In all areas of public life, leading women are taking control and providing solutions for gaps in society. Whether in business, politics, sports or fashion they are defining themselves as game changers in their respective fields.
To celebrate the women defining themselves as power-houses, we have rounded up the amazing women featured in this year’s 30×30 guide.
Assistant Coach, Toronto Raptors
Donaldson’s career ascendance is important and reflective of not only her talent and skill, but a shift in direction that has seen more women occupying leadership roles in the NBA. Her contributions to the Toronto Raptors have been significant, serving as a data analyst since joining the team in 2017 before being promoted to assistant coach two years later. The move, made by team president Masai Ujiri and head coach Nick Nurse, was a profound one. Quickly, Donaldson became the tenth active female assistant coach in the league, and the youngest in the NBA.
Through a combination of tireless work ethic, data expertise, and an undying passion for the game, Donaldson’s impact on the team has only just begun.
JEANNY YAO AND MIRANDA WANG
When founders Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao met in an eighth grade recycling club, they bonded over a common purpose — to help reduce society’s overall impact on the environment. Fast forward ten years and the two have grown the seed of their shared vision into a company that is changing the world.
According to their website, 350 million tonnes of plastic are produced, consumed, and disposed of per year, of which only nine percent can be recycled. Due to a lack of technological innovation or for economic reasons, more than 50 percent of plastic waste is deemed difficult or “unrecyclable”.
It’s undeniable that plastic is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. But it has also quickly become one of the greatest problems of our existence, extending its reach to everything from environmental destruction to social inequality. If things don’t change soon, humans are in big trouble.
At Biocellection, the mission is clear: Hack Earth’s Plastic Problem.
At only 15 years old, Autumn Peltier has already made a profound impact. The powerful words were delivered by the young Canadian as she spoke to world leaders at a United Nations summit addressing global climate change issues.
In a movement that has inspired hearts and ignited protests around the world, the war for environmental justice has mobilized young people to take matters into their own hands and fight for an uncertain future. An Anishinaabe girl from Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Peltier is at the frontlines of the movement and has quickly become the face of the water crisis that has long affected Indigenous communities in Canada.
Co-Founder, CEO; Quill
According to Podcast Insights, there are currently over one million podcasts on the digital airwaves right now, and over 30 million episodes available for listeners to digest as of April 2020. With advertising revenue expected to surpass one billion by 2021, it’s clear that we’re in the midst of a podcast boom right now.
Seeing an opportunity to capture an emerging market, Fatima Zaidi created Quill, the world’s first one-stop marketplace where podcasters can find the resources and talent to build their podcasts and grow an audience. Headquartered in Toronto, Quill comes at a pivotal time where brands are looking to nurture deeper relationships with their consumer base while reaffirming their expertise on subject matter at the same time. With a new and rapidly-growing market ahead of her, Zaidi’s journey as a new entrepreneur is just getting started.
For years, we’ve been warned of the impact that sugar has on our health. According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, diets high in sugar were associated with elevated heart disease risk. Recognizing the potential health risk of her lifestyle (and after a frank talk with her grandmother), Bosch knew she needed to change.
Part of the joy that she derived from candy was the ritual that surrounded her relationship around sugar. So, armed with only a gummy bear mold that she ordered from Amazon, Bosch set out to see how she could make an alternative that replicated her experience with candy, minus the sugar. After months of testing out various recipes using plant-based fibers and sweeteners, she finally landed on one that she deemed as the perfect candy, and thus, SmartSweets was born.
Reinventing the candy aisle wasn’t something that Bosch had necessarily set out to do when she came up with her first batch of sugar-less gummy bears, but her company has quickly grown to service more than 20,000 stores across North America, including complete distribution in chains like Whole Foods and Target, turning a small kitchen operation into a $55 million revenue brand.
What do pantyhose and bulletproof vests have in common? The same foundational material that makes up Sheertex’s groundbreaking product—the world’s toughest sheer panythose.
Founder Katherine Homuth knows how to spot an opportunity. With a history of business ventures that include ShopLocket (a pre-order platform) and Female Funders (an organization dedicated to supporting and educating female angel investors), the 29-year-old entrepreneur has a knack for solving tough challenges. Looking for a new problem to tackle, Homuth landed on pantyhose, a ubiquitous fashion item that had gone unchanged for decades, including the problems associated with it. She wondered, How has society been able to create self-driving cars and send a man to the moon, but been unable to create pantyhose that lasts through the day? From there, Sheertex was born.
Through years of rigorous research and a “peanuts to lemonade” approach to thinking, Homuth’s latest company is a gamechanger.
A career in federal politics was not what Mumilaaq Qaqqaq had ever planned for, but the need for change was a strong beckoning call that eventually landed her in the running for public office. And winning.
With no political experience or even a campaign manager, Qaqqaq became one of the youngest MPs in Canada, and the first New Democratic Party member to be elected in the region since 1980 when the area was still a part of the Northwest Territories. Defeating both the Liberal’s Megan Pizzo Lyall and the Conservative’s Leona Aglukkaq (a former cabinet minister of Stephen Harper’s government) in a landslide victory, Qaqqaq’s win was symbolic of a need for change in northern communities, and that they were willing to take a bet with the then 26-year-old.
Co-Founder, Fable Tech Labs
Despite the progress that has been made with diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workforce, there is still much room for improvement, especially when we consider the needs of those with disabilities. Alwar Pillai and Abid Virani first met each other when they were pursuing their masters of inclusive design at Toronto’s OCAD University. From their perspective, people with disabilities have a unique skill set that can be used to build better companies—the thesis of their eventual tech startup, Fable Tech Labs.
Founded in 2018, Fable is an online platform that brings digital teams and people with disabilities together to help solve a company’s accessibility requirements. Through research and on-demand user testing, the startup has helped various companies make everything from banking to learning more accessible, building a more inclusive environment for the disabled community to engage in.
Based in Vancouver, Vitruvi entered the five billion dollar scent market in 2014 with one mission in mind: to be a resource for women in their self care so they can focus on taking over the world. You could say that the beginning of their story as entrepreneurs started incidentally, as most do. While Sara was in her second year of medical school, the two siblings decided to start a side project that showcased their love of essential oils as a substitute for the harsh, synthetic fragrances that saturated the market. As business picked up, it required more attention; and so both siblings decided to focus their full efforts in turning their side hustle into their main one.
Focusing on high-quality ingredients, transparency, and a beautiful product experience, the two siblings have grown the brand to over 300 retail partnerships in 30 countries. Today, Vitruvi is profitable and has raised a total of seven million dollars from investors to further expand their growth.
Co-Founder, CEO; Acerta Analytics Solutions
Greta Cutulenco, CEO and co-founder of Acerta Analytics Solutions, started her company to help automotive manufacturers iron out anomalies in data that arise during production. Using artificial intelligence, Acerta provides real-time malfunction detection and can even predict failures to its customers within the industry, allowing them to make adjustments and save on heavy financial implications down the road.
As the automotive industry becomes increasingly more complex with machine learning integration, Cutulenco’s company is a critical resource that major brands can lean on as they innovate. With nearly two million dollars in seed funding secured, Acerta is harnessing the power of data to support the entire life cycle of an automotive product
Using her own lived experiences, Maayan Ziv (who lives with muscular dystrophy) launched her startup AccessNow in 2015 to turn her frustrations around accessibility into an opportunity. As the name suggests, AccessNow harnesses the power of community to map out the accessibility status of locations around the world. While red pins indicate inaccessibility, Ziv’s mission is to eventually see a sea of green on the company’s maps and, in a bigger way, create a swell of inclusivity for the disabled community.
Now available in over 35 countries, her movement is a global one that has already attracted investors to the tune of $2.7 million from the Government of Canada and corporate brands like Microsoft to further cultivate and scale AccessNow.
After spending the last decade working in the fast-paced world of tech, Gill felt her life lacked community and meaningful bonds with others. For her, connection was not defined by the number of followers she had on social media or connections on LinkedIn, but rather genuine, interpersonal relationships with others that she shared common values and interests with. In an attempt to connect, she disconnected. Gill’s company, her-people, threads common bonds between other women who are looking to meaningfully connect and explore the beauty of life. Their website drives that home: “Disconnect from work to workshops. From clicks to steps. From review to real people.”
Through a series of community meet-ups, her-people gathers 15 like-minded women at a time to engage once a week for four weeks to explore workshops and expand relationships. It’s a thesis that further reflects the research by the Angus Reid Institute, resonating with over 650 women who have participated in the monthly experiences. Recognized by the Government of Canada for their impact within the community, her-people has already developed a handful of strong partnerships since being founded in January 2019, working with Indigo, Wealthsimple, and Metro. The next step? Build her-people into a global brand in every major city in the world within the next five years, starting with 10 cities in Canada.
Founder, Fuckup Nights Toronto
Failure is a word that most entrepreneurs are familiar with. In the startup world, especially, it’s a right of passage that allows you to grow scar tissue and learn hard lessons in order to be stronger.
Fuckup Nights Toronto offers no apologies. Like its name, it is brash, in your face, and real. It doesn’t dance around problems, it embraces them; and it certainly doesn’t romanticize the entrepreneurial journey. It’s a real look at the hardships and realities of trying to grow a business. It is about the crash and burn stories, the failure-to-launch tales, and the partnerships that self-imploded. But it’s also about growth, reflection, and community.
Since founding, Druker has grown the Toronto chapter into one of the biggest in the organization through its series of speaker panels and networking events. By bringing together a community of brand builders, she’s at the forefront of destigmatizing failure.
Executive Director, Apathy is Boring
Growing up, Caro Loutfi had no interest in politics. She saw it as uninteresting and disengaging. That was until the history major was accepted into the internship program at Apathy is Boring, a non-partisan charitable organization that focuses on supporting youth to be more active in Canada’s democracy. Drawn to their clever use of visual branding and commitment to social causes, Loutfi found an organization that resonated with her. A year and a half after starting her internship, Loutfi took on a leadership role and eventually became the nonprofit’s executive director.
Over the course of her ongoing tenure, Apathy is Boring has grown into a multimillion-dollar organization and increased their staff from three to 22 employees. Most recently, they ran their largest get-out-the-vote campaign during the 2019 federal election to give young people the confidence to engage in political dialogue and get them to the polls. Under Loutfi’s leadership, Apathy is Boring has become an invaluable resource for youth to empower themselves and be active players in Canada’s democratic system.