Female entrepreneurs joined together on International Women’s Day to shape Calgary’s business scene and encourage women to pursue their professional goals.

Keynote speaker and entrepreneur Shashi Behl had a lot to tell the men and women at the She[EMPOWERS] Market on March 8, discussing the challenges she’s faced balancing life as a business woman, wife and mother.

“The way I live, if I can leave you with anything, is I push myself always out of my comfort zone and I’m trying to be constantly learning. Hip-hop classes when everyone else is way younger than I am, skydiving, cliff jumping, asking people out who have much bigger businesses than mine to go for lunch so I can pick their brain,” said Behl, the owner of Twisted Goods and Joydrop.

“It all helped me tackle the big things that would happen at the office. ‘Hey, if I jumped out of a plane, how hard could tackling a balance sheet be?’”

SheEmpowers Soap 1

The event took place at Festival Hall in Inglewood. The building was full of people bustling from booth to booth, checking out all the entrepreneurs had to offer. Each business was selling their goods which included everything from lipstick to truffle oil chocolates. Every business featured is owned or majority-owned by a female entrepreneur.Alchemy Soap Co. was one of many female-owned or majority-owned businesses with a booth at the She[EMPOWERS] Market. Photo by Stephanie Babych.

“It’s very exciting. I think, even just this year with the women’s movement, it is kind of exciting to be in a women’s market on International Women’s Day, surrounded by empowering, amazing, smart and talented women. It just makes you want to get a little bit better and strive [for more],”  said Alicia Loader, creator of Alchemy Soap Co., who was one of the young entrepreneurs featured at the event.

“We’re all here, recognizing that women are capable of doing anything in a man’s world, I guess. And we’re all equal and I love that we can share this journey together because it’s hard and not easy,” said Jillian Weston, who sells her watercolour paintings through her business Jill Weston Art

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“International Women’s Day has a real special meaning for me, it’s a chance to show solidarity with women globally, to raise awareness about women’s struggles – that’s why we want to be here,” said Myra Miller, whoVelour Clothing Exchange’s booth features artistic shirts and vintage clothing. Photo by Stephanie Babych. co-owns Velour Clothing Exchange with her daughter, Michelle.

Proceeds earned at the door were donated to Calgary’s Women in Need Society (WINS) to help support other women to better their lives.

“WINS is an organization for women. It’s an organization that helps women and their families in times of need to get back up onto their feet again. So when they’re feeling down, we help them to move forward,” said Karen Ramchuk, the executive director of WINS. 

The event included over 15 vendors and saw men and women celebrating female entrepreneurs for the challenges they’ve worked to overcome.

Tips from female entrepreneurs

Even though some of the women at the market are fairly new entrepreneurs, they still have great advice to give other women wanting to start their own business.

SheEmpowers Weston 1bodyJillian Weston found a love and challenge in painting Alberta’s lush landscapes and scenery with watercolours, which she has turned into her own business. Photo by Stephanie Babych.

Weston said, “Take chances. It’s so scary starting out, but finding your support people and just taking one giant leap and doing it. There’s going to be times where there are struggles but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

SheEmpowers Loader 1bodyAlicia Loader is a nurse on the cancer unit at Foothills Hospital and originally began making natural soaps for chemotherapy and radiation patients, who were in need of scentless and colour-free soaps. Photo by Stephanie Babych.

“It is a male-dominated world: every store I’ve tried to get into has been owned by a male. So I think you automatically feel at a bit of a disadvantage, but I think being a woman is empowering and I think that the more you work, the better you’ll get your name out there … that’s exciting,” said Loader.

SheEmpowers Ghann 1Jameela Ghann was one of the organizers for the She[EMPOWERS] Market, but also the founder of Alora Boutique, a jewelry line made to bring beauty and meaning into the lives of women. Photo by Stephanie Babych.

“We should all strive to support other women’s businesses, so that they can be financially free and economically independent, because I think that if we want to achieve equality we need to make our own money and we need to chase the dollar so that we can vote with that dollar. We can have our own impact on the world’s economy,” said Jameela Ghann, one of the organizers of the event and creator of Alora Boutique.

SheEmpowers Miller 1 bodyMyra Miller tends to her company Velour’s booth at the She[EMPOWERS] Market, selling quirky earrings and vintage clothing. Photo by Stephanie Babych.

Miller said, “Don’t be afraid, reach out and ask for help, network, and you’d be surprised by how much support there is out there.”



Editor: Paul McAleer | pmcaleer@cjournal.ca

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