Women in the lead: Meet 30 of BC's inspiring entrepreneurs

Mar 6 2020, 2:54 pm

This March 8 marks International Women’s Day in Canada and across the world.

Metro Vancouver is home to a number of female business leaders and entrepreneurs who are making waves with their achievements.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve put together a list of some local women who are taking their leadership, businesses, and brands to new heights — many of whom have created women-forward companies that strive to see others around them shine.

Amanda Kao of the Bad Academy

Amanda Kao/ Facebook

Who: Kao founded the Bad Academy — an organization that hosts an array of workshops to empower and connect self-proclaimed “bad womxn” to new skills and experiences. This year’s workshop roster includes Roller Derby 101, Stick + Poke 101, and Car Maintenance 101.

Instagram: @thebadacademy

Anna Heyd, Oana Papuc, and Vivian McCormick of Flax Sleep

Anna Heyd, Vivian McCormick, and Oana Papuc/ Flax Sleep

Who: Heyd, McCormick, and Papuc founded Flax Sleep in 2017. The inspiration for their company came from their love for a good night’s sleep and appreciation of beautiful things. Flax Sleep offers a full range of affordable and breathable French linen bedding for adults and babies.

Instagram: @flaxsleep

Alexa Suter: of Studio Media

Alexa Suter/ Instagram

Who: Suter is the founder and creative director of Studio Media. With a background in social media and editorial writing, she began her career in the digital space and has since grown into a self-described serial entrepreneur.

Instagram: @StudioMedia

Suzanne Siemens of Lunapads

Suzanne Siemens of Lunapads/ Supplied

Who: Siemens is a Vancouver-based social entrepreneur known for her commitment to progressive business practices and gender equality. She is the co-founder of Lunapads — a multimillion-dollar manufacturing and retail business that focuses on sustainable, inclusive, and environmentally friendly menstrual products.

Instagram: @Lunapads

Taran and Bunny Ghatora of Blume

Taran and Bunny Ghatrora/ Supplied

Who: 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, deodorants, and skin products. Blume aims to set a new precedent for self-care and normalize puberty and periods.

Instagram: @blume

Sydney Koby of Bite Snacks

Sydney Koby of Bite Snacks/Supplied

Who: Koby founded Bite in 2018 to bring a more sustainable, alternative protein option to North Americans: cricket protein. Cricket protein is a protein source offering sustainable and nutritional advantages over whey- and plant-based protein powders. For Koby, it’s not just about bringing a new concept to market, it’s about changing the way others think about our food and how it affects the earth.

Instagram: @bite_snacks

Tamu and Zia Stolbie of The Stolbie Sisters

Zia and Tamus Stolbie/ (stolbiesisters/ Instagram)

Who: Tamu and Zia Stolbie — also known as the Stolbie Sisters — are trailblazing the cannabis industry with their work in media, event production, consulting, and more. Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Tamu and Zia both have backgrounds in the film and beauty industries. They relocated to Vancouver in 2009 and joined forces to make their mark in media, philanthropy, fashion, and cannabis.

Instagram: @stolbiesisters

Natasha Thom of Clearwater Events and Weddings

Natasha Thom/ Facebook

Who: Thom started Clearwater Events and Weddings in 2016 with an aim to make couples’ love stories come to life through their weddings. The company isn’t your average wedding planning service. Their goal is to reduce the majority of waste usually generated at functions while being committed to producing beautiful events.

Instagram: @clearwater.events

Aisha Amijee of Voices of Muslim Women

Aisha Amijee/ Alia Youssef

Who: Amijee is the founder of Voices of Muslim Women (VMW), a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that aims to educate and mentor young girls and women to excel in leadership in school and the workplace. VMW is led by women who self-identify as Muslim, but its programs and events are open to girls and women from all backgrounds.

Instagram: @vmwvoicesofmuslimwomen

Gabrielle Dickert of GDCommerce

Gabrielle Dickert/ Supplied

Who: Dickert has built one of the city’s leading Shopify agencies and specializes in health and wellness. She has experience working with hundreds of small-, medium-, and enterprise-level businesses at Shopify, and through GDCommerce she works with women to help build up their businesses.

Instagram: @gdcommerce

Saschie MacLean-Magbanua of Formation Studio

Saschie MacLean-Magbanua/ Facebook

Who: After dealing with a heartbreaking personal loss, MacLean-Magbanua turned to dance to cope. That eventually led to the creation of Formation Studio. Formation aims to strengthen the connection between mind, body, soul, and the beat in a judgement-free space.

Instagram: @formationstudio

Marissa Cristina of STIL Classics

Marrisa Cristina/ (marissacristina/ Instagram)

Who: Cristina started her company, STIL, with the vision of creating organizational products designed by women, for women. Fast forward to 2020, and she’s been maintaining that vision for five years. It’s what she calls being a “direct-to-conversation” brand, an evolution of being direct-to-consumer. STIL offers beautiful organizational products to inspire all women to take charge of their busy days.

Instagram: @stilclassics

Cicely Blain of Cicely Blain Consulting: Diversity and Inclusion

Cicely Blain Consulting /k.ho photography

Who: Blain is a diversity and inclusion consultant, activist, and writer. She is also the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Vancouver chapter and was named one of CBC’s 150 Black Womxn Making Change in Canada. “I have always been passionate about getting involved in my local community and making meaningful change in the lives of marginalized people,” says Blain on her website.

Instagram: @cicelyblainconsulting 

Taran Cheema of TKC Design Inc.

Taran Cheema/ Image courtesy of TKC Design Inc.

Who: After graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York City, Cheema returned to Vancouver and saw a gap in the market for the use of Indian textiles in the western market. Instead of getting a job designing for someone else, she started her own brand that combined influence from her South Asian roots and the silhouettes of western runways.

Instagram: @tkcdesigninc

Melody Lim of Mala the Brand

Melody Lim / Mala the Brand

Who: Lim says she has been “obsessed with candles” for as long as she can remember. That obsession led her to create Mala the Brand after falling in love with the minimalist, romantic lifestyle of Europe during her travels. Mala the Brand’s mission is “inspire moments and memories” with its minimalistic aesthetics. The company has also partnered with Tree Era to plant a tree in North America with every candle purchased.

Instagram: @malathebrand

Tamara Komuniecki of Strong as a Mother

Tamara Komunieck of Strong as a Mother/Supplied

Who: Tamara Komuniecki is a former national broadcast print journalist turned entrepreneur. She is the owner of Delish General Store in Edgemont Village and owner of Strong as a Mother — a clothing brand that looks to inspire mothers from all walks of life. Having rheumatoid arthritis since age six, Komuniecki is familiar with physical setbacks but also uses that as motivation to give back to her community. She is currently the vice-chair of the BC patient and safety and quality council with the Ministry and Health and sits on several councils at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Patrice Mousseau of Satya Organics

Patrice Mousseau/ Supplied

Who: Mousseau is an Ojibwe entrepreneur and single mother. After a successful career as a radio and television host, news anchor, and journalist, she became a conscious entrepreneur when her baby girl developed eczema and needed help. Now, Mousseau is the owner/creator of Satya Organics Inc., and her products provide those who suffer from skin conditions with organic and natural alternatives.

Instagram: @satyaorganics

Joleen Mitton of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week

Joleen Mitton / Evaan Kheraj

Who: Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week founder Mitton says the event is a way to build community by celebrating culture and tradition — something that often goes overlooked at other fashion weeks.”Indigenous culture considers traditional regalia as the highest art form. VIFW bridges the past, present and future of Indigenous fashion by showcasing the expression and evolution of modern Indigenous designers that use clothing as a statement; a way to explore legacies of colonization and industrialization,” said Mitton earlier this year.

Christina Wong of Employ to Empower

Christina Wong/ Employ to Empower

Who: In 2014, Wong started the Street Store, an annual and free dignified shopping experience for Downtown Eastside residents. The individuals she met at the Street Store events inspired Wong and co-founder Stephanie Chan to create Employ to Empower, which aims to positively impact the community through employment and entrepreneurship.

Instagram:@employtoempower

Shaina Azad of SUVA Beauty

Shaina Azad/ Instagram

Who: SUVA Beauty offers an abundant selection of eyeshadow shades, Hydra Liners, lipsticks and illuminators and retails in over 30 countries. Founder Azad taught Makeup Artistry at Blanche Macdonald Centre in Vancouver. “I have no problems making fun of myself,” says Azad. “I’m quirky, try to be funny, and speak my mind.”

Instagram: @shainaazad

Keighty Gallagher founder of Tight Club Athletics

Keighty Gallagher / Tight Club

Who: Gallagher’s goal is to “change the conversation about fitness completely,” and as the founder of Vancouver’s Tight Club she’s doing just that. The studio is an inclusive space that celebrates fitness while building community and diversity. “We don’t stand for mirror muscles, food shaming or the concept of exercise as punishment,” she states on the company’s website.

Instagram: @tightclub

Jag Nagra of page84design

Who: Nagra is a graphic designer turned freelance illustrator from Vancouver. Her work has been featured in Vogue Girl, Teen Vogue, and BuzzFeed. She was named one of the 30 New Illustration Talents by Uppercase Magazine.

Instagram: @jagnagra

Lynn-Marie & Melissa-Rae Angus of Sisters Sage

Lynn-Marie and Melissa-Rae of Sisters Sage/ (sheisindigenous/ Instagram)

Who: Born and raised in East Vancouver, Lynn-Marie and Melissa-Rae are the sister duo behind Sisters Sage, an Indigenous brand that hand-crafts wellness and self-care products inspired by their culture and traditions

Instagram: @sisters_sage

Brianna Blaney of Envol Strategies

Brianna Blaney/ Envol

Who: Blaney has been working in recruitment, helping companies across North America hire thousands of employees for the past seven years. Envol delivers business impact through employer branding, recruiting and HR solutions. She is also the founder of DeepND, which helps customers predict better hiring outcomes and retention using artificial intelligence. She was named to BCBusiness magazine’s 2018 30 Under 30 list.

Instagram: @envolstrategies

Rosy Atwal of Maple Organics

Rosy Atwal of Maple Organics/ Supplied

Who: Atwal is behind Canada’s first organic pharmaceutical company. The Surrey-based entrepreneur has created a line of skincare, haircare, and baby care products that are based on family recipes her own mother used while growing up in India.

Instagram: @mapleorganics

With files from Chandler Walter and Catriona Hughes.