Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Darlene Patgunarajah

Ready to get your finances in order? Join our Financial Fitness Bootcamp on January 27th to tackle those holiday bills and start your year right. Get your ticket now.

Darlene Patgunarajah.jpg

It’s 2018 which means it’s time to set some goals! Whether you are looking to pay off that school loan or open your own business, getting your finances in order is a pivotal part of your success in the new year. That’s why YWiB Toronto has teamed up with Darlene Patgunarajah  to talk about the importance of financial literacy and the misconceptions young people have about their finances.

How and why did you get involved in financial literacy?

Education has always been a common thread throughout my career.  In healthcare, teaching is an important part of the health professional’s relationship with their patients.  As a financial advisor, education is also a significant part of the client-advisor relationship.  Without knowledge and some basic literacy - whether in relation to your health or your finances - you can’t make informed and educated decisions about either.

Do you think most young people today have a grasp on their finances?

My short answer is “No”, but it depends on the person. With young people there are a lot of misconceptions around finances tied in with the need for immediate gratification. People are looking for a quick buck, and not at the long-term planning it usually takes.  We were never taught about finances at any point during our school years, so there is very poor financial literacy going into adulthood. People are learning through observing what their friends and family are doing, or hearing through media the hottest stock picks while at the same time becoming disillusioned by insane house prices. Learning it as you face the realities of being an adult isn’t the best way to go about it.

What do you think is the biggest misconception young people have when it comes to finances?

There’s this consumer mentality that everyone needs to have the latest tech, trendiest clothes or most epic experience.  With the blow up of social media it takes “keeping up with the Joneses’” to a whole new level. It screws up their perception of reality and they’re not being smart about their choices and priorities. They’re afraid to say no to the bachelorette party in Miami and there’s a pressure there.  It’s that whole YOLO or FOMO culture. That, combined with money having been so cheap to borrow, snowballs into a huge problem with debt and financial stability.

Why do you think financial literacy is particularly important for women?

Women are now equal in terms of their economic power.  We (women) are making the money and the decisions around it.  There is no longer a dependency on a partner for our financial stability.   Combined with the fact that women are also becoming more entrepreneurial, its even more important now that we have a solid understanding of how money works.

What is a personal lesson you learned about financials, saving or investing that you want to pass to our audience?

The biggest detractor to success in financial health is mindset.  As children we’ve internalized the relationship our parents had with money, their beliefs and values, which then informs our own relationship with money. In many cases, our handling of money is a reflection of our own self-worth and beliefs about ourselves. Unless part of your financial coaching or planning addresses the emotions around money, you won’t have the discipline or the emotional capacity to follow it. It’s not just about getting a plan in place or saving money, its about figuring out what are your deep-down money scripts and dialogues are making conscious efforts to reprogram it.

Darlene's professional experience is rooted in healthcare and teaching - which has given her a unique perspective and passionate approach to financial health and financial literacy.  She believes that at the heart of the financial advising profession is education, collaboration, and relationship building.  She is enthusiastic about integrating technology not only into her practice for efficient administration but also for enabling better client engagement.   She serves clients all over the GTA, developing a niche in the small business owner community.  She lives with her husband and her two young and very energetic sons in Vaughan.


Written by: Ashleigh H.


Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Melanie Laing

Ready to get your finances in order? Join our Financial Fitness Bootcamp on January 27th to tackle those holiday bills and start your year right. Get your ticket now.


It’s officially 2018! 'Tis the season of New Year resolutions and goal setting. In 2018, the ladies of YWiB Toronto want you to be able to take control of your financials. Finance isn’t always a trendy topic, but it’s an important one for us to understand so that we’re able to achieve whatever we want in our lives.

While we understand the importance of financial literacy, we can’t pretend that it is something we’re extremely knowledgeable on. That’s why we sat down with Melanie Laing, Financial Security Advisor at Freedom 55 Financial, so we can get fresh with financials. Here’s what Melanie had to say:

1. To begin, how and why did you get involved in financial literacy?

I’ve always been driven to put myself in the best financial position possible, but despite wanting to do that, I felt totally ill equipped to handle the situation on my own after graduating university and looking to buy my first home. This is a feeling I know a lot of young people have upon leaving school. During this time, I was also planning on moving to Toronto, but the timing needed to be right and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do once getting here. I started doing my research and talking to friends and family in the financial services industry in order to understand how I can help people in my role. I guess the ‘how’ of why I got involved in financial literacy is through months of deliberation and conversations with my spouse, but the ‘why’ is driven by wanting to be a part of something that not only helps people, but equips them with the tools to make informed financial decisions in today’s economy and environment.

As young people, recent graduates, entrepreneurs, etc. we cannot rely on ‘flying by the seat of our pants’ if we want to get ahead professionally or financially, so if I can help people with their goals by explaining basic financial principles to them, that is a win for me!

2. Do you think most young people today understand financial literacy? Why do you think it’s important for young people to take this seriously?

Unfortunately, I don’t think most young people today have a good understanding of financial literacy, which, to be honest, is of no fault of their own. Apart from the way in which you ‘grew’ up with money, and how conversations were handled in your household as a kid, we are left to our own devices in trying to navigate the world of personal finance. I don’t think we can stress the importance of financial literacy enough and I hope that some of the changes made to curriculums across the country will improve the attention and knowledge of young Canadians for years to come.

That being said, for those of us who were not taught the basic principles or processes required for one to take care of their personal finances, we need to take it seriously and invest the time to learn. Young people today have to take their situation and finances seriously in order to ensure they can live the life they want to live now and in the future. An environment where the majority of people’s retirements are funded by company pensions does not exist anymore, so we need to be cognizant from a young age about what steps are going to help us.

3. What is the greatest challenge your clients (and young people in general) tend to face when it comes their finances?

I think for young people in general, the greatest challenge is the fact that change is inevitable so it’s hard to know what to do when your life is changing so rapidly and big life events are occurring (think: marriage, buying a home, starting a family, growing your career). That combined with the fact that many young people are focused on eliminating student debt and getting their careers started, it can be a challenge to consider all the other aspects of your financial plan.

4. Finally, What advice would you give to young professionals in Toronto who want to live a comfortable life that allows them to have a house, car, go on vacation, etc.?

I’d have to say two things. First, it’s okay to say ‘no.’ I think young people have a tendency to do things they don’t really want to do and spend money they shouldn’t in order to keep up with their peer group or appearances, which puts them in a stressful financial position and can compromise their ability to reach more ambitious goals. Be confident in your decisions and your plan to get there.

Second, and a common saying among the financial services industry, ‘pay yourself first.’ What I mean by this is set up a savings plan where contributions are taken from your account automatically each week, month, etc. We have an amazing ability to live off the money we ‘don’t’ have, so start thinking of your savings as an financial obligation and you will be able to accomplish some of those personal finance goals like owning a home and travelling.

If you’re looking to get your finances in order this year so you can achieve your dreams, then this workshop is for you! See you on January 27th!

Written by: Kate Taylor

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Emilia Romano

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Emilia Romano

Meet Emilia, one of our workshop hosts!

Emilia is the Director of Marketing at Imperial Lifestyle Management. Her passion is everything marketing! With an extensive background in marketing, brand awareness, business development and graphic design along with a proven ability to coordinate the planning, development and execution of strategic marketing initiatives to drive desired results. Emilia’s greatest strengths are her creativity, drive and leadership. She thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach.

YWiB Toronto sat down with Emilia to learn more about how she got her start in the financial field, and what she thinks young women today most need to know.

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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. 

Click here for registration details. 

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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

From Side Hustle to Full Hustle: Paloma Lev

She is anything but ordinary, turning "no" into "yes" faster than you can say "Chutzpah". Paloma Lev is the leader of the Badass Communicators club, passionately teaching talented people to get out of their own way by teaching confidence, selling, pitch and copy. She has a way with words that puts Shakespeare to shame; with a master of English from the University of Toronto and 6+ years of coaching, we can say she is a master of her craft.

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