Happy Women's Day! Nine rad entrepreneurs you need to know

Happy International Women's Day! Some countries celebrate this day as a national holiday, giving employed women a reprieve from their work life. But there are some women out there who never stop working, not even if her native country declares that she should. 

Currently, my laptop is sitting in its go-to position on my lap, an Apple logo nearly imprinted on my leg. My son is weaved against me like the most intricate little scarf, and he's holding my iPhone, waiting for Paw Patrol to load on our shitty, country internet. He's not usually allowed on our phones, but I'm desperate to keep him quiet while we wait for dad to get milk in town, and I plug away at some of the things overdue on my list.

I haven't given my toddler a bedtime bottle in months, but he's been sick and has barely eaten in a couple days. A bottle will seem like a treat to him, but the bottle is more for me. I'm hoping it quells some of the niggling worry in the back of my mind that he hasn't eaten enough. And in front of these insipid little worries is the fact that I haven't done "real work" in five days because he's been home sick. I'm determined to keep the editorial calendar on track, packing and shipping out this week's orders, designing labels for a jewellery collaboration, teaching classes, and staying on top of a tame list of household chores.

Though none of this seems like a celebration, it's definitely a picture of what my life as a working mother looks like these days.

 
 

International Women's Day is a call to action to help steer the direction toward gender equality by celebrating some of the achievements women have experienced. According to internationalwomensday.com, gender equality progress has slowed in parts of the world and the #beboldforchange campaign this year asks us to take action in accelerating continued growth.

This day used to be called International Working Women Day, and personally, when I think of work, I often think of being a parent, and not just the duties that actually bring in an income.

My team at Rogue Wood Supply is made up of working mothers, and I think this is an achievement that needs to be celebrated. Women face many pressures and societal expectations, and I know that I feel a weight against me to be a good mother and a good businesswoman constantly, but I also feel the guilt and doubt that I'm failing at both. Meghan and Nicole each help me stay on top of our content goals, all while each managing her own thriving business. They inspire me everyday, and will seamlessly talk about "new word" and potty training milestones, along with the elusive dark social of social media, upcoming local markets, product design and more. You'll read more about their businesses below, too, because they are exceptional and worth celebrating.

Here are some amazing, hardworking entrepreneurs, who also balance the sometimes challenging dualities of motherhood and self-employment. And of course, they help to accelerate the growth in feminism in their own effective way.

 

NINE RAD ENTREPRENEURS YOU NEED TO KNOW


JILL / TONY CHESTNUT

Jill began Tony Chestnut in a small, casual capacity in 2007 after she completed design school. She started out making clothing and wares for herself and some friends... even sometimes taking on what Jill says were some horrible custom projects. She slowly started putting together small collections of one-of-a-kind pieces that she sold at a small local store, and immediately felt the joys of creating something original with her own personal flair. Since that first collection in 2007, Tony Chestnut has had multiple reincarnations and evolutions. At the helm of its success is Jill's balance of never giving her business more than she felt she was capable. This ease and peace with Tony Chestnut has been the secret key in her success. In 2009, she became a mother and welcomed her second child in 2013, putting much of her career in fashion in a hot tango with motherhood. 

"Motherhood has been nothing less than profound and ground shaking. It changed my business because it changed me. It both threatened the success of my business due to the shift in my time priorities, and solidified the longevity of my business by making me realize that my creative work was truly a part of me. It made me independently happy. I want to have the outlet of Tony Chestnut primarily for myself, but also for my kids - I want them to know who their mom really is, and I believe that she a complex woman whom is not solely defined by being a mother or caregiver. I never want to lose that."


This year, Jill wants to travel with her business an take what she's learned from running Tony Chestnut and apply her business mantra and sensibility to new groups of people. On the personal side, she wants to camp and hang out with her boys, wake up in a sweaty tent while her partner makes coffee and cuts up apple slices.

 

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Ashley / JENNA RAE CAKES

Ashely co-owns celebrated prairie-based bakery Jenna Rae Cakes with her twin sister, Jenna. JRC found fast success since opening its doors in 2014, though Ashley says there were many late nights in the tiny kitchen with her twin and younger sister. Formerly a creative director for a wedding magazine, Ashley maintains the drool-worthy branding and image of the family-based company. Ashley believes that now in year three, JRC is finally a well-oiled machine with a large team of management and bakers. And while there is still busy chaos, it's organized chaos. In October 2016, Ashley became a mother, and was initially worried how her busy life and booming career would be affected by the new addition. Since her son is only a few months old, Ashley is trying to soak up as much time with him as she can before she gears back up to full-time hours.

"Right now, I manage the social media, take and style photos, manage (parts of) the business, and work one shift a week at the bakery. Working from home is getting tougher now that Leo sleeps less and is more active, so I’m starting to realize working some evenings and weekends might be my best bet for the next few months. It does stress me out knowing that I’ll have to get back up to full-time hours someday really soon, but we’re lucky to have both of our parents willing to help out when they can."


This year, Ashley wants to work at the bakery two days a week, and from home two days a week, launch national shipping, get a recipe book deal, style even more, and strengthen her photography skills. On the personal side, she wants to disconnect more from social media on the weekend, be completely present as a parent when she's with Leo, and be completely present as a business owner when she's at work. And maybe plan a vacation.
 

 

DANIELLE / MÛR LIFESTYLE

Danielle began MÛR in 2014 with her husband Joel out of a desire they shared to become business owners. Initially, MÛR was Danielle's side hustle, offering beautiful and functional pieces that carry a timeless aesthetic, while encouraging people to move away from disposable culture. Danielle raised their two children while Joel worked full time, until last spring when Joel decided to take a leap of faith and leave his full-time job. Since then, Danielle and Joel have moved their business out of their home and into a studio to allow their business to expand, and to maintain balance and separation from work while at home. Danielle first became a mother in 2009, but feels that her career affected her motherhood, not the other way around. Before having children, Danielle always imagined that she would stay home to care for her future children, the way her own mother did. However, as Danielle's children began grow, she found herself wishing for new challenges as an individual. When she began MÛR, she had to lay down her expectations of motherhood, as she was no longer as available to her kids as she had been. 

"I am grateful this transition happened gradually over a period of two years for both my sake and my kids’ sake. There are definitely still some days where I struggle with this delicate balance of work and motherhood but I think we’ve now settled into a rhythm that works well for our family. I believe that when you’re an entrepreneur it’s as important to know when to stop working, as it is to know when to work. As a business owner you’re not necessarily working a nine-to-five at the office so there is less distinction between personal and work life. The demands of work can easily start to crowd your family life so creating boundaries is crucial!"


This year, Danielle wants to have a line of products manufactured under the MÛR brand name, since currently MÛR carries products from other small companies and brands. On the personal side, Danielle wants to continue to achieve a good work/life balance by fighting hard to not let work infiltrate every aspect of her life.



 

JESSIE/ ONE PLUS ONE DESIGN

Jessie is one half of branding and design company, One Plus One Design, which started as an idea Jessie and her husband, Tyler, came up with on their honeymoon. They couldn't picture themselves going back to the nine-to-five daily grind, so they envisioned a company that allowed them to blend the life they were creating together with design and work. They started out by designing stationery and paper goods and now they focus on their key strengths: branding, design and illustration. Through the birth (and boom) of social media, they've evolved their services to offer social media strategies, creating content and executing clients' feeds. They've started to grow their team as they realize they just can’t do it all anymore. And in June 2016, Jessie became a mother. Being self-employed means there is no maternity leave for Jessie, and she hoped to begin working again soon after her daughter was born. This proved to be impossible and she describes juggling parenthood with entrepreneurship as the toughest challenge she's ever faced. 

"I just couldn’t do both, no matter how hard I tried. Thankfully I’ve got a ridiculously hard working, organized, loving partner and husband who has pretty much been single handedly running our company since June. Since January we’ve been trying to balance our roles, and integrate me back into the company. We’ve been fortunate to have wonderful family support, and have been able to send Ada to her grandparents two-to-three times a week. This has allowed me to focus on select projects, and help carry a bit more of the load. Being self-employed, there is no mat leave, so time needs to be carved out for work. The biggest challenge, I think, is finding the balance. You want to make sure you’re spending as much time with your baby as possible, but how do you do that when you know you need to focus on work too? Where is the balance? How do you give proper attention to both?"


This year, Jessie wants survive the tricky balance of motherhood and work. But, she also wants to see her business expand. Evolution is important for a business to succeed, especially one like hers. She wants to continue building with the great clients with which they currently work, helping them evolve their businesses in a constantly-shifting, technologically savvy marketplace. 

 

MEGHAN ZAHARI | BRONUTS + FREELANCER

Meghan opened a donut shop with her husband and brother-in-law in 2015, featuring gourmet flavours like crème brulee, key lime cheesecake and an ever evolving menu. But despite a successful and celebrated new business in the food industry, Meghan maintains an active writing career and a freelance career in social media marketing. She is the ultimate entrepreneur with a couple cool hats. Finding wild success in all of her business pursuits, Meghan credits her successes to her strong team at the donut shop. She says her customers and staff are now part of an incredibly strong community. Handling the social media marketing for the donut shop and a handful of other businesses, many days are spent snapping photos, writing thoughtful articles and brainstorming new creative ways to promote and expose others. This year, Meghan has a short story being published alongside a collection of writing with other Canadian authors, and has curated her own anthology of writing, featuring an array of female writers sharing stories that celebrate the dynamic and diverse experiences women endure. Meghan became a mother in 2015 – just one week after the donut shop opened – and has only known her busy work life to exist alongside motherhood.

“My career has grown more since my daughter was born than it did in the years before. I think it’s because my daughter awakened something in me that I was too scared to tap into before.”


This year, Meghan wants to finish a second draft of her novel and send it off to a publisher, and give higher priority to her writing career since she divides so much of her time. On the personal side, Meghan wants to spend the warm months working in her garden and making food and remedies from the harvest. She wants to plan a trip to celebrate her five year wedding anniversary and travel to Ireland with her husband and daughter.

 

DOMINIKA | VERDE plant design

After returning from a trip to the Amazon Jungle in 2014, Dominika began Verde. At first, she was only making terrariums and holding workshops and pop-ups. But, weekend pop-ups evolved into a three-month-long pop-up in the Exchange District. The enthusiastic response to her temporary spot led her to move into a permanent home on Graham Avenue in June 2016. Verde now offers much more than terrariums. It is a thoughtfully curated plant and flower shop full from floor to ceiling with tropical plants, air plants, succulents, home goods, and more. Dominika became a mother in 1997. One of her daughters now helps her run her business. Zoe’s added perspective has proved to be an invaluable addition.

“My daughters are a gift to my life; from my career as a painter to my life as a shop owner they have always been my inspiration.”


This year, Dominika’s business and personal goals are pretty intertwined. She wants to keep providing a green and creative space for her customers. On top of that, she is working on a new business venture right now. So, you’ll have to stay tuned!

 

KALI | MODERN SUPPLY CO

Kali began her business in March of 2016 on somewhat of a whim. Her original plan take on the role of visual merchandiser in partnership with a friend all while keeping her day job. Unfortunately, the partnership fell through, so she quit her day job and dove in head first to Modern Supply Co. Her goal was to initiate grow consumers’ appreciation for well made items and to support sustainable and ethical businesses. With time, that goal evolved into shifting her focus to smaller makers, as opposed to large brands. Kali enjoys the sense of community that comes from curating a collection of products sourced from other small business owners. Now, when searching for a product, she will try to scout out local brands first. Though Kali’s pregnancy came as a bit of a surprise to her, she was elated. Her son was born in October 2014 and her daughter in November 2016.

“It has changed the way I view myself as a woman and a worker and inspired me to do things I may not have considered prior. I definitely think about the type of role-models I want for my children and try to act on that, I also really want to instill into my children to not be afraid to take risks, and to life an inspired life. Life is long and failure is bound to happen, but stagnancy is something I can't get behind.  I definitely don't think I would have been ballsy enough to jump into this business endeavour had I not been a mother first.”  


This year, Kali is striving to find a sense of balance. She wants work and home to feel more organized and find ways to separate them better. She tires of the guilt that plagues her regardless of whether she is with her kids or at work and she wants to better recognize these feelings so that she can be more present where she is. 

 

NICOLE | CREE RYAN

Nicole began her business in January of this year, and though she is timid about how long it has been marinating, Cree Ryan left the gate with a bang. Her macramé creations are sought after at such a high demand, that Nicole has had to adjust her business plan by delaying the introduction of new products. She has focused heavily on local networking and hadn’t originally anticipated putting so much emphasis on this part of her business, but when the items were being ordered all over the globe, Nicole knew she was onto something. She became a mother in 2014, and says motherhood completely changed her life. Before her son, she worked at a financial institution for six years and took every opportunity to advance her career, gaining as much professional knowledge and experience as she could. However, she knew deep down that it wasn’t a career path that held her heart. After becoming a mother, Nicole began to see herself as a creative and an entrepreneur, and says motherhood put everything that was important in her life into perspective, shining a light on her inner most desires.

“Looking back, I can see that in a way, motherhood freed me the corporate world and allowed me to see and pursue the possibilities beyond that. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the first two and a half  years of my son’s life at home with him full-time. Although so much of that time was undeniably focused on my son, I had never spent more time alone with myself. I spent more time learning about me -- who I had become, who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. I had never played more of a central role in my own life then I did during that time. Had I not become a mother, I don’t know that I ever would have done something so bold as starting my own business and launching myself into the creative community.”


This year, Nicole would like to release an e-book, push her own boundaries with natural fibers, and settle into a studio or retail space. She also hopes to continue to connect with her customers and local businesses through new retailers, collaboration or a large custom design. On the personal side, Nicole want to adopt more plants, bring more colour into her home and make more time for rest and relaxation rather than asking herself why people like Snapchat or how Donald Trump became President.

 

SARA | SARA CLARK

Sara’s business didn’t really begin as a business at all. She had been making wreaths and handmade Christmas ornaments for family and friends, and one day realized that working with her hands brought so much joy. By January 2015, she opened an Etsy shop to give her hobby a base, and began booking small markets while building relationships with other creatives in her area. As her designs began organically growing and improving, Sara’s work gained the interest of a few businesses, launching her into a wholesale program. Since her first Etsy collection, Sara’s collections have featured fiber, wood and resin work, both as wearable pieces and designs for the home. Her knotted wall hangings and growing jewellery collection have moved her hobby into a full-time career, with a studio in downtown Winnipeg and relationships with businesses across Canada and the USA. Sara became a mother in 2012 and had been working in child welfare for the provincial government. She was working 12-hour night shifts and 60-hour work weeks, and hadn’t really done anything creative in years. Once her daughter was born, Sara decided not to return to her demanding full-time job, but did crave doing something for herself.

“If it wasn't for the arrival of my daughter, my business would not exist. After having Nora, my husband and I discussed it and I made the choice not to return to my job. As she got older, I realized the importance of spending time doing something for myself and after I would put her to bed, I would spend my evenings creating molds and casting resin.”


This year, Sara wants to pursue opportunities with travel. She wants to grow her business and spend time hitting the pavement in new cities while exploring new places with her family. On the personal side, she hopes to achieve some kind of work-life balance” that she keeps hearing so much about.