This is a question that I’ve been asking myself for the past four months since I started my job at Futurpreneur Canada.
I joined the Vancouver team as an Office Coordinator; a role that requires me to answer questions and engage in conversations happening all around me between our team and young entrepreneurs, mentors, and community partners; a role that has put me in the middle of everything in our office which, thankfully, is exactly where I wanted to be.
When I started working at Futurpreneur in July, I had a very small understanding of the start-up world, but a curiosity and an eagerness to learn more. With this curiosity at the forefront, I decided to take on a “sponge” mentality. I wanted to soak up as much information that I possibly could.
So, being my spongy self, I dove headfirst into my new role at Futurpreneur. I asked questions, I shadowed my colleagues, and most importantly, I started saying yes to everything. Fast track to four weeks ago when my manager, Paulina Cameron, mentioned an event that Futurpreneur Canada was hosting in Vancouver called Trailblazers, an event showcasing the journeys of five local female entrepreneurs. Upon hearing this, I knew I had to say yes to helping with this event.
Female empowerment has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to be raised by working parents who taught me the importance of hard work and follow-through. Throughout my education, I was supported by teachers who challenged me and, when I started working, I had mentors and managers who inspired me to do more and make more for myself and others around me. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I began volunteering at an organization that creates programs, workshops, and a community for young female professionals and I quickly discovered my interest in community building, supporting other women, and entrepreneurship. I am sure you can understand my excitement when asked to support the team in the planning for Trailblazers.
Through my role in the planning process I had the opportunity to connect with the five female entrepreneurs who were invited to speak at our event. After a significant amount of Googling, I discovered that each of these women had very different backgrounds, very different businesses, and very different paths to define their own success.
Taran Ghatrora is the co-founder and CEO of Blume. She found her passion for health and advocacy in law school when she researched gender equality due to lack of access to period products. This passion became the fuel for her company Ellebox which has grown into Blume.
Jamie Smith is an artist and community builder. She founded her company THRIVE Art Studio in 2015 after connecting with other female artists and discovering a real need for a supportive and collective community that value collaboration over competition.
Lizzy Karp used storytelling as a platform for traditionally underrepresented voices. Through her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for event production, she co-founded Here There Studio, Vancouver’s premiere creative event agency.
As a new immigrant to Canada, Mai Eilia, launched Magnum Construction as a way to give back to her community by hiring refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. Being a female in a male dominated industry, Mai is leaving her mark on the construction and interior design industry.
Emily Lycopolus used her love and knowledge of olive oil to create five olive oil inspired cookbooks, became a level 2 olive oil sommelier, and the current co-founder of eatcreative.ca. She brings her enjoyment of connecting over food into her businesses today.
On the night of Trailblazers, the room was absolutely buzzing. Up to this point, I had been to a number of smaller Futurpreneur Canada-hosted events and workshops but the energy in the room was one I hadn’t experienced yet. Stationed at the registration table, I was first to interact with the attendees and I could feel their excitement to hear from the speakers and make new connections. After a bit of networking, the evening kicked off with a wonderful introduction from the Honorable Hedy Fry, who spoke to the impact and the importance small businesses has in our country and the immense leaps women have made since the 1960’s when most were trapped in the “pink ghetto” of employment.
One by one, the trailblazers took the stage to share their experiences with the audience – there was laughter and there were tears (well, at least from me).
Hearing Taran talk about how her expectations that her business launch would make her website crash was quickly met with the fact that two people, both whom she knew personally, were the only subscribers. Next was Lizzy, sharing her desire to grow a community through diverse story-telling. Then, to the passion that was emanating from Emily as she spoke about her passion for olive oil, the joy she had running her storefront, and the tough decision she had to make to close it and launch her new online platform. I laughed along with Jamie as she spoke about her experiences as a female artist who had no idea how to run a business. She shed light on the misinformed narrative of the “starving artist” and how, for her, that was simply unrealistic. Finally, with the audience’s emotions running wild, Mai shared her story as an immigrant who make the tough decision to leave her home and her family and come to Canada and make a new life for herself. All in all, it was an emotional rollercoaster to say the least.
As quickly as it started, the talks concluded but the room didn’t disperse. Eager and engaged attendees wanted to keep their conversations going, learn more about the speakers, and hear more stories! While each speaker was unique, one key message was the same – the importance and value of community.
This is a message that stuck out to me most as I completely and wholeheartedly believe it. I think that by surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and choose to support you can have a profound impact on what you can accomplish as an entrepreneur, or otherwise. I’ve seen it firsthand in my office – I see our team bouncing ideas off of each other, thinking of alternative options for entrepreneurs who aren’t eligible for our program, and I see it in the network of mentors who volunteer their time for two whole years to support a new entrepreneur.
The feelings and connections that were shared that night is exactly why Futurpreneur Canada hosts events like this and why we need more of them across Canada – to create a community surrounding entrepreneurs and local business owners and create a space where people can feel connected, engaged and excited to start their next venture with the confidence and community behind them to help them succeed.
So is that it? Is having a supportive community the answer I’ve been searching for when it comes to what makes an entrepreneur succeed? Honestly, maybe, but I think there is more to the equation. As much as I wish it were true, I don’t think success is as simple as idea + supportive community = successful entrepreneur. From the short amount of time that I’ve been in the start-up world I can say that every entrepreneur is different and no two journeys are the same, but the inspiration and the passion is contagious and I am so excited to be a part of this environment and see where my personal journey takes me.
View photos from Trailblazers 2018 here
Written by Gaby Rice, Office Coordinator at the Futurpreneur Canada BC Hub