Canada’s 15 Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs
A famous philosopher once said, “Who run the world? Girls! Girls!”
Okay, so she’s not a philosopher. But no one can deny that Beyoncé knows a thing or two about running a business. In fact, she’s one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women of 2016.
Of course, if you’re looking for business successes closer to home, you’ll be glad to know that there’s no shortage of female entrepreneurs who are making their mark in Canada’s business landscape.
Let’s take a look at the 15 most influential female entrepreneurs in Canada today.
1. Susan Niczowski
Summer Fresh is a hummus, dips, salad, snacks, and easy meals company that generates over $100 million in revenue annually. Susan Niczowski founded the company with her mother in 1992.
When Summer Fresh first started, it only offered 18 recipes. Today, the company regularly ships out 250 different products nationwide and in the US. Niczowski credits hard work for her success, as well as not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
2. Louise Vonk
As one of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs, Louise Vonk grew the family business, Messenger Freight Systems, from earning $1 million to $13 million in annual sales.
It’s quite an impressive feat given how tough and competitive the industry is. But Messenger’s secret sauce, according to Vonk is service – great customer service. Other companies may offer cheaper rates, but Messenger guarantees being with the customer through thick and thin.
3. Maureen Lucas
In 2015, LucasWorks’ reported revenue was $10-$20 million. LucasWorks is a recruitment and human resource company owned by Maureen Lucas. Lucas has over 20 years of experience in employment services.
Lucas believes that values and ethics are what separates LucasWorks from other companies offering the same services.
The company’s employees are encouraged to become volunteers of organizations. These include Rotary International, The Kidney Foundation, and Children’s Aid.
When you’re working for LucasWorks, you have to care about making a difference. That’s one of the reasons behind the company’s success.
4. Carol Leaman
Also known as the woman who turned down a fabulous job at Google, Carol Leaman is the CEO of Axonify Inc.
Axonify is the world’s first employee knowledge platform that helps other companies achieve their target results.
Before Axonify, Leaman held CEO positions at several other firms. These include PostRank Inc., RSS Solutions, and Fakespace Systems. She’s also a board member of many non-profit organizations.
Having won many awards throughout the course of her careers, Leaman is also a frequent contributor to Fortune magazine. She is also a known speaker and thought leader. She is one of Canada’s most influential female entrepreneurs.
5. Tonia Jahshan
No list of influential female entrepreneurs would be complete without Tonia Jahshan, founder of Steeped Tea.
In 2015, Forbes listed Jahshan as one of the 6 Entrepreneurial Women To Watch. She turned a small business into an empire with more than $20 million annual sales.
Jahshan embraces her role as an influencer. She knows that she inspires other women to start their own business and become entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do.
6. Stephanie Ciccarelli
Voices.com is proof that you should always write down your business idea even when it’s written on the back of a paper napkin.
Today, Voices.com is an industry leader in its field – connecting businesses with professional voice talent. Stephanie Ciccarelli co-founded the company with her husband David.
Aside from being an established entrepreneur, she is also the author of several books. These include Voice Acting for Dummies and The Podcasting Ebook: Your Complete Guide to Podcasting. She has also contributed to several online publications. These include The Huffington Post, Mompreneur, and Profit Guide.
7. Alyssa Kerbel
Having worked in fashion for many years, Alyssa Kerbel had more than enough industry know-how to start her own apparel business.
After the birth of her first child, she decided to create her own line of fashion basics for babies and kids and called it ‘Mini Mioche’.
Since its founding in 2008, Mini Mioche has expanded to include two brick and mortar stores in downtown Toronto. The company has also added footwear, gear, toys, and books to its product line. Everything is made from certified organic materials. The brand uses eco-friendly processes and everything is made in Canada.
In 2015, Mini Mioche reported a revenue of $1-$2 million, which is impressive considering the company only has 13 employees.
8. Cassandra Nordell
Named as one of Canada’s top 100 female entrepreneurs by Profit and Canadian Business magazines, Cassandra Nordell is the co-founder and CEO of William Standen Co. The brand is a leader in green design.
William Standen Co is the first and only certified eco-friendly custom cabinet provider for the Southwestern Ontario Region.
As an accomplished designer, Nordell believes that good design can change the way people live. A lot of local and international magazines and publications have featured her work.
9. Jane Gowing
Profit W100 has recognized Jane Gowing several times as one of the top female entrepreneurs in Canada. But Gowing insists the recognition isn’t about her. She believes the success of Gowing Contractors is due to the hard work of its employees.
Gowing Contractors specializes in municipal water and wastewater treatment systems. It has been operating since 1998.
Aside from leading Gowing Contractors, Jane also mentors through the WXN Network and the University of Guelph Engineering School. She is also a member of the Worldwide Association of Female Professionals.
10. Shantal Feltham
A graduate of Western University, Shantal Feltham is the founder of Stiris Research and Stiris Research USA.
Stiris is a clinical trial management company based in London, Ontario. Its clients include pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies.
Prior to Stiris, Feltham has worked for Janssen-Ortho and Roche.
Today, aside from leading Stiris, she also sits on the board of several organizations including TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, London Economic Development Corporation, and Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation – Evaluation and Research Committee.
11. Jennifer Lynn Bird
Not much is written online about Jennifer Lynn Bird or Jenny Bird. However, you’ll probably recognize one of her creations if you’ve been following Lucy Hale in her recent press rounds for Pretty Little Liars.
You should definitely sit up and take notice though if you plan to start a jewelry line or something similar. For one thing, Bird’s entire collection is sold in over 600 stores worldwide. Also, in 2015, her company reported revenue of $2-$5 million.
According to the company’s official site, Bird designs every piece. The company fondly calls its customers as Birdgirls.
12. Krista LaRiviere
Whether you’re just starting a business or in the process of growing one, you know that having a web presence is a must.
No one understands this better than gShift’s founder and CEO, Krista LaRiviere.
gShift is an SEO and content optimization platform that promises to simplify digital marketing for its customers. It counts Budweiser, The Amazing Race Canada, and Shomi among its high-profile clients.
Before gShift, LaRiviere held leadership positions at different companies. These include cgk Technologies Group, TLC Innovations, TechConnex, and SEMPO cities. Like other female entrepreneurs on this list, LaRiviere is also a recognized by Profit W100.
13. Manon Hogue
Manon Hogue is another female entrepreneur who has made it big in the medical field. Her company, DBC or Diagnostics Biochem Canada, is a recognized industry leader. They are famous for manufacturing medical diagnostic kits.
DBC’s ELISA and LIA kits are exported around the globe. Its 2015 reported revenue was in the $2-$5 million range.
14. Serena Holmes
Some women entrepreneurs start their own business because they believe they have a great idea. Serena Holmes admits that wasn’t the case with Tigris, the event staffing and experiential marketing agency she now owns.
Since taking over the company in 2009, Tigris has grown and continues to grow at a steady pace. Over the past five years, sales have tripled and Holmes plan to expand into the US market in three to five years.
In 2017, Tigris was awarded the Top Choice Award Winner for Best Event Staffing Agency in the GTA. And Serena was recognized in 2016 by Profit W100 as one of the top female entrepreneurs in Canada.
15. Lois Fraser
Completing this list of women entrepreneurs is Lois Fraser. Fraser is the co-founder of Fraser Direct. The brand is a third-party logistics provider for B2B and B2C companies in Canada.
From a 60,000 square foot warehouse and a staff of 40 people, Fraser grew the company into a 118 square feet of facilities and their employees increased to 130.
Currently, the company markets itself as a one-stop shop for clients who need supply chain advice, customs clearance, warehousing, and so on.
Fraser Direct’s revenue in 2015 was in the $20-$50 million range.
Remember, the women listed here made it not just because they have business savvy, but also because they believed in themselves.
If you’re ready to start a business in Canada, make sure you start it right.