Today, the federal government launched the first ever Women Entrepreneurship Strategy — just in time for International Women’s Day.
The strategy is a $2-billion investment that aims to double the number of women-led businesses in Canada by 2025.
A day before the announcement, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, Mary Ng, was in Vancouver to meet with local female entrepreneurs.
Ng’s goal is to ensure that women across Canada are provided with the tools to help them reach their business and entrepreneurial goals.
“If we … increase women’s economic empowerment into our economy, we can actually add up to $150 billion of incremental GDP just by simply adding women entrepreneurs into our economy,” Ng told Daily Hive.
Vancouver is home to a number of business leaders and entrepreneurs who are making waves with their achievements.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, here are some local women who are taking their leadership, businesses, and brands to new heights.
Aly Armstrong is the founder and principal planner at Aly Armstrong Event Planning & Design. Her company plans signature evenings in Vancouver and beyond.
Armstrong is known for her dreamy decor that incorporates extravagant floral arrangements and pretty pastels. She is also the producer of Vancouver’s luxury wedding show, Fleur.
“’I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit since I was a little girl,” she said.
“However, I originally set out to be a journalist but fell naturally into the event world in 2007. After attending the Art Institute of Vancouver and working on various contracts to gain experience, I decided to start my own company in 2011,” she said.
For Armstrong, her greatest triumph involves balancing family life with her business.
“Personally, my greatest triumph has been the journey of building a business while having children simultaneously. Finding the balance and peace in being a working mom,” she said.
She credits the many women in her life for constantly inspiring her. “The women in my life have been a lifeline and we support one another and cheer each other on, in both our personal and professional lives.”
Taran and Bunny Ghatrora are the sister-duo behind Blume, a line of wellness products ranging from organic pads and tampons to calming essential oils and deodorants. Blume aims to set a new precedent for self-care and normalize very normal experiences: puberty and periods. The products are beautifully packaged into a monthly subscription box.
The sisters said they wanted to start Blume “to make an impact on an industry that is so stale and outdated with little innovation for over 100 years.”
“Seventy-nine-percent of us use the same products that our moms did. This means that 79% of us are still using outdated, potentially problematic products simply because we were introduced to them when we were younger,” they said.
Taran was unable to order pads and tampons online, and she was constantly running out while living abroad. She noticed there were subscription boxes for other personal care products such as razors. Shortly after, Bunny was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
They wanted to create a product that would empower women and end the stigma associated with periods and puberty.
Blume has done just that. Bunny and Taran say that their greatest triumph “is hearing from customers about how products have helped them.”
“We’ve had customers let us know that our cramp oil helps them get out of bed on days their period pain would have normally held them back. And mothers email us and tell us that receiving Blume is the first time their daughters felt comfortable talking about [their bodies].”
Miriam Alden is the founder and creative director of Vancouver-based Brunette The Label.
“Brunette The Label is a collection of clothing focusing on uplifting all babes, all day every day,” Alden told Daily Hive.
The brand’s signature sweaters have become a hit with their cute and playful slogans like “Coffee Now Please,” “Babes Who Brunch” and “Rosé Okay.”
The most important Brunette The Logo slogan is “Babes Supporting Babes” because creating a community to empower all women is one of the brand’s core values.
“I truly believe you have to grow as a team,” said Alden. “And I really believe you can be successful while supporting other people at the same time.”
Alden previously worked for another business and this set the foundation for her entrepreneurial career. Eventually, she felt it was time for a change. “I hit this place in my career where I just felt the next step for me was to be an entrepreneur. The option was to go off on my own,” she said.
Brunette The Label has seen enormous success. The brand is carried in stores across the world, from department store giant Nordstrom to smaller, independent retailers.
“I think one of my triumphs is seeing someone walking down the street wearing our clothing,” she said. “It’s definitely one of my daily triumphs and the thing that makes me feel most excited.”
But building a fashion empire hasn’t come without its challenges. “With growth comes a lot challenge and change,” Aldin explains. “You have to teach yourself along the way and it’s a lot of change and you know — nobody trains for that. You have to … lose the ego, don’t take things personally, and really try to create a strong corporate culture.”
Linh Truong owns and operates The Soap Dispensary and Kitchen Staples — a zero waste retail and grocery shop on Main Street.
The shop is stocked with nearly 800 bulk products ranging from premium soaps and hygiene products to DIY ingredients and all kinds of hard to find bulk food (such as tofu and frozen dumplings).
Customers simply need to bring their own reusable containers and can fill them up with whatever they need.
Truong calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur.”
“I never daydreamed about owning my own business,” she said. “I saw a need in my personal life for reducing waste and it was just a classic, ‘Well if no one was doing it, I guess I will have to!’ I would only want to run a mission-based company.”
One of Truong’s greatest triumphs is seeing her business help grow the zero waste movement.
“I am always so excited to see that every year, we divert more and more packaging waste. I am proud that the shop has become a resource and inspiration for many others to either change their lifestyle or open up their own business. I don’t have any exact event or award in mind, it’s in the day to day that my shop accomplishes its mission and that is a measure of success for me,” she said.
Paulina Cameron was recently named the CEO of FWE in December 2018.
FWE is a Vancouver-based charity that educates and mentors, and connects women entrepreneurs.
Cameron continuously inspires and paves the way for women to reach their entrepreneurial goals.
In 2008, she co-founded Young Women in Business — a national non-profit organization that works to provide personal and professional development young female leaders.
Last year, she also published Canada 150 Women: Conversations with Champions, Leaders and Luminaries. She also sits on the Board of Directors for YWCA Metro Vancouver, the Government of British Columbia’s Small Business Roundtable, and the Immigrant Employment Council of BC.
“One thing that I continue to do is invest in is my own personal development,” she said.
“This means doing the great work of emotional intelligence, understanding your strengths and weakness, understanding how you show up as a leader, and continuously elevating yourself and where you can go.”
For women wanting to build their brands and businesses, Cameron encourages them to build a strong community by networking.
“Build peer relationships with people and always find ways to help others and organizations that you are interested in supporting and that general community karma will go a far way for you.”