Startup & Slay Press Release

Startup & Slay 2nd Edition Launches With Diverse Canadian Women and Non-Binary Entrepreneurs Selected From Over 200 Applicants 

  How She Hustles and CIBC Highlight Eight Successful Start-ups
For Small Business Month

For Immediate Release

September 23, 2020 (Toronto, ON) – After a successful inaugural campaign last year, How She Hustles returns with the 2nd Startup & Slay Digital Series, featuring seven women and one non-binary entrepreneur from three provinces who have shown how their start-up is slaying the Canadian market.  The series is proudly sponsored by CIBC in recognition of October’s Small Business Month along with new partners Rogers Sports & Media and Shopify.  Beginning on Wednesday October 7th at 8 pm EST and each Wednesday throughout the month, two entrepreneurs will be featured in a LIVE online themed event on the How She Hustles YouTube Channel, paired with an online article giving business advice and insights on Instagram and Twitter.  RSVP to receive a live stream link.

In May, a national call went out and more than 200 applications were received from self-identified women and non-binary entrepreneurs from diverse and underrepresented communities sharing their stories about starting and scaling a small business in Canada. “This has been a tough year for everybody, small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19,” says Emily Mills founder of How She Hustles/Startup & Slay. “There are unique stories – and often unique challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs who also self-identify as racialized, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQ, persons with disabilities, immigrants and non-binary.”

CIBC has been a proud partner of How She Hustles since 2018 and is excited to once again sponsor the Startup & Slay Digital Series. “Startup & Slay amplifies the voices of diverse women and non-binary entrepreneurs,” said Andrew Turnbull, Senior Vice-President, Business Banking, CIBC.  “CIBC is proud to support this platform and create a more inclusive narrative among Canadian entrepreneurs.” 

Here are the eight businesses chosen and the schedule for their online segment:

Wed. Oct. 7th – Starting a Business During COVID-19

Real Talk Candles – Rachael-Lea Rickards (Toronto, ON) Born out of a need to overcome a random traumatic physical assault in the street by a stranger, Rachael-Lea took up candle-making to deal with her anxiety. The Jamaican-Canadian writer and playwright previously hosted her own Facebook show. She decided to merge her two worlds and put her witty words and true-to-life feelings on scented candles. To add to her risk-taking venture, she launched in April during the pandemic – when other businesses were closing. However, Real Talk Candles took off immediately, so much so, she had to hire staff, move into an office and already has celebrity endorsements! 

Bliss Skateboard Shop – Sasha Senior (Windsor, ON) Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, there weren’t many skateboarders who looked like Sasha – Black and female – and now the mother of two is running the only bricks and mortar skateboard shop in Windsor where she also works full-time with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. Her March opening was successful, but due to COVID-19 rules, she quickly had to move her business online with curbside pick-up and free local delivery which was happily supported. Bliss serves the Windsor/Detroit community, but also has customers internationally. 

Wed. Oct. 14th – Scaling Up a Food Business

House of Yee Fine Foods – Christine Yee (Port Coquitlam, BC) Christine grew up working in her immigrant family’s restaurant in Regina, Saskatchewan – House of Yee Chinese Food.  But despite her childhood in the restaurant business, her initial career path did not lead her into the food industry – until now. Healthy Asian cuisine called at her, and she started her gluten-free dumpling business as a side hustle. She started producing in her own kitchen and moved to a 1600sq.ft space to create her first to market line of frozen dumplings with no MSG, gluten-free with Chicken Pork or Vegan options. They are now available in 40 stores and the list is growing.

RemarkaBall – Giovanna Serauto (Calgary, AB) Giovanna broke from the traditional route of the food industry of using distributors and brokers to sell her protein energy balls, instead she went directly to the stores with her product and got them on the shelves of Safeway, Sobeys, Community Naturals, COOP and Sunterra – in total, 50 retails stores! They are gluten-free, plant-based, soy-free, locally made in Calgary and a hit as a snack or meal replacement. Her team is made up of Latina immigrant women. 

Wed. Oct. 21st – Making Business More Accessible

Deaf Spectrum – Sage Lovell (Toronto, ON) This one-stop source for the Deaf Community’s needs started with a YouTube Channel in 2015 when Sage realized the lack of accessibility for the community. A graduate of Gallaudet University and former Rotman School of Business student, Sage is non-binary and has done impactful work within the deaf, disability, and gender diverse communities. Deaf Spectrum offers sign language translation, event promotion, consultation, grant writing, workshops, training and interpreter booking. They currently serve Ontario with plans to expand across Canada.

Accessibrand – Jolene MacDonald (Wellesley, ON) This virtual agency is a full-service design and marketing company focused on accessibility – it stands out because everyone has been impacted by disability. Jolene comes from a graphic design background but was forced to quit her job due to illness. She realized there was a gap in the marketplace for individuals like herself who needed flexible work. She now has a team of 10 freelancers working with her and also hires persons with disabilities to review work for accessibility testing. 

Wed. Oct. 28th – Entrepreneurship & Indigenous Allyship

Garden Health – Deanna Henry (Vancouver, BC) Deanna – from the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation and a member of Skeetchestn Band – and her partner, are Indigenous 2 spirited women running their popular health and wellness store in the West End neighbourhood of Davie Village. Deanna bought Garden Health in 2017 when the previous owner decided to retire. Sales have been up since then as they incorporate Indigenous values in their customer outreach. Some of their pandemic adjustments included: an online store, curbside pickup, delivery service and retrofitting the store for customer safety. 

Colouring It Forward – Diana Frost (Calgary, AB) A powerful dream inspired Diana, who is Algonquin Metis, to begin her social enterprise in 2016: Indigenous and wisdom colouring books, journals, calendars, notebooks, coffee table artbooks, sketchbooks and t-shirts. Working with Indigenous artists and elders from different Nations, she helps them build confidence through new opportunities such as selling online and to the general population. Sales support the artist, elders and provides donations to Indigenous projects linked to education, health and children. In 2019, sales were $220K and her books are in over 70 Staples stores and in 100 retail stores in Canada and the US. 

How She Hustles is also working with our Startup & Slay sponsors and partners to help support diverse entrepreneurs through the following hands-on initiatives:

● CIBC is offering 1:1 business banking consultations to entrepreneurs selected for Startup & Slay and will be hosting a webinar focused on financial wellness for the How She Hustles network on November 12th at 12pm EST. 

● Shopify is offering 1:1 support to help Startup & Slay entrepreneurs launch and optimize their online stores, a 90-day free trial offer to Canadian members of the How She Hustles Network, and a Shopify 101 webinar on November 5th at 11 am EST.

● Rogers Sports & Media is providing digital and radio promotion of Startup & Slay in markets across Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

All of the selected entrepreneurs and Emily Mills are available for interviews about Startup & Slay. For full profiles and programming details go to HowSheHustles.

Contact: Fennella Bruce | FKB Media Solutions | 647.290.7610 | Fennella@FKBMedia.com


About How She Hustles

Founded by Emily Mills in 2010, How She Hustles is a vibrant network with a digital reach of more than 18,000 diverse women.  How She Hustles has hosted a range of buzz-worthy networking events in Toronto including: the 10 year anniversary virtual celebration, a wildly popular women’s brunch and inspiring panels. In addition to the Startup & Slay series, How She Hustles also created the award-winning HERstory in Black project with CBC. Emily has been recognized by WXN Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women and Ryerson University’s Alumni Achievement Awards. How She Hustles was invited to meet former First Lady Michelle Obama and hosted a roundtable discussion with Prime Minister Trudeau. Visit howshehustles.com to learn more.