October is National Small Business Month and after the headache small businesses and entrepreneurs have gone through during the pandemic, it’s only right that we support them in every way we can. Coincidentally, October is also Women’s History Month and what better way to honour the two events by combining them into one?
Ethio Organics, Passionfruit and Pret-a-Porter Jewels are 3 Canadian female-led businesses working with Shopify. They provide goods like organic products, apparel and jewelry. According a 2020 report by the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, only 13.3% of Canadian women are entrepreneurs. Leading us to question what’s stopping more females from becoming entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is especially hard for women. Unlike the majority of those of the opposite sex, women face additional barriers like financial funding, defying social expectations and sexism. Here’s how all 3 of these inspiring women have been able to become entrepreneurs and develop strong, successful businesses.
Betti Eskedar, along with her two friends Amira Aboubaker and Zewdi Redaey are the owners of Ethio Organics. The 3 of them immigrated from Ethiopia and grew-up eating very wholesome, nutritious food. Betti wanted to bring her Ethiopian customs here to Canada and they officially began the business in 2018.
“We looked into how we can import Teff, which is the grain we work with. Its imported from East Africa and its well known among many countries in Europe. It only grows in hot climates and now its being grown in America and Australia,” Betti said.
Betti says Teff is something they grew up eating at almost every meal in Ethiopia.The grain was founded almost 5000 years ago and is filled with many nutritious properties. It contains resistant starches that can maintain blood sugar, vitamin B6, zin, magnesium and its high in fiber.
With the Teff grain, Ethio Organics developed a pancake and waffle mix. The initial idea came from Betti’s daughter suffering with stomach issues and a gluten intolerance. Teff grain is 100% gluten-free.
Betti and her team are economically conscious and makre sure the Teff grain is imported from East Africa through fair trade.
“We work with female small business owners in Ethiopia who actually buy the product from farmers at a local market and from there they ship it to us. What that does for the women is they get employed for their work and that means these local farmers are making many against big corporations,” Betti said.
Ethio Organics provides Ethiopian women the financial and economic support they need. Betti knows the importance of supporting females in the industry. As a female entrepreneur herself, she understands the struggles and barriers that are present for female business owners.
“In general women work very hard. When you start a business you work day and night and on top of that a big challenge is trying to stay focused and balance all the home duties women have,” Betti said.
These are the societal expectations female business owners encounter. The pressures of maintaining a good home, raising children, all while having a successful business is at the core of most challenges faced by female entrepreneurs.
Ethio Organics Pancake & Waffle Mix
The 4 types of Pancake and Waffle Mix are:
- Teff and Almond Pancake/Waffle Mix
- Teff and Flax Seed Pancake/Waffle Mix
- Teff and Oat Pancake/Waffle Mix
- Teff Pancake/Waffle Mix
Buy your mixes today on the Shop App.
Liz Bertorelli is the founder of Passionfruit, an inclusive apparel brand that allows people to show their pride all year round. The items are designed and curated by Liz, a proud member of the LGBT2S+ community.
The brand initially started in Toronto back in 2018 when Liz created shirts for her friends for Pride. From here, the brand blossomed and it was never something Liz intended to happen. Liz says the brand is an extension of herself and how she always wears her heart on her sleeve.
“Big brands tend to rainbow wash throughout the month of June and I wanted to have our own company. The reason why I continued the company is because I think it’s surprised important for folks to see themselves in the designs and that something exists for them in their community, not just one month but all year round,” Liz said.
Liz says a shirt is like a walking billboard and it’s one of the best ways to show off your pride. Her workspace is covered in colourful sticky notes with doodled ideas of potential shirt ideas. Although she sometimes incorporates the traditional rainbow trademark, she tries to be more creative with her own digital designs.
“Some days it’s day to day ideas that come to my head. Whereas some ideas like my first Pride was a riot tank top was rooted in LGBTQ history. But other then that I doodle a bunch when my creativity sparks,” Liz said.
To Be A Queer Female Business Owner
With the positives always come the negatives. But in the end, it’s worth it when pursuing something you love. Liz says the biggest positive is not only being a female-led company, but a female-led QUEER company.
“This role comes with a certain responsibility. Its the value that representation as a queer woman brings and maybe even inspiring another queer woman to reach out. I love being a mentor to other folk in the queer community,” Liz said.
Whatever community you belong to, it’s important to help and continue to support one another. Liz is able to be a positive role model for both women and LGBTQ2S+ communities who want to start their own small business.
Purchase your Passionfruit apparel here.
Entrepreneurism After Retirement
Lori Carson is the founder of Pret-a-Porter Jewels, a custom-made jewellery line. Lori retired in the spring of 2020 and her retirement plan was to focus solely on her custom jewelry. But, like most people in 2020, her plans shifted because of the pandemic. Lori was forced to ditch her traditional craft shows and go 100% online.
With the help of Shopify, Lori was able to take a few digital main street training courses to update her on the new ways of technology and social media. She says that in a few weeks she was ready to completely pivot to a digital platform. Lori was able to take her almost 20-year-old business and adapt to the new ways of online business.
“My mum had a love for jewellery so I always grew up around that. I like pieces that are different and I couldn’t find the things I liked so I decided to make them myself. After a few years of making it for myself I started have people asking if they could buy it off me. I had the idea of doing my first show and in one weekend I sold 100 pieces and I thought to myself, I got something here,” Lori said.
Lori hand makes all of her pieces and she describes them as textile pieces with metal that she knits, crochets and weaves with fine silver wire. A pendant can take her anywhere from 3-4 hours to complete. With the help of her husband, she was able to start attending craft shows, reaching over 20 each year.
“I’m passionate about it because I see the way it lifts people’s spirits. It’s not only about the jewelry, jewellery is the thing that tops off your day. You put on your outfit and you add your jewellery and it makes you feel confident. And when you gift a piece of jewelry it’s even better because everyone loves receiving it,” Lori said.
It’s Never Too Late To Start
It isn’t common to see a retired female become an entrepreneur but for Lori, it was always something she was familiar with. Before retirement, Lori was a high school entrepreneurship teacher and went on to writing her very-own textbook. Lori has the drive and knowledge, leading her to becoming a strong business woman.
“Its never too late, find something you’re passionate about and do it. Entrepreneurs are able to mitigate the risks and especially as a senior people are always like you’re too old and what I say back to that is just get out of the way because I’m doing it. Never let the negative people get into your consciousness,” Lori said.
Shop Pre-a-Porter Jewels here.
No matter young or old, all female-led businesses share the same challenges. The world needs more entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs. Shopify offers numerous tools to help small businesses get started. They offer various free online courses, a 14-day free trial and access to the Shopify ecosystem. Start your free trail here today.
Feature Image: LIZ BERTORELLI