No Title – Women of Influence Tue, 29 Nov 2022 23:26:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 No Title – Women of Influence 32 32 30th Annual Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Gala- Photo Gallery 2022 Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:41:15 +0000 #ngg-gallery-64a424a310ddab54fb66d8c2734cec7d .ngg-pro-masonry-item { margin-bottom: 10px; } ]]> Meet Megan Mummery, designer of the sustainable womenswear label OhSevenDays. Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:29:48 +0000 Megan Mummery is the founder and designer of the contemporary womenswear label OhSevenDays. Originally from Canada, Megan spent time studying in Australia and moved to London in 2012 to work in fashion. After time spent working in London, Megan relocated to Istanbul, and after noticing an untapped resource of deadstock fabric in the city, she launched OhSevenDays in 2016. The label aims to be a staple, go-to brand for ethical and style-conscious consumers that want wardrobe staples that are elevated by unique details. Learn more about Megan below.


My first job ever was… working as an ice cream server at Cold Rock! I was fired because I stood up to the misogynistic boss. 

Before I was a business owner, I was… I started my career in marketing and worked for various not-for-profit charities in their marketing department. Although I enjoyed the NFP environment, I wasn’t a fan of the rigid 9-to-5 working constrictions. 

I founded OhSevenDays because… I always had a dream of running my own business, but it wasn’t exactly tangible until I moved to Istanbul and found a concept I could get behind. I discovered a huge untapped resource of deadstock fabrics that I realized would be a great basis for a sustainable brand. 

One of the most important things I learned about myself in my time as an entrepreneur is… that I have thicker skin than I imagined, or perhaps I grew thicker skin throughout the process. Entrepreneurship comes with a whole lot of rejections, unmet expectations, and seemingly soul crushing failures. The key learning throughout the process for me was to stay persistent throughout these failings and just wake up the next day and try something new. 

My proudest accomplishment is… the business and work environment I’ve created. I love that we have a thriving all-woman team working hard together to make a sustainable business succeed. 

My biggest setback was… outsourcing too early, and trusting aspects of the business to consultants who didn’t have our best interest in mind. 

“Entrepreneurship comes with a whole lot of rejections, unmet expectations, and seemingly soul crushing failures. The key learning throughout the process for me was to stay persistent throughout these failings and just wake up the next day and try something new.”

I overcame it by… bringing core elements of the business back in-house and ensuring that before we outsource, we all knew how to do everything ourselves, giving us greater control and the ability to make more educated choices on who we work with. 

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… choose something niche and perfect it rather than trying to do it all. If I could go back, I’d probably have reduced my product range. 

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… something I’ve always struggled with is the ability to celebrate the successes as much as I writhe the failures. Making a conscious effort to add each success to my artillery of confidence, and retrieve them in times of doubt is an ongoing exercise as an entrepreneur

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… read more, especially non-fiction books that might help my personal growth as a boss. 

The thing I love most about what I do is… how varied every day can be. I really love dipping my toes in every aspect of the business, from design to finance. 

The one thing I wish I knew when starting OhSevenDays is… a bit more about PnLs and finance! 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I was a national level swimmer most of my adolescence. 

I stay inspired by… mostly my travels and just people watching. My husband and I are avid travelers, and I find people watching around the world is the ultimate inspiration. 

The future excites me because… you never know what’s around the corner! Because we’re always confronted with exciting new collaborations and opportunities, it’s truly never boring.

My next step is… we’re hoping to open a flagship store of some sort. The location is still unknown, but we’d ultimately love to turn this digital baby into a bricks and mortar toddler. 

Six women-owned businesses perfect for your 2022 holiday shopping. Sun, 27 Nov 2022 03:22:19 +0000

Whether you’re looking for office thank you’s, holiday party gifts, or a little self-indulgence, these six women-owned businesses have a multitude of options for everyone on your list. 

All prices in Canadian dollars.

Healthy Genie creates gourmet date spreads that prove a treat can be nutritious, delicious, and chic. With three flavours to choose from, we’re reaching for the Organic Date & Chocolate Spread ($13.99), which blends the sweetness from the dates with the dark tones of pure cocoa. For something more traditional, try the Organic Date & Tahini Spread ($13.99). 

About Maryam:

Growing up in Abu Dhabi, founder and nutritionist Maryam Munaf learned about dates through her trips to the Date Market with her father — ‘the Date Guru’, as she calls him. Moving to Toronto in 2013, she’s passionate about introducing the superfood she grew up with to Canadian kitchens and families. 

Rooted in Indigenous wellness, LODGE uses undyed, 100% natural soybean wax to make environmentally friendly candles infused with unique blends of essential oils and essences. Their Winter Solstice Maskwa Collection, which includes two sizes of candles ($45/$65) as well as Holistic Wellness Mist ($22), was made in collaboration with Healer Asha Frost, and blends frankincense, balsam fir, and cedarwood to create a warm and spicy scent that inspires peace, grounding, protection, and wellbeing.

About Angela DeMontigny:

Angela DeMontigny is an internationally-renowned Indigenous Canadian fashion designer and artist. Inspired through ceremony and ancestral knowledge, she founded LODGE soy candles to ᒥᔨᑯᓯᐏᐣ miyikosiwin (gift) ceremony and light into people’s lives.

From innovative skin and bath goods to beautiful Gua Sha tools and facial rollers, Happy Natural Products incorporates the rich culture of Asian lifestyle, beauty, and wellness into functional products for everyday families. Their Ginger Tangerine Eucalyptus Shower Steamers ($25) are handmade with all-natural ingredients in small batches in Canada — and can transform a shower into an aromatherapeutic experience.  

About Jennifer:

Inspired by her grandmother’s daily rituals and incredible story, founder Jennifer Uy created Happy Natural Products as an ode to the strong, resilient and beautiful women in her family. She wanted to develop Happy products for everyday families who are looking to make the switch to a more natural lifestyle.

Chandler Honey offers a collection of organic raw honey, all naturally infused with whole ingredients such as lemon zest and vanilla beans to create unique flavours like Crème Brûlée, Lemon & Ginger, Piña Colada, and more. Pick up a decadent jar ($11 – $16) or grab a Holiday Small Bundle ($33) that includes Gingerbread, Apple Pie, and Creamy Chai.

About Tique:

Founder Tique Chandler grew up on her parent’s honey farm, in the small town of Scandia, Alberta. She learned how to take care of hives as a teenager, and has been experimenting with honey flavours for years. All of the creamy white prairie honey used in Chandler Honey is sourced from the family farm and then lovingly hand-infused in Toronto.

From coastal British Columbia, Sealuxe uses elements of thalassotherapy to develop ethically-sourced bath and skincare products infused with the Pacific Ocean’s unique ingredients including seaweed, salt, and Canadian glacial marine clay. Their festive Candy Cane Beach Glass ($24) adds a festive twist to their classic single serve soap, making it peppermint-scented and coloured with red, white, and green.

About Tanya:

Founder Tanya Droege’s experiences as a young, single mother and a brush with thyroid cancer instilled in her a passion for creating her own skin and beauty products using the health benefits of seaweed — leading to the creation of Sealuxe.

Yawdi’s offers a range of internationally inspired condiments made with all-natural, premium ingredients — providing convenience without compromising on taste. Add a tropical twist to your baked brie with Pineapple Pepper Jelly ($8.99), combining sweet citrus and spicy heat, or try one of the other three flavours with a kick.

About Veneise:

Veneise George’s passion for travelling and her desire to try food wherever she travels was the inspiration behind Yawdi’s. She noticed food never tastes the same once you leave the country that it originates from, so she established her brand with the sole purpose of bringing the tastes of different countries to your kitchen.

Colleen Baldwin is passionate about influencing change and promoting accessibility — here’s how she’s removing barriers and building an inclusive work environment at Scotiabank Fri, 25 Nov 2022 00:08:43 +0000 By Sarah Kelsey


When you’re sitting in a space, take a moment to assess it. How does it make you feel? Is it inviting? Does it spark creativity? Can you easily access the items you need?

These are all questions Colleen Baldwin asks herself when reviewing Scotiabank’s massive real estate portfolio. As the Bank’s Vice President, Head of Global Design Strategy & Transformation in Real Estate, she is responsible for affecting the design of the 26 million sq. ft (over 2.4 million sq. m) she manages across 30 countries. She has a keen understanding of how the spaces she’s creating — whether they’re for work, play, or to bank — impact one’s sense of well-being and belonging. 

Colleen’s goal is for her team to provide everyone with the same meaningful Scotiabank experience, whether they’re an employee or a customer. 

“At the core of everything we do is connection. Everyone wants to feel connected,” she says. “We’re all far more similar than we are different, so at the heart of the work we’re doing is building a relationship.” 

She points to one of the Bank’s most recent large-scale projects, Scotiabank North, as a prime example. Started in 2018, the design of the organization’s new Toronto-based tower was developed to get people away from their desks to facilitate better connections and collaboration and by providing unique spaces to support these activities. The same principles were used in Scotiabank’s ecosystems in Toronto, Jamaica and most recently, Mexico City.   

“At the core of everything we do is connection. Everyone wants to feel connected.”

“At the Bank, employees have choice; they can go to a meeting corner where they can have a conversation or to The Commons, a connected space for all that includes a cafeteria and high-end coffee service. Here they can connect with colleagues in a more informal environment,” she says. “It gives all employees options about where and how they work,” which is something that is more important than ever before in this post-COVID office space era.

In the real estate department at the Bank, inclusive design and accessibility also play an integral role in new and existing spaces. As members of Scotiabank’s DiversAbility Employee Resource Group (ERG), Colleen and her team are deeply passionate about building spaces that accommodate everyone’s unique needs and preventing the physical or mental barriers that one might encounter in the workplace.

“I joined the DiversAbility ERG as an ally,” she notes. “It’s an important place for me to be because I need to hear from people who require accommodation so we can design things differently.” The feedback she has received so far has led her team to create several unique spaces, including spaces to accommodate support dogs and personal care rooms where individuals can take medications they require during the day. There are also prayer and meditation rooms for those who want to utilize them. 

“There have been several ‘a-ha!’ moments, and everything I’ve learned has helped my team and I design more inclusive spaces,” she says. “The Bank cares deeply about creating a culture that’s inclusive and where every employee feels empowered and respected.”

She notes the organization has the same focus and goals for customers, creating a culture of openness within its branches is imperative. 

“Do you leave feeling more energized than when you arrived? If so, then we’ve achieved what we should have in creating a space that’s diverse and inclusive.”

Colleen recounts a visit to Mexico where she toured a small micro-financing bank that displayed work by local women-led companies the bank was supporting. As a result, the bank also started displaying stories of bank philanthropy and customer stories in the kitchenettes of their ecosystems. “There’s no better way to showcase your values than that,” she notes, and it’s why, when you walk into Scotiabank spaces you will see — in the images and environment — key words and messages that showcase the organization’s desire to create genuine connection, and providing accessible customer service is the key to that.

“Do you leave feeling more energized than when you arrived?” Colleen asks. “If so, then we’ve achieved what we should have in creating a space that’s diverse and inclusive.”

She notes it’s a desire to give back and build lasting connections that drives her on a daily basis. “I love learning about people and their needs and translating that into something tangible,” she says. “I’m so lucky to do what I love and to work for an organization that makes inclusion a priority.” 

Colleen adds, “I’ve always known design matters — accessibility issues, diversity, inclusion — we’re really affecting everyone with what we do. Every little thing has value. We’re always reimagining the future and looking to create great experiences. This is a very rich environment to be in.”  


Meet Lianne Di Rocco, a top wealth advisor and leader of an all-women team. Thu, 24 Nov 2022 21:12:49 +0000 A Senior Wealth Advisor and Portfolio Manager at BMO Nesbitt Burns, Lianne Di Rocco has been advising high net worth families, foundations, and institutional clients since 1994. After a bold career transition — she originally owned a catering business — Lianne has since earned designations as Personal Financial Planner (PFP®), Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM), and Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®). In 2015, she became a Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute (FCSI), the most senior credential in the Canadian financial services industry. Starting out at a time when the industry was overwhelmingly male-dominated, Lianne’s trailblazing 30-year career has led her to be recognized as one of the top women advisors in the field of wealth management, and she proudly manages an all-women team. Building her business on meaningful connections, Lianne truly enjoys sharing her years of human and financial insight with her clients.


My first job ever was… in my family business, when I was about 12. On Saturday mornings, my sister and I would walk to our father’s office where his bookkeeper had left us tasks to complete. I remember in particular needing to organize the blank ledger books by measuring and penning the columns, filling out the titles, and numbering the pages. This was when everything was still handwritten.

My boldest move to date was… switching careers. I had a catering business in Belleville, the small community where I grew up, and realized that due to the long and unconventional work hours, it would not be conducive to having a family and raising kids. I decided I wanted to become a stockbroker and took the train to Toronto to interview in different departments at an investment firm. For the most part, it went absolutely nowhere; I was told “You’d be good in the back office,” and “Maybe you could be a sales assistant.”

By the end of the day, I was so frustrated that in my meeting with a retail manager I just said, “Listen, I’ve got to go get the train back to Belleville, I have to feed 250 people in a field tomorrow.” We got to talking about my catering business and how I had grown it, and afterwards, I was asked if I wanted to join the rookie training program. I signed the contract without reading a single ounce of anything. I just knew it started in September, and it was June.

My biggest challenge was… my very first day at the rookie training program. I had sold my business, moved to Toronto, and I didn’t know a soul. The instructor said, “Take out your pen and paper and start writing down where your clients are going to come from.” My stomach still drops when I think about this, because I had assumed they were going to give me clients, not that I had to go out and find them on my own.

I overcame it by… realizing I had to differentiate myself. It was 1994, and everybody was talking about stocks and trading equities, so I learned everything I could about the fixed income market. I called myself the “Bond Girl” and conducted seminars to educate about buying bonds versus GICs, and the advantages of buying bonds in a declining interest rate environment.

In hindsight, I was already differentiated because I was a woman — there were only two others in my rookie training program. That in and of itself could’ve been the steppingstone to use, but it wasn’t even on my radar at the time.

“When a new client comes in, I don’t request statements or bring account opening documents. Instead, we have a meaningful conversation about who they are and who the people most important to them are.” 

My approach with clients is… focused on connection. When a new client comes in, I don’t request statements or bring account opening documents. Instead, we have a meaningful conversation about who they are and who the people most important to them are. To be able to pass these assets on to the children and the grandchildren — that’s what we’re about.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself since getting started is… trusting myself intuitively. We know when something’s wrong, and we know when we’re on the right path. My ability to honour that and to follow through comes more naturally now then when I was younger, due to my years of experience in the business, building my confidence and trust in myself.

My advice for women interested in a career as a financial advisor is… you can’t overthink it. If you do, you’re going to talk yourself out of it. It’s going to be hard, but if you trust the process and you’re honest about the effort that you’re putting in, you will be successful. Set big goals and if you don’t achieve them, that’s okay. You had the courage to set it and try.

I’m passionate about having all women on my team because… when I started in the business 30 years ago, it was completely male-dominated with the opportunities being afforded primarily to men. The system has changed and things have improved, but I still feel that I have a responsibility to bring women onto my team and to continue to grow it, and I’m very passionate about calling out any unfair treatment, or when I see a woman being taken advantage of in the business. At some point, when I retire, I will absolutely have a woman carry on and grow what I’ve built. 

The thing I love most about what I do is… being able to connect with clients, and to empower them. I have a multi-generational book of business and have clients who may no longer be with us, but I have the opportunity to deal with their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. To be able to pass that legacy down, to be able to say, “Your grandmother was like this,” or “Your grandfather would be so proud of you that you’re buying your house” — it’s an honor that I get to be in their lives.

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I am very passionate about growing organic food.

The future excites me because… we are finally embracing diversity. We’re moving at an exponential rate now after little change in the last 25 plus years. There’s opportunity for women and other historically marginalized communities. It’s amazing because we are going to get a better input and output that will translate into even stronger relationships.

My next step is… building out my team. I have always said, “We don’t have to be the biggest, but we do have to be the best.” I’ll need to change that as my goal is for us to be the biggest all-female advisory team in Canada, while still providing best-in-class service. That’s the next chapter and it’s going to be phenomenal.

les lauréates des Prix canadiens de l’entrepreneuriat féminin RBC 2022 sont annoncées Thu, 24 Nov 2022 12:55:47 +0000

Sept lauréates ont été récompensées à la 30e remise annuelle des Prix canadiens de l’entrepreneuriat féminin RBC, présentés par Femmes d’influence. Elles se joignent aux cinq lauréates du prix de l’entrepreneure prometteuse, qui avaient été dévoilées en septembre.

Les lauréates de chacune des catégories de prix sont des leaders inspirantes et résilientes qui ont fait preuve des qualités nécessaires pour réussir dans l’économie d’aujourd’hui, qui évolue rapidement. Les femmes qui forment ce groupe exceptionnel cette année ont été choisies pour leurs réalisations dans un large éventail de secteurs, dont l’apprentissage socio-émotionnel, les ressources humaines, les technologies propres, la construction, les produits de santé et de beauté et l’intelligence artificielle.

« Depuis 30 ans, les Prix canadiens de l’entrepreneuriat féminin RBC soulignent le parcours d’innovatrices et de dirigeantes inspirantes qui transforment le milieu des affaires au Canada. Cette année, plus que jamais, les lauréates sont des exemples de leadership, de dynamisme et d’ingéniosité, a déclaré Sean Amato-Gauci, vice-président directeur, Services financiers à l’entreprise, RBC. Avec les Prix canadiens de l’entrepreneuriat féminin RBC 2022, nous amorçons une nouvelle décennie au cours de laquelle nous découvrirons et ferons connaître d’autres histoires d’entrepreneuriat des plus remarquables, et célébrerons les réalisations de femmes exceptionnelles dans le milieu des affaires canadien. »

Les prix, qui en sont à leur 30e année d’existence, visent à reconnaître l’impressionnante contribution des entrepreneures et dirigeantes d’entreprise du pays à l’économie locale, canadienne ou mondiale. Le jury des Prix canadiens de l’entrepreneuriat féminin RBC est composé de 15 membres, parmi lesquels figurent quelques-unes des plus importantes dirigeantes au Canada, notamment : Françoise Lyon, présidente et associée principale, DGC Capital ; Christine Scott, fondatrice, The Accomplice Project ; Surranna Sandy, chef de la direction, Skills for Change ; Elizabeth Dipchand, avocate spécialisée en propriété intellectuelle, Dipchand LLP ; et Janis Nixon, chef des partenariats, Futurpreneur.

L’annonce officielle des lauréates de 2022 a eu lieu le 23 novembre lors du 30e gala des Prix canadiens de l’entrepreneuriat féminin RBC, animé par Marcia MacMillan, chef d’antenne, CTV News, à l’hôtel Fairmont Royal York.

Cette année, plus de 9 000 mises en candidature soulignant la contribution d’entrepreneures des quatre coins du pays ont été reçues. Voici les lauréates de 2022:

Lors du gala, on a également honoré les lauréates du prix de l’entrepreneure prometteuse : Caitlyn Vanderhaeghe, KidStar Nutrients ; Fadwa Mohanna, One37 ID ; Lisa Karandat et Alexa Monahan, Good Juju Body & Home ; Shannon Hunter, Wander the Resort ; et Tiffany Callender, Federation of African Canadian Economics (FACE).

« Nous sommes honorées de souligner les incroyables réalisations des lauréates de cette année, a déclaré Alicia Skalin, cochef de la direction et responsable des activités, Femmes d’influence. Leur impact économique sur notre pays en période de turbulence a été tout à fait remarquable. »


Pour plus d’information, visitez le communiqué de presse |  For more information, view the press release.

Announcing the 2022 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Winners! Thu, 24 Nov 2022 12:52:50 +0000

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.

We are proud to announces the seven winners of the 30th annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. These award winners join the five recipients of the up-and-coming entrepreneur Ones to Watch award category, which was announced in September of this year. 

The winners in each of the award categories are inspiring and resilient leaders who have demonstrated what it takes to be successful in today’s rapidly changing economy. This year’s cohort of recipients spans sectors that include social-emotional learning, human resources, clean-tech, construction, health and beauty, AI and beyond.

“For 30 years, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards have spotlighted countless stories of inspiring women innovators and leaders who are transforming the Canadian business landscape – and this year’s winners are a further testament to the leadership, passion and ingenuity coming out of this community,” said Sean Amato-Gauci, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “As we launch a new decade of the 2022 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, we’re excited to discover and share more of these remarkable stories of entrepreneurship and to celebrate the achievements of exceptional women in Canadian business.”

Now in its 30th year, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards program recognizes the country’s leading women entrepreneurs and organizational leaders who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. The judging panel of the awards program is comprised of 15 judges who are notably some of Canada’s top business leaders, including: Françoise Lyon, President and Managing Partner, DGC Capital; Christine Scott, Founder, The Accomplice Project; Surranna Sandy, CEO, Skills for Change; Elizabeth Dipchand, Intellectual Property Lawyer, Dipchand LLP and Janis Nixon, Director Corporate Engagement, Futurpreneur.

The official announcement of the 2022 award recipients was made at the 30th Annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards gala, which was held at the Fairmont Royal York on November 23rd and hosted by Marcia MacMillan, Anchor, CTV News Channel. 

This year, over 9,000 nominations were received recognizing women entrepreneurs from across the country. The 2022 award winners are:

The Gala also honoured the recipients of the Ones to Watch Award: Caitlyn Vanderhaeghe, KidStar NutrientsFadwa Mohanna, One37 IDLisa Karandat and Alexa Monahan, Good Juju Body & HomeShannon Hunter, Wander the Resort; and Tiffany Callender, The Federation of African Canadian Economics (FACE).  

“We are honoured to recognize the incredible achievements of this year’s award recipients,” says Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO & Head of Events, Women of Influence. “The economic impact they have had on our country during turbulent times has been nothing short of remarkable.”

For more information, view the press release.  |  Pour plus d’information, visitez le communiqué de presse

Backed by $6 billion from the Government of Canada, innovative initiatives are fuelling women entrepreneurs. Mon, 21 Nov 2022 21:33:19 +0000 Tanya Zurock’s journey as an entrepreneur started like many others: she was trying to solve a problem. She began making natural soap to improve the health of her young children’s extremely dry and sensitive skin. This led to a deep passion, years of meticulous experimentation, and eventually the Wild Prairie Soap Company, which produces small-batched, plant-based, body-care products for dry and sensitive skin. 

Since establishing her business in 2000, Tanya has expanded her brand into over 200 retail locations, digital platforms, and international markets. In 2019, she received a grant through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Fund — a federal government program providing a total of $30 million to help women-owned and women-led businesses grow and reach export markets. 

“I can honestly say that receiving the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Grant in 2019 really was a pivotal point for us,” says Tanya. “It helped us to scale up our manufacturing, buy new tanks, new scales.” In the three years since, she’s had a rapid increase in revenue, enabling her company to expand its work force and production capacity, and to retain its visibility in international markets.

Tanya’s story shows how access to funding and support can unlock growth opportunities — and that’s true on a much broader scale as well. Studies show that by advancing gender equality and women’s participation in the economy, Canada could add up to $150 billion in GDP. 

It’s a key reason the Government of Canada launched their Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) in 2018, with the goal of increasing the number of women-owned and women-led businesses in the country. The WES Grant Tanya received is just one element of the broad initiative, which on the whole totals more than $6 billion in investments and commitments aimed at increasing women-owned businesses’ access to the financing, talent, networks and expertise they need to start up, scale up, and access new markets.

“Almost 90% of private sector jobs in Canada are in SMEs, and entrepreneurship is a pathway to economic growth and jobs for all Canadians.” 

Organized around four pillars — helping women-owned businesses grow; increasing access to capital; improving access to federal business innovation programming; and enhancing data and knowledge — the WES sets out a flexible approach to the delivery of nationally coordinated, regionally tailored programming that recognizes the varying needs of diverse women entrepreneurs across Canada. It pulls together multiple organizations, including Government of Canada resources, private sector corporations, and local community groups, and supports key programs such as the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) Canada’s most comprehensive network and resource for supporting Canada’s women entrepreneurship ecosystem.  

Four years after the WES was announced, the innovative initiatives it backs continue to positively impact not only women entrepreneurs and the organizations supporting them, but also the economy as a whole. “Almost 90% of private sector jobs in Canada are in SMEs, and entrepreneurship is a pathway to economic growth and jobs for all Canadians,” says Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute which leads WEKH. “We need an inclusive and sustainable ecosystem to support diverse women entrepreneurs.”

WEKH plays a key role in supporting that ecosystem, offering women entrepreneurs and organizations supporting women entrepreneurs with resources and tips on how to grow their businesses, access financing and navigate procurement and export systems and source opportunities. Everything takes into account the unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. “When we develop policies and programs we must apply a gender and diversity lens,” says Wendy. “Most of our entrepreneurial financing and support systems were designed by men for men.”

WEKH also leads the largest analysis annually of women entrepreneurs in Canada through its State of Women Entrepreneurship (SOWE) Report. “It’s key to ensure that strategies to reduce barriers of entry and scale up of women-led companies are data-driven,” says Wendy. “WEKH provides a one-stop source of knowledge, data, and best practices to help organizations help women entrepreneurs across the country succeed.

And the impact goes far beyond the business case. As the SOWE Report points out, compared to men, women entrepreneurs are more often driven by the need to address societal challenges — from environmental sustainability to social and economic inclusion.  

“It’s key to ensure that strategies to reduce barriers of entry and scale up of women-led companies are data-driven.”

Take Alisha Esmail, founder of Road Coffee. On a mission to tackle systemic injustices in the coffee industry, she sources quality beans from families of smallholder coffee farmers and sells them directly to the consumer, then invests back into the farmer’s land. Her BeyondFair® trade and microfinance program has led to an average increase of 25 cents per pound in the crop value for 11 farmers and their families. 

Alisha has been helped with financing herself, receiving a WES Grant in 2019 that provided her with the resources to develop her E-commerce platforms, expand her business, and thrive during the pandemic while cafés and offices were closed. With the additional mentorship and training that Alisha has received, her business has created strong foundations in her community which has established the company’s reputation and opened doors to investors and coffee farmers.

“A lot of the local incubators or local hubs that are connected to what women entrepreneurs are doing really helps with, not only community, but it could be where to find funding,” says Alisha. “It’s super helpful, from mentorship to funding opportunities.” 

Sylvie Ouellette and Rana Khartabil can also attest to the benefits of connecting with business communities. In 2010, they co-founded Versatil, an IT solutions and professional consulting services company, which holds the distinction of being the only Canadian company certified by four professional organizations: WBE Canada (Women Business Enterprises Canada Council), CAMSC (Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council), CCAB (Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business), and CGLCC (Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce).

“I’m proud to say that we are a women-owned, Indigenous, and LGBTQ company,” explains Sylvie, “so I am part of all the councils: WBE, CAMSC, CCAB, CGLCC. A lot of the networking is very good.”

Versatil operates primarily in Ottawa and Montreal, with expansion plans into Toronto and the United States. Since receiving support through the WES Fund, revenue growth has been consistently over 50% every year. 

As the individual success stories illustrate, progress has been made since the launch of the WES in 2018 — but access to capital, particularly in smaller amounts, remains a significant barrier for many women entrepreneurs seeking to start or grow their businesses. To address the issue, the Government of Canada allocated $55 million in Budget 2021 for the creation of a new national microloans fund under the umbrella of WES.  

The Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund is delivered through not-for-profit organizations with existing loan programs, enabling them to provide additional affordable financing to women entrepreneurs particularly start-ups, under-represented groups or sole proprietorships that experience more difficulty in accessing financing. Four organizations are now accepting applications for loans of up to $50,000, including the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC), National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA), Northumberland Development Assistance Corp (NCFDC), and Coralus (formerly SheEO) Canada.

For women entrepreneurs looking to access venture capital funding, the WES added another ecosystem support initiative in April 2022. The Inclusive Women Venture Capital Initiative allocated $15 million to support new projects focusing on responding to barriers in the venture capital environment, especially for diverse, intersectional and/or under-served women. Rather than directly investing in ventures or funds, the aim is to help strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs’ access to VC funding, contribute to increasing the representation of women in the VC industry, or help ensure that the VC industry is sensitive to gender and potential unconscious bias.

From ecosystem growth, to entrepreneur funding and support, to critical data — the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy is directly and indirectly making more women entrepreneur success stories possible. If you’re among that group and wondering how you can tap into help, the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) is a great place to access and learn more about the resources and funding opportunities available. 

What you should know about women entrepreneurs in Canada ahead of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. Mon, 14 Nov 2022 22:24:03 +0000 During November the world and the United Nations celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. The movement which started nearly a decade ago in 2013 accelerates and educates the world on the importance of why it’s pivotal to empower women in business globally. The global goal is to ignite women leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and aspiring  entrepreneurs to spark start-ups, drive economic expansion, and advance inclusion in ecosystems worldwide.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is an opportunity to celebrate and spotlight the tremendous contributions of diverse women entrepreneurs to Canada’s social and economic development.

Research from the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) provides evidence to highlight opportunities and gaps in Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. The State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada 2022 finds, in part, that the number of new women-founded start-ups with a valuation of more than US$1 Billion (“Unicorns”) in Canada has almost doubled since 2019. And despite the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women-owned businesses, women entrepreneurs have demonstrated incredible resilience, ingenuity, and ability to innovate amid uncertainty.  

“Targeting funding for women entrepreneurs is critical but we also need to erode barriers in the ecosystem,” said Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute which leads WEKH. “We have anecdotal data from organizations like Coralus (formerly SheEO) that show dollar for dollar intelligent investments in women entrepreneurs produce higher returns and lower risks and are more likely to contribute to the sustainable development goals than other taken-for-granted investments in tech and manufacturing. We are currently undertaking research that we expect will show that this is true on a larger scale.”

“Targeting funding for women entrepreneurs is critical but we also need to erode barriers in the ecosystem.”

But, women entrepreneurs still face systemic barriers to starting and growing their businesses. 

Throughout November, WEKH is participating in numerous panels, presentations, and webinars which highlight the unique challenges that women entrepreneurs face in the innovation ecosystem and provide recommendations for moving the agenda forward including policies, practices, and capacity building.

The word “entrepreneur” tends to be associated with men in technology. Yet entrepreneurs operate across sectors — women are more likely to be in services, in arts and culture, in sustainable and social ventures. For example, a Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub study of applications to the BMO Celebrating Women Grant program showed women entrepreneurs often combine sustainable development goals with economic goals in developing their businesses. 

“Definitions matter: only 15% of small and medium enterprises or SMEs are majority owned by women, about 110,000 companies. But almost 40% of self employed Canadians are women (more than 1 million) Women entrepreneurs are less likely to incorporate their business and are more likely to be in services,” said Wendy. “We need to ensure policies and services support them.” 

While highlighting Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in November, WEKH maintains a focus on women entrepreneurship every day of the year. To challenge entrepreneurship stereotypes and celebrate the success of women entrepreneurs, WEKH launched the See it. Be it. Database in 2020 featuring over 1000 profiles of successful women entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, sectors, experiences, and regions across Canada. “Women need to see successful women entrepreneurs so they can dare become one,” adds Wendy. 

“Women need to see successful women entrepreneurs so they can dare become one.”

Women also need better access to financing. Men are four times more likely to receive venture capital and angel investor funding — in part because of bias as well as structural issues. While most entrepreneurs in Canada start their businesses with $5000 or less, it remains difficult to access seed funding.

Wendy notes that complex problems require complex solutions, requiring buy-in from actors across the entire innovation ecosystem. Governments, universities, incubators and accelerators, financial institutions and venture capital, and customers each have a role to play to create a more inclusive environment in which to grow women’s businesses. 

“Women do need access to loans and grants but most of all they need access to customers,” said Wendy. “Organizations that say they are committed to gender equality and diversity need to put their money where their mouth is. Ensuring women owned businesses get a fair share of procurement in government and the private sector is potentially a game changer.” 

WEKH works closely with Women Business Enterprises Canada Council, Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council, Black Business and Professionals Association, and the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to ensure that women and diverse entrepreneurs are able to access markets. Organizations like RFAQ, in Quebec, also have innovative programs to help this happen.

Thinking of exporting? Three Canadian women business owners share details about their export journey. Tue, 08 Nov 2022 23:49:51 +0000

When it comes to exporting, you don’t need to have a big business to benefit. From growing your customer base to creating new revenue streams and increasing resiliency, expanding to foreign markets can have a substantial positive impact—no matter your company size.    

To better understand the opportunity, we spoke with three small business founders—Muna Mohammed of Eight50 Coffee, Felicia Lekan-Salami of Milton Food Group, and Shivani Dhamija of Shivani’s Kitchen—about the benefits they’ve realized from exporting. 

Their journeys all started with the iLaunchHERproduct program. Developed by de Sedulous Women Leaders, an organization committed to empowering, mentoring, supporting, and educating immigrant women in management and entrepreneurship, Export Development Canada (EDC) was a sponsor of the 2021 year-long program. It was designed to help Black women, women of colour, and immigrant women entrepreneurs who are retail-ready receive the necessary training, support, and tools to connect with buyers and grow their business.

It’s just one way EDC is deepening its impact on inclusion, diversity, and equity through a dedicated strategy to further engage with women entrepreneurs who also identify with other dimensions of diversity—and who face even more barriers when scaling a business. 

Here’s what Muna, Felicia, and Shivani had to say about their exporting journey and the valuable insights they’ve gained from working with de Sedulous Women Leaders and EDC.

Muna Mohammed | Eight50 Coffee

Tell us about yourself and your business…

Eight50 Coffee is a purpose-driven coffee company with deep coffee roots. We named our business after the year 850 AD when coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. To continue a family legacy in coffee and pay homage to my late grandfather, who was a coffee farmer, Eight50 Coffee was born in 2020.

After working in various organizations and leading marketing teams for 15 years, I decided to take a leap of faith and leverage my knowledge of coffee and expertise in marketing and branding to launch Eight50 Coffee. My passions include sharing ancient coffee traditions, discussing coffee’s origins, and working with coffee farmers and local artisans to create various sustainable coffee byproducts. 

From flexible subscription options to brewing method resources, we also provide an array of premium, functional, and meaningful home, lifestyle, and coffee equipment products—from specialty brewing tools to traditional Ethiopian coffee cups—to complete the home brewing experience. Our focus is to provide responsibly sourced specialty coffee from around the world, all locally roasted here in Ottawa, so customers can truly enjoy our single origin and unique blends at home.


How has exporting impacted your business, and what’s next for you?

Exporting allowed us to access more diverse business partners and also broaden our product offering. Exporting has also helped increase sales and volume which allowed us to work with larger manufacturing partners, resulting in a decrease in production costs. We’ve been fortunate enough to grow our business from online sales and move into retail stores, gaining the interest of large retailers in the last two years while also growing our business opportunities in the U.S. market. This shift has been a game changer in how our business has grown and will continue to scale.

Training sessions, business seminars, specialist trade services, and support provided by EDC and organizations like WeConnect International and the de Sedulous Women Leaders iLaunchHERproduct program have been critical. There were some great workshops we accessed while working with iLaunchHERproduct where we learned about tools of the trade. 

Accessing the resources and information EDC shared about international markets helped me  make more informed decisions when assessing to work in international markets. Learning about EDC services definitely gave me more confidence to access markets I had not previously considered due to risk and lack of knowledge around the benefits of exporting. There are a number of untapped international trade opportunities we’ll be exploring, and building strong export strategies for each of those markets will be key to our ongoing success.


What advice would you share with other small businesses looking to export?

Begin by connecting with resources available to businesses through organizations, like EDC and your local Board of Trade available in your city. Work on creating an international marketing plan with clear objectives, and seek advice and help to discuss the legal and tax implications of going global with professionals early on. 

The U.S. can be a great start for exporting, but being open-minded about exporting to markets overseas where your business may have additional potential for growth is key. By diversifying your reach outside of North American markets, the benefits can far outweigh the risks.


You were selected as one of the 25 iLaunchHERproduct entrepreneurs. What did you learn from the program?

The program challenges you to think in-depth about your business and capability when approaching large-scale suppliers. I learned about the power of collaboration between businesses as an entrepreneur, that you’re never too big or too successful to join new accelerators/business programs, and that there’s always something new to learn. 

This program also prepared me to successfully pitch to buyers in ways I hadn’t previously done, and it led to successful outcomes for our company. Additionally, there’s a unique dynamic created when you bring 25 different women with successful businesses together—don’t take any of it for granted. Programs, like this, allow you to build deep business connections and a strong network of support.

Felicia Lekan-Salami | Milton Food Group

Tell us about yourself and your business…

Milton Food Group is a Toronto-based health-conscious snacking company that I founded in 2020. I started with Milton Pies, offering sweet and savoury options using traditional family recipes. Later in the year, after struggling with an intolerance to gluten and dairy, I discovered Galt Bakery and their gluten-free, dairy-free, and additive-free cookies. I knew that I had found the right products to promote and added them to the Milton Food Group portfolio. We have grown more than 20% every year since our inception. 

Currently, with Galt Bakery, we have five cookie flavours and are rapidly innovating and increasing our product lines. This summer, we launched our super seed crackers in five flavours, debuting online at Costco. Our goal is to keep providing healthy snack options for our consumers nationally and internationally as we expand into the U.S. in October 2022 and launch our frozen pies as part of the Milton Pies brand in the spring of 2023.


How has exporting impacted your business, and what’s next for you?

Exporting has opened us up to a new growth engine as we develop this avenue for revenue, and it has given us the opportunity to discover new consumer needs that are inspiring us to innovate for the years ahead and scale. We’ve experienced increased interest and uptake for our brands in not only Canada, but also the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and three African cities. What is critical to our ongoing success is increased production capacity to cater to our expansion goals and consumer demand across markets.

Through de Sedulous Women’s iLaunchHERproduct program, we were introduced to EDC’s exporting solutions, which we’re now exploring for further growth and expansion. One of the EDC webinars, How to build a winning export strategy, was very helpful as well; this helped identify the most effective and profitable exporting approaches to consider. 


What advice would you share with other small businesses looking to export?

Start by researching your product’s unique market needs and define how you can creatively cater to them. You can get feedback from potential customers—which will help you streamline profitable opportunities—by participating in sampling at trade shows, pop-ups, and store demonstrations. Lastly, be bold and confident enough to reach out to foreign channels, and when you do, be clear on what you can offer and how you can add value and diversity to their portfolios.


You were selected as one of the 25 iLaunchHERproduct entrepreneurs. What did you learn from the program?

Networking is gold—together, we all can achieve more and better! Also, I learned that rising by lifting others is possible.

Shivani Dhamija | Shivani’s Kitchen

Tell us about yourself and your business…

I moved to Nova Scotia in 2011 with a diploma in public relations from Fanshawe College and tried working at various media and PR companies, but had no luck. It was while working at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax, NS, that a friend of mine told me that a trucker friend of hers was missing home-cooked Indian food and wanted someone to make food for him to take on his trips. He was my first client. I created a Facebook page publicizing my meal delivery services and got a tremendous response—people tried my food and wanted to learn to cook it as well. I created cooking classes as the second offering in my business in 2015. 

Another opportunity presented itself after listening to the feedback from the cooking classes. People absolutely loved the classes, but found it difficult to find the spices to prepare the meals at home. Understanding the needs of my customers, we launched spice blends in 2016 and ready-to-use sauces in 2018. Just like our spice blends, our sauces are salt-free, gluten-free and have no preservatives. Now, my products can be found in The Real Canadian Superstore, Sobeys, online at Walmart, and on our website.


How has exporting impacted your business, and what’s next for you?

Many people, government agencies, and non-government organizations helped me and my business. Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) assisted me, both by providing training and financial support. Additionally, the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) is a great resource for immigrants to build their life in the province; they’re so committed to their clients and helped start and grow my business. Now, I work with them as a mentor and try to do my social responsibility by supporting new immigrants, who have an eagerness for entrepreneurship—women, in particular. Additionally, I have had support from EDC. When I go out for conferences and meet any big retailers, I know I can tell them EDC is there to support me if they make this deal.

At Shivani’s Kitchen, we’re trying to export our products across the world. We just started by exporting to parts of the U.S. and Asia. Exporting means more revenue, but it also means more work on the marketing side. From my perspective, marketing and having adequate knowledge about our target market are essential to keep the business going smoothly.


What advice would you share with other small businesses looking to export?

It’s important to search and find your target market’s needs, recognize potential customers, and have an awareness of your competitors.


You were selected as one of the 25 iLaunchHERproduct entrepreneurs. What did you learn from the program?

Maintaining your ambition, self-confidence, and trusting yourself and your abilities. Also, believe that your dreams don’t have an expiration date.