Celebrating Social Entrepreneurs this International Women’s Day

HappyInternationalWomen's Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

We know that women are drivers of change in their communities. Not only is this common knowledge but we have also seen it first hand.

Over the years, we have been fortunate enough to have worked with many inspiring female social entrepreneurs. This International Women’s Day we wanted to tell you about a few of them. Not only are these ladies running their own businesses and changing mindsets at home, but they are also partnering with women and families abroad who use the economic opportunity to improve their own communities. 

You can meet all these talented entrepreneurs at the Buy Good. Feel Good Expo this May 13th & 14th in Toronto!

Cassandra Ciarallo of Chic Made Consciously

Inspired by her travels through Asia, Cassandra started her ethical and sustainable accessories line Chic Made Consciously. While in Ubud of Bali, Indonesia, she came across an artisan creating accessories from repurposed tire inner tubes. Seeing how these accessories not only diverted waste from the landfills but also provided opportunity to artisans, she decided to bring them to her hometown of Toronto and Chic Made Consciously was born. Cassandra’s energy is contagious. She motivates those around her to think critically about their purchases and to maintain a positive attitude.

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Jennie Coleman of Equifruit

An all-star entrepreneur, Jennie took over the organic and fairtrade banana business, Equifruit, in 2013 from the original mother-daughter team. Since then her dedication to small-farmers in Peru and Ecuador and expanding the fairtrade market in Canada has driven Equifruit’s growth. Originally selling to the Quebec market, Equifruit have now seen significant expansion throughout Ontario. Jennie has also brought on three more dedicated women to the Equifruit team. Most recently, Equifruit has begun importing conventional fairtrade bananas and fostered a partnership with Concordia University. Concordia is the first campus in Canada to sell only fairtrade bananas.

Isabel Stigge of Little by Little

Believing that no child should be without a home, Isabel has always focused a lot of her energy on helping orphans. With six adopted children of her own (and four biological), she also volunteers annually at an orphanage in Haiti. What she saw was that many children in the orphanages actually had at least one living parent, but a lack of economic opportunity made it impossible to take care of the children on their own. This led Isabel to start her business, Little by Little, providing job opportunities to at-risk parents. Now Little by Little employs 18 Haitians and directly benefits 50 children, while supporting 15 other extended families and their children.

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Rose Creamer & Stacey Guymer of Sweet Leaf Bath Co.

Sweet Leaf Bath Co. was born out of a desire to create something that was good not only for your skin, but for the planet as well. Rose and Stacey teamed up in 2007 to create handcrafted skin care products in small batches using pure, organic and Fairtrade Certified ingredients. Their choice to source Fairtrade Certified ingredients from West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Costa Rica was the easiest business decision they made, as it allowed them to impact people’s lives in a positive way.

Janet Viirre of TresBello

Since she was young, Janet dreamed of owning her own store full of beautiful things. Her later experiences travelling and meeting new people led her to realize her dream and open TresBello – a fair trade artisan shop on wheels. The truck brings fair trade accessories, apparel and decor directly to consumers. Her mobile business matches her love for the nomadic lifestyle. It also allows her to share the stories of artisans from around the world, connecting consumers to the people behind their products.

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Daphna Lewinshtein of Craft Talk

An artisan herself, Daphna has always been interested in the artisan sector and making fashion more fair. She wrote her thesis on fair trade and artisans, created a toolkit for artisans, and organized events and workshops on the sector for students and new designers. From here she founded the nonprofit artisan accelerator and design consultancy Craft Talk. Projects through Craft Talk have involved working with new Americans in the United States, indigenous women in Burma, and former factory workers in Bangladesh.

Soul Woven: From Guatemala to Canada, a True Family Business

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“The path that lead me towards founding Soul Woven was a winding road,” states Claire Levick, the founder of fair trade fashion company Soul Woven. It was her mix of interests, frustrations and desires that led her to take a risk, commit to her values and start a fashion business that stood for ethical and fair practices. Soul Woven is a fair trade fashion collection curating traditional Mayan creativity into innovative, modern design by working directly with a number of different artisan groups in Guatemala.

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Who are the people behind Soul Woven?

“My mom and I are very grateful for the relationship we have with our artisans. We take pride in the friendships we have cultivated over the small amount of time that Soul Woven has existed. A great part of Guatemala’s culture is devoted to family and it is common for the parameters of ‘family’ to stretch beyond. I learnt that from a direct experience a few years ago.

When my mother came to Guatemala for the first time, I introduced her to Esperanza, Marten and their family – the soul of our boot production.  We were invited to come to their workshop to observe their cobbling process. What we believed to be a short business trip, turned into a day I will never forget for the rest of my life.

When my mother came to Guatemala for the first time, I introduced her to Esperanza, Marten and their family – the soul of our boot production.  We were invited to come to their workshop to observe their cobbling process. What we believed to be a short business trip, turned into a day I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Christopher - Cobbler
Christopher, Cobbler
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Sitting in complete and utter shock, both my mom and I sat there feeling our hearts about to explode. Half way through the dance, I stumbled to find my camera to capture a part of this magical moment. When the dance ended, we met the girls individually and learnt that they were all nieces of Esperanza and Marten. Next, they proceeded to teach my mother and I the process of how girls in Guatemala learn to make Huipils and the graduating steps it takes to get there. That day, I grew a profound appreciation and understanding for the talent and lifetime dedication that goes into the creation of a Guatemalan huipil. We then went through the process of boot making with the cobblers. From cutting the pattern pieces and leather skins, to constructing the sole and adding the finishing touches, we learnt in great admiration the steps to completing a handmade pair of boots. The afternoon carried on for a number of hours as the house grew more full of family members, all with a role in the business.

 

Thinking our day was coming to an end and that we would return to our room, exhausted and ready for bed, we were told dinner was going to be served. We insisted, as Canadians do, that they did not need to feed us. And as Guatemalans do, they didn’t listen and sat us down in our seats and didn’t let us get up until the meal was over and table cleared. The meal that followed was one of the best meals I have ever had. Handmade tamales started us off as they were passed around the table. The main course was a traditional Guatemalan stew called, Pepian. A beautiful array of coriander, cloves and cinnamon, give flavour to a tomato and chili based chicken broth. We were told after the meal that they had butchered one of their chickens for the meal. I am still at a loss for words when I talk to Esperanza about that night and the symbolism of their gift that day. The evening ended with many hugs and an agreement that our relationship was not only business, not only friendship, but family. I am forever grateful to be able to have begun a business based on these values and I hope to continue to grow Soul Woven in the same way forever.”

Check out Soul Woven at www.soulwoven.ca and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

You can also watch out our interview with Claire below: