An Entrepreneurs Journey: Niduk D'souza

With our August networking night just a few days away, we would like to introduce our YWiB community to one of our featured speakers: Niduk D’souza from Impact with Intention. Niduk has helped hundreds of nonprofits raise more money, think strategically and implement their programs effectively, and at our networking night this Thursday, she will be teaching those in attendance how to ‘Pitch Your Way to Success.’ But until then, we hope you enjoy learning more about her journey as an entrepreneur.

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Everywhere I look these days I see the buzz word of our time, ‘Entrepreneur’. Across LinkedIn, social media posts, articles and incubator programs popping up around the city, the message these days remains: become an entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur myself, I find the rise of the entrepreneur era fascinating because our world struggles with disrupting the status quo. Our whole lives we are conditioned and trained to get a job and become a good employee. Attending school, tasking out classes by the hour, going onto university and developing a little more autonomy, we are still taught to ‘do’, and always with the intention to get a job and be a model citizen.

My entrepreneurial journey has always been wholly focused on building businesses with impact. Was this because I’m a woman? Perhaps. I recall attending a seminar once where a speaker mentioned this. Maybe it is the case that more women than men start social purpose businesses. Regardless, my personal values have always been rooted in supporting the most vulnerable beings on our planet. I remember when describing my business (helping NGOs, charities and social purpose businesses become more effective at what they do) to a relative who told me to go get a ‘real job’. This wasn’t the first time I was told that and to be honest, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Ironically, while having dinner with this same relative 17 years later, they mentioned that now in their retirement they were focused on giving back. I laughed and said, “well, if you hadn’t been working in businesses that were taking in the first place, then you wouldn’t need to spend your retirement giving back”.

Aligning my values to my vision of the businesses I wanted to create has been fundamental to recognizing the type of life I want to lead

Aligning my values to my vision of the businesses I wanted to create has been fundamental to recognizing the type of life I want to lead. I knew right away businesses with social impact are what I value most. So it’s not a surprise that every business I have ever built or associated myself with has been tied directly to having a positive social impact. I have intentionally surrounded myself with entrepreneurs and business owners who are now lifelong friends. Learning from and building masterminds with them has helped me to grow revenue by landing 7 figure deals.

But here is what I believe my secret sauce to success has been - I’ve been very selective with whom I surround myself with. I have with intention, built myself a community of women business owners, a large number of them who also share experiences of migration, being a person of colour or who have also had to learn to live with chronic illness. There is strength and power in shared experiences and lessons. Community and adaptation is not learned in any certificate, diploma or degree program, even if they add the words culture, women, diversity and inclusion to it.

Developing clarity is one of the greatest investments an entrepreneur can make. Sadly, few do. My greatest successes as an entrepreneur have come to pass because I continually invest in sharpening my clarity on who I am in this particular season of my life and who I am serving in my businesses.

Clarity evolves, as you do. Over the years, this has led me to stop ‘pulling up a chair’ or ‘taking a seat’ at tables with people who don’t look like me, lack common experiences and the context of individuals who seek to serve the audiences I serve. So, I have built my own table.

This is entrepreneurial disruption.

In my experience, this is what we do as entrepreneurs. We build our own tables. Tables not for everyone, but specifically for those who we are looking to serve. By finding our community, building a table for purpose, we find ourselves in our most perfect niche, serving those we were always meant to.

By finding our community, building a table for purpose, we find ourselves in our most perfect niche, serving those we were always meant to.

It isn’t always easy being a South Asian woman building your own table; most tables are still surrounded by older Caucasian men and women. Some of them have read books and earned degrees that certify them as “specialists” or “experts”. Some of them are called to the table by a particular good, especially in the sector I work in. These tables often stand on legs built with institutional and colonial legacy and money, re-branded as investments, ultimately geared towards preserving and maintaining the integrity of specific ways of life cloaked in the ‘do-gooder’ complex. These were never tables designed for someone who looks like, dreams, or thinks like me. 

Here is the real secret I’ve learned about tables. They are never permanent.

Here is the real secret I’ve learned about tables. They are never permanent. At this point in time, we are seeing a lot of discord around the world because traditional concepts of the table are being challenged by disruptors. That is us. The entrepreneurs finding our niches to serve. 

 If you are interested in learning more about Niduk’s work with social entrepreneurs, visit:

Niduk D’souza has been a nonprofit leader and advocate for over 17 years. From working with grassroots community organizations across Africa and Asia to large donor organizations in the UK and North America, Niduk has helped hundreds of nonprofits raise more money, think strategically and implement their programs effectively. In 2006, Niduk helped to build Kenya’s first free children’s library - Nguuni Children’s Education Centre. Over a decade later, over 100,000 children have read, studied and played here.

In 2018, she launched her latest social business, Impact With Intention, an online educational platform for nonprofit leaders. Taking her years of experience teaching and practice in the field of helping nonprofits both online and in-person she has designed this educational and learning resource for small nonprofit changemakers and leaders to strengthen their capacity across 4 pillars: Governance; Fundraising & Communications; Project Management and; Monitoring & Evaluation.

Niduk has also recently joined the leadership team at UP Fundraising, where she is leading a new division focused on fundraising strategy and stewardship.

Previously, Niduk founded and ran an international development consulting practice working global across all major development focus areas. In 2018, her practice was acquired by PGM Africa. She has also served on the boards of a number of nonprofits from development charities such as The Haller Foundation, Livingstone Tanzania Trust to arts-based nonprofits such as The Red Betty Theatre.

Earning the Max Rotman Humanitarian Award, Niduk is also recognized as a community influencer for visible minorities and women by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Niduk holds a Bachelor of Arts specializing in Industrial Relations from McMaster University. She conducted a review of minimum wage policy in Ontario for the Ministry of Labour. She continued further academic work in worker’s rights, economics and law, at the London School of Economics and Political Science earning a Masters in (Economics) International Management and a Masters in Research Methodology and Statistics at Middlesex University while pursuing her doctoral research. Most recently she completed a case study on Coal Mining in Mozambique and the Leading of Nonviolent Social Movements at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has published and presented at numerous conferences.

Sweet Smell of Success

Aside from Toronto being a big beautiful city, full of great food, wonderful shops and of course the CN tower, there are also a ton of awesome and successful women. I’ve discovered this by attending events, meeting them through mutual friends and now reaching out to local businesses to learn more about their stories. Every woman I meet gives me more motivation to accomplish my own dreams and to never give up on that.

Meet Suman, a successful entrepreneur of 100 Years of Love, right here in Toronto. I had the opportunity to learn more about the company thanks to Suman who was kind enough to share.


100 Years of Love is a contemporary home fragrance label founded in Toronto by  Suman and her brother and co-founder, Tim in 2015.  It started out as a creative experiment and the passion to build something that was thoughtful, stylish, provocative and a reflection of both Suman and Tim’s views on love and diversity. With Suman’s experience in lifestyle, luxury travel and fashion, and Tim’s background in the fine arts, their expertise guided them in the right direction and kept them on track.

When I first discovered 100 Years of Love, I was curious how the unique name came about, and I had to ask Suman to fulfill my curiosity: We are grateful to have grown up in Toronto. Our city is rich with diversity and this has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day lives, as well as our business. We celebrate our differences and above all else, we believe in the power of love. Give it freely, and the universe returns it. Love, kindness, diversity, and positivity are words we choose to live by.

Suman says the collection is a culmination of an obsession with contemporary art and fashion, travel, design, and fine fragrances. We believe that our senses – particularly visual and olfactory experiences – can move us, making connections to our hearts and leaving impressions on our memories. Our curated collection of uniquely fragranced candles helps you enrich some of life’s most intimate moments. Our minimalist design philosophy ensures our candles will blend seamlessly into your space, and each candle is fittingly named to highlight the scent experience that awaits you.

Each candle name has a connection with the ingredients that Suman uses. Their candles are made with only the highest quality ingredients, including 100% soy wax and 100% cotton wicks,and through a process of small batch production. Each candle is hand poured and hand labelled in their Toronto Studio.

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One of their best-selling candles is Nomad. It’s 100 Years of Love’s new fragrance that contains Palo Santo and Bergamot. The candle is inspired by the wandering spirit in all of us and Suman suggests it’s the perfect candle for an evening of reflection, yoga, or a hot bath. Suman’s favourite candle is Eyes Wide, a Black Amber candle. She says "the candle is sexy and intoxicating – it was our best seller at the Spring One of a Kind Show in 2018."

All aspiring entrepreneurs are always looking for tips and advice to either get started or learn more from successful business women. So the question had to be asked: what advice can Suman give to women who want to start their own business? "If you have a dream, you have to follow it! You’ll be surprised by how many people actually want to support entrepreneurs and see them succeed. Don’t give up on what you are working on, even when things get challenging. Instead, look for small victories each day and soon you’ll see you are accomplishing it all!"

Discover 100 Years of Love’s collection online here. Orders over $100 are eligible for free shipping. You can also find information about their stockists and candle care instructions that will give you some tips to make your candles burn cleaner and last longer.

A big thank you to Suman for taking the time to share her story. I speak for all of us who have big dreams to pursue and we appreciate reading amazing stories about successful female entrepreneurs. It really helps us stay focused and driven to make those dreams come true!

Written by: Margaret Saliba


Spotlight: Brandesha Sinclair from The Working Millennial

Earlier this year I sat down with Cassondra Kyra from The Working Millennial to discuss navigating through finances as a young woman and her journey to become financially literate. In a follow-up to that interview I meet with Brandesha Sinclair, the creator of The Working Millennial to discuss why millennials need an employment website catered to them, how she sees the job market changing in the future and the challenges faced during the job search. She is a Job Coach, Facilitator and Content Creator.

On creating The Working Millennial

Why did you decide to make an employment focused website?

I’ve always had the idea in my head, but I never really saw myself taking the action to do it. One day I was browsing and Wix was having a promotion so something in my gut told me to just go for it. I always had the idea and notes for it, but I wasn’t putting in the effort to pursue it. As of Fall 2017, has been up, and right now I’m just learning and working on implementing the other ideas I have for the website.

...And what other ideas do you have for the website?

So with what I do, my passions lie with career development and media. I want to bring those together on to one platform where I can provide information to millennials. I think millennials are different, we are multidimensional, so I want to provide information that is relevant but also has personality and is informative. For the website I want to add things such as a job board for jobs available in the GTA, a spotlight for millennials making big moves in their careers or startup companies, to give them some recognition and help build that network for young professionals in Toronto. I will also be creating more visual content such as videos just to make the site more engaging.

Why do you think millennials need a website catered specifically to them?

In terms of the type of information we are offering, employment and financial literacy, there is definitely a gap in comparison to the older generation, especially in terms of finance. For example, the idea of buying a house is almost a myth for us, so just having those conversations. I find in terms of employment and career development, in speaking with my circle of friends and people I’ve gone to school with, it’s something that everyone seems to have a challenge with. Having those conversations where it’s not an older person who is more distant from the workforce and might not know what the experience is like. Whereas I’ve experienced it, and it’s something where we are able to have that conversation and exchange those tips and tricks so that all of us can succeed. We are the future, we are very present in the market right now and I think it’s very important for us to have those connections and to help each other grow in society.  And to continue that to the next generation, generation z, to help them with that transition as well.   

Do you see the working millennial as eventually being your full-time job?

What I envision for myself, I don’t see myself sitting at the desk I am right now. I do want to have something for myself and what I have going, I think there is so much potential for it. I’m learning as I go, and I just want to see it flourish and have something of my own, I don't want your typical 9 to 5. Although you see a lot of people saying they want to be an entrepreneur, they don’t really know what being an entrepreneur entails. Right now, I’m just going with the flow but eventually I would want that to be my full time thing.


On millennials in the workforce

What do you think is missing in our generation when it comes to becoming an entrepreneur?

Everyone has the idea; especially with social media and seeing all these images it's very glamorized. I can even say myself that I’m a victim to it. You see everyone living this glamorous life, but you don’t ever see what’s behind it. You don’t see that people are up until 3am answering emails or making sure shipments get to where they need to be. It’s different because you don’t know where your next dollar is going to come from and a lot of people don’t realize that. You need to have a foundation started because a lot of people just jump into something, which, I understand taking those risks for your dreams, but at the same time you need to be strategic. I would suggest transitioning into it, start it out as your side hustle and see if it’s something you can see yourself doing because some people don’t have that work ethic. I think a lot of millennials are fascinated by the idea of it but not willing to create a plan.

How do you see the workplace changing for millennials in the future?

I definitely see a shift in the demographics, different barriers being broken. So, in my experience I’ve only had one person in power that was a woman of colour. I definitely see that changing with race(s), gender, etc. In terms of the barriers I see today with gender, there’s so many women that are just so hard working yet receiving small salaries, I definitely see that changing. Diversity in terms of race, and ways of becoming more accommodating of individuals identifying with disabilities. We are much more open minded and willing to listen to what the concerns are and find innovative ways of incorporating those things and bridging those gaps.

What changes do you currently see happening with millennials entering the workforce?

Definitely with millennials I’m seeing a broader spectrum of what people are going for, especially with technology. It’s not just gender specific, anyone can do it. Even if you were to go a more traditional route like education or healthcare, technology is heavily invested in that. But with the people I cross paths with, there is definitely a more traditional lens, so with social work, nursing, ECE, there’s still a lot of women. But with immigrants and international students there is definitely a difference, you see more women in math, science and technology. It seems to be more normalized with women. In terms of the educational path there seems to be a shift but there is still a traditional route.


On the challenges of employment/unemployment

What is some advice you would give to someone that is currently unemployed?

You have to be super driven, even if you go to access career services or an employment coach; they aren’t going to hold your hand. The only person standing between you and your career opportunity is you, you have to make sure you're doing your part. Having someone create your resume for you can only get you so far. I can do your resume but if you don’t take the time to go through your career history and guide someone through your experiences, it's inconsistent. For example, when you’re in an interview and you don’t know what you're talking about. Also, be clear about what you want, even if you are at an indecisive phase in your career; have somewhat of an idea on what you are willing to explore. Having a focus helps guide your job search because you'll know where to look, you’ll know what these employers are looking for and you’ll be able to provide more quality information rather than have a generic resume applying for all these positions and being overlooked because it’s not as concrete as someone else who has the experience. And don’t be discouraged!

Since Toronto is a very diverse city with people coming from other countries, what do you see in terms of employment/unemployment for immigrants?

In a way for a lot of them coming to a new country is a lot. You don’t know how to really navigate the system and with the whole credential system you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it is equivalent, sometimes it is not. But the market is so competitive over here as it is, and you might not know who the top competitors are, or what the norms are, and you don’t have connections because with employment networking is a really big thing. Sometimes they are coming by themselves and they just get lost in the sauce.

Once again there are two types of mindsets you go, some who think they are going to get the top position because this is Canada and the land of opportunity, and you have others that would be happy with a cashier job even if they’ve had years of experience in a top-level position. Working in employment I see the realities of it and sometimes they do have to take more of a survival job. Not knowing the market, not having connections, sometimes that is used as a barrier, having your credentials from somewhere. But at the same time some individuals just don’t know how to market themselves and that’s the same for people born and raised here. You can have that credential but if you don’t know how to market those things you’re kind of stuck. You are your brand.  

Do you find that people are willing to take any job that comes to them rather than waiting it out for what they actually want to do?

That’s an interesting question because you get both ends of the spectrum. You get people that will take whatever comes to them and have kind of given up hope or just aren’t patient. In which case you’ll see people take on survival jobs until they get the opportunity they are looking for which is understandable and I kind of recommended at this time with living expenses. But don’t get comfortable in that survival job, keep looking for what you want. But you also get people that feel entitled and they’re so focused on getting a specific role, but they have some serious gaps. I’ve had some people that are super picky, and have so many great opportunities that just go out the window. So, you have those that are resistant, and those that are flexible but lose focus.

And what kind of advice would you give to each type of person?

For both individuals keep an open mind, learn what you can as you go. Definitely be determined but try not to be idle or resistant. You have to be fluid in this day and age, there are always transferable skills you can get whether it’s a survival job or not. Just learn what you can and make the most out of it.    


Written by: Ashleigh H.

Beauty and the Boss Babes

What I love about being part of YWiB is the positive support. No matter what you want to accomplish, learn or focus on; women are fully supporting women. Girl Power if you will.

Speaking of Girl Power, I want to share two awesome Boss Babes in the Beauty Industry: Laura and Connie of NIU BODY.  NIU BODY is a 100% natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare company based in Toronto. They offer affordable and effective skincare without the fancy fluff. Since launching in March of 2017, the line consists of makeup remover oils, toning mists, serums, clay face masks, and lip polishes. An exciting new product is also coming soon, which we can’t wait to check out!

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The story behind NIU BODY started in 2016. Laura had this amazing idea for a natural, coconut oil-based makeup remover wipe but couldn’t find one on the market. She was looking for someone to run the idea by, and a mutual friend recommended she chat with Connie because she was the ideal consumer (Connie is into wellness, skincare, and all things natural). The girls had dinner which turned into a 3-hour business meeting. By the end of the night, they agreed to partner and start NIU BODY.

If you are interested in trying some of NIU BODY’s products, Glow Luminizing Facial Serum is their best seller. It contains organic jojoba oil (to minimize the appearance of pores), organic camellia seed oil (packed with antioxidants and Omegas), organic bergamot essential oil (a citrusy scent that relieves stress), and Vitamin E. It’s extremely light weight, moisturizing, and absorbs quickly, leaving your skin radiant and bright. Pro Tip that Connie and Laura learned from one of their customers is to use their serums before applying makeup, to give your skin a dewy, youthful look! Connie’s fav product is the Awake Rose Toning Mist. It’s perfect for travel, post-workout, or just as a mid-day refresher. She’s a sucker for floral scents –  and bonus points for reducing skin pigmentation.

Since we are on the topic of  beauty, I couldn’t help but ask Connie for some skin care tips. Connie says it’s important to develop a skincare routine that works for you. It’s great reading from different magazines and blogs on what products work for different celebrities or influencers, but at the end of the day, you know what works best for your skin.  She also suggests sticking to something simple and preferably natural that you know you will be able to accomplish (i.e. never go to bed with makeup, always wear sunscreen) and you’ll see the results.

Now, for those aspiring Girl Bosses out there this is for you. If you are looking to start your own business, Connie’s advice to you is to have confidence. She thinks a lot of women don’t give themselves enough credit (she’s guilty as charged!) and set smaller goals as a result. When she first started NIU BODY, her original target was just to sell one product to someone who wasn’t a friend. Looking back, it seemed like a ridiculously small goal that Laura and Connie quickly surpassed. Connie also says to set your bar high, vocalize your dreams, and smash those goals!

Connie’s most rewarding part of having a business is hearing such positive feedback from NIU BODY customers. She and Laura were at a market in the fall, and a girl came up to them to show how her skin had changed after using NIU BODY for a few months. She explained how it had boosted her confidence and she needed to share her positive results. Laura and Connie received a message from a customer in BC, praising NIU BODY’s clean products and revealing that before NIU BODY she had such a difficult time finding affordable but also good quality, natural skincare products. Connie says “it sounds cheesy, but moments like this are what keep us so motivated!”

After learning about NIU BODY from Connie and exploring NIU BODY’s natural and affordable products online, I was tempted to try a couple of products myself. With an education and background in beauty, I had more than one reason to add a few items to my cart and proceed to checkout!

The excitement of having a package arrive gives me all kinds of feels; like a kid ready to open their gifts on Christmas morning, which I know some of you can relate to. When I opened the package I loved the message card from Laura and Connie themselves hoping I’ll enjoy their products, and a brief background on what NIU BODY has to offer. I was even more excited to try my new skin care products that evening.


Product number one was the Detox Green Clay Mask. The mask contains kaolin and French green clay and green tea extract that draws out impurities and oil and leaves your skin detoxified and purified. What’s cool about this product is it’s in a powder form. All you have to do is mix a few drops of water to get that mask like consistency and voila, you have yourself a facial mask. I loved how it was easy to apply and it helped with my congested skin.

Calm Lavender Toning Mist was product number two. I have a soft spot for lavender scented products and my bucket list consists of a walk in a lavender field, so naturally this product was a must try. The toning mist has a blend of lavender floral water, aloe vera and witch hazel. When I tried it for the first time, it was love at first smell; I felt like I was walking in lavender fields already! Both products are now a staple in my skincare routine. I always appreciate affordable skin care products that contain natural ingredients.


Thank you Connie for sharing NIU BODY’s story, your recommendations and advice on being a Beauty Boss Babe.  NIU BODY is located in Toronto, You can purchase their products here and from their stocklists.

 Written By: Margaret Saliba 



Event Recap: From Side Hustle to Full Hustle

Ah, the life of an entrepreneur. Some try it, many don't like it, but one thing is certain - it is hard to truly understand it until you make the decision to jump in with both feet. Transitioning from a side hustle to a full hustle, getting out of your comfort zone, is what our event was all about.

As an entrepreneur myself, I found that I was relating to each woman on the panel in different ways. This blog will recap the insights from the event, along with my own learnings along the way.

Click here to read about each panelist's story, watch the discussion (we streamed it for you!), and catch up on the latest news from YWiB TO.  


Want to know more and connect with them? Visit their websites and follow their social channels!

From left to right:
Paloma Lev 
Victoria Stacey 
Renish Kamal
Mary Young
Tracey Nguyen

Making The Transition

It can be exciting, scary as hell, overwhelming, exhilarating and so many more emotions when you take the leap of faith to becoming an entrepreneur. When you are working, you have the security of a paycheque every two weeks or month, and it can seem daunting of a decision to make. Our panel weighed in on how they knew they were ready to take the plunge.

For Vicki, our newest entrepreneur, it was a combination of enough savings, and unhappiness at her job. Her confidence in her network provided her with support through the transition.

Renish shared that it was an emotional decision - she could feel it was the right thing to do, it moved her. She shared a serendipitous encounter with a stranger who was inspired enough to invest in her after overhearing her idea, and having confidence in her passion. Personally, I believe the universe sends us signs, and that was definitely one. 

Mary delved into the world of conscious consumerism in her schooling, and received immediate interest in her ideas. While she never imagined going straight from school into entrepreneurship, research and support from her family and Futurepreneur brought her long-term goals into fruition. She insightfully suggested to take the leap when you are 80% confident.

Confidence is integral to Paloma's journey as well. She values freedom, and doesn't like taking orders from anyone, so for her, entrepreneurship was the only option. Freedom is something sought after for many entrepreneurs, and Paloma could not agree more.

Personally, I think having a balance of emotional and rational decision making is important. Entrepreneurship will never appeal only to your rational mind. No steady income. Sporadic interaction with colleagues (if you start a business solo). Very little structure. Many more hours involved. A lot more rejection. How will that ever make sense? It makes sense because you also have to appeal to your emotions, to your values, and fall back on your hope and confidence. Balance is key, and I love the 80% rule here too... don't wait until you are 100% sure... you might never get there. That last 20% is hope... and you will need to use your drive to succeed. 

Challenges & Learnings

For Vicki and Renish, (and myself) family values and perceptions was a challenge. It can be hard for those who love us and have grown up in a different landscape to truly understand this decision. Cultural backgrounds can be a factor that adds some spice to the mix (see what I did there), as it is hard for South Asian families to see a woman in this role. Paloma warns of sharing the tiny flame ideas with those who might blow it out before it has a chance to grow. We have all experienced that, even if it isn't related to a business idea and it is never a good feeling. As she lives with ADD, she described how this can both a blessing or a curse - depending on how you see it. She beautifully articulated how the aspect she thought would be her downfall is actually her fuel.

Even with the support of family, managing work-life balance is hard. Mary accurately describes something we all experience... hearing the advice from other entrepreneurs about work-life balance, and dismissing it, thinking it won't happen to me, until it does. One key theme that emerged in the panel is the notion that it is all part of the journey.

This resonated with me. As an entrepreneur, I value the aspect of networking and have been to different events, and connected with different mentors and leaders. I hear advice and feedback, yet it is only until I experience it myself that it truly comes to life and becomes real.

Challenges entrepreneurs experience might be similar or unique based on numerous factors, but Renish points out that our challenges can be fuel. It can make us stronger, and it has made her into the mentor that she never had.

Looking back, Paloma would try to remind herself that it she is building relationships, not just providing a one-off service. She suggests to create an Excel spreadsheet and keep track of people, and take time to check in with them. Mary has learned the huge impact of self-compassion - acknowledging there will be hurdles and being kind to yourself if you can't be everything all the time. This is one of the core components when I work with clients in a counselling setting, as well as in the trainings I run for wellness & resilience.

In my work, I host corporate workshops on the topic of resilience, and teach positive habits that we can include in our lives to boost our well-being, which does make us more resilient and happier in our personal and professional lives. I am currently with York University as a Counsellor Intern & Ryerson University working on the Thriving in Action initiative, with Diana Brecher (creator of the Five Factor Model of Resilience), and I am the Founder of Choose Gratitude, an organization dedicated to improving the well-being in our world through workshops and presentations. I've had the opportunity to work with law firms, financial institutions, small businesses, schools, and non-profits, and irrespective of the industry, these concepts and tools resonate, and are invaluable. I teach people about themselves (why we do the things we do, and what happens in our brains), & why incorporating new skills (such as gratitude) can be beneficial. When an executive and a new employee can connect over an exercise on gratitude, it is something special. When lawyers give me feedback wishing there were more people who attended, I recognize the need for this message to extend further.

Closing Thoughts

When hearing the challenges and learnings from the panelists, I recognize that each of us experience similar sorts of adversity. As young women, it is especially important to remember that and to lean on each other for support, guidance, and connection. This is why events like these are so powerful - having the courage and vulnerability to have these conversations can be impactful irrespective of your role. During my time as a volunteer with Young Women in Business Toronto, I have had the pleasure of being the Director of Community Engagement and Acting President, working behind the scenes to grow the organization and pull off events like this one, yet as I've needed to transition out of these roles, I found myself at the event as an attendee, feeling the positive energy we always have in a new light. I am so proud of the values and initiatives ingrained in the organization, and encourage young women in Toronto to share this with friends, and grow this engaging, inclusive, and supportive community.

Our panelists left us with the reminders to be unapologetic in our beliefs. Don't allow ourselves to be treated as commodities. Do not let the guilt or insecurity take over. Stay focused, even if it means putting blinders on sometimes. Let the journey become yours.

I say we should embrace all the moments. Cherish the challenges and the successes. Feel thankful for each person that helps you along the way. Acknowledge yourself in the process. Choose gratitude in all its forms to empower you along your journey... whatever that may be.


The Top 3 Skills You Need to be a Successful Entrepreneur


1. the power of persuasion - confidence,
2. your pitch - wanting and not needing your clients,
3. writing - good selling is finding the right match, and knowing who you are will inform your voice and find your people.


1. resilience - you must be able to bounce back from the no's,
2. organization - find techniques that work for you,
3. balance - to avoid burnout.


1. self-awareness - know what you are good at,
2. vulnerability - accept what you aren't good at, tying into humility,
3. decisiveness - know when to chill out.


1. ability to handle rejection
2. ability and making it priority to meet new people, it is about collaboration over competition,
3. ability to get over feeling guilty.

Written by: Diviya Lewis
Founder - Choose Gratitude

From Side Hustle to Full Hustle: Mary Young

We're hosting an entrepreneur panel discussion!

Meet Mary, our speaker. 

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From a young age, Mary Young knew she would be an entrepreneur in the creative realm. From knitting clothes for her Barbies to making prom dresses in high school, she always had a passion for all things fashion. After studying Fashion Communications at Ryerson University, she discovered the lingerie industry. Today she is designer of her namesake line MARY YOUNG Lifestyle Lingerie, which features ethically Canadian made lingerie and loungewear that embraces the natural woman’s body.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm a Jill of all trades. I love using my hands to build things in whatever I do. I hope to cause a positive effect on those around me. I've been creative from such a young age, from knitting clothes for my Barbies to making prom dresses in high school, I knew fashion was an industry that I would end up in. I love being active, both socially and physically. If I'm not working then I'm having a Matcha with friends over brunch or at a spin class getting in some cardio. 

How did you begin MARY YOUNG Lifestyle Lingerie? Was this something you'd always planned to do? 

Growing up I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur; what that looked like I never fully knew, other than it would be in the creative realm. When I was at Ryerson studying Fashion Communications I decided to do a double thesis in my fourth year. I produced both a written thesis as well as a five-piece womenswear collection that was shown with the Fashion Design graduating class. I honestly stumbled upon lingerie during my fourth year, I started my collection with hand knit sweaters and as I was building out the full concept I concluded lingerie would be a great pairing with cozy knit sweaters for the contemporary woman. After studying the lingerie industry so in-depth for months I knew that there was a gap in the market for lifestyle lingerie. It also became clear to me that the lingerie industry really only offered one 'look' for models and women, which is far from reality and I wanted to address that with my collection. 

MARY YOUNG Lifestyle Lingerie designs all lingerie and loungewear with a focus on empowering women and appreciating their natural body. Why do you feel this is so important? 

Growing up, I always felt pressure from the media, the fashion industry and really society as a whole, to act and look a certain way as a woman. I never once felt reassured, aside from my family and friends, that who I was at my core and my natural looks were enough. I know I'm not the only one to feel this way and I want to make sure women realize that their natural shape and who they are is more than enough, and they are truly beautiful. I think it's time we change the narrative of how a woman is spoken about, how she is told to look and act, and encourage everyone to embrace their individuality in all forms. 

What do you love most about being your own boss? 

The best thing about being my own boss is seeing all of my hard work, from idea, creation to execution, come to life. Knowing that all my hard work, those late nights and stress worked together to build something that can connect and reach so many other people.

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur? 

My biggest advice is to learn self-love, and I know that sounds cliché but it's true. You will always be your own worst critic, you'll see the areas you fell short or the flaws in your finished product, but if you can't support, encourage and love yourself through the journey it will always be an uphill battle. Without loving yourself and speaking to yourself positively, you will always feel less than rather than embracing and celebrating your successes along the way.

Written by: Puja Bowen

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