic claims involving motor vehicle accidents. We caught up with her recently to find out how she is combining and celebrating the different parts of her identity. 


My first job ever was…flipping hamburgers and tossing fries at my parents’ Harvey’s restaurants.

I became a lawyer because…I watched My Cousin Vinny. I loved it and immediately saw myself passionately advocating for real people with my own style which is exactly what I do.

I decided to write a cookbook because… since I was a young girl, my mom and I had discussed writing a cookbook. My mom is an incredibly talented home cook, her creativity blows my mind however she does not have the patience to measure, note measurements, test and retest. The cookbooks have not only made my mom and I realize our dream of recording all of our family recipes but it has given us time together that we would otherwise never have had. Chatting (and gossiping) in the kitchen while waiting for the stove to heat as well as bickering about proper techniques has been more fun than I could have ever imagined.

My proudest accomplishment is…becoming a lawyer. It’s an honour and privilege to practice law in Ontario. Regardless of what entrepreneurial pursuits I am working on, my clients come first. They believe in me, rely on me, and no matter what, I always have their back.

My boldest move to date was… starting a personal injury law firm in a highly competitive market, in a highly competitive city when many personal injury law firms are folding.

I surprise people when I tell them…I have three children.

My best advice to people who want to pursue their passions outside of work is…just do it and stop thinking and talking about doing it.  What are you waiting for?

My best advice from a mentor was…the worst they can do is say “No”.  That advice is always in the back of my mind when I’m about to pitch one of my big ideas knowing that everyone will think I’m crazy which is usually the case.  Generally, people are taken aback by me and my ideas and watching facial expressions and body language has actually become quite entertaining.


“It’s okay that people underestimate me, it actually gives me an edge because they don’t see me coming and don’t know what hit them.”


I would tell my 20-year old self...stop stressing about what your parents are saying, go to law school.  They will come around and you will have no regrets.

My biggest setback was…three major banks shutting the door in my face when I wanted to buy my first commercial property and with only a week to waive the financing condition.

I overcame it by…buying the commercial property! The purchase required me to find the right people to structure the deal, time and energy but I did it.  Now, every time I see those same bankers, I smile large as they continue to stare at me in shock just like they did the first time they met me.

The once piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is…I am a true believer that “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” I pass those words of wisdom on all the time. In my case, I usually self loathe for an evening on the sofa with junk food, wearing my sweats and snuggle with my cozy blanket before I start working on the lemonade the next day. We all need time to process, but I need to learn how to stop being so hard on myself as it doesn’t just impact me but also, everyone around me.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would…be able to see the surface of my desk more frequently.  The piles seem to stack up faster than I can clear them and my law firm is supposedly paperless!

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I love potato chips.

The one thing I wish I knew when starting my career is…it’s okay that people underestimate me, it actually gives me an edge because they don’t see me coming and don’t know what hit them. 

I stay inspired by…people. I love networking and meeting new people as you never know where those connections will take you or how their thoughts and opinions will help develop new and creative ideas for you to embark upon.

The future excites me because…the sky is the limit and I’ve only just gotten started.  I am beyond excited about what the future holds.

My next step is…to continue building my empire.


3 things you can be doing to support the WOI Entrepreneur Community

These are challenging times to navigate — but while we socially distance, remember the only way we can get through this is together as a community. Just take a look at your local area and you will see shops, restaurants, bars, service providers and more forced to cut their business back or shut their doors entirely. “Foot traffic” is gone, and rightly so. 

For many small business owners — in the WOI community and beyond — these closures might outlast the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to support your favourite small businesses during this time, here are 3 tangible things you can do right from the comfort of your home.



1) If you can, make a purchase.  

Many of your favourite local businesses will have online stores or offer telesales in addition to their physical locations. If you are in the position to make a purchase, now is a great time. Delivery channels are still up and running (from meal delivery to Canada Post), albeit with some social distancing measures in place to make it safe. Gift cards are a great option, as they help to keep a small business’s cash flow running, even if they can’t offer their product right away. Also, if you have a monthly membership at a local fitness provider like a boutique gym or yoga studio, consider keeping your membership active, and asking for an extension instead.


2) Write them a review

Times are tough, and you might not have the money to spare or the need for anything new. You can still support them by leaving online reviews and letting others know just how much their business means to you. You might give someone who is thinking about making a purchase the needed confidence to go ahead with it. 




3)Let them know that you believe in them. 

In a period of isolation and uncertainty, a gesture of support and care can go a long way. Send them an email, or give them a shout-out on your socials. Behind the scenes, you can sign up for their newsletter or start following them on social media. And if you want to give them a vote of confidence, we have started an Instagram highlights series dedicated to supporting small businesses, send us a DM or email with their Instagram handle and we will feature them.




4 things you can be doing to get your business through this

One of the top ten reasons that small businesses fail is due to cash flow — and the pressure is being heightened by the necessary measures put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to help women-owned small and medium businesses in Canada stay afloat — and stay positive — during this difficult time. Here are four things you can be doing to help your business. 


1) Focus on e-commerce, telesales, and virtual offerings 

If you have the capacity to complete online orders, let your customers know that they can still get their favourite items from the comfort of their home. If you don’t have e-commerce in place, can you take orders over the phone? Either way, make sure your website and social channels clearly and simply direct customers on what’s available and how to make a purchase.

And now might be a good time to consider expanding digitally, from adding e-commerce to getting creative with your offerings. What products or services can you deliver virtually? 

If your business truly doesn’t lend itself to a virtual offering, use this time to review your strategy and your next steps. How can you come back with a bang when we’re through the worst of the restrictions (as the saying goes, This too shall pass)? Can you consider new opportunities? Can you look into novel ways to grow and promote your business? 


2) Make gift cards available 

Gift cards are a great way to keep cash flow positive through the next 1-2 months. Make it easy with a digital purchasing option, that customers can use themselves or gift to their friends and family. It can help your business now and in the future, when it’s finally time to gather collectively again.

While we’re normally used to seeing this for restaurants, spas, and other consumer services, don’t limit yourself to what’s normal. Anything you can offer in future — photography, in-person coaching, stylist sessions — can be made into a gift certificate or voucher. You may want to consider a discount as an incentive for buying these services in advance. 



3) Focus on your community engagement

Have you wanted to improve your social media presence or start writing a newsletter, but always felt like you didn’t have enough time? Well, now is your chance. You can use these channels to engage with your customers, keep them up to date, or spark some joy. Don’t be afraid to throw out the script and get vulnerable with them, share in their frustrations, and try to bring light to their days.

There is a lot of noise right now, so we think the best approach is authentic and supportive. Ask yourself, how can I help?  At WOI, we’re doing just that: we have launched an Instagram highlights series dedicated to supporting small businesses. Send us a DM or email with your Instagram handle and we will feature you.


4) Learn from other entrepreneurs.

Not sure how to handle this new normal? Connect with other entrepreneurs in your network, or reach out to make new connections in your industry or area of business. Someone may have a bright idea that you can also apply to your own company. 

If you don’t have these connections (and even if you do), check out our new hub for entrepreneurs adapting to a new normal. Through virtual events and articles, we’re asking leading entrepreneurs from across the country the same question: What now? You’ll get candid and actionable advice on finances, connectivity, brand messaging, pivoting, and more.



How Jayne McCaw built an award-winning Muskoka luxury rental business

Starting with her own cottage in Muskoka, Jayne McCaw has spent six years growing her rental property portfolio to over 200 — taking on VRBO and Airbnb in the Muskoka luxury rental market. The 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Winner in the Start-Up category shares her journey.

By Karen van Kampen


Picture this. You pull into the driveway of a grand estate overlooking Lake Muskoka. A man in a white linen shirt is there to greet you. He helps you with your bags and invites you inside. There is a bouquet of fresh flowers in the entrance way. Sunlight filters into the great room that overlooks the lake. 

You peer down at the dock where you will have a private yoga session at sunrise. Your kids squeal and point at the massive water trampoline and kayaks they picked from a menu of concierge services. Your personal chef has champagne chilling. The fridge and wine bar are stocked.  All this is yours for the next two weeks, care of Jayne’s Cottages, a luxury rental and concierge company.  

“It’s like a mini version of the Four Seasons,” says Jayne McCaw, founder of Jayne’s Cottages. “Guests arrive, and it just happens.” 

Behind the scenes, there is a lot that goes into making a guest’s Muskoka dream a reality. With a staff of 75 cottage managers, cleaners, administrative and property personnel, Jayne’s Cottages works with every guest’s requests to create a personalized, five-star vacation in the woods. 

When Jayne’s Cottages launched in 2014, it was the first luxury rental company with concierge services in Muskoka. Now with more than 200 properties and a return rate of 50%, Jayne’s Cottages has become a trendsetter in the sharing economy, taking on VRBO and Airbnb in the Muskoka luxury rental market. 

The founder behind the eponymous brand is Jayne McCaw, whose success was recognized in 2019 with an RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the Start-Up category, honouring a business that’s been showing profitable and sustainable growth during its three to five years in business.

Jayne built her award-winning business on her own Muskoka dream. When she bought her cottage on Lake Rosseau in 2010, Jayne’s realtor mentioned that the previous owners rented out the property for the month of July for $25,000. 

Jayne couldn’t believe her good fortune. “I’m so excited to have this cottage, and I can actually make money off it too?” she says. “It was a dream come true.” 

In 2011, Jayne began renting her cottage during the summer. The following year, Jayne rented out her property again and put the money toward a family trip to France. Finding a suitable place to stay in Provence was a challenge. Jayne was apprehensive about some of the properties listed on VRBO. 

Then she came across a woman named Beverly who managed a dozen properties in the Luberon Valley. Beverly’s company offered kayak tours and a personal chef while Beverly personally greeted her guests. Beverly gave Jayne “such a feeling of trust,” says Jayne. 

“That was the turning point,” says Jayne. “I returned home and I thought, there’s no Beverly in Muskoka.”  


 “Life’s too short not to realize your dreams, you’re losing years if you’re unhappy.”


In the summer of 2013 and 2014, Jayne rented out three cottages on Lake Rosseau, including her own. Then on Labour Day in 2014, Jayne quit her sales job at a technology company and launched her business. “I had turned 50 and I wanted to have more control over my life,” she says. 

Her goal was to rent out 15 cottages. “Then I could make it work financially,” says Jayne. “I just wanted to get out of the rate race in Toronto and spend more time at my cottage.”

She reached out to cottage owners, explaining how their properties would be safe in her hands. She would personally screen guests, take a deposit of 50% and have cottage managers and cleaners watch over properties by dropping in regularly. 

In 2015, Jayne had 25 properties for rent, 22 of which had never been rented out before. Today, she has more than 200 luxury properties that rent from $3,000 to $55,000 a week, which doesn’t include the menu of concierge services. Most owners continue to list their property with Jayne until they sell their cottage or decide to use their vacation property full-time.  

While she lists properties on VRBO as well as her website, Jayne says that 98% of bookings come from the Jayne’s Cottages site. Potential customers want to gather as much information as possible and talk to someone before making their purchase. 

Once guests have signed on with Jayne, their preferences and details are saved in the customer management system so that in the future, Jayne’s Cottages can review people’s requests, refer to their spouse by name or wish someone’s daughter a happy birthday. “Business today is about being more personal and providing the best customer experience,” says Jayne. 

Jayne has a full-time photographer and posts new content on her website several times a week. This engages potential customers while maintaining the company’s strong organic search results. When Googling luxury Muskoka rentals, Jayne’s Cottages is listed before VRBO and Airbnb.

With 22% of her visitors from the U.S., Jayne ensures her digital marketing efforts target non-Canadian as well as local clientele. This includes some conquest marketing in which she is targeting people looking at luxury properties in the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by promoting the safety and natural beauty of the Canadian wilderness, all paid in Canadian dollars. 

Several government and technology grants have also helped Jayne grow her business. Last year, she was awarded a $75,000 grant from the Ontario Centre of Excellence. With the help of Georgian College’s Big Data Technology program and graduate IT students, Jayne built an integrated technology platform to better serve her customers. 

Jayne’s goal is to continue drawing more people to Muskoka, the inspiration behind her business. “Life’s too short not to realize your dreams,” says Jayne. “You’re losing years if you’re unhappy.”

Meet Kate Drummond: elementary school teacher turned actor currently starring in HULU’s Utopia Falls

If you’re considering a career transition and wondering if it’s a little too late — award-winning actor Kate Drummond is living proof that it’s not! As a former elementary school teacher who became an actor later in life, Kate is an advocate for people following their dreams no matter where they are in life. In May 2014, Kate was the keynote speaker at TEDx in Oshawa, Canada where she told her inspiring story of Chasing Dreams and Beginning Again. The presentation which garnered over half a million views has connected her globally with many people who are also on their path to reaching their goals. She can currently be seen starring in HULU’s genre-bending sci-fi series UTOPIA FALLS, a coming of age story following a group of teens in the distant future colony of New Babyl as they uncover an ancient forbidden archive of historical, cultural and musical relics. 


My first acting job was… a very small part in a movie called The Kate Logan Affair back in 2005. I was a police officer interrogating Alexis Bledel and I remember exactly when and where I was when I booked the role. I was a school teacher at the time, just starting in acting. I was walking out to my car when my agent called me on my cell phone. He said, “You booked the role!” I started bawling. Our school custodian was standing there and must have thought someone had died. I hung up and said, “Oh my gosh! I booked my first big part!” We both laughed. And cheered. My school colleagues were incredibly supportive of me.

I became an actress because…being a storyteller is what I was designed to be. I believe that. Right from the time I was a kid, I was performing. I was a natural storyteller and uber creative. I used to put on shows for the neighbourhood and organize talent competitions.  I used to stand on my bed and sing the National Anthem to my stuffed animals every night before bed. My parents and teachers didn’t know what to do with all this energy I had, so they put me into sports and my artist just got put on the back burner for a few decades while I competed.  But I think I became an actress at exactly the right time. I had life experience and heart experience to back up my love of storytelling.

My favourite thing about working on Utopia Falls has been… the people. I absolutely fell in love with the entire Utopia Falls family. From hair and makeup to wardrobe to my fellow co-stars to every director and every daily who came in to help…  everyone came together to create this show. We were all so invested in the show and what it stands for. Whenever I went to set, the support was unending. We were all in this together and it felt like a beautiful community. I also loved playing the misfit of the group… the antagonist of the show. Every hero needs a great villain and it was fun to play that role.

My proudest accomplishment is… my TEDx talk. Back in 2014, I did a TEDx talk called Chasing Dreams and Beginning Again.  I worked for months on that talk. I remember writing it and rewriting it so many times, each time getting a little more truthful. I remember reading what I thought was a finished talk to a very close friend. She said, “Kate, I feel like you have just wrapped your life up in a pretty pink bow… you’ve missed talking about the hard parts.”  She was right. I went back to the drawing board and spent another month working on the talk I ended up with. It was my truth. Fully. It was a very surreal experience standing on a stage and revealing my biggest vulnerabilities. But I did it. That is my proudest accomplishment; being able to stand in my truth like that. I never expected that it would go any further than the audience I had that day. Today, it’s reached over 550,000 views and I have connected with people all over the world who relate to me and share their journey with me. It’s incredibly humbling and rewarding and when people share their stories with me, I am equally inspired.


“I feel like I truly belong where I am. I feel like I fit this new life. I am excited to direct more, write more and act more.”


My boldest move to date was… leaving the security of my teaching job, after 12 years, to move to Toronto to be an actress at the age of 35. 

My biggest setback was… when I lost my dog, Jackson. He was my best friend and family for the better part of 13 years. He was with me through city changes, job changes, everything. He was everything. When I lost him, I fell into a very deep depression for almost a year. I was having a hard time booking work, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The grief was paralyzing.

I overcame it by… moving to my partner’s family ranch in Alberta for 6 months. About 2 weeks after I lost my dog, I packed up his ashes and my partner and I drove across Canada to Alberta. I lived in a bunkhouse in the middle of a pasture for the better part of 6 months. I needed the time to heal and it was the perfect place to do that. It’s really hard to take a break from our lives because of the fear of missing an opportunity, but really, I had no choice. I was struggling and needed the support of my partner, his family and the animals on the ranch. I hadn’t spent much time around horses before that, but I befriended a herd of horses there and spent a lot of my days sitting in the corral with them. They are very intuitive animals. They sensed I was grieving and I relied on them for animal connection. I remember one of the horses got badly injured and required daily care, for hours, to save him. I was assigned the job of taking care of this massive gelding. I was terrified. But it also gave me purpose. As I was grieving the loss of one life, I was saving another. That’s what got me through to the next chapter of my life.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I’m an introvert. People think that because I’m so social and “out there” that I’m an extrovert. Truth be told, I do LOVE people. I love the buzz of being on set and being around those I love. But truly, I need to balance it with a lot of time on my own. I’m an extroverted introvert in a way. I am very sensitive to the energy of others. After a day on set, I always have to manage my energy by taking Epsom salt baths and meditating.

I would encourage aspiring actors to…  never assume you’ve gotten anything figured out. We are changing with every single breath we take, and therefore so is our craft. Study a lot. Support other artists. Train. Be a nice person. Audit classes. Begin again every day. Ask questions. Don’t define yourself by the roles you get. Acting is a responsibility. Don’t take it lightly.  Get out there and volunteer in the community. Whether it’s at a local theatre or a soup kitchen, volunteering keeps things in perspective and also puts you in a position of service. Also… let your love for your art always be bigger than your fear.

When I’m not on set, you can find me…  at home or out walking with my new rescue pup, Zelda, from Mexico. I am a real homebody so my ideal day is sitting by a fireplace, listening to vinyl, and curled up with my family. I also love nature, so I like to spend as much time outdoors as I can.

The person I look up to is… Brooke Shields. We first met when working on the Flower Shop Mysteries a few years ago. We filmed 3 movies together and became instant friends. We still are to this day although I don’t get to see her very often.  Brooke is one of the most graceful human beings I’ve ever met. Her heart is huge and she treated everyone with such incredible respect. She was a beautiful reminder to me of what is right with the industry… famous people with lots of clout, who don’t act like they are above anyone. She truly is a role model for me.

The best advice I’ve been given is…  jump and the net will appear.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…  that I had to have my tongue sewn back together when I was a kid because I bit through it… and also that I survived a Tornado.

I stay inspired by… watching the work of other artists whether in movies or on stage. I talk to creative people and share ideas. I find talking out loud about ideas is like lighting a match around a pile of twigs… it just ignites so much fire!

The future excites me because…I feel like I truly belong where I am. I feel like I fit this new life. I am excited to direct more, write more and act more. I’m excited to be connected with so many incredible creatives in the business. I’m excited that there are more and more roles being written for women my age. I’m excited that less and less, I’m trying to make myself be or look different to get a job. I’m excited because the times are changing and voices are being heard.

Five Minutes with an MBA recruiter on how the ‘ideal candidate’ has changed.

Teresa Pires is Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions for the full-time MBA program at Smith School of Business. She travels the globe, finding and recruiting the most promising business leaders of tomorrow. Teresa has helped hundreds of women take the next step in their careers by helping them see what they can be with an MBA. Teresa can often be found at Women of Influence events and she always has her eye out for the next MBA recruit.  


By Hailey Eisen


What would you say has changed the most since you began recruiting for the MBA program? 

When I started 10 years ago, we had more traditional candidates with practical skill sets and engineering backgrounds. Now, we have many unique applicant profiles; people who have done a lot more before entering the MBA program and are looking to pivot or transition their career. We see more focus on making an impact today, not just on earning six figures. We see a big focus on individuals wanting to find and follow their passion — and that’s been a big shift. We especially see this among women. 

What’s an example of a non-traditional candidate? Any standout students who came to the MBA with a background you don’t often see to make a career pivot? 

For sure, there are many. Nicole Magda, for example, graduated with the class of 2018 and came to Smith with an undergraduate degree in Biology and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Having worked as an RN for a few years, Nicole was looking to pivot her career into healthcare consulting. The applicants we get with medical backgrounds tell us they’re lacking the business fundamental skills and looking to obtain those through an MBA. Interestingly, Nicole got into consulting upon graduation, working with Deloitte in healthcare transformation, but decided to make a second pivot, and now works as an Associate in Portfolio Management with Imperial Capital Group. 

Which other candidates stand out to you for their non-traditional backgrounds? 

In 2017, Divya Tulapurkar graduated with a dual degree MBA and MMA (Master of Management Analytics). She came to Smith with an engineering background, which is great because the market is looking for more women with technical skills. Divya had been working as a performance engineer with an American multinational IT services provider and had a wealth of professional expertise. But she also had volunteer and other experience that differentiated her in the application process. For example, Divya was a professional dancer and volunteered with non-profit organizations as a dance trainer. She was smart, personable, and had technical skills — I remember thinking, she’s the whole package. Like many women, Divya hit the ground running, becoming the VP of the analytics club at Smith, completing both degrees, and landing a job upon graduation with Scotiabank. Today Divya is the Director of Advanced Analytics with the bank. 


“What has always surprised me is how many women self-select out of the program before even beginning the application process. When they do take the time to have conversations with me, and others at Smith, they realize the value they’ll bring to the program, and often find the MBA is exactly where they belong.”


Do you find most women come to the MBA program knowing exactly what they want to get out of it, or are many surprised by the opportunities available to them upon graduation? 

I often speak to women who know 100 per cent what they want to do with their careers. But you don’t have to have your whole career mapped out in order to be successful. In fact, you may not be aware of the opportunities available to you until you start the program. Chloe O’Brien came to us with a background in photography, art history, and travel — not a typical path to business school. She didn’t know if the MBA would be the right fit for her because she didn’t have the technical skills people often assume they need. 

Chloe took advantage of every single opportunity that presented itself during the program. She went on two exchanges, she was named a Forté Fellow, and she served as President of the Women in Leadership Club (WIL). I use Chloe as an example of how the MBA really helps women become more well-rounded professionals, gain leadership, management, and networking experience, and realize skills and abilities they may not even have known they had. We create a safe space for students to grow and develop. The MBA is the only transferable degree that can really help someone pivot careers in such a short time frame. Upon graduation Chloe is heading to Deloitte where she’s secured a job in human-centric design and design thinking on a Human Capital team. 

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found over the past 10 years working in recruiting for the Smith MBA program?

I would say what has always surprised me is how many women self-select out of the program before even beginning the application process. When they do take the time to have conversations with me, and others at Smith, they realize the value they’ll bring to the program, and often find the MBA is exactly where they belong. I’m blown away by what women are able to manage once they’re in the program. Every year there are incredibly impressive success stories.  

What do you look for when evaluating MBA candidates? 

We consider the whole person and what they’ll bring to the program and the team they’re assigned to. This includes their work ethic, resiliency, and interpersonal skills, in addition to their academic and work experience. We’re also looking for what else they’ve done, beyond work, that makes them stand out — whether that’s volunteer work, a side hustle, or something else. We call this their “spike factor.”

We also look at what we call their “coachability” to understand how they’ll work in our team-based program. We evaluate the experience they’ve had working as parts of a team through work, sports, and volunteer roles. We also speak to their managers to see how they’ve been working as part of a team and how they’ve responded to feedback and coaching.

3 tips for developing your personal brand and professional style

Tamara works with executive-track professionals as well as Canada’s top brands to develop distinctive, authentic image and brand strategies. You can find Tamara’s expertise on numerous style blogs, and in the media as a trusted image & style expert.

By Tamara Glick

In the early aughts, you didn’t pursue a career in advertising so much as you fell into a career in advertising. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a common recruitment stream in my MBA program. In fact, I was the only person in my cohort to pursue it. But, I was determined. I approached my career centre with the questions: How do I present myself in this industry? If I’m networking or interviewing, how do I dress? 

To the very best of their ability, my career counsellor provided me with the only advice they knew how to give: a strictly corporate set of parameters of black and navy suits and white shirts.

There’s something else you should know — I felt like an imposter for most of my MBA. Coming from an arts and fashion background made me stand out like Elle Woods at Harvard. 

I might have known style, but I was at the finest school in the country — so I paid attention. Prepping for a mock interview with a mentor who had long been in the agency world, I suited up in my best black skirt suit, a high-necked top, a french twist, pearl earrings, and pantyhose. 

My mentor took one look at me, and her face said it all. “What in the world is this?” she said, gesturing to my outfit. I sighed: “I have no idea! I can’t do this every day and be creative!”

What happened next changed the trajectory of my career.

We discussed branding, knowing your audience, honouring yourself, and building your reputation — and all of a sudden, it clicked.

The “fashion stuff” that I had always been so passionate about, the years of assisting people in feeling strong, confident, and influential via their style — these were really, truly critical skills to professional development and to building a successful personal brand.

I changed my strategy and began to experiment with how style affected different interactions. I built a successful advertising career, continued studying the impact of image, and became a certified Image Consultant.

I launched my practice and, realizing how much more nuance there was to truly dressing for success, my alma mater became my first client.

Since then I’ve helped highly-visible, senior-level executives and thought-leaders develop a unique style that supports their goals and elevates their personal brands — especially when big changes are afoot. And just like developing any skill set, what got you here, isn’t necessarily what will get you there. Uplevelling to reach your next goal requires and deserves elevating your brand.

“I approached my career centre with the questions: How do I present myself in this industry? If I’m networking or interviewing, how do I dress?”

Top 3 Tips to Elevate Your Personal Brand

1) Originality, authenticity, and polish: 

Everyone wants and deserves to be comfortable. But, no-one needs to trade in on their style and brand potential just to remain passable, in the name of “comfort.” Comfort isn’t about wearing yoga pants to work, it’s about being at ease, genuine, confident in one’s skin. Developing a memorable personal brand is about supporting yourself with style that fits your personality, your career, and your body. It’s about polishing yourself as much as you would your presentations, papers, and results. After all, they’re all a part of the same package: You.

2) Live your brand: 

Being genuine is key to developing a meaningful personal brand. Moulds are for cookies and Jell-o — not people. While your reputation might be more about results or job functions, your personal brand can tell people so much more about you. Make your personal brand an amplification of what you bring to the table (your value) as well as what you believe in (your values). Your quirks and uniqueness can become your signature, when developed and celebrated with panache and polish. 

3) Learn the language of colour and clothing: 

Before you say “but…black!” — there is a whole language of colour, texture, and design that can elevate your personal style and visually communicate your brand. Knowing how to use your best options is like mastering an unspoken language that everyone around you instantly, intuitively recognizes. When you are articulate in colour and clothing, elusive qualities like thoughtfulness, creativity, even your standards, empathy, and sensitivity, and more can be communicated without words.

Tamara Glick

Tamara Glick

With almost 2 decades experience spanning advertising, marketing, style & image, Tamara works with executive-track professionals as well as Canada’s top brands to develop distinctive, authentic image and brand strategies that consistently garner success and accolades. Tamara’s practice draws on a multi-faceted skillset spanning her background in Communication, Fashion, and Image with corporate experience in Advertising and Marketing which enables her to strategize personal and corporate brands with clarity, relevance, and sophistication. As a communication and style strategist, you can find Tamara’s expertise on numerous style blogs, and in the media as a trusted image & style expert.

Good Question: When is Enough Really Enough? Arlene Dickinson shares her advice.


“I love my work even though I put in 10-hour days, monitor my blackberry for weekend and evening calls that usually require follow-up, and have never taken a vacation that involved being totally unavailable. I am—and have always been—fine with that. My doctor is not.

Recently I started having trouble sleeping and developed headaches almost daily. I go to work tired and pop a few Advil throughout the day. When I started getting winded after short walks, and experienced chest pains for no reason, that’s when I saw the doctor. There’s nothing wrong with me except my lifestyle.

I’ve taken control of what I can—cook more, take-out less; exercise early in the morning before work; and took the television out of my bedroom too. The symptoms aren’t going away. I’ve gone back to the doctor and the message is the same: the way I work isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. If I keep this up, something will go seriously wrong, that’s what my body is apparently telling me.

Here’s the problem: My job requires this level of dedication; my boss puts in longer hours than I do; the people who report to me are under pressure too. How do I make the case that my workload and way of working aren’t tenable without losing my job? How do I achieve a work-life balance?”



Arlene Dickinson
President and CEO of Venture Communications

Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada’s most successful — and recognizable — entrepreneurs. Best known for her role as a Dragon on the multi-award-winning television series Dragons’ Den, she built her fortune with Venture Communications, and just a few years ago, launched District Ventures — an accelerator, venture fund, and communications firm focused on turning successful Canadian companies in the food and health space into globally respected brands. She is a two-time bestselling author, an accomplished public speaker, a television and podcast host, and the winner of multiple awards for her leadership and entrepreneurial success. Arlene sits on several public and private boards and is actively involved in supporting the community. 



My initial reaction is that you’re in the wrong job, period.

Some expectations come from you and some come from the job, and until you manage your need to control, and for perfection, the anxiety and stress will never go away. This is as much about your own desires as it is about the expectation of your workplace.

At some point, you have to accept that’s the reality of your work—late nights, no vacation, etc. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it just is. The job you’re in might actually require commitment and energy that you don’t have. My advice would be: go find another job, not go talk to your boss.

However, if talking to your boss lowers your stress, then awesome—you should do that. But I don’t think it will because you’re putting the blame for your challenge on your job instead of on yourself, and you are responsible for your own choices.

As an employer, I have an expectation that people will work hard and do their job. But if someone said to me: “I can’t work as hard as you do, but I will give it my best,” then I’m ok with that. How can I expect anyone who works for me to work as hard as me? It’s my company. Most entrepreneurs understand that.

But here’s why I think your work’s not your problem: People often take a job because it’s going to be good for their career, not because it’s best for them. Sometimes we make a career move that’s not a great choice for our talents and abilities, and it becomes a trap: we get overwhelmed by the requirements, but we get the salary, the position, the authority. It’s all great except that we hate it, or it causes us stress. In this case, you love the work, but you have the stress.

If there’s a physical manifestation of stress—even though you went and changed stuff, like eating better, sleeping more, etc.—then this is not a lifestyle issue, it’s a career issue. So go find what makes you happy. That’s easy for me to say, right? Because quitting means giving up security…but this is your health and nothing is worth that, is it?

If there’s an expectation to work this way, then you need to make a decision. It’s all about choices and, ultimately, if it comes down to your health, screw it. Nothing’s worth that.

Meet Christina Crook: Founder and Chief Joy Officer at JOMO

It was her 30-day disconnection from the online world that got award-winning author Christina Crook to start writing about the intersection of technology and well-being. However, it wasn’t until the response to her book The Joy of Missing Out that she truly realized how important it was that there exist voices questioning the nature of our relationship to the digital world. She has written for dozens of magazines and online journals on the subjects of spirituality, mindfulness, and digital well-being, but the most exciting part of her journey, for now, is: “building and nurturing a community of intelligent, ethical, positive people that want things to be better than they are today.”


My first job ever was… a paper route.

If I had to give myself a professional title I would call myself… an artist.

My proudest accomplishment is… interviewing ethical tech advocate Anil Dash on the JOMO(cast.)

My boldest move to date was… holding tight to the reigns of JOMO, knowing deep in my gut that the wave of digital well-being was coming.  

I surprise people when I tell them… I am an introvert. I recharge alone.

The biggest lesson I learned from disconnecting from the digital world was… the amount of peace, quiet and margin that is there waiting for us.

My best advice to people seeking digital disconnection is… reconnect to life’s true joys – find what makes you come alive and lean into that.

My best advice from a mentor was… keep saying ‘Yes.’

I would tell my 21-year old self… beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.


“How can we be fully human in a wired world? How shall we live? How do we build a future worth wanting? ”


My biggest setback was… two years spinning my wheels not being sure if I really wanted to build a business. 

I overcame it by… getting real about what I really want. I have always had unbridled ambition but, as a woman, believed there was something tainted, something wrong with wanting so much.

The best thing about what I do is…  connecting with academics, makers, technologists, philosophers wrestling with similar questions as me: How can we be fully human in a wired world? How shall we live? How do we build a future worth wanting? 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m pretty quirky. I just sent some weird corrupted Polaroids — the last of my original 30-year-old Polaroid film – to friends by mail with no explanation. One, a professor in Copenhagen. Another, a typographer in Hamilton. Ha. Joy.

I stay inspired by… Reading. Quiet. Writing.

My next step is… publishing my next book. I’m at work on “Experience JOMO”, a book for readers of 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, a compact, affirming and actionable guide to taking real steps toward joy.


Six books that reclaim our narrative

Growing up my Grandmother used to recite an African proverb: ‘until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.’ As a young girl, I couldn’t make sense of it, but over time I began to understand the lion was a metaphor for the oppressed, and the hunter stood for those with power. This analogy fits the story of humanity — the story of the sexes. For years the system (built by the hunters), has been feeding women a narrative, limiting our history, ability, duties and sense of self. But unlike in the proverb these lions have learned to write, and they are ready to roar. From untold historical tales to uncovering scientific data bias, these six books show that women have been systematically excluded from the narrative — but we’re not tolerating that anymore.  


By Ony Anukem




Power Shift: The Longest Revolution


There has never been a better time to be a woman, a significant shift has been happening over the years, making strides towards equality for women. However, from Canada to Comoros there isn’t a country in the world that has achieved gender equality yet. In this book, award-winning author, journalist, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong presents a succinct history of what led the way for trending Twitter hashtags: from cave drawings in ancient Mesopotamia to the fight for the vote and reproductive rights to the unspeakable gendered violence in Afghanistan, female genital mutilation, and civil war in the Balkans. What ultimately comes to light after this read is that gender inequality comes at too high a cost to us all, and the time for action is now. 





Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story


If you are of the scientific persuasion — this is the book for you. Angela Saini will take you on a journey uncovering where science has lost its way in regards to women, and the fight to rewrite what we thought we knew. For centuries, science has sold us the idea that men and women are fundamentally different, and even that women are the inferior sex. From intelligence to emotion, cognition to behaviour, new research is revealing a different story. Angela systematically tears down old assumptions drawn from flawed studies and biased scientists, offering a new vision for women, and society as a whole. 






Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men


Data is everything and everything is data — from the text messages on your phone to the stack of papers in your drawer. We depend on data for almost everything, but what happens when the data is inaccurate? Most data fails to take gender into account — treating men as the norm and women as abnormal — turning bias and discrimination into products of the system. And women pay the cost for this bias, in our time, money, and many other ways. Join Caroline as she investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality in research, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. 






Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds 


From childhood, we’ve been told that science proves that men and women are made of different stuff, including two different types of brains — male and female. Gender and Our Brains says “time’s up” to pinkification. Packed with fascinating research and point of view, Gina argues that for far too long science has followed false logic to support the notion that men and women have different brains. Tapping into her experience as a professor of cognitive neuroimaging, and referencing new ideas in neuroscience, she offers a new vision of the human brain — one that is highly individualized and adaptable, rather than set in stone by our gender. 






Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society 


Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex is guaranteed to edutain. She wittily explains why past and present sex roles are only serving suggestions for the future, and reveals a much more dynamic situation through an evocative and well-documented exploration of the latest research. Touching on evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience, endocrinology, and philosophy, she uses stories from daily life, scientific research, and common sense to break down the root of cultural assumptions. This book goes beyond the ancient debate of nature versus nurture, disproving age-old myths and calling for a more equal society based on everyone’s full human potential.





Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention


For centuries, we’ve been fed the stories of great men of history, but what about the women? Cathy Newman’s look at the past includes all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school, but didn’t. Like the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history; women who achieved what they achieved while dismantling hostile, entrenched views about their place in society. She combines scrupulous research with information gathered from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, using the stories of some extraordinary lives to give us a new, inclusive version of history.




Meet Katie Jackson: a woman at the helm of sustainability in the North American wine industry

Katie Jackson is a second-generation proprietor working to keep her family-run business at the forefront of quality and stewardship. Today, She serves as senior vice president of Corporate and Social Responsibility for Jackson Family Wines, a position that is equal parts sustainability and advocacy. In 2016, Katie launched the company’s first Family Responsibility Report to highlight its decades-long sustainability journey and to establish 5-year goals outlining its ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Under her leadership, Jackson Family Wines has become the largest generator of onsite solar energy in the U.S. wine industry and has reduced the amount of water per bottle of wine produced by 59%. Since stepping into her first winery role in the cellar at Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, Katie has continued to build on her family’s winemaking heritage. Most recently, she led Jackson Family Wines in co-founding the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) with Familia Torres of Spain.


My first job ever was… was learning pruning in our vineyards to understand more about farming and the level of skill involved to grow high-quality grapes. I learned from experience that great wines start in the vineyard. 

I decided to get involved in the family business because… I had worked harvest in 2007, and I fell in love with the winemaking process, and all of the excitement and hard work that goes into the fermentation process.  It felt magical to see the culmination of the work that went into farming the best quality grapes in the vineyard bear fruit, and to understand everything that went into making a beautiful bottle of wine. I didn’t always know that I’d want to work in the family business. Growing up, I loved creative writing and seriously considered teaching English or History as well. I had incredible teachers who were so inspiring to me that I thought it would be amazing to have that kind of impact on others. After my first stints in the family business, I learned how rewarding it can be to make something that people love. I always knew that it would be wonderful to be able to work with my family, and I am so happy I ended up understanding how rewarding the work of our business was as well.  

My proudest accomplishment is…  my family is very important to me and I’m most proud to be raising kind, curious, happy, and adventurous children. 

My boldest move to date was… participating in the co-founding of the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) with the Torres family from Spain. To co-create an organization asking winery members to commit to a reduction in carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and by 80% by 2045, and committing to those actions as a winery, our family is doing something that is both daring and necessary. Daring because changing our carbon footprint as a company is something that will require fundamental change in all aspects of how we run our business, yet necessary because the science is clear that the world will need to step up to figure out how to do this together to avoid the most drastic effects of climate change. I am proud that the members of IWCA are taking a leadership position for our industry, and hopeful that we will be able to find a way for the industry to transform itself and the planet into a more healthy and viable position for future generations.  

My best advice to people wanting to implement better sustainability practices is… learn as much as you can about your carbon footprint and the ways that you could change to live more lightly – there may be things you’ve never considered that would be easy changes to make, and that would make a big difference. Living more sustainably also means being more conscientious about your purchasing decisions. Think about the upstream and downstream implications of how what you buy impacts the environment and local communities. Adopt the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle,” with a particular emphasis on the first two. Do your research before making a purchase, and support companies whose mission and vision align with fostering social and environmental sustainability. Engage in constructive dialogue with the companies that don’t and help them understand the importance for the future.


“You are on a journey, which means things will change and there is no such thing as perfect. Know that the journey matters and it’s important to celebrate achievements along the way.”


I would tell my 21-year-old self… you are on a journey, which means things will change and there is no such thing as perfect. Know that the journey matters and it’s important to celebrate achievements along the way. It’s a journey that is worth every step. 

My biggest setback was… leaving college at the age of 20 and then making the decision to not return. I needed to know more about myself and where I wanted to end up in life before I continued my education. I made the decision not to return and I wish I could tell my younger self that so much of the college experience is meant to benefit the student, a way to explore, learn new things, and become a more well-rounded and informed person before stepping out into the world. At the time, I was putting so much pressure on my performance in school that I wasn’t able to just relax and learn in a way that would have been much better for my personal education.

I overcame it by…having not completed a degree, I discovered first-hand how that can change how you are perceived and respected within the workplace. I overcame it by proving myself to my coworkers by working hard, continuously learning new things, and dedicating myself to always complete work to a standard of quality that I would be proud of achieving.

The best thing about what I do is… the ability to do what I love. My parents instilled a love for the natural world and desire to protect our natural resources from an early age. Those lessons of caring for the land and giving back to our communities have stayed with me. When we started our formal sustainability program in 2008, I was deeply inspired to work towards minimizing our environmental footprint and promote more social equity programs into our business.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend that precious time with my three children and husband. 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…that I love to read fiction and poetry. 

My favourite wine from our collection is… any bottle of our Chardonnay or Pinot Noir from our wineries in Oregon – Gran Moraine, Willakenzie or Penner-Ash are all spectacular wineries in the Willamette Valley region. Another region that I love is Santa Barbara County – Cambria, Byron, and Brewer-Clifton all make spectacular wines that convey a sense of the unique and beautiful wine region they call home. And I can never pick favourite wines without thinking of Stonestreet Winery, where I first worked harvest and where we make wine from the ranch where I grew up in Alexander Valley – the Chardonnay and Cabernet are all deliciously crafted wines that always bring me home. 

I stay inspired by… I’m inspired that we will be able to change the trajectory we’re on with a warming planet. We have an opportunity to create a cleaner, more regenerative and compassionate world, and that inspires my hope for our children and future generations.  

The future excites me because… life is fascinating and unpredictable, and you never know where you may end up along the way. I look forward to seeing where my personal trajectory takes me, and to watch my children grow up and see the people they become. 

How Barbara Marinoni ignited change — both professionally and personally.

After fighting sexism and the status quo in her early career, Barbara Marinoni decided enough is enough, changed jobs, and started on a personal journey to focus on her health. Now she’s an Ironman triathlete and the National Director of Supply Chain at Ricoh Canada — where she’s encouraged to change business for the better. 


By Sarah Kelsey


Barbara Marinoni has never let convention dictate how she lives her life. The drive to do things differently started when she was young, thanks in part to her atypical upbringing. When she was five, her father and mother divorced and her father was the one who opted to raise her and her sister alone. 

“Can you imagine an Italian man choosing to raise two young girls in the ‘70s by himself?” she asks. “It was unheard of, and definitely against social and gender norms.”

But with those unique circumstances came valuable lessons about breaking down barriers, ignoring preconceived gender notions, and working hard to get what you want. 

“My father always told us you get out of life what you put into it,” she says. “He instilled a strong work ethic in us. We knew we had to push ourselves, especially when faced with problems.”

For Barbara, that meant challenging herself to take on roles in industries that were, in many ways, difficult for women. She started her career as a Quality Manager for a 3rd Party Service Provider to a leading automotive manufacturer in the ‘90s, and eventually worked her way up to the highly regarded position of Operations Manager. Barbara’s rise was almost unheard of given the gender inequality that often existed in the automotive industry at the time. 

“I fought gender battles every day,” she says. “I had to fight my way through to keep growing my career.” Many times that included working 15 to 16 hour days. It also meant trying to shut out nasty comments that jealous colleagues hurled her way. When asked, Barbara admits she never sought to change the culture she worked in (“it would have been impossible given how ingrained certain things were”), but she did seek to evolve how she led her teams.

“Even ten years ago, managing was more about just getting the work done and there was really no regard for people,” she says. “It didn’t matter what it took to get the work done, you just needed to get it done. In my automotive days, it was accepted to call people names if they did something wrong. It was a hard, difficult environment to work in, but I knew I could learn and grow from my experiences.”

That’s not to say that Barbara handled the stress of being the lone woman in a “boy’s club” well; it was the opposite. As her career took off, so too did the abuse she suffered at work, and to cope she turned to food. At one point she weighed 300 pounds, all because she had started to internalize the discrimination she faced. 

It was after one particularly awful incident that Barbara decided enough was enough — everything needed to change. 

“One day a young woman I worked with said she had heard there was a drawing of me in the men’s washroom. I checked the bathroom once it was empty, and on one stall’s wall there was a picture of me in the driver’s seat of my BMW — I knew it was me because I was the only one in the facility driving one. Whoever drew the image, did so in a way that accentuated my weight… they made it seem like the car was collapsing under me. Shortly thereafter I left and made a promise to myself to change a few things.” 

She started with her career. After leaving automotive, Barbara spent a few years working for a logistics company as a senior manager, and in 2012, landed at Ricoh — a “dream company.” Today, as National Director, Supply Chain, she says Ricoh has given her opportunities many other companies would not: the ability to grow teams, to learn from each other, and to change how business is done. 


“My advice for people who want to change their circumstances or to those who are facing challenges like I have is to never let your gender, or anything, get in your way. Allow yourself to be in difficult situations. Don’t be afraid to fail. Speak up.”


“We at Ricoh put more into the people than the process, because if you put more into the people the processes will follow,” Barbara says. “I have an amazing team and mentors within Ricoh; if I’m not sure about something, I have the support system to go to my executive team or my manager and run the ideas or thoughts by them to get some feedback to make sure I’m on the right track.” Because of this environment, she says she’s constantly learning, especially about how to grow as a leader, and as someone who empowers others. 

Barbara also began to focus on self-care. She started by changing how and what she ate, and by walking more. She also began to talk to someone about the mental abuse she suffered in her past roles. The weight slowly started to fall off, and she set new exercise goals for herself. Barbara went from walking to jogging then eventually training for half-marathons then full marathons (of which she’s now run eight). In 2016, she decided she wanted to challenge herself further by trying triathlons. “I knew I could run and ride a bike, and I was an OK swimmer, so I thought why not? Go big or go home,” she says. “It’s all or nothing for me.”

To date, Barbara has participated and completed three Ironman triathlons (an athletic feat that includes a 3.9 km swim, 180 km bike, plus a full marathon) and she’s scheduled for her fourth in August. She also has two half-Ironman triathlons on the books, with a third coming in July.

“My advice for people who want to change their circumstances or to those who are facing challenges like I have is to never let your gender, or anything, get in your way. Allow yourself to be in difficult situations. Don’t be afraid to fail. Speak up.” 

She adds that it’s key to define what success looks like for you, because it’s different for everyone — and that with effort, you can achieve whatever changes you need to reach that success. 

“At Ricoh, one of our values is GEMBA — a Japanese word with the literal meaning of ‘the actual place; the place where things happen; the place where work gets done and where value is created,’” explains Barbara. ”But for our company, and certainly for me, it really translates into having this outlook that we all have the ability to drive positive change, whether in ourselves or in society at large, and that we should all take action, and never give up.” 

GEMBA also encourages everyone to be aware in order to learn and grow, Barbara says, which resonates with her own personal and professional journey. 

“It’s funny because I think back to my childhood where my father would always say ‘you get out of life what you put into it.’ Truly, anything is possible. Change is possible. You just have to embrace it and not let anything stand in your way.”

Meet Kiki Athanas: In-House Nutritionist at Toronto-based healthy, fast-casual concept, Calii Love

In addition to being the in-house Nutritionist at Calii Love, Kiki Athanas is also a health writer and speaker specializing in holistic healing modalities spanning nutrition, mindfulness, and cannabis for wellness. Through working with health tech startups and wellness brands over the past several years, Kiki has advanced her education and experiences in natural lifestyle practices. She strives to inspire a new way of “mindful living” that fits today’s modern lifestyle, which she shares on her blog Today, she leads wellness events & workshops across Toronto and is in the process of natural her new adaptogenic supplements line, Kiki Naturals.


My first job ever was… Babysitting! Does that count? I got my Mum to send me a few gigs from her fellow Mom friends — she has always been a huge support and still is my biggest cheerleader in all things work & play!

I decided to be an entrepreneur because…  I have so much passion for the things I love and being an entrepreneur gives me the ability to share this passion. I also have little flexibility when it comes to not trying everything and anything, as it relates to my greater life purpose.

My proudest accomplishment is…  I’m a firm believer in taking each day as it comes and always looking ahead with an eye on the prize. I think I’m most proud of myself for living in the moment and being present to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that when you trust in what is and have little judgement of the past, the abundant possibilities of your future are endless — that’s exactly where I wish to focus my attention!

My boldest move to date was… Without a doubt, my boldest move to date has GOT to be quitting my full-time job. All the fine-tuned details of my soon-to-be-biz were NOT sorted out at the time, so it was a leap-of-faith. A little over a year ago, I felt the calling to “go big or go home” and in my eyes, that meant saying goodbye to a comfy monthly paycheck that, ultimately, kept me from focusing my energy on my own business dreams. It’s been an exciting and sometimes frightening journey ever since, and I’ll say this: it is NOT for the faint of heart!

I surprise people when I tell them… I want to be famous. No one seems to be comfortable just flat out saying it. When I do, I find that people are a little taken aback at how outright I am about it. 

My best advice from a mentor was… You’ve got to slow down to speed up. I am guilty of wanting to do ALL of the things. I accept and embrace that about myself — it’s one of my Human Design qualities, so no need to beat myself up about it! With that said, practicing the fine art of doing absolutely nothing is a powerful ritual that I now carve out time for. I make it a habit to block whitespace in my calendar for it. 

To me, health and wellness are… Maximizing the life in your years vs. the years in your life. Finding your purpose, alongside a supportive and loving community, is basically the golden pathway — at least in my eyes — to optimal health and wellness. Yes, I love superfoods, but it’s so much more than green smoothies and an infrared session.


“Finding your purpose, alongside a supportive and loving community, is basically the golden pathway to optimal health and wellness.”


My biggest setback was… ME! Learning to stop getting in my own way and de-condition myself from anxiety and the constant worries of daily life is now allowing me to reprogram my brain for abundance. Ultimately, this has allowed me to find peace in the present. 

I overcame it by… Practice. Meditation. Acceptance. Sit with it, sit with it, sit with it.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur is…  Definitely the freedom of making my own schedule! The fact that I can book a workout class at any time of the day I choose, is the BEST. Who doesn’t love a midday Lagree session on a weekday?!

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Still feel like I need an extra hour in the day.

The most fulfilling thing about my job is… Getting positive messages and responses from people who read my blogs, listen to my podcasts or attend my events. Money is nice, but knowing that I am genuinely making people feel better or somehow playing a little piece in inspiring them to BE better, is worth all of the money in the world.

The hardest thing about my job is… Knowing when it’s over. Because it never is – but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve rest and downtime.

I stay inspired by… Interacting with my business partner in SHINE @ambernaturally.

The future excites me because… It is unknown — and that’s what makes things EXCITING!!!

My next step is… Bringing out Adaptogenic Vegan Gummies: AdaptDaily as part of my Kiki Naturals launch in March 2020.


Should your business be exporting?

Thanks to Canada’s 14 free trade agreements, your business can benefit from preferential access to approximately 1.5 billion consumers. And when it comes to exporting, women are catching up with their male-counterparts fast. Wendy Cukier,  Founder, Ted Rogers School of Management’s Diversity Institute, shares her insights.  


By Wendy Cukier


Research has confirmed that women entrepreneurs face barriers at many levels. For example, one study found that when identical pitches were made by men and women, investors chose to invest in the man 60% of the time and in the woman, just 30% of the time.  

The difficulty in accessing capital is a perennial challenge for female entrepreneurs that forces them to be more creative in how they can attract growth capital. For instance, many women use personal equity to fund their businesses. Entrepreneurs like Delores Lawrence, for example, who founded her multi-million-dollar healthcare company by using $5,000 of her Canada Savings Bond.

And increasingly, women entrepreneurs are exporting to new markets, taking advantage of Canada’s 14 free trade agreements. That means preferential access to approximately 1.5 billion consumers from markets like the European Union, the United States, Asia and Latin America. In fact, a study by Global Affairs Canada showed that when it comes to exporting, the gender gap is closing and women are catching up with their male-counterparts fast. 

Women like Myra Sable, whose company Sable and Rosenfeld exports its gourmet food products worldwide, and Lyse Moreau, whose company Safety Clothing exports high-quality safety clothing to Mexico. 

All women should be exporting if their product lends itself to it because it makes good business sense. There are more customers in more densely populated countries for one thing, and diversifying your customer base protects your company and helps you weather economic downturns. Additionally, exporters are more productive, more competitive and according to some studies, 25% more likely to grow. And of course immigrant women entrepreneurs tend to export more than their Canadian born counterparts, leveraging their global knowledge and expertise. 

When you ask women-owned businesses why they aren’t exporting — a question that the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub is currently studying with its partners — they’ll tell you that they worry about risk. They’ll also tell you that they don’t necessarily know when to start or how to identify the international opportunities, navigate the rules and regulations, or form the partnerships they need to succeed at exporting.

There are so many excellent resources to help you export, from Trade Accelerator Programs at your Chamber of Commerce; to CanExport, a program that will pay for your market research; to the slew of programs provided by Export Development Canada (EDC); to the Magnet Export Portal; or the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Business Women in International Trade Program, all available and actively seeking more women entrepreneurs like you. And associations like the Organization of Women in Trade (OWIT) are always available and willing to support you with peer mentoring and advice. 

Exporting has never been more accessible than it is now with low cost and high return e-commerce platforms that provide a window to a world of potential customers — whether it is Etsy or Alibaba, e-commerce is changing the game by taking gender out of the equation and letting the goods speak for themselves. 

If you’re a woman entrepreneur, you already have grit and you’re certainly industrious and innovative — it wouldn’t be like you to leave an opportunity untapped.

So here are three tips to get you started: First, call up EDC and ask them if exporting is right for you. Second, ask your local Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade or OWIT how they can help you. Finally, build your networks: find an entrepreneur with exporting experience and ask for their advice. The world, after all, is your oyster.