Women of Vancouver is an editorial series featuring stylish and professional women in Vancouver. WofV producer and stylist, Jason Sarai of Style by Sarai, recently interviewed the co-founder of SheTalks, Natasha Raey for this exclusive in-depth photo editorial.
What do you do for work?
Ah, that’s a big question! My day job is in senior management at a fairly large health care organization where my job is to represent the interests of family physicians to enhance primary care (it’s way more interesting than it sounds!). I also co-founded SheTalks with my business partner, Barinder Rasode. SheTalks is an organization that was created to give real women a platform to tell their stories. We’ve been so overwhelmed by the response that SheTalks has gotten and are excited to see where it will take us! We have over 50 women across Canada who are working on our SheTalks initiatives and events.
I also work in the medical marijuana industry and most recently became the co-chair of Women Grow, an organization that was created to connect female executives in the Cannabis community in Vancouver.
How did you get involved in this career(s)?
Well, with my day job, I completed an honors degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (SFU), and then went on to get my Masters in Health Administration (UBC), so health care administration is something I love, and it was the obvious choice after all of the schooling I had done. With SheTalks, I’ve always been so amazed by women. We really do so much, and contribute so much to the world. And I’ve never met a woman who didn’t have a story, so female empowerment and providing space for women to create, grow, connect and share has always been an interest of mine.
My work in the marijuana industry is mainly attributed to my boyfriend’s company (which is how I got my start in the industry). And my interest in medical marijuana also stems from my strong interest in the rights of patients to be able to access health care and treatment that meets their individual needs.
What do you enjoy most about your career and company?
The flexibility. I love flexibility and creativity. I love being with jobs and companies where I can create every day. And I love working with people who are just as driven and passionate as I am/ strive to be.
Where do you see your consulting business and She Talks in five and 10 years?
I’m honestly not sure, I never really create long term plans. But I do feel like I’m getting to/have gotten to a place where I’m not chasing contracts (like I did when I started consulting). I’ve learned to be more discerning with the work I do, and so I enjoy it more because it’s all meaningful to me. My hope is that my consulting and career path grows and takes me in new directions. I don’t see myself ever staying in one set industry or on one set path. My hope for SheTalks is that it truly become a movement and a source of strength for women to be comfortable with sharing their real stories.
What are the challenges of starting a new initiative like She Talks?
There are always challenges with any startups, you have to figure out where you are headed in a strategic way, avoid scope creep, work through team dynamics and learn that you can’t take on every opportunity that comes your way. Similarly, to what I said when I talked about chasing contracts, you need to learn to be discerning in what your company takes on.
What has been your greatest business challenge to date?
At the risk of sounding like a total cliché, I think my biggest business challenge actually was more of an opportunity. When you work as a consultant, you get really used to doing everything yourself, on your own time, and you work in a manner that works best for you.
With SheTalks, I am so blessed to have an uber-talented co-founder, and large team of staff and advisors who have really been the ones who have shaped the organization. My opportunity here (and it’s something I’m still working on) is learning to let go, and learning that there are lots of other people out there who excel in areas that I have always struggled to do. So my SheTalks opportunity has taught me to be a part of a time, and a movement that is larger than myself, and a movement that could continue to flourish even if we were all replaced. And that’s a pretty cool feeling.
What has been your greatest business accomplishment to date?
I think my biggest business accomplishment to date is being a part of the work that our SheTalks team has done over the past year. It hasn’t been that long, but I think we’ve really started something that is impacting a lot of women (and men!). I still remember having so many women come up to me at the first SheTalksYVR event and just saying “thank you, I was really at a place in my life where I needed to hear these stories, to know that I’m not the only person who is going through stuff… and that I will make it through the other end.” I think that’s pretty phenomenal, we’ve taken the simple art of raw storytelling and have really created glittering and safe spaces for real women. It’s so empowering.
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you?
An entrepreneur to me is a creator. Someone who fills a void, or creates a new market. Someone who takes risks, makes sacrifices and creates new ways for individuals to participate in the world.
What’s your advice to professionals wanting to pursue the path of becoming an entrepreneur?
Be flexible, be willing to admit when your wrong, or when you can’t do something. Don’t hold on to bad feelings, and learn to be fluid in how you work. The reason many people become entrepreneurs is because they don’t want to adhere to the rigid structure that is within many corporations. Be open to new ideas, be creative, learn to take feedback, but don’t change everything you do just because someone tells you to do it differently – learn when to stand your ground. And most importantly, learn to sacrifice. During the start-up trajectory, you will face moments where you will need to sacrifice your time, your ego, some of your ideas, your free time – and so much more – but never allow your relationships to be sacrificed.
Describe a typical work day?
Each day is different, and I love it. Two to three days a week I start with a pilates reformer class first thing in the morning (unless I have a super early meeting). My work requires a ton of meetings, so when those meetings are usually shapes how the rest of my day goes. Some mornings I have the luxury of catching up on emails, and other days, I need to fit emails in after 11 p.m. I love to cook, so if I’m making dinner (which I try to do as many days of the week as I can), I grocery shop between meetings. I’ve also been known to cook dinner during teleconferences. Evenings are spent in more meetings, catching up on work or reading.
How do you manage your personal and professional life?
I’m either the best or worst poster child for work-life balance. I usually put in over 10 hours of work a day, but I also fit in the time to cook, workout and see my friends and family when I can. My closest girlfriends are connected through a Whatsapp group, so we talk on and off most of the day. It’s pretty amazing to have a group of friends like that. I feel really lucky. I’m also really lucky to have a boyfriend who loves to work like I do, and we work on a few businesses together as well. So our personal/professional life crosses over constantly, and I honestly don’t think it’s a bad thing. It works for us.
Outside of work, what do you do in your spare time?
Fitness, food, family and friends – that’s how I spend my spare time. Working out is something I love to do. I do pilates reformer classes two to three times a week, and strength training and/or cardio every other day of the week. I also love cooking, and most recently started a food blog to share my recipes and food inspiration.
What are your favourite hobbies?
Everything I’ve mentioned above, and shopping – I love shopping and fashion. And reading, I’m an avid reader.
What charitable organizations/programs do you work with?
Most recently, I joined the board of the Surrey Women’s Centre, issues related to domestic violence and female empowerment are very close to my heart, so it was an obvious organization for me to want to get involved with. I also try and create my own social giving causes, like the “Wagging Stockings” drive that I do around Christmas where I collect food, treats and toys for the Surrey Animal Resource Centre. Anyone who knows me knows that animals take up a huge space in my heart.
How did you get involved with this cause/organization?
I was asked to join the board of the Surrey Women’s Centre because of other work I have done in the community, and the work I have done with other women’s organizations.
Why is giving back important to you and your company?
I think it’s the only way we can function in the business world. I am well aware that because of where in the world I was born, my education, and the supports I have in my life, I am very blessed. My faith is also very important to me, and all of those aspects of my life have helped to ensure that “giving back” is a key factor in my life. I strongly believe that my role, and by extension, my role with my work, is to love each and every person I come across, and to do everything I can to give back to my community and my world.
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
Tyler (my boyfriend) and I usually relax on Friday nights. I cook dinner, we work or read, and then head to bed. Saturdays are usually spent running errands, in meetings and visiting with my family. Sunday mornings always start with our SheTalks management meetings, then I go grocery shopping and the day ends with my weekly Sunday Roast. With our schedules being so crazy all the time, I’ve tried to make Sunday Roast a big of a tradition.
Where are your favourite places to eat at in Vancouver?
I’m a member at the Vancouver Club, so that’s definitely at the top of my list of places to work and eat at when I’m in Vancouver. It’s like my little oasis in the city. For lunch, I love the new Nosh Café at the Telus Garden building. Italian Kitchen and Yew are also yummy favorites, and on a sunny day, the Art Gallery Café is the most beautiful place in the city. With all the greenery and classical music on their patio, you feel like you’ve been transported to another place in the world.
What do you recommend someone to try when at Italian Kitchen?
The spaghetti and meatballs! Amazingly yummy!
What do you recommend someone to try when at Nosh?
The macaroons are seriously to die for!
What about the Vancouver Art Gallery do you like most?
I like the serenity of the space. I love art. It’s somewhere that I can go by myself when I need to get away and clear my mind from the work clutter. When you view art, it unlocks other parts of your mind and I think we all need to do that from time to time.
What do you recommend someone to see when there?
Any exhibit – I’ve yet to see art that I can’t appreciate in some form or another.
How do you think people would describe your style?
I’m obsessed with fashion. I think perhaps people would describe me as fashion forward – I’m the girl who will wear the weird pants with the crop top, and somehow pull it off. I have a bit of a tiny obsession with shoes and dresses, and I’m always dressed up. But that’s what makes me feel like I’m ready to take on the world. Some people need a protein shake, I just need a fabulous dress and killer heels. And I’m not a makeup girl at all, pressed powder is the only thing in my makeup bag, so I try and get it right with fashion, because I couldn’t apply eyeliner if my life depended on it.
What does style mean in the world of business?
Some people say, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. I say, dress so that you feel ready to take on the entire world – in one day – and then cook a kick-ass dinner for the love of your life.
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|NATASHA RAEY||She Talks/Style Food Love/Women Grow
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