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Three Canadian Entrepreneurs Share Their Advice for Starting a Business, Carving a Path, and Finding Purpose: IWD

In honour of International Women’s Day, Talk Shop hosted a live panel on Clubhouse last week focused on “Advice I’d give my younger self”. We got together with three powerhouse women entrepreneurs - Patrice Mousseau, Founder of Satya Organic, Jenn Harper, Founder of Cheekbone Beauty, and Shadi McIsaac, Co-Founder and CEO of Ownr - to discuss their career journeys and the key learnings that came along the way.

Steering clear of gendered questions about balancing acts, dressing appropriately for the job, and other similar topics that men rarely get asked about, we got into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to be a woman entrepreneur and what advice these business leaders would give their younger selves. Needless to say, it was a great conversation and we’ve recapped some of our key takeaways from the event below.   

 Don’t self-select out 

Whether they were inspired by the power and drive of the women entrepreneur community in Canada or by the “If these guys can do it, so can I” moment of working in a male-run business, one common theme shared by the entire panel was the importance of knowing your value and not “self-selecting” out of entrepreneurship. 

As Shadi put it, “Don’t self-select or self-opt out because of the story that you’re telling yourself.” Getting to the place where you can recognize that you’re self-opting your way out of opportunities and lean in rather than back out is where real growth starts to happen. 

Overcoming the hesitancies of early entrepreneurship, embracing the risks, and becoming more bullish has enabled each business to see incredible growth. In the past year, Cheekbone Beauty has hired over 15 new staff and Satya Organic has launched into Hong Kong and the US.  

Know Your Value 

For many entrepreneurs the biggest hurdle to starting a business is capital; this is especially true for women-run businesses. When it comes to capital, these were the key takeaways. 

  1. Start with your value: As Jenn shared, capital truly comes when you’re building something that has value. When starting a business, it’s so important to pay attention to your business’ real value proposition. When you have something really unique in the market, not only can you launch your product or service, but you will attract an audience, grow early-on revenue, support business growth, and lay the foundation for securing outside capital. 
  • Explore all funding options: While new businesses are often funded out of pocket in the very early stages, there are so many opportunities for funding in the space between self-funding and a bank loan. Organizations like SheEO offer zero-interest loans while The Forum offers funding access and education to women entrepreneurs. Incubator and accelerator programs are designed to help early-stage businesses and grant funding is available at all levels of government.  
  1. Never give it up for sweat equity:  Trading equity is the most expensive capital that you will ever get so bootstrap for as long as you can. As Patrice put it “Get a loan, ask your grandma, get a grant, whatever you have to do, don’t give up equity in your company and never give it up for sweat equity.”.  

Build Community  

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. So be mindful of who you’re putting into your mind and your heart; surround yourself with the right people and build a community that gets it and understands and supports you.  

Building a community is also so important for your business. It can help you strengthen your company’s value proposition for customers and broaden customer acquisition strategy. One example from Shadi was the value that strategic partnerships have had for her business. By partnering with service-adjacent businesses that are ultimately going after the same end-user, Ownr has added to its value proposition to customers without extending outside of the company’s scope and spreading the team too thin. 

Advice to My Younger Self 

Reflecting back on their entrepreneurial journeys, each panelist shared the best advice they’ve ever received and the advice that they’d like to give their younger selves. Here’s what they had to say. 

Best Advice You’ve Received:

  • Shadi: Bet on yourself.  
  • Patrice: Build your community.  
  • Jenn: Consistency is key.  

Advice You’d Give Your Younger Self: 

  • Shadi: Don’t self-select or self-opt out because of the story you’re telling yourself.
  • Patrice: You don’t have to be nice to be kind.   
  • Jenn: Nothing is impossible with hard work and passion. All of it is possible. 

More about our Panelists  

Patrice Mousseau, Founder of Satya Organic.  Patrice is a conscious entrepreneur and the owner/creator of Satya Organic Skin Care, a skincare company that delivers NPN-approved, USDA Certified Organic products to serve those with sensitive skin conditions. Patrice is also a proud single mom and a member of Fort William First Nation. Patrice first started Satya in 2014 in local farmer’s markets and a few stores.  

Today, Satya has helped thousands of skin warriors around the world access clean, effective skin relief. Satya is now sold online and in over 900 retailers across Canada including Whole Foods and Indigo.ca.

Jenn Harper, Founder of Cheekbone BeautyAn award-winning social entrepreneur, Jenn Harper is the founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics INC.  Cheekbone Beauty is a digitally native direct-to-consumer brand that is helping Indigenous youth see themselves in a beauty brand while using the concept of a circular economy in the brand’s ethos and in developing their latest line of products.  Creating a new segment in the beauty industry – Sustainable Socially Conscious Beauty. 

Jennifer Harper has been making a name for herself in the beauty industry for a number of years but has been gaining popularity quickly after being on the hit CBC show, Dragons Den. In 2019, Jenn was named ‘Women of the Year’ by Chatelaine Magazine.   

Shadi McIsaac, Co-Founder and CEO of Ownr. Shadi is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ownr, a platform that offers a simple and convenient way to register or incorporate a business as well as other tools to help entrepreneurs manage and grow their businesses. Shadi began her career at IBM, is a graduate of Western University, earned a Master of Business Administration from the Rotman School of Management, and has completed the Angel Academy program through Female Funders.