Women’s History Month may be over but that doesn’t mean women or their accomplishments should be celebrated any less. Every year, the number of female owned businesses in Canada increases, and over the last few years women-owned businesses have made incredible progress in many areas of entrepreneurship, including access to external funding and exporting activity. They are more likely to adopt and implement digital technology than businesses owned by men, and they continue to support one another – globally, Canadian women rank number one in terms of their involvement with new businesses.
But the coronavirus pandemic has caused many women-owned businesses to slow down. The Canadian Press recently reported firms and small businesses owned by women are taking twice as long to recover from the financial setbacks that have occurred due to COVID-19 than businesses owned by men. It also added 60 per cent of women-owned businesses had to lay off 80 per cent or more of their staff due to losses brought on by the pandemic.
We've rounded up a few women-owned businesses making waves in everything from housewares to chic couture. They're all available to be discovered on Shopify's free mobile shopping app, Shop, through the women-owned business directory.
Eleanor Stainsby's Stainsby Studios
Having always been passionate about ceramics, Eleanor Stainsby was motivated to start her own business after having boxes upon boxes of unused pottery in her home.
When she began selling her work, the money she made not only gave her the opportunity to finance her home studio, but it also allowed her to give back to her community. With every item sold, a donation is made to a local food bank. Supposedly most impressive is Eleanor is a professional engineer in her day job, and all of her ceramics are made during her free time.
Her "engineering and artist brain collide" in her ability and desire to constantly explore technology and seek for ways to involve it into her designs. Her most anticipated engineering and artist brain child? The upcoming launch of a selection of ceramics that incorporates both pop art and traditional quilt patterns on her ceramics.
For women who are wanting to start their own business, Eleanor encourages them to value both their time and their creations and to get comfortable with promoting both themselves and their business. As for what success looks like for Elanor? She's let go of traditional metrics, and instead measures how well her business is doing by how much she's learned and how much fun she's having.
Christie Pinese's Rose City
While working in the fashion retail industry, Christie Pinese became increasingly frustrated with the amount of waste the industry generated, and was inspired to create a venture of her own that was kinder to the planet.
Named after her hometown of Windsor, Ont., affectionately nicknamed Rose City, Rose City Goods is a home decor and gift shop that prioritizes supporting and highlighting female entrepreneurs whose products are sustainable and ethically created. In fact 80 per cent of the merchandise Rose City carries is sourced from female artists or entrepreneurs.
Deeply inspired by her love of textiles, vintage finds, and ceramics, Rose City Goods has transformed from a stand alone brick and mortar location to an online space that carries everything from blown glass vases to chaga mushroom pieces. The process of creating is what Christie defines as one of the toughest obstacles in her entrepreneurial journey.
After using most of her savings and available credit to start her business, Christie hopes to see the government really understand the huge impact small businesses have on the economy and allow funding and resources for those businesses to be much more accessible.
Tired of constantly feeling like women were an afterthought in the streetwear industry, Abby Albino and Shelby Weaver decided to Makeway for the first ever "sneaker boutique "for women by women" in Canada.
Despite a global health pandemic forcing Abby and Shelby to shift the focus of their business from their physical location to their online space, they were still determined to create waves in a normally male-dominated space.
With inventory from some of the biggest names in the sneaker world, such as Reebok and Puma, they are more than just on their way to shattering glass ceilings in a physical sense. Makeway is also determined to create more opportunities for female representation in Canadian sneaker culture, and hopes to be a pivotal part of those conversations.
In celebration of Women’s History Month this year, Makeway launched an array of limited edition products – many of which were created in collaboration with largely women-owned brands.
Using three words to guide their business practices – practical, beautiful and safe – Numi has transformed from a company that solely created women's undershirts to what founder Michelle Shemilt describes as a product development company.
Prior to founding Numi, Michelle was an equity trader at a global bank in Toronto. She created the original Numi undershirts to protect her work shirts from increasingly obvious pit stains. After the success of Numi's moisture wicking undershirts, it has recently expanded its business offerings to include a line of stain-resistant dress shirts, designed for the working woman.
But even with their unique product offerings and little to no competition in these spaces, Michelle admits one of the biggest obstacles they have faced as a business has been the launch of these new products in themselves. To combat this, they have had to ensure potential consumers are well educated on each and every product.
This level of transparency has transferred into all aspects of their business, too! Michelle revealed Numi is in the process of auditing itself and is set to release a sustainability report later this year, to make sure the company is not just tapping in to a key business buzzword but actually doing the work behind it.
And in a continuous effort to combat unrealistic body standards in imaging and advertising, no photo of any of their models is ever retouched, and there is a constant emphasis on using models of all body shapes and sizes.