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Kootenay Women in Business // Group Blog Feature

We are super excited to share with you our 4 feature blog posts from our winners of the Kootenay Women in Business contest we hosted in late August. If you missed our feature on our winner, Danielle from Sprinkles + Rose Homebakes in Trail, you can read that post here.

When developing this contest, we wanted to feature more than one person. It was hard enough to choose one winner so adding an additional random draw was the best way to get more entrepreneurs featured. We have 4 women in business for you today all from various parts of the Kootenays. Each one with a unique business and each one a different story to tell on how they started and what they see for the future. 

This contest also has an unexpected twist. When we announced the winners, one of our draws, Amanda Mary Creative, happens to be a photographer. She generously offered to take photographs of all the winners to feature on their socials and to use on this very blog you're reading today. What!? Yes! The ladies met in the middle at a location in Kimberley for a fun filled shoot. At a space graciously donated by another lovely woman in business, by the way. Talk about everyone working together! Plus, the best part, we were also able to meet Amanda, have our photos taken, and talk shop. Serendipitous. 

So, get comfy, settle in with a cup of coffee or that glass of wine you've been thinking about (if it's not after 5, we ain't judging!), and dive into some thoughts on being a female business owner, COVID challenges, and insights on the behind the scenes hustle and heart it takes to make a go of it in the small business world.

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Amanda McNaughton // Amanda Mary Creative

  
Photos by Tracey Jazmin, edited by Amanda Mary Creative.

What type of business are you?
  • Full time, Sole proprietorship
  • Photographer
How long has your business/side-hustle been operating?
2 years this month! I founded Amanda Mary Creative October 2018, and hit the ground running when I moved to Nelson in April, 2019.

Tell us about the business in more detail.
What do you sell/make/teach? Brand & Interior Photography
Do you sell online, in store, or both? In-Person Services

How did you get started with your business? Why did you start/open it?
While I’ve been working as a Photographer for over a decade, and had many incredible opportunities and projects along the way, I realized that my true passion is in helping people feel seen. So, I started Amanda Mary Creative for fellow creatives, makers, boss babes, and entrepreneurs who are ready to boost their confidence, elevate their brand, and build a business that loves them back!

What has been your biggest challenge and/or success so far?
Challenge: As is the case with so many budding businesses, my biggest obstacle has been financial. When I moved to Nelson, I needed a job that I could rely on to pay the bills straight away. I took a job serving at a restaurant downtown and fit photography into every waking hour away from it. But, finding the energy to show up for myself was really challenging... especially on the nights I returned from my “other job” at 2am! Out of fear and exhaustion, I started to treat my career like a side-hustle. Thankfully, my business mentor (the fabulous Tracey Jazmin) gave me the nudge I needed, now I am a full-time (sometimes fearless) Solopreneur!
Success or win: Over the past decade, I’ve had a few amazing wins that I’m really proud of, but since launching Amanda Mary Creative, my biggest win has been working with Covet Interiors. Randall Boisvert, owner of the boutique Interior Design and Styling Studio, reached out to me on Instagram in search of an Interior Photographer to capture her stunning spaces. Though I wasn’t offering Interior Photography at the time, after working once with Randall I was hooked! Now Interior Photography is a big part of my business and it remains one of my favourite ways to showcase the incredible talent that lives here in the Kootenays.

What is a unique experience (positive, negative or funny) you've encountered as a female or female-identifying small business owner or entrepreneur
99.9% of my Clients are fellow female-owned businesses, which is so damn inspiring! Just being a part of this incredible community is a positive experience in and of itself. But I suppose if I had to pick one stand-out moment, it would be the time that one of my Clients forgot to pack bottoms for her second outfit. Instead of loosing out on those shots, she went without! She trusted me, despite being in a rather vulnerable position. And you know what, those portraits turned out so well, they were the very first shots she posted!


What motivates you and keeps you going? Have you encountered any special challenges due to COVID-19?
What motivates you? So many entrepreneurs take on WAY too much! (Not to mention those of us with side-gigs and side-hustles! Goodness!) At some point we need to look in the mirror and realize that all those hats are making us look, and more importantly feel, crazy. The lock down, and eventual “slow down” that rolled in with this Pandemic, gave me the opportunity to face that within myself and motivated me to push forward with my business in a way that could help lift some of that pressure off others. 
Has COVID affected you? COVID-19 definitely put the brakes on my business. I had quite a lot of clients reschedule (and reschedule again), cancel, or just disappear altogether as a result. It saddens me to think of all the brilliant shot-lists, and big business moments that will go unrealized by Clients who decided to throw in the towel. But I also get it! It’s hard to invest in yourself and your business when your budget hits zero! Harder still to push through not knowing what’s to come! But we do. And we do it together (even if we have to stand 2ft apart).

What goals have you set for yourself for the next 1-2 years?
My goal for the upcoming year is to grow Amanda Mary Creative into a sustainable business! It’s been a long journey to this moment. I know that if I leap (and leap fully) I can create a space for myself in the Kootenays that will allow me to do the work I love... so I can put that passion right back into the community that made it happen!

As the holidays draw near, we are big advocates of supporting local, more so now than ever. Do you have any special promos, or markets or events where people can find you and support your business?
Me too! I’ve been brainstorming on how I can best support local, small businesses as they prepare for the holiday season and plan to offer a series of Mini-Sessions here in Nelson, where new and existing Clients can book in for 15 Minute Sessions to showcase their seasonal products or promotions. Nothing has been confirmed quite yet, but if you are reading this and are interested, let me know!

As one of the winners of this contest, what does it mean to you to be a part of it?
Inspiration. Being a part of this contest gave me the opportunity to meet three incredible female entrepreneurs, and visit with another I know quite well. All of us are living the life of “me.inc,” facing obstacles, pushing past fear, and choosing over and over to believe in ourselves... in each other. That’s inspiring as all heck.

And finally, tell us about YOUR Kootenay pride! What makes the area and people special?
I studied Photography at Ryerson University in Toronto, where every single day we were reminded that our classmates where our competition. They were the ones we would have to edge out if we wanted to become working Photographers in the big city (if we even managed to get that far!) In contrast, the Kootenays have been a breath of fresh mountain air. The first Photographer I met here, the talented Jacey Kendall, was generous, kind, and oh-so happy to swap tips over a London Fog at Empire. No questions asked. Since then, the amount of support I’ve experienced and shared back into this community has been incredible. Nelson is a small town, with big heart, where each of us can flourish in our own unique way.

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Danika Bellavance // Beyond Measure

  
Photos by Amanda Mary Creative

What type of business are you?
Side hustle / Part time and Sole proprietorship

How long has your business/side-hustle been operating?

3 years. I started September 2017

Tell us about the business in more detail.
What do you sell/make/teach?
Scrunchies and headbands keep me very busy, but sometimes I branch out into a few other things!
Do you sell online, in store, or both?
Online and in stores. You can find my scrunchies at MJ’s Floral Boutique in Cranbrook, Freyja Kootenay Boutique in Fernie, Fullfill Market in Kimberley, and Olds Town Square in Olds, AB.

How did you get started with your business? Why did you start/open it?
I started my business to keep my mind busy while on maternity leave, and I just never stopped.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or success so far? 
Challenge: Biggest challenge has been keeping a consistent pace while also being a single mom and working a day job.
Success or win:
My greatest win is that from my business profits over the last two years, I’ve been able to donate $1,000 to the women’s resource centre in Cranbrook.

What is a unique experience (positive, negative or funny) you've encountered as a female or female-identifying small business owner or entrepreneur?
I’ve found most people don’t think of crafters as business owners. When I say “I run my own business selling handmade goods,” I’m met with such respect. “I sew and sell scrunchies,” is usually met with a lot of questions about why I do it and whether I make any money from it.

What motivates you and keeps you going? Have you encountered any special challenges due to COVID-19?
What motivates you? The community of makers is what motivates me. I’ve never met a more supportive bunch than the people I’ve connected with since starting my business.
Has COVID affected you? In March, I started doing my full-time job from home, at my sewing table. It took me until July to find a flow again that worked for me. I rearranged my office space so I could have separate work spaces for my day job and my business.

What goals have you set for yourself for the next 1-2 years?
I would like to see my products in at least 5 new retail locations. I’m currently in four. Increasing production will require me to bring on more help. I currently have a couple people helping me a few hours a month. I see this increasing to more people or more hours for the ladies helping me now.

As the holidays draw near, we are big advocates of supporting local, more so now than ever. Do you have any special promos, or markets or events where people can find you and support your business?
My retailers usually host holiday events. I suspect these will move online this year. You can keep your eyes on my Instagram and Facebook pages for news about promos and contests as we get closer to the holidays. As always, I am offering local pickup for my products. On my website, just select local pickup and you will receive further instructions. I have a couple coupons that are always active too. Use code “3FOR40” to buy three large scrunchies for $40, or code “3FOR35” to receive three small scrunchies for $35. If you’re not local to me, sign up for my emails and receive free domestic shipping on your first order.

As one of the winners of this contest, what does it mean to you to be a part of it?
This contest has already brought some fantastic new ladies into my circle. I love the relationship building in this business. It’s what keeps me showing up, so this contest is just further motivation to keep creating and moving forward. It’s an honour to be celebrated for something I’ve worked so hard on over the last three years.

And finally, tell us about YOUR Kootenay pride!
The Kootenays have always been my home. The people here are welcoming, free-spirited and inspirational. Being a five-minute drive from a dirt road at all times is just a bonus!

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Luz Hernandez Muñoz // Su Casa Mexican Chef

 
Photos by Amanda Mary Creative

What type of business are you?
  • Full time
  • Sole proprietorship
  • Food & Beverage
How long has your business/side-hustle been operating?
2-4 years

Tell us about the business in more detail.
What do you sell/make/teach? Personal chef services specializing in Authentic Mexican Cuisine. Now recently opened Su Casa Authentic Mexican Kitchen.
Do you sell online, in store, or both? Now in store at the restaurant but plan on continuing the online cooking classes as well. 

How did you get started with your business? Why did you start/open it?

I moved to the Columbia Valley to “retire” from the restaurant business but it’s my passion to cook so I created this service to accommodate my lifestyle and schedule, as I also have four children. I opened a pop-up restaurant and after that I started cooking for my friends at gatherings and that’s how the idea was made into a business. I make taco parties for gatherings and during COVID I started teaching online cooking classes that are interactive and fun. The encouragement from my clients to open a restaurant was very consistent and even though the timing wasn’t the best, because of COVID, I’ve taken a leap of faith and went for it. Su Casa Authentic Mexican Kitchen on October 8th of this year!

What has been your biggest challenge and/or success so far
Challenge: Getting people to know about my service/restaurant as I don't have a sign yet.
Success or win: Once I do one party word of mouth always brings me new clients. Facebook has been a great way to spread the news and many have been very supported sharing the news.

What is a unique experience (positive, negative or funny) you've encountered as a female or female-identifying small business owner or entrepreneur?
When my husband met me it was at my first restaurant and he had asked to speak to the owner because he had a complaint about his drink and when I came out he expected a man and said again "no, I would like to speak to the owner not another waitress." I had to adjust his attitude and stood my ground as the owner. Soon enough, he felt embarrassed and apologized and I guess fell in love with me since that moment because we ended up getting married a few months later and have been happily married ever since!

What motivates you and keeps you going? Have you encountered any special challenges due to COVID-19?
What motivates you? People love my cooking and enjoy my cooking classes.
Has Covid affected you? I didn’t have any work so that’s why I started my online cooking classes. It didn’t bring in much income but it kept me motivated and encouraged others to cook.Something very positive was having all that extra time to brainstorm and work not he restaurant idea that now has become a reality.

What goals have you set for yourself for the next 1-2 years?
Open a new restaurant in the Columbia Valley now that my kids are older and make it work for my schedule. Didn’t take long but here we are, Su Casa Authentic Mexican Kitchen is open for business.

As the holidays draw near, we are big advocates of supporting local, more so now than ever. Do you have any special promos, or markets or events where people can find you and support your business?
Private staff parties or family gatherings bookings will be offered on days that the restaurant is closed.

As one of the winners of this contest, what does it mean to you to be a part of it?
It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my entrepreneurial life. To have met with other woman bosses who do business in different markets and see their abilities we all have as woman, and some even Moms, has been very inspiring.

And finally, tell us about YOUR Kootenay pride! What makes the area and people special? 
It’s paradise! When my husband and I married, we choose this place for our honeymoon destination and we made it a goal to come live here one day and raise our children in this beautiful paradise. I enjoy everything about this place. I’ve started to hike and fell in love with it I started to ski also for the first time here and fell in love with it. I started paddle boarding and I absolutely love it so basically everything that this place has to offer I fall in love with. I found a great community of woman with Woman Who Wander. The founder, Kayla, has been my immediate mentor and with her I have learned a few of the tricks of finding those beautiful secret gems that not everyone is willing to share, haha. I love my immediate community in Canal Flats and in the Invermere area. I've met a lot of rad woman/moms who love to explore. I would love to win this contest because being a mom of four when it comes to swag/clothes etc. I alway think of my kids first and I put myself last. So winning anything I will be very proud to wear and feel very grateful for it too! This is a great idea and I look forward to it! I love my immediate community in Canal Flats and in the Invermere area who have supported every aspect of my business from just sharing a potluck meal to opening the pop up restaurant, Tacoria, a few years back, to booking one of my private chef taco parties, to the brand new opening of my new restaurant Su Casa Authentic Mexican Kitchen. My amigos of the Columbia Valley, gracias! 

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Danielle Peet // Wild Smile Events

 
Photos by Amanda Mary Creative

What type of business are you?
  • Full time
  • Sole proprietorship
  • Outdoors or Tourism
  • Professional service - Events + Weddings
How long has your business/side-hustle been operating?
3 years

Tell us about the business in more detail.
What do you sell/make/teach? In short, I am an event/wedding planner, designer and coordinator. I also make custom gifting boxes.
Do you sell online, in store, or both? Both

How did you get started with your business? Why did you start/open it?

Growing up I was super lucky to spend a lot of time attending or being a part of planning different kinds of events both locally and across North America. Most of those events had a huge impact on me and those experiences essentially made me who I am today. After over 10 years of growing my skill set, I started my own company because I wanted to have a direct hand in being able to create memorable events for others that tell their unique story and cultivate connections. Reminding others to love hard and celebrate the small things is super important to me.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or success so far? 
Challenge: Definitely how lonely entrepreneurship can be. I’ve been lucky to be supported by some pretty bad ass women but it can definitely be hard to make business decisions and go through the regular day to day by yourself. I am also a mom to a 14 month old and the juggling act of being 100% on it for my clients and totally present for my family comes with its own challenges.
Success or win: I am super proud of how with growing my business over the last 3 years I have really tried to keep my values top priority. In 2019, I was voted Top 5 in 5 separate categories for the Trail & District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards, which was mind blowing, and that really motivated me to make 2020 the best year yet. Obviously this year our industry took a huge hit and most my events were cancelled but I did have the win of having a wedding I was a part of published online with RealWeddings and I’m reminding myself that as long as I get my clients through the stressful task of planning a wedding during a pandemic than that is the biggest win I could ask for!

What is a unique experience (positive, negative or funny) you've encountered as a female or female-identifying small business owner or entrepreneur?

Specific to working in the wedding industry - I am sooo darn lucky to be surrounded by so many women in the industry who enjoy collaboration but also give up so much family and free time to do what they love and help clients have the wedding of their dreams. This industry can be intense and requires a ton of sacrifice but it is also often not taken seriously. Even though it looks like a “party”, we work our butts off to ensure that “perfection” or the closest thing to it comes to life for our clients. The moral of the story is, the serious support and uplifting vibes in this industry make the long 18 hour days, 2 a.m. finishes, impossible expectations and missed family vacations so worth it.

What motivates you and keeps you going? Have you encountered any special challenges due to COVID-19?
What motivates you? My clients and my son. I can’t wait to teach my son passion and perseverance as he grows and show him just what amazing things can happen when you believe in yourself. And my clients really are the spark behind my work and I love nothing more to ensure that they get to enjoy their special moments to the fullest. It’s magic!
Has COVID affected you? Greatly... 85% of my business for 2020 was postponed or cancelled and we are just crossing our fingers that 2021 will look a little more promising in clients flexing to meet the new normal when it comes to gathering. Now I am focusing on helping my clients over this hurdle and pivoting aspects of my business to meet the needs of future clients.

What goals have you set for yourself for the next 1-2 years?
I’m a dreamer! There are many, but my main goal is to help promote the Kootenays as a destination for weddings and events. This area has so much to offer with it’s beauty and incredible event professionals! I am also working to elevate the area in terms of event rentals and supplies to provide more high end/modern items for clients. Lastly, design is really dear to my heart so transitioning my business to provide more design services is top of my list.

As the holidays draw near, we are big advocates of supporting local, more so now than ever. Do you have any special promos, or markets or events where people can find you and support your business? 
I would love it if people would consider my services for their holiday needs! I offer gift certificates on planning services all year around but specific to the holiday season, I offer design and event rentals for holiday tablescapes and events to help make getting festive a breeze. I will also be launching a line of pre-designed Holiday Gift Boxes filled with favourite local goodies for easy holiday gifting!

As one of the winners of this contest, what does it mean to you to be a part of it? 
Celebrating Women in Business is always something I am up for but I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to share my business with you all along with so many other incredible business owners. Each day I am introduced to another powerful business woman in the Kootenays and we all have such strong stories to share so I hope that this can happen more often so we all have a chance to share our voices! Thanks, Kootz Collective, for leading the pack and reminding women just how worthy they are!

And finally, tell us about YOUR Kootenay pride! What makes the area and people special? 
I was born and raised in the Kootenays and though I love to travel, nowhere has felt like home but this area. We are so blessed to live in an area so filled with love, friendship, support and of course the extreme beauty of nature we are surrounded by. To watch friends, neighbours and other business owners grow, excel and take on challenges is incredible and I feel just so darn humbled to be a part of this journey with so many I look up to in a community that I love.

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PSA: No, it's not a Pumpkin Spice Americano, it's a Public Service Announcement!

Fall is in the air and like the wonderful women above, makers everywhere are already prepping for a busy winter of crafting, baking, making and hustling, to get prepped for the holidays. Yes, if you run a small business or are any sort of artist or maker, holiday prep starts now! This year, due to COVID, many Christmas markets and large celebrations will be cancelled which is a huge part of many creatives lives and financial wellness. We just wanted to take this opportunity to urge you to still shop small and local if you can. Many small businesses have moved online, offer local deliveries, staggered pricing on services, and other cool incentives. Not to mention, you will be supporting the local economy, reducing travel time and waste, and making someone, somewhere, do a little happy dance. Believe us, big corporations don't do happy dances when you buy their stuff!

We hope you enjoyed this blog feature as we had a blast getting to know these talented and inspiring women and their passions. We can't wait to bring you more blog features, collaborations, giveaways, fresh apparel designs, and other fun ideas as we head into Winter and prepare for 2021.

WANT TO BE ON THE BLOG?
We are looking for even more entrepreneurs and creatives to share their talents. Are you a crafter, artist, or business owner in the Kootenays? Are you a female entrepreneur working in BC or Alberta? Send us an email and let's connect!


Photo by Amanda Mary Creative

Warm regards,
Leah & Kelsey



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