8 Women in Business Share Their Best Advice

8 Women in Business Share Their Best Advice

Feature image by Emily Doliner

When I first started my business in 2011 I was feeling ALL the insecurities. Even though I took business courses, did the research, and even worked in a small retail environment for over 10 years unknowingly learning the ropes, the self-doubt always crept in! I felt so unsure of myself. I’ll never forget the incredibly intense vulnerability I felt the first day I opened my doors to the public. The truth is, when I look back, I knew I had a good idea. My intuition was telling me one thing and my busy insecure brain another.

I often think back to that first year and wonder what advice I would give to myself.  First I would give myself a big hug, then I would say trust your instincts and lean into those scary, unknown places. I know it’s a process to gain confidence as an entrepreneur (heck I still struggle with imposter syndrome), but if you’ve done the research and feel confident in your idea, tune into that inner wisdom, because deep down you know what to do next. Take risks, be vulnerable, listen to, and believe in your own ideas…and maybe take out a bigger loan so your vision is truly represented and not just a little smidge of what you’re dreaming up (pictures of my practically empty store that first year in business still haunt me).

In honour of Women’s History Month, I thought it would be fun to reach out to some other female entrepreneurs who have been in business for 4+ years. I wanted to hear their perspectives in celebration of where we started and how far we‘ve come.

Each entrepreneur was asked to answer one question: with the perspective you have now, what would you go back and tell yourself in your first year of business?

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, I hope you find their advice as informative and inspiring as I did!


Stephanie Cheng | Designer + Illustrator


"I would tell young Stephanie to keep trusting herself and don’t be afraid to take more risks."


Stephanie is a Toronto-based freelance designer, illustrator and screen printer. Her in-house line of artprints, greeting cards and kitchen linens can be found online, in 10+ shops across North America and in person at craft shows.
Over the years she's worked on band posters for Goldenvoice and Live Nation illustrating, hand printing her original artworks for bands such as Radiohead, Lizzo and Childish Gambino to name a few. Most recently working with wine company Stel+Mar to create their bottle labels. She has been in business for 10 years.

Website: stephaniecheng.ca


Paulina Gugala | Founder of AGENCY


"There are so many things I’d tell baby entrepreneur Paulina! But I think the most important thing to remember in your first year is to not let hard things scare you, it’s meant to be hard. The hardships you encounter starting a business are the things that will shape you into a better entrepreneur down the road. I hear so much chatter online about having a sense of “ease” in building your business. Sure, I’m a big advocate for choosing your battles and channeling your energy into the right avenues, but building a business isn’t a walk in the park. You’ll need to do things that put you face-to-face with your biggest fears and limiting beliefs. It’s challenging, but also extremely liberating.

So take every obstacle and challenge with a healthy dose of self-compassion and remember that it’s all happening for your own benefit. Great leaders are made, not born. Keep going, you got this!"

Paulina is the owner and founder of AGENCY, a marketing and business consultancy that helps women find agency in their businesses. Her mission is to carve out a space in a male-dominated industry where women can share, thrive, and succeed - together.

Website: agencyto.ca



Becky De Oliveira | Owner of Blush and Bloom


"I would go back and tell myself that the people will come, they can see your passion and you are your superpower! I would also tell myself that this road is going to have so many ups and downs, but in the end it’s all me. This is my baby, this is my brand - stick to your instinct and one day you won’t be saying yes to every job and everyone if you work hard enough to get there."

Becky De Oliveira is the owner of Blush and Bloom, and the lead instructor at Bloom School in Toronto. She has been in business for 10 years.

Website: blushandbloom.ca



Denise Williams | Found of Matter Company


"My first year of business (1996) we were working out of the basement of my mother's house in Scarborough. My business partner at the time (Sonya D'Cunha) and I were so passionate about Herbalism and the environment, we strived to grow, wildcraft, and source everything ethically such that we even found a basket weaver to make custom-made baskets so as to not source from China. There were many challenges, people weren't familiar with natural or plant-based anything, and we were met with skepticism at every corner.

Looking back, I would tell myself that the values we hold as a business go a long way in the longevity of a company and although leading the path to a different way of thinking/being as a company can be challenging, it's worth it. People will come around, and it's the way forward as a model for small businesses."

Denise is the the founder of Matter Company, a natural skincare line focused on the healing power of herbs.

Website: mattercompany.com


Lisa Labute | Owner of The Goods


"I’ve been working away on the Goods for over twelve years now, I’m a very passionate person, and the Goods has been laser-focused on our purpose of making delicious functional and healing food, offering an accessible and inclusive space, and building a sustainable and environmentally conscious business. But I often didn’t pay attention to the financial aspect.

I see this trend among many purpose-driven female business owners. We don’t understand our own finances and often feel uncomfortable talking about money or valuing our own products and services. It’s something I’ve had to come back to time and time again. I would definitely tell myself it’s okay to charge appropriately, it’s okay to not give discounts and it’s okay to profit from my hard work and good intentions. And most importantly it’s necessary to understand the business’ finances as well as I understand my product and my customers."

Lisa is the owner of The Goods, a plant-based, organic restaurant with a location in Roncesvalles that also offers takeout options. Food that is vegan, organic, and made with healing ingredients.

Website: thegoodsisgood.ca


Catherine Choi | Owner of SoYoung



"I think what I would tell myself then is similar to what I would tell myself now, which is that it's normal to feel scared and inadequate and like you're an impostor when you're doing something you've never done before. And that this feeling is actually a good signpost that I'm stretching myself in some way, and will lead to growth. Seeking comfort is a normal and natural thing, but growing involves discomfort. So it's about getting ok with being uncomfortable. And then also making sure that there is room to step back and put my feet up for a while, whenever possible.

The other thing I would say to myself is - do market research before starting a business! I wish I had done more of this instead of just doggedly pursuing whatever inspired me. I don't have any regrets, and maybe this is just 20/20 hindsight, but I feel like I could have saved myself some heartache and money if I had done some better homework. But then, maybe not, so it's all good.

I'm glad about where I am at and who I have become today as a result."

Catherine is the founder of SoYoung, a heart centred lifestyle brand which offers beautiful and functional bags for life on the go.

What Catherine believes is unique about SoYoung is that in the 18 years since she first imagined her business, it has become a voice for healing and transformation where she shares pain to purpose stories, starting with her recovery from drug addiction over 25 years ago.

Their brand message is about having the courage to continuously hold a higher vision for ourselves and then every day taking small steps in that direction. When we do this for long enough, and consistently enough, transformation happens - and the story of SoYoung is truly a testament of this.

Website: ca.soyoung.ca
SoYoung's Instagram: @soyounginc


Sarah Watson | Owner of Aligned One Wellness 


"Know your worth! Charge based on your experience, not solely on other businesses in the area. Be ok with losing clients that don't align with your energy and mission. Not every client is for you, keep working on building your expertise and offering value to every client knowing that the right people will stick with your business. You are right for the right client."

Sarah Watson is the Founder and Owner of Aligned One Wellness, a massage studio located in Danforth village. After practicing for over 15 years, she wanted to create a space where she could create an experience for her clients, not just give them a massage. ​​Aligned One Wellness is a healing space that focuses on assisting its clients in improving their well-being holistically through Registered Massage Therapy and alternative medicine modalities while reinforcing the importance of daily self-care.

Website: alignedonewellness.ca



Which piece of advice resonated with you the most? What would you add? Tell us below in the comments!

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