WOMEN WE ADMIRE

During our travels we have come across some very inspiring women.  Some have become friends, some we admire from afar (our schedules will at some point permit us to be in the same place at the same time we hope) and others are old friends that we knew had something special and unique.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list.  We plan on doing more posts so we can include all the other women that didn’t make this first blog.

If you know of others we might not be aware of but you know we should meet and profile please include their names in the comment section below.

We hope all our readers have an opportunity to meet these women as well and if you simply admire them yourselves – send them a note.  I’m sure when they come up from their 12 hour days or when they have one of those days that makes them wonder “Am I doing the right thing?”, your note of encouragement will be one of the first things they recall.  You see, chances are they will never give up but I know they would all agree with me and Kristy when we say our inspiration often comes from the kindness of strangers we meet along the way and it is the little random acts of kindness that keep us moving forward.

Women We Admire: Hana Abaza, Co-Founder & CEO, WeddingRepublic.com

Rent frock Repeat: Women We Admire

1.     What were you doing prior to opening up your own company?

I was running a regional chain of Martial Arts studios (and yes, I have a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu). Needless to say, it’s not at all related to the wedding industry 🙂

One of the aspects I was managing at the time was the digital and online marketing component which instantly got me hooked on tech. From there I started consulting in digital strategy and marketing for a variety of companies including corporate hi-tech to SME’s and web startups. Eventually I jumped into the startup world myself.

2.     What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?

We made a key strategic move that would change the direction of the company long term. It was a tough move because it took us away from our initial vision, but in the end it was the smart thing to do given the dynamics of the industry.

3.      Was there a time you didn’t pay attention to your instinct?  What was the outcome?

Yes, it was early on while working with an agency. They suggested a campaign strategy that sounded good on paper, but I had a nagging feeling it would get the measurable results we needed. I ignored the feeling and defaulted to the lead on the campaign. At the end of the day, we didn’t get the ROI that we needed – I should have gone with my gut. That said, I learned a lot from it and moved on.

4.      What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

The highs are incredibly high.

5.     If you knew then what you know now would you do it again?

Hmm… Tough question! I think I would do it differently, but yes I would do it again!

6.      What milestone have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of a lot of what we have accomplished, both for our customers and as a business. We’ve scaled our platform and are growing steadily, and we’ve made the gift registry experience so much better for thousands of people. But I fell as though the best is yet to come!

7.     What book would you give to a new entrepreneur?

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin – Principles are applicable to all types of communication, not just your marketing strategy.

8.     If you could open another business tomorrow what would it be?

Like many entrepreneurs, I have ideas left right and centre! But right now, I think it would be something food or fitness related 🙂

9.      What are your favourite movie, song and meal?

Movie: Snatch

Song: Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine

Meal: Anything BBQ

10. If you could only have one item from your closet what would it be?

My fave pair of jeans. Perfect fit, perfect wash, perfect length!

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Women We Admire: Elmira Berry, Founder, Hot Yoga On Crowfoot, Hot Yoga on 17Ave, One Cycle Spin

Rent frock Repeat: Women We Admire


1.     What were you doing prior to opening up your own company?

Stay at home mom.

2.     What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?

Toughest decision was whether to open our 3rd business One Cycle Spin Studio. It was a new take on spin in the country and we didn’t know if it was too risky or new for Calgary. We had 2 Hot Yoga studios and everything was safe and easy. We were ready for a new challenge so we thought why not.

3.     Was there a time you didn’t pay attention to your instinct? What was the outcome?

I would have to say it happens when I’m hiring someone new. That’s when I get confused about following my gut or just giving someone an opportunity…..I have high expectations. 🙂

4.     What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

I wake up every morning so grateful and blessed that I get to do what I love and the best part is I work with a group of talented instructors and staff that are so passionate about what they do that they inspire me to be the best that I can be. The next best part is all the wonderful clients that come through our doors, they are part of our little family and I love them.

5.      If you knew then what you know now would you do it again?

Oh yes over and over again.

6.     What milestone have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?

It would be having found a  balance between family life and running 3 successful businesses. Winning awards every year since we opened for best yoga studio and place to work out in Calgary.

7.     What book would you give to a new entrepreneur?

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s simple, honest and makes sense, just remember to be genuine when you are practicing it.

8.      If you could open another business tomorrow what would it be?

Same ones I have now, maybe a cute coffee shop with only organic goodies. The menu would be very simple.

9.     What are your favourite movie, song and meal?

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption
Favourite Meal: a combination of persian dishes, can’t get enough of it.
Favourite song: oh it’s so hard to pick just one! How about anything by Madonna!

10.  If you could only have one item from your closet what would it be?

It would have to be my AG jeans, can’t live without them.
Websites: www.hotyogaon17th.comwww.hotyogaoncrowfoot.com, www.one-cycle.com

Twitter: @onecyclespin, @HotYogaSpinOnCF, @elmirabarry

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OneCycleSpinwww.facebook.com/pages/Hot-Yoga-On-17th-and-Hot-Yoga-On-Crowfoot/163946053646281

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Women We Admire: Tonia Jahshan, Founder & President, Steeped Tea Inc

Rent frock Repeat: Women We Admire

1.     What were you doing prior to opening up your own company?

Fresh from college, I was an ECE teacher for 8 years. I made a switch to sales when I took over my father’s sales agency in year 2001 and sold tools and electrical equipment all over South Western Ontario.

2.     What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?

Deciding whether to take the risk of going on Dragons’ Den. Even the best of business can be torn apart if your pitch is terrible. I knew going on the show could have potentially hurt our business if we didn’t present in the best way possible.

3.      Was there a time you didn’t pay attention to your instinct?  What was the    outcome?

When I first started Steeped Tea, a friend of mine was the first consultant to join the company and my gut told me being in business with a friend could be risky and our friendship may be jeopardized. My gut was right and the friendship we had was lost because of our different opinions about the company.

4.    What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

Having the freedom to be with my children whenever I want and not missing a single school class trip.

5.    If you knew then what you know now would you do it again?

Absolutely! Empowering women and men all over North America to own their own Steeped Tea business to provide an income for their families has been one of the greatest moments of my career.

6.   What milestone have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?

Having the courage to go on Dragons’ Den to present my company in front of millions of viewers.

7.   What book would you give to a new entrepreneur?

The Pampered Chef Story – Doris Christopher. A truly inspiring story about never giving up on your dream.

8.   If you could open another business tomorrow what would it be?

A spa! It’s one of my favourite things to do. Plus I can serve my tea there J

9.   What are your favourite movie, song and meal?

Favourite movie: The Notebook

Favourite Song: The Look of Love – Diana Krall

Favourite Meal: Anything Mexican

10.   If you could only have one item from your closet what would it be?

A classic black dress

Website: www.steepedtea.com

Twitter: @steepedteainc

Facebook: www.facebook.com/steepedteainc

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Women We Admire: Jacqueline Dinsmore, J.D. (Law), B.A.H. (Hons), President and CEO, Luvali Convertibles

201209_Jackie-20 - Headshot

1.     What were you doing prior to opening up your own company?

I was Assistant General Counsel for Torstar (parent company of The Toronto Star)

2.      What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?

To fire one of my close office staff members.  I liked her, but she was not good for the business, and she was taking advantage, so she had to go.

3.      Was there a time you didn’t pay attention to your instinct?  What was the    outcome?

Yes!! I was working with a sourcing agent who assisted with my manufacturing overseas.  What a disaster on so many levels! That sourcing agent is gone, and we now work with someone tried and true.  Another reason to join networking groups- great, trustworthy referrals (most of the time)!

4.      What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

I love being able to build something from the ground up.  Even though the hours of work tend to be a lot more, the flexibility allows me to volunteer at my kids’ schools (sometimes), go to their events and activities and work with my mom! I loved attending the Oscar and Emmy pre-parties too- that is something I would never have gotten to do as a lawyer.

5.      If you knew then what you know now would you do it again?

Yes, absolutely, but boy would I do things differently! I would trust my gut more. I would trust people less- until proven. Sad, but true in business.

6.      What milestone have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?

When we hit the 2,000 store mark, it felt really really good. It was so exciting when I started to see my products on people walking down the street. It took everything in me not to stop them and make a fool of myself.

7.      What book would you give to a new entrepreneur?

The Gratitude Principle by Dan Sullivan (Strategic Coach)

8.      If you could open another business tomorrow what would it be?

I’d open an entrepreneur consulting business.  An entrepreneurial lawyer tends to be an oxymoron in today’s world. I would love to share the knowledge I have from both fields of expertise, to help others grow their businesses to new heights.  I would make sure lawyers are no longer seen as “sales prevention associates”.

9.      What are your favourite movie, song and meal?

Movie: Life is Beautiful

Song: “Grow Old with You” by Adam Sandler. My wedding song.

Meal: skip the meal- go right to buttered popcorn at the movies (and throw in some M&Ms on top while you are at it!)

10.   If you could only have one item from your closet what would it be?

Black lululemon pants (aka Thanksgiving turkey pants).  Hands down.

Website: www.luvaliconvertibles.com

Twitter: @luvalionline

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LuvaliOnline

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Women We Admire: Catherine Graham, President, Rightsleeve

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1.      What were you doing prior to opening up your own company?

Prior to joining RIGHTSLEEVE I was doing a variety of different jobs in the corporate world – banking, management consulting and also spent some time at eBay Canada.  This was a formative experience in giving me my first exposure working for a tech company.  I then spent 8 months as a full time general contractor managing the renovation of our house while I was pregnant with our second child – that was an experience.  Interestingly, each of my previous roles have added a unique contribution to what I do now.  Banking gave me the financial know-how and the account management experience.  Consulting gave me the communication tools and analytic skills.  eBay gave me early internet, ecommerce and optimization experience.  And the general contracting gave me the knowledge and project management skills to execute the 5 office renovations/expansions we have done over the past 10 years!

2.      What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?

The toughest was definitely deciding whether or not to go back to the corporate world after our second child was born.  It was not only a big decision to move from big corporate to small business (RIGHTSLEEVE only had 5 employees at the time), but it was also a huge decision to start working with my husband.  It felt like such a logical transition at the time given I had been involved in the business peripherally for so many years, but there were obviously a lot of risks that came with crossing that line.

3.      Was there a time you didn’t pay attention to your instinct?  What was the outcome?

The examples where I haven’t paid attention to my instinct have always been around hiring mistakes.  If someone doesn’t feel 100% right for the role from the very beginning, don’t hire them just to put a bum in a seat.  It’s difficult when you are under pressure to fill a role, but waiting for the right person is well worth it.

4.      What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

The most rewarding part is watching something grow.  I particularly get a kick out of seeing people on our team develop; watching as they grow in confidence and seeing their unique abilities start to really shine.

5.      If you knew then what you know now would you do it again?

Absolutely.  The world of entrepreneurship is something I never would have considered coming out of school.   This is where I feel having strong mentors and role models is so critically important when you are charting a career path and making big life choices.  Had I known earlier what I know now, I might have started down the entrepreneurship path earlier than this.

6.      What milestone have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?

Surviving having 3 kids 😉  Although… it’s only been 9 years, so I’m not really out of the woods yet on that one….

7.      What book would you give to a new entrepreneur?

I find it difficult to narrow it down to one, as there are so many facets that a new entrepreneur can focus on and develop.   I would have to pick a book each for 3 different categories:

i) As I am such a huge believer in the importance of building a great team, I would say Drive by Daniel Pink is essential reading in order to really understand how to motivate different people.

ii) For marketing and the critical importance of having a point of differentiation, Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

iii) For finance and strategy would be Lean Analytics by Alastair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz.  It does a great job of highlighting the importance of what metrics to focus on at the various stages of a start up.

8.      If you could open another business tomorrow what would it be?

An online bank for small and medium business that would be easy, inexpensive, intuitive and in-keeping with the shift to digital and mobile for interacting with customers and suppliers.  Dream big, right?

9.      What are your favourite movie, song and meal?

Movie: Love Actually – my husband and I have watched it every holiday season for almost 10 years and I still love all the story lines (and still cry EVERY time).

Song: I’m old school and am a big fan of the Boss – so it would have to be Long Time Coming by Bruce Springsteen

Meal: I’m happiest with a nice big salad with tons of fresh, interesting ingredients and amazing homemade dressing.

10.   If you could only have one item from your closet what would it be?

My light brown heels as they go with everything!

Website: www.rightsleeve.com, www.commonsku.com

Twitter: @cath_graham

Facebook: www.facebook.com/catherine.graham.92372

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Women We Admire: Andrea Lown, Founding Partner, SmartBride Boutique

Andrea

1. What were you doing prior to opening up your own company?

I started SmartBride after returning from a 3 month honeymoon. At 27, I had quit my job as a digital product manager at AOL Canada to take off and travel South East Asia with my new husband. Planning my own wedding in just 4 short months, I took to the internet to find a dress that could be ready and altered in time. I was completely unsatisfied with the “department store” atmosphere of other online classified sites like eBay and craigslist and decided to start SmartBride to help other brides find the dress of their dreams on a realistic budget.

2.      What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?

For me the toughest decisions always revolve around staff and personnel. It’s hard to separate business decisions from friendships and people you work with and care about.

3.      What’s the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

I might be gluten for punishment, but I actually enjoy the challenge of doing more with less, running strategic and lean, and overcoming adversity with creative solutions.

4.      If you knew then what you know now would you do it again?

Yes – but I would have expanded to the U.S. much sooner, taken on a technical cofounder, and started charging for our services right from the start.

6.      What milestone have you accomplished so far that you are most proud of?

Finally launching the website and watching the first dress get posted by a user was a total thrill.  Other milestones are harder to pinpoint as they don’t come in a single event but slower growth over time.  We love hitting traffic goals, securing media coverage and nailing down strategic partnerships.

7.      What book would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Anything fiction to give yourself a “brain break” from living and breathing your business 24/7.

8.      If you could open another business tomorrow what would it be?

I just started another! It’s called Digital Coconut – we’re a niche marketing agency helping travel and tourism companies market themselves through captivating images, videos and digital content.  We just got back from 6 days at a resort in Barbados shooting photos and videos for their new website. (DigitalCoconut.com)

9.      What are your favourite movie, song and meal?

Vintage movie favourite: Mary Poppins

Song: I outsource all music choices to my husband, so… whatever he puts on my iPod

Guilty Pleasure: Ribs (extra sauce, preferably roadside)

10.   If you could only have one item from your closet what would it be?

My Frye boots.

Website: www.smartbrideboutique.com

Twitter: @smartbride@andrealown

Facebook: www.facebook.com/smartbride