Meet Marcia Woods, an entrepreneur bringing fresh produce to the masses

Despite the increased demand for farmers’ and micro-produced crops, logistical challenges have prevented farmers from entering the commercial market, forcing buyers to pay high prices for imported items. Marcia Woods is addressing that problem as Founder and CEO of FreshSpoke, a innovative new platform that is disrupting the traditional food distribution process by connecting producers and wholesale buyers using tools that streamline the process. It’s a timely solution that, having launched in late 2016, has already grown to 125 food producers, selling over 700 locally produced products. But Marcia’s career hasn’t always been defined by success. Learn her story. 





My first job ever was… Picking cucumbers as a young teenager. I was so excited about the job and had big ideas about all the money was going to make. It turns out I was the slowest cucumber picker ever and since you got paid by weight, my wages were dismal. Needless to say, I didn’t last long but did develop a deep appreciation for the stamina of farmers.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… When the Internet was burgeoning in the mid 90’s, I was completely blown away – it was going to change everything and I wanted in. So, I gave up my day job and started a web design company. Becoming an entrepreneur was not a deliberate career path for me. Starting in my 20’s I always had a gig or two on the side of my day job so the idea of running a business wasn’t a foreign concept.


My proudest accomplishment is… The work we are doing right now at FreshSpoke to improve the health of our fragile food system. For too long distribution challenges have kept our local food producers out of the supply chain. We are changing all that with a marketplace platform that connects local food producers with wholesale buyers using an innovative shared delivery system that leverages the excess capacity that already exists in the distribution system.


My boldest move to date was… Making bold moves that have taken me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. It’s hard to isolate just one.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I much prefer to be behind the scenes.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Build stuff that matters! I teach entrepreneurship and occasionally judge pitch competitions. The idea that gets me excited isn’t the next great social network but rather disruptive products or technology that solve real problems for people or businesses, and one that your customer is willing to pay for.

Secondly, we’re all in love with our own ideas but it’s important to be coachable. Seek out potential customers, mentors and experts in your space and really listen to feedback and heed advice. It can be really tough but it saves precious time and resources in the long run.  


Pitching for venture capital is… Is serious business. You can never be too prepared.


“Seek out potential customers, mentors and experts in your space and really listen to feedback and heed advice. It can be really tough but it saves precious time and resources in the long run.”  


We can support more women entrepreneurs by… Continuing to to tell the stories of women in entrepreneurship.


My best advice from a mentor was… Brevity! Be as clear and concise in your pitch.


My biggest setback was… In 2012, the bottom completely dropped out of my life professionally and personally. My second start-up failed which set a series of unfortunate events in motion.


I overcame it by… Being resilient and resourceful by nature (and one bottle of scotch later), I moved to Barrie, Ontario and began to design my life in such a way that would afford me one more chance at launching a successful tech start-up around something that really mattered — that turned out to be local food.


Work/life balance is… Challenging when you’re in start-up mode but oh so necessary if you want to be at peak performance. We trick ourselves into thinking that working 18 hours a day is productive when in fact it has the opposite effect.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a political junky.


I stay inspired by… Listening to the stories of our customers, and local food producers. Their passion and determination against all odds is inspiring.


The future excites me because… I hear lots of negative commentary about the generation coming of age but I don’t share that mantra. I love the way millennials think, live and work. They are driving a positive economic and cultural shift in our workplaces and marketplaces.


My next step is… Looking forward to continuing to be involved in the local food movement and sustainable farming beyond FreshSpoke.



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

Meet Misty McLandress, a Junk-ette throwing misconceptions about women in dirty jobs to the trash

Misty McLandress manages not only the back-end and day-to-day operations of a JUSTJUNK removal franchise, but can also be found on-site and in the trucks, directly serving her customers, who are often surprised to find a woman ready and willing to haul their garbage. Yet despite the stereotype, Misty loves her work, and credits a mother who always encouraged her to not worry about gender roles when it came to picking a career for her success — and the fulfillment that comes with it. “I saw the value in the service that JUSTJUNK would provide to others in our city and families like ours. Helping others and seeing how pleased they are when the job is complete is a great feeling.”





My first job ever was… Working as a hostess in a beachside burger restaurant.


I chose my career path because… After working in an office 8-5 for over 15 years I had learned so much. I had also been very fortunate to work with a Vice President who always encouraged me to try something different, learn something new, and grow professionally. I knew it was time to focus my energy to grow something of my own.


My proudest accomplishment is… My family. I have two wonderful boys who keep our house full of energy, and a caring a supportive spouse who is by my side every day.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Canada 17 years ago and leaving my friends and family.


Being a woman in a male dominated industry is… Exciting and frustrating at times. I was lucky to have a mother who worked throughout my childhood in a male dominated field. She told me to always stand up for myself and my family. Learning to speak up and assert yourself is not always easy, but it helps when you love what you do.


I get ahead by… Getting up early every day and constantly staying busy.


I surprise people when I tell them… I work in the junk removal business!


My best advice to people starting out in entrepreneurship is… Don’t give up. In the beginning there will be many ups and downs. Believe in yourself, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy what you do every day.


My best advice from a mentor was… I have had two people in my life who have told me the same thing repeatedly: “Invest in yourself.” They both believe in me and have supported me every step of the way.


“Believe in yourself, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy what you do every day”


My biggest setback was… I have been fortunate not to have any major setbacks so far. I like to believe it is due to the support and guidance of my family, friends, and mentors.


Work/life balance is… A balancing act every day. Being there to hear about my children’s day, attending their after school activities, exercising, managing a business, and finding time for fun are on the agenda, and some days require more effort to find balance, but it’s all worth it.


If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m horribly afraid of spiders!


I stay inspired by… Learning new things and looking for new opportunities to grow.


The future excites me because… Every day is different and filled with new challenges.


My next step is… Continuing to grow brand recognition in Winnipeg and increasing our truck fleet.



Meet Gail Bell and Julie Freedman Smith, the duo with parenting power

With a combined 30 years experience in the education sector, Julie and Gail knew they had a unique perspective on parenting. So, in 2002 they founded Parenting Power, a business that helps parents face everyday challenges through a comprehensive suite of parenting tools, including coaching, courses and conferences. In 2013 they co-authored their first book, A YEAR of Intentional Parenting and as experts have been featured on several local and national broadcasts and in digital and print publications.





My first job ever was…

Gail: I worked after school 2 days a week, playing with kids in a daycare and then cleaning it when the kids went home.

Julie: I had my first job when I was 14, working as an elf in a shopping mall. I helped kids get to see Santa.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

Both:  We were inspired by a TV show about successful female entrepreneur partnerships. We decided to give it a try because we had found the right person with whom to work and we knew it would be a huge benefit for our family’s schedules, allowing us to be with our kids when we needed/wanted to be.


Our proudest accomplishment is…

Both: The thousands of families that feel more confident, capable and calm after working with us via media, courses, conferences and coaching. We love that we make a multi-generational change in a family — when parents shift the way they parent, kids learn a more respectful way of interacting that we hope they’ll use when they have their own families.


My boldest move to date was…

Both: Getting the courage up to ask world-renowned author and parenting expert, Barbara Coloroso to write the blurb for the back cover of our book. Having spoken with her many times, we realized that mentors are people, too. This has lead us to connect with others along the way, which continues to carry us forward.


We surprise people when we tell them…

Both: That our kids are normal kids and that we are normal parents who lose our cool too! We make many parenting mistakes, and we continue to learn from them.


My best advice to people starting out in business is…

Gail: Find the right people to work with and set clear boundaries between family time and work time.

Julie: Believe in yourself and find the courage to do the thing you dread early on every day. The day flows more smoothly once the tough bit is done and it helps one to feel even more capable.


Empowering parents is important because…

Both: It’s about normalizing the hard stuff and helping people see that they are capable of learning and making change. When parents set an intention to parent from values, using clear, consistent communication, they set themselves up positively to respond with respect rather than react in the moment. This results in the whole family feeling more connected and capable.


“Believe in yourself and find the courage to do the thing you dread early on every day.”


My best advice from a mentor was…

Gail: John O’Sullivan (from Changing the Game Project) encouraged us to be more active on social media. This has helped us to broaden our reach. John reminded us that social media is about sharing and working with others in the community toward a common goal.

Julie: Polly Young-Eisendrath encouraged us to build an entire course based on our learnings from her book, The Self-Esteem Trap. She was so gracious in sharing her material and supporting us in getting the word out to help many people. She taught us that we can work together rather than worrying about others taking our material.


Our biggest setback was…

Both: Facing the economic shift a few years ago. Our work came to a standstill and it was a tricky time. We felt like it might be time to give up.


We overcame it by…

Both: Ultimately, this down time helped us because we asked for help and ended up clarifying the vision for our company. Knowing what was truly important to us made the next steps much, much clearer. We are definitely better thanks to that process.


Work/life balance is…
Both: About setting clear intentions and following through. It is a choice. It changes over time.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…

Gail: What you can’t google about me.

Julie: What I want to remain private.


I stay inspired by…

Gail: Keeping up on the latest research and watching awesome kids every day!

Julie: Seeking and finding the light in every person. Getting to spend my days doing mostly what I want to do. Hearing from families that they used our tools and changed their lives.


The future excites us because…

Both: We continue to expand, share and guide families. Over the last 8 – 10 years, society has shifted life’s focus away from the family. We have an opportunity to shift the focus back to the family and connection, to what matters most for the development of healthy kids.


Our next step is…

Both: Sharing the latest research on brain development and how family connections positively influence the development of each child (and therefore every adult,) with as many people as we can. We will continue to make a very positive difference in the world.




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!


Handling the leap: How a corporate executive became an entrepreneur

Shira Yoskovitch’s experience as a busy executive and caregiver — paired with her passion and talent for finding “that right thing” —  inspired her to create a personal shopping concierge service, Handled Concierge Services. She shares the lessons she learned in the process, and her best advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs.


By Marie Moore



They say necessity is the mother of invention. Handled fits the adage well.

Founder Shira Yoskovitch says her inspiration for the personal shopping service came from her own experience — not only as a busy executive, but also spending years with the added responsibility of caregiving for her parents. “During that time, my to do list was ridiculous; it was impossible. I was forever on the hunt for someone to just help me.”

At the same time, shopping was a task she actually enjoyed. So much so, Shira often took it on for others. “The truth be told, I have been shopping for my friends and some people in my circle, for the better part of 15 years. I have a friend who hasn’t bought her own pair of shoes since she was in high school.”

It took four years of mulling over the idea of starting a shopping service before personally and financially Shira felt confident moving forward — or at least recognized it was the time to have some faith in her idea. “I remember thinking, if I don’t do it now, I’m going to find myself in five years wishing to heck I had, and I’ll have missed the boat.”

So she set about creating the kind of personal shopping company that she could have benefitted from when she herself was stressed and overstretched. She chose the name — Handled — to reflect the breadth of the services that would be offered as a “holistic, end-to-end, solution provider.” Not only will her team complete whatever shopping task you give them (from clothes to gifts, from budget to luxury), they also provide their styling expertise, deal with returns and alterations, and deliver wherever it’s most convenient for you. They’ll even do a wardrobe consultation to make sure you’re using what you already have to the fullest.

With a background in supply chain management and operations, Shira was also well aware of the importance of making the process smooth and simple from start to finish, so the experience wouldn’t feel like a burden. She invested in technology (another field she’s experienced in) to make the booking process easy. “You can actually access us through various digital mediums, like your cellphone or a tablet, and book something with us like you would book something into your calendar — it’s an extension of how you live your life.”

Her biggest challenge since opening the business? Convincing women that there’s nothing wrong with getting help. “A lot of times there is this overwhelming sense of, ‘I couldn’t possibly send you to go shop for me, I’m Superwoman, I should be able to shop for myself.’ I liken it to the same argument of, do you use a drycleaner? Do you go to a car wash? Do you go to Starbucks for your coffee, as opposed to getting your coffee at home? All of those things are technically things we could do ourselves, however our time is better spent doing other things. I have the same conversation when it comes to Handled. Let us do the task that, frankly, there is no virtue to you doing yourself, for the cost of what you’d tip a delivery person.”


“You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”


Ironically, learning to ask for help was a key part of Shira’s journey while setting up Handled. As a self-described control freak, it didn’t come naturally to her. She’s been pleasantly surprised by how many people have stepped up to offer their assistance, or make a beneficial connection. She now recognizes it as an integral part of building a smart business, not only for the time saved and expertise gained, but also for giving her the ability to see the faults in her own plan. As Shira explains, when you work alone, “You start drinking your own Kool-Aid.”

Her focus now is on growing the Toronto business, with a near-future goal of expansion into more cities in Canada, as well as the UK. The uncertainty of that journey doesn’t seem to phase her, a trait she says she picked up spending years as an expat, travelling to new, weird, and wonderful places. “I got so used to forever being lost, that it stopped scaring me. You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”

She also credits the skills she learned in the corporate world for setting her up for success as a business owner, but she advises aspiring entrepreneurs not to let cautious knowledge-collection stop them from jumping on an opportunity. “If you have an idea, you are never going to get 95% of the solution worked out beforehand. You need to have enough courage of your own convictions to take a leap.”

The biggest reward so far from taking her own leap and launching Handled? It has allowed Shira to devote herself to a career she’s passionate about. “The truth is, I love it. I love finding that right thing, and by the way the right thing could be a Joe Fresh or it can be a Gucci, it doesn’t really matter — it’s the right thing.”


Handled is your personal shopper at your fingertips. Get the right look for an occasion or event, or build an everyday wardrobe filled with perfect pieces that work for your lifestyle. All you need to do is tell us what you want, and set the budget and timeline.  We handle everythingyes, everythingfrom there. Get started at

Handled is a proud sponsor of the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards


Meet Phoebe Yong, a Risk-Taking Communications Entrepreneur with More than a Thing for Sports

With over 20 years of industry experience in B2B marketing and a degree in Communications and an MBA in Marketing, Phoebe Yong, Principal and Founder at Magnolia Marketing Communications has led marketing campaigns with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Dell, HP, and Microsoft. She’s known in the industry for her tenacity, work ethic and passion, and in her day to day life? For being one of the Dallas Cowboy’s biggest fans.



My first job ever was… When I was 17 years old and I was the cashier at Woolco (now Walmart). I always loved playing with toy cash registers when I was a kid, so at the time, that was my dream job.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted the flexibility to create my own schedule. Having 2 and 4 year olds in the family, I wanted a schedule that could accommodate a young family lifestyle. Second, my passion is being creative. As an entrepreneur, I would have the opportunity to create stories, ideas, and campaigns and explore never ending possibilities with my creativity.


My proudest accomplishment is… My children and family life that I’ve created with my husband are my personal pride and joy.  Related to work, it would be building a business that’s successfully sustained itself in a highly competitive and crowded space. Every day I get to go to work and love what I do.


My boldest move to date was… Early in my career, I left a comfortable government position to join a high-technology company to start a new career in marketing. I gained the necessary experience in sales and marketing to get a job of a lifetime in a leading-edge company specializing in wireless data.


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m a sports fanatic. A dream day is being at a Vegas hotel and betting on sports book in the NFL.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Develop a passion to never give up and be obsessive about creating the right customer experience. There will be hard days to go along with the good days. Also, get a really good accountant to help you plan cash flow, taxes and keeping your books up to date. I learned the hard way and paid the price for not having good bookkeeping when I started my business.


My best advice from a mentor was… Have clarity in what you want to achieve. Be as clear as you can on what type of customers you want, what you want to offer them and what markets you want to serve. Having clarity will serve you and your team well.


Mentorship matters because… It’s a wonderful way to pass on your experience to another person. To give them advice that that they might not have otherwise known and help them immediately. I can’t imagine my career without my mentors.

Work/life balance is… Hard to achieve. When you have your own business, it’s hard to turn things off. I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul with stories of similar challenges and opportunities. Journaling also helps me reflect and keep life into perspective. Golfing with my husband allows us to laugh at life and being parents.


“I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul”


I love my job because… It fills me with pride and joy when I get to work with an amazing group of talented women, and we do amazing work for our great clients. Mostly, I love my job because every day I get to do what I love – be creative in telling people’s stories.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That my dream job would be working for the Dallas Cowboys marketing team. Or that I drove on the Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR racetrack).


I stay inspired by… The pace of today’s technology and society’s insatiable need for the best and coolest thing. The yearning for excellence at a breakneck speed creates societies with boundless opportunities. I get inspired by Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and Larry Page in their pursuit of new frontiers.


The future excites me because… I work with many millennials and I appreciate their longing for humanity, community and yet there is a strong appreciation for self-worth. This makes for a future generation with self-confidence to make a difference.


My next step is… To shoot a round of golf under 85, and if I’m lucky, to continue to build a sustainable business where I  help influence the young talents that have the drive to move the goal post every day and make a difference.



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!


Meet Marni Johnson, a Passionate HR Guru with an Unconventional Path

With experience in several industries and over 25 years in financial services, Marni Johnson provides overall leadership and strategic direction in the areas of human resources and corporate and internal communications at BlueShore Financial. Her passion for human resources developed after a bold career switch, and since then she has fully embraced her role, becoming a Trustee of the BC Credit Union Employees’ Pension and Benefits plans, and serving on the boards of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. With a background in math and marketing, Marni is the perfect example of what a woman can achieve when she realizes that boundaries are in fact merely suggestions, and forges her own path. 



My first job out of school…At a financial institution in Toronto in a back office role. In my role I identified a gap in processes, which I raised to my manager. It was dismissed. I decided to trust my instinct and explored this further to realize that in fact there was a gap, which had financial implications for the company. I learned a very valuable lesson from this first job and that is to trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.


I decided to enter the world of HR because…I was given an incredible opportunity for a career change from marketing to HR by the CEO of BlueShore Financial (back then the name was North Shore Credit Union). She offered me the role of VP HR because she believed I had the right leadership attributes and could learn the technical aspects of HR. The switch was the best career decision I ever made.  


“Trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.”


My proudest accomplishment is…Having worked with my teams to create and maintain a very positive culture and a great place to work that is client-focused, results-driven and nurtures diversity and inclusiveness, since research shows a clear link between a strong culture and organizational business performance.


My boldest move to date was…Making a career change from Marketing to HR at the executive level. I faced some skepticism because my formal experience was not in the HR function. I persevered, achieved my CPHR designation, and over time established my credibility as an HR leader. I learned a lot about empowering and trusting my team, as they had more technical expertise than I did. I believe as women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.


I surprise people when I tell them…That I have an undergraduate degree in math, because often they don’t see that math and HR go together. To be successful in HR, you need to understand and be able to speak the language of business, which is usually numbers and money. Having strong math skills has been an enormous benefit throughout my career.


“As women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.”


My best advice to people starting their career is…Take responsibility for your own career by seeking  opportunities to gain experience and transferable skills. Ask for “stretch” assignments even though they will take you out of your comfort zone — you’ll be amazed at the skills and lessons you’ll learn that you can take with you as you build your career.


My best advice from a mentor was…Don’t expect anyone else to care as much as you do, or to look after your best interests. This advice instilled in me a strong sense of accountability for results. It’s equally applicable to managing your personal life and career; you must take ownership for getting what you want and not abdicate that responsibility to someone else.   


My biggest setback was…In my early 30s I accepted a job with a company that enabled me to move from Toronto to Vancouver, but it required that I take a 10% pay cut. That was a big deal, not just because of the reduction in income but because of my perception that career success meant making more money with each job change. I almost didn’t take the job because of what I saw as a step backward.  


I overcame it by…Taking a longer term view of my career and the potential the new job represented. It was the right decision — if I hadn’t taken that job, my career would have taken a very different direction and I wouldn’t have ended up at BlueShore Financial. I learned through that experience that a great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.


Work/life balance is…Different from person to person, both in terms of how much of each feels right, and how that balance is achieved. For me, it’s more of a “blend” vs. a strict delineation. I frequently check my work emails in the evenings and on weekends; but also have flexibility in my days where I can attend a meeting if needed for a not-for-profit board that I serve on.


“A great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.”


I feel successful when…I can see the impact I’ve had on my team’s or the organization’s results. One of my favourite things is coaching my team and seeing them develop their abilities and confidence as an outcome.  


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I am a hobby chocolatier. I’ve taken several courses over the past 25 years, continually learning new techniques and creating recipes. I take a week of vacation from work in early December and make more than 2,000 chocolates. Not surprisingly, my colleagues are incredibly supportive of “Chocolate Week” and the product of my time off!


I stay inspired by…Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and a passion for what they do. That kind of enthusiasm and commitment is infectious, and a source of energy for me.   


The future excites me because…As an organization we have a very strong vision and an aligned and engaged team to execute on that vision. That’s a magic combination, and there’s no end to what we can achieve.


My next step is…To be determined.  I’m loving my role at BlueShore and am continually looking for ways I can make an even greater contribution. What that will look like, who knows, but I’m open to the opportunities!


Want to hear more from seasoned HR professionals? Purchase your ticket to our April 26 Luncheon, Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Women.



Meet Yana Barankin, a Woman Challenging the Fashion Industry to do Better for People and the Planet

Yana Barankin is the female lead of TAMGA Designs, a clothing line with integrity at its center. Before embarking on this journey, Yana and her business partner asked themselves two simple questions is it too expensive to produce a socially and environmentally responsible piece of clothing? Does style have to be sacrificed for accountability? The obvious answer was no  so they set out on a mission to prove it. Here’s her story.



My first job ever was… sales clerk at a clothing store!


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that I can have much more of a positive social and environmental impact by pursuing my passion rather than sitting at a 9-5 desk job. 


My proudest accomplishment is… Getting my Masters in International Development from Kent University.


My boldest move to date was… Taking a leap of faith and buying a one-way ticket to Indonesia with my fiancee to set-up a responsible and transparent supply for the company.


I surprise people when I tell them… I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for 2.5 years working in international aid.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Surround yourself with creative and like-minded people! Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration!


My best advice from a mentor was… It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


“Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration”


My biggest setback was… My personal biggest challenge was moving to Canada at the age of 12 and what felt like at the time adapting to a whole new world.


I overcame it by… Giving it time.


Work/life balance is… Knowing when to a call it a night (laptop and cellphones OFF) and enjoying the weekend with family and friends.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a self taught photographer.


I stay inspired by… Being outdoors.


The future excites me because… There are endless possibilities! We’re starting to see a shift where businesses can’t just take away from people and the planet — to get customer loyalty they have to show how they’re giving back. Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation, and there are so many amazing entrepreneurs and companies working on it.


“Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation”


My next step is… My next steps are all about TAMGA at the moment! We’re developing some amazing new pieces and prints with our team in Indonesia, and will be introducing some awesome new eco materials to our line. This summer we will be doing lots of in-person festivals, pop-ups and markets in the Toronto area. And we can’t wait for lots of sunshine, TAMGA clothing, and meeting all our amazing customers.


Meet the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a company with social responsibility at the heart of its business model.



Meet the Woman Revolutionizing Toronto’s Events Industry, One Soiree at a Time

As the founder and President of The Concierge Club, a nation-wide event and staffing agency, Monica Gomez is behind some of the best celebrations Toronto has ever seen. But she’s not only owning the events industry  — she’s making it a better place for women, too.


By Teresa Harris



Some leaders have a strong business sense, while others know how to take care of their employees. The great leaders? They’re known for both.

A savvy businesswoman, entrepreneur, and mother of two, Monica Gomez manages to embody the combined personas of a whip-smart executive and the warm older sister you never had.

Monica is the founder and President of The Concierge Club, a full service, Canada-wide event and staffing agency that provides event coordination and staffing for high-profile brand and celebrity events. Having launched just five years ago, the agency now boasts a regular roster of high-profile clients including Ciroc, Guerlain Cosmetics, and even the Bieber family.  

Yet despite her current status as an event industry heavyweight, Monica got her start in the financial industry, where she worked in office administration. However it didn’t take long for the creative and energetic people person to realize that she wasn’t passionate about the administrative side finance.

“Event planning kind of fell into my lap,” she recalls, having been involved through the financial industry in planning and executing the hospitality suites for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) trade show. But when the stock market crashed and the future of finance seemed bleak, she realized it was time for a change and moved east to Toronto.

Craving the creativity and social networking opportunities of the entertainment industry, and armed with the knowledge that she couldn’t work for anyone else, Monica decided to start her own company.

Under the mentorship of prominent Toronto event planner Elvira Muffolini, Monica quickly developed a name for herself, and The Concierge Club was born.

“Elvira is one of the people who helped make me who I am today and is now my Director of Events,” Monica reveals. “I don’t burn bridges, because you never know who’s going to come back into your life. This is also why I always treat everyone with the most respect no matter what.”


“I don’t burn bridges, because you never know who’s going to come back into your life. This is also why I always treat everyone with the most respect no matter what.”


Monica’s staff of brand ambassadors often refer to her as a second mother, a title she’s proudly earned by being attentive to both their professional development and their personal lives. From tax trouble to boyfriend problems, very little is off limits.

“From day one I treated the girls with respect. If they made a mistake, there was always an open line of communication ― even personal issues are on the table, because I get that sometimes they affect work. If I can help, I want the opportunity to do so.”

With over ten years of industry experience under her belt, Monica has seen the worst side of the events and promotions industry first-hand. Many staff, particularly younger women, are regularly taken advantage of, often being scammed of their pay and disrespected by management.

“With The Concierge Club, I wanted to do the opposite of what I was witnessing,” Monica says. “When you instill in your company a foundation of respect and communication, you get that back from your employees. Clients notice ― they see the difference in our brand ambassadors.”

Several of those brand ambassadors have graduated from in-field to now run the day-to-day operations of The Concierge Club, and whether it’s giving bonuses or passing along positive client feedback, Monica always makes sure her staff feels appreciated and valued — because they are.

“It’s rare to see that kind of investment in people in this industry,” Monica explains. “Because of this so many staff contact us and ask if there’s anything they can do to grow with the company, and we’re always receptive.”


“When you instill in your company a foundation of respect and communication, you get that back from your employees.”


When it comes to growth, Monica sometimes can’t believe how fast things have changed in the last few years. In 2016 the Concierge Club expanded its services to include total event planning, and has since pulled off some of the biggest events the city has seen. These include Justin Bieber’s dad’s engagement party, which made it into every big media outlet globally; the Dragon’s Den season 11 launch party; and most recently the nationwide events for cosmetic powerhouse Guerlain cosmetics. “This launch was very special for us.” Monica says “This was the biggest fragrance launch to date for Guerlain, with Angelina Jolie as spokesperson, and they entrusted us to plan it for them.”

“I’m a hustler and won’t take no for an answer.” Monica says.

Monica’s family has also doubled in size; in past few years she’s become a mother to two-and-a-half-year-old Adriana, and six-month-old Ayden.

“It’s a challenge to balance,” Monica admits. “And there’s a lot of guilt, a lot of the time. But in the end it’s all for them. I want my children to see their mom working hard and succeeding.” And despite being a self-proclaimed hustler who is rarely satisfied, she doesn’t hesitate to provide credit where it’s due. “My mom lives with us and is a huge help ― the company wouldn’t be where it is without her. And my husband has been my number one supporter since day one, constantly giving me the confidence I need to keep moving forward even when times are tough.”

It is those moments to stop and feel thankful that Monica relishes. She can often be found having celebratory dinners at Harbour Sixty, or treating her management team to spa days.

But her generosity extends beyond the walls of the company. Last year The Concierge Club raised almost $100k for various charities, and this year they have plans to add a new program to their charitable contributions — but they can’t announce it just yet.

“It’s easy to get lost in this world, and sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are. It’s important for me that we set an example as a company, and have our staff get involved in giving back.”

It’s this commitment to excellence and integrity that Monica believes sets The Concierge Club apart. And she doesn’t plan on changing her business model, even while eyeing expansion in the future.

“I want to be known for changing the event staffing industry. I started doing things differently, and now everyone else is following suit. I want to keep that going. We have become a leader in this industry and will continue to do so.”


Photographer: Dexter Quinto

Designer: Caitlin Power

Meet Emily Rose Antflick, a Chief Community Cultivator Bringing Women Under One Roof

As the founder and Chief Community Cultivator of Shecosystem, a co-working space that nurtures the personal and professional well-being of women, Emily Rose Antflick is a champion of working with integrity and fostering a positive sense of community. And this has served her well — while walking away from both an ill-fitting career and relationship simultaneously was a challenge, she has since emerged energized, hopeful, and fueled by a true sense of work-life integration, which she believes beats the mythical “work-life balance” any day. Here’s how she does it. 



My first job ever was… Working at a vintage store/art gallery in Kensington Market, my soul’s home in this city and the neighbourhood where my ancestors first settled in Toronto in the early 20th Century.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had creative energy that needed to be released, and after bouncing around different education institutions for over a decade, I still hadn’t found a workplace place where I would want to show up every day. Everywhere I worked I felt like I had to compartmentalize or present a certain way, and I wanted to truly show up authentically at work.


My proudest accomplishment is… Taking Shecosystem from a dream to a bricks and mortar business in just over a year. I worked hard to build community and to shape the business around that community’s needs, and as a result I opened the doors with twice my target number of Founding Members.


My boldest move to date was… Walking away from my teaching job and ending my engagement in the same week. I had gotten to a point of such acute energetic depletion that only a bold move would give me the opportunity to reshape my life from the ashes.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… To get it out of your head first — write it down and talk it over. And then let it exist in the world in its perfectly imperfect state, because if you wait until it’s perfect to launch, it won’t happen.


My best advice from a mentor was… To stop playing small out of fear, but instead to listen to what that fear might be telling me. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway.


My biggest setback was… Not having all of the operating policies and procedures firmly in place when I opened Shecosystem. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations and lost opportunities in the early days, but in the end it meant that these policies arose from a more organic place. They took shape around real learnings rather than being imposed based on some hypothetical idea of how things “should” work.


I overcame it by… Cultivating a healthy trust in the unknown, asking for help and input from stakeholders to develop these policies cooperatively, and as one of the members put it, continuing to move forward “bravely and tentatively.”


A sense of community is important to your career because… Working for yourself shouldn’t ever mean working alone. I see my challenges and my successes mirrored in the women who work at Shecosystem. Knowing that I am supported, seen, and celebrated by this sisterhood gives me the courage to move forward with my business.


Work/life balance is… A myth. I prefer to talk about work-life integration. If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.


“If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.”


My past experience helps me today by… Reminding me that I am resilient and  resourceful. Also my background in curriculum design, teaching and facilitation means I have a toolkit that can be applied to lots of different contexts because, after all, I’ve always believed that real learning happens outside of the classroom.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… My bank account number, but that’s about it. If you go back far enough you’ll uncover my travel blog, old teaching resources, even the story of my first menstrual period.


I stay inspired by… Dancing and getting into nature as often as possible.


The future excites me because… The feminine is rising and more people are waking up to our potential to discard broken systems and return to more human scale, soul-centric and eco-centric ways of situating ourselves in the world.
My next step is… Simply taking time to observe how Shecosystem works — then refining, modifying, and preparing to scale based on the insight drawn from these observations.


We met Emily Rose Antflick, the founder of Shecosystem, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch and Valerie Fox. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 



Meet Valerie Fox, Canada’s Reigning Queen of Innovation

Meet Valerie Fox, the woman who’s been at the center of innovation since the 80s as a designer for IBM. Since then she co-founded the Ryerson DMZ, North America’s number 1 university business incubator, and started a new venture which helps build successful incubation models with corporations, academic institutions and regions, and brings communities of diverse skills together to collaborate, design and deliver impactful innovation, world-wide. With over 30 years in the creative digital industry, Valerie has been recognized for multiple awards, including the 2016 Canada Innovation Leaders team, and the Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, CNE Woman of Distinction. Get to know her here.



My first job ever was… As a printing press operator, graphic artist and camera room operator in a print shop. Up to that point, I had gone to university and college for art and design, and wanted to illustrate children’s books.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… In the 80s I could see that tech was changing the landscape of design, communication and education. I wanted to be on the bleeding edge of what I knew was going to be the future of everything.  I had an incredible career at IBM as an intrapreneur. From there I was asked to join Ryerson University by the then President, Sheldon Levy to help in its transition to become a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.


My proudest accomplishment is… My family, and meeting the many professional experiences I’ve had, like being the creative director of the Sydney Olympics web experience and co-founding and growing the Ryerson DMZ business incubator to be recognized as number 1 in North America and number 3 in the world. 18 months ago, started a company to help develop incubators and entrepreneurial ecosystems in towns, cities, academic institutions and corporations in Canada, the U.S., and Internationally.


My boldest move to date was… Getting the gig for the Sydney Olympics for our Canadian IBM team. We had a week to prove to the executive producer in Australia that we had what it took to design and deliver an exceptional online experience to the world. We super-stretched the capability of the internet in the year 2000 to create an incredible interactive and immersive experience. It showed what happens when design and technology work closely together.   


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m 63 and a grandma.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… To hold on tight. It’s filled with the most incredible high’s and lows. The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.


Mentorship is important because… It’s a beautiful way to learn and build mutually beneficial relationships.


“The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.”


My best advice from a mentor was… Not to worry about what others think, but listen, learn, apply, while continually holding on to core values.


My biggest setback was… Health related. My back went out and I was house-bound for 3 months. It stopped me cold. I realized how important health is, to do anything.


I overcame it by… Changing my perspective. It’s okay to take time to eat, sleep, take care of oneself and enjoy that too.


Work/life balance is… I don’t believe it’s a balance. For me it’s integrated. I love my work, it’s a part of my life. But it’s not the only thing in my life.


Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… So many things. Life is learning. Experience gives perspective, relevance, and application. But I would add that it depends on the classroom. There are some amazing classes out there that encourage team and project building, and knowledge sharing.


To me, innovation means… Change that makes a difference.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a pretty open book.


I stay inspired by… Hanging out with people I love and learn from and meeting new people to learn from. Also reading, walking, traveling…never standing still.


The future excites me because… It’s filled with possibility.


My next step is… Continuing to help build connections and learning opportunities that will shape our world to be a better place.


We met Valerie, the founder of The Pivotal Point, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 



Meet Petra Kassun-Mutch, a Former Executive Turned Feminist Entrepreneur

Petra Kassun-Mutch wants to revolutionize the way entrepreneurs do business, bringing social consciousness and a feminist mind-set to a space that is all too often profit-centric and male-dominated. A former executive turned serial entrepreneur, Petra is determined to demonstrate how a business can be both responsible and profitable, widening the definition of innovation to be more inclusive and altogether more exciting.



My first job ever was… a fry girl at McDonald’s — I also had lobby duty.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be able to show up authentically, create opportunities for others, and design and launch innovative, values-led enterprises that helps transform institutions and systems.


My proudest accomplishment is… leaving my 18-year corporate career and role as President for a $46M division of a multinational publishing company to found, build and grow a Platinum LEED (first in the world), a mid size award winning artisan goat and sheep milk dairy in Prince Edward County — even though I had no experience in cheese, farming, or the food processing industry. I didn’t even know you could milk a sheep! But I do now! We won the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation two years after opening.


My boldest move to date was… Combining activism with scalable entrepreneurship.  


I surprise people when I tell them… I was once a certified milk and cream grader, licensed HTST operator, and drove a milk truck.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Everyone should start their career in sales. You will learn about markets, people, and learn how the world really works. For me personally it was transformational.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be the market you intend to serve. In other words, don’t try to sell something to people (or markets) you don’t truly love, respect or understand.


Women can support other women by… Leading with intersectional feminist values at the heart of all you do. Investing in women, including trans and gender non-binary female entrepreneurs.


My biggest setback was… Having to sell the business I loved and started because of an ill-timed divorce. In entrepreneurship, business is personal, and the personal is business.


I overcame it by… Taking a break, reflection, lots of self care, trying new things (not always successful), and surrounding myself with dynamic, diverse, creative kick ass women friends.


Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… How to cope with and recover from major loss.


To me, innovation means… A lot more than just high growth/extreme cheap scale tech.  Today’s definition of innovation is too narrow and leads to a gender gap in innovation policy that goes under recognized.  We need to support process innovation alongside product innovation.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I know how to macramé.


I stay inspired by… Watching The Walking Dead and working with entrepreneurs.


The future excites me because… I believe we can and will create a human-centric, values-led economy in the future, one that will promote individual, community and global wellness, a world without fossil fuels, a future where structural and cultural gender driven inequality for women, trans, queer-identified people (anyone experiencing discrimination based on gender) are a thing of the past.


My next step is… To pioneer what it means to design and operate an enterprise based on feminist business best practice.  


We met Petra at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she mediated a panel of feminist entrepreneurs. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. Until then, hear more from Petra at



Three Canadian Female-Led Start-ups Share their Keys to Success

Deloitte Startup Awards Finalists Headshots

We asked four remarkable women — all of whom are finalists in our Deloitte Start-up category at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards — for their best advice for entrepreneurs looking to make their big idea a reality. From “take it slow” to “don’t work so hard!” you may be surprised by how they were each able to cultivate success in their respective ventures.


Meet the Experts:

Marlo Brausse, Barre Body Studio
Melanie Caines, Nova Yoga
Angela Marotta & Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards



Q: What is the one piece of advice — either discovered on your own or received from someone else — that you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Marlo Brausse, Barre Body Studio: Being an entrepreneur takes self-discipline, sacrifice and a lot of passion. Nurture your employees, your brand and your business community; learn what you don’t know and ask for help — you will be surprised by how far these practices will take you.

Melanie Caines, Nova Yoga: Don’t try to do it all: do what keeps you motivated and inspired and delegate what you can to someone you trust and respect. When you are inspired, you are at your best.

Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards: Regardless if the market sways due to various economic factors, never sacrifice the quality or the standards of your product. Evaluate other areas of the operation before you cut costs on production standards.

Angela Marotta, Two Sisters Vineyards: Take it slow. As women and mothers, we cannot do everything well all of the time. You are a better decision maker when working from a clear, focused mind than a foggy confused mind.


Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

MB: I wish I knew that by hiring someone to help me with payroll, bookkeeping and accounting I would save time and money versus trying to learn and do most of it myself.

MC: Work smarter, not harder! It’s a great reminder and crucial in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and burnt out.  

MM: I wish someone told me not to be so hard on myself when a strategy or decision did not go as well as I had hoped.

AM: Sometimes employees and managers are not as loyal to you as you had thought or anticipated, so always have a backup plan.


Q: How has your business model or perspective evolved from the point of inception, and how have these changes contributed to your overall success?

MB: My initial business plan was to own and operate one Barre Fitness Studio in Calgary, Alberta and to seek outside assistance to train instructors. I realized early on that I would need an in-house training program to support my studio, so I invested a ton of time and energy developing a well-rounded program. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this training program soon became the basis for our growth as a company—we have grown to four studios in four years.

MC: In the beginning Nova Yoga was one teacher (me) with one offering (vinyasa/flow yoga). I’ve since hired multiple teachers with different skills sets so we can increase the number of classes and offerings, therefore attracting more a larger and more diverse set of customers. Also, hiring staff and a General Manager means I have more time to cultivate and expand the Yoga Retreat and Online Yoga Video parts of my business.

MM: As this was a journey of discovery for both my sister and I, I was able to expand my knowledge in marketing and advertising and gain a better understanding of the market and its wants and needs. As a result, I decided the investment in changing and revolutionizing our website was necessary. I also came to realize how important and effective social media is, as well as overall packaging—it’s always about positioning ourselves as a producer of ultra-premium wine. Through social media we are able to express the level of service that can heighten a customer’s experience at the winery. The attention to detail and overall packaging of the product reaffirms the high standard we hold for the product we produce, one that has continued to gain accolades and respect from visitors and tastemakers in the industry, locally and nationally.

AM: At inception I was focused on not only selling our wine onsite, but through exporting channels, whether in the UK or Asia. As I explored the various business models, I came to realize that although it sounds great to position yourself as an exporter of goods, it does not equate to healthy margins, which is what will ultimately bring about success and longevity. The tax implications and overall costs for shipping and storage reduce margins substantially. As a result we have focused our energy on finding ways to optimize our sales within our retail store, online, in restaurant, at corporate events and through gifting and tour experiences. It has also resulted in solidifying our position as producing an ultra-premium wine from the Niagara region that is being recognized throughout Ontario and across Canada. We are proud to be Canadian and that holds a great value for us, as well as the industry we are in.


It’s time to make friends with your money

By Lesley-Anne Scorgie 

Look, I get that financial planning might seem overwhelming and isn’t every woman’s idea of a good time, but hopefully you’ll take the time to make friends with your money. Financial knowledge is empowering and will allow you to have better quality opportunities for your future.

The formula for staying poor is simple:

Step 1: ruminate over financial mistakes from the past;

Step 2: compare yourself to others;

Step 3: blame your circumstance on other people (including your partner) and situations that you couldn’t control.

If you don’t learn to get real with your financial situation, things like maxed-out credit cards and a mortgage you can’t afford will forever haunt and prevent you from moving your life forward.

The biggest financial obstacles for women aren’t their actual finances; they are their mindsets. A fascination with the past prevents even the smartest women from achieving their full potential— financial, personal, and professional. You might blame that stingy boss who would never give anyone a raise, or that ex-spouse who wouldn’t pay their fair share of child support. Sure there will have been challenges along the way, but you need to own up to your financial reality.

Compounding this focus on the past, is a tortuous pattern of trying to keep up with the Joneses because “we deserve it.” You know these people. You may be one. I was one once. In late 2015, a 45-year-old woman came into my office seething with anger because her ex-husband was a deadbeat and left her with a mountain of credit card debt—eight years prior! Rather than owning up to her financial reality, she’d kept up “appearances” and buried herself further in debt. The past trapped her. She needed to stop obsessing about her ex, examine her own behaviour, and deal with the reality she was living in now.

As women we spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror hoping that it will teach us something about the financial road ahead. But sadly, we miss simply being present in today— taking in what’s happening right here and right now. Extraordinary things come out of many “todays” layered together when they are pointed in the direction you want your life and finances to head. If you want to be rich—and when I say that I mean you would like to be truly satisfied with your financial, personal, and professional life—then take stock of where you and your money are today. This can be as simple as calculating your net worth, setting a realistic goal to grow it, and working to change one bad financial habit at a time. Make a resolution to focus on smart solutions for your financial future, including building enough savings for retirement.

Some of the most amazing financial progress I’ve seen is with women starting from ground zero—they don’t even have two nickels to rub together. But their commitment to a better financial future is centred on making the best financial choices possible with what they have every day, and they’re quick to halt bad financial habits.

If you’re ready to transform your finances, choose the formula for getting rich:

Step 1: put past financial mistakes in their place—behind you;

Step 2: get real with your financial reality;

Step 3: point every decision you make towards achieving your financial, personal, and professional potential.


This is an excerpt from Lesley-Anne’s latest book, The Modern Couple’s Money Guide