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What the EFF? Top Six Takeaways from the 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum

Left to Right: Chanèle McFarlane (Do Well Dress Well), Karin Percil, (Sisterhood), Rachel Kelly (Make Lemonade) and Amanda Laird (Heavy Flow Podcast)

On December 2 and 3, LiisBeth co-sponsored the second Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum (EFF) in downtown Toronto. The annual entrepreneurship conference brought together the growing community of feminist entrepreneurs to learn and share experiences around feminist business practice.

This year, the message was clear: connect and take action.

Taking action at the EFF


We’ll post a full roundup next year but here is a list of six action items to consider incorporating into your 2019 resolutions.

1. Type “Indigenomics” into a document. When the red squiggly line appears indicating a spell-check error, right-click then press “add word,” because the relatively new term is picking up speed in Canada’s lexicon. “When you talk about water and trees you talk about resources. When we talk about water and trees we talk about relatives.” – Carol Anne Hilton, Indigenomics By Design: The Rise of Indigenous Economic Empowerment.

2. Visit Kelly Diels for feminist marketing tools, tips, and resources. If you missed her at the EFF 2018, you missed out, but fear not. Diels offers workshops and coaching sessions where you can develop (among other things) a social media strategy and system based on her Little Birds and Layer Cakes, Social Media Workbook.  “If you hate marketing, it means you have a sense of justice.” – Kelly Diels, Feminist Marketing for an Emerging, More Inclusive Economy.

3. Build our communities. CV Harquail reminds us that we can build our collective path to the entrepreneurial feminist future by standing on and grounding ourselves in each other’s work. Every presenter, facilitator, and participant is doing work that we can build on — so let’s follow each other on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, refer to each other’s work, and celebrate our growing community. View the full list of presenters here.

4, Unplug and Read (okay two actions) Sarah Selecky’s new novel: Radiant Shimmering Light. It’s the holidays so not everything has to be about work. However, you may find your own takeaways in Selecky’s novel about female friendship, business, and online marketing that skillfully balances satire, humour, and truth. Selecky also credits Kelly Diels in her acknowledgments as the person who coined the term Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand and met Diels at the EFF, so maybe it is about networking.

5.  Decolonize your mind: Decolonization work begins with taking the time to critically examine how colonization has influenced your personal world view and sense of self. Sit down. Make a list. Check it twice. Then consider re-embracing cultural practices, thinking, beliefs, and values that are a part of who you are and where you came from, but were systemically dissed by the dominant culture. “If we want diversity and inclusion, we have to decolonize design so that the practice itself stops traumatizing our diverse students and professors.” – Dr. Dori Tunstall, Whiteness without White Supremacy: Generating New Models of Whiteness

6. Sign up for LiisBeth’s newsletter here and receive rants, downloadables, recommended readings, profiles, feminist freebies! and stay informed about LiFE (LiisBeth’s Incubator for Feminist Entrepreneurship)–a membership only feminist business practice “school” and learning commons.

In addition to the action items above, what else did EFF participants get from the conference? The five most meaningful leaves on the wall of inspiration sum it up best:

  • We all have something of value to offer
  • Nothing grows without sharing
  • Connected
  • Who knows what will happen!
  • #rise

Rooted in values that take good care of people and planet, feminist entrepreneurs are building justice into products and services, operating models, and relationships. In the process, we are building collective power to change the economy.

Join us.


Feds Drop $9 Million Into Women’s Entre-preneurship

Day two of the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum 2018 in Toronto

The federal government has awarded Ryerson University $9 million over three years to fund a Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) to advance research into women’s entrepreneurship with the goal of increasing participation of women in the economy.

Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, who worked in the President’s Office at Ryerson University before becoming a Member of Parliament in the Liberal government, made the announcement this morning, saying WEKH will equip governments and the private sector “with the necessary information to better understand and assist women entrepreneurs in their efforts to start up, scale up and access new markets.”

Currently, only 16 percent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are women owned. By many estimates, advancing gender equality has the potential to add $150 billion to the Canadian economy by 2026. WEKH is expected to be a one-stop source of knowledge, data and best practices to help governments, organizations and the private sector develop better policies and strategies to grow women’s entrepreneurship.

Vicki Saunders, founder of SheEO and a partner in WEKH, hopes the investment will unleash the potential of women’s entrepreneurship. “We have an excellent business case in the women’s entrepreneurship area to show how investing in women will grow the Canadian economy. It’s very exciting to see that a university will take this information and upload research that will power better government policy.” She adds that “Ryerson has been a leading driver of entrepreneurship, innovation and education across the country.”

The Ryerson-led consortium was chosen over one competing bid led by University of Ottawa, which included some of Canada’s top thought leaders in the area of women’s entrepreneurship, notably Barbara Orser, a professor at University of Ottawa and co-author of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs; Jennifer Jennings, Associate Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at University of Alberta’s School of Business; Sarah Kaplan, Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto; Sandra Altner, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada; and the MaRS Institute, an innovation hub that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow ventures.

The Ryerson consortium includes eight regional hubs and universities, ten partners and 37 supporters.

The federal government has not lacked for reports making the case that supporting women’s entrepreneurship will strengthen the Canadian economy – more than 30 in the past 30 years, many industry sponsored. The central question now is will this direct federal government investment in university-led research produce relevant policy action and real results?

Says Barbara Orser, who coined the term Entrepreneurial Feminism, “It’s a unique opportunity to ensure a feminist and women-focussed perspective is shared and that only research of the highest quality is profiled. If not, there’s a risk of replicating the stereotypes and mythology of women’s entrepreneurship. Every incubator and accelerator and academic engaged in entrepreneurship should be speed dialled into this new source of information.”

Ryerson University’s Wendy Cukier, the Founder and Director of the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management, says they were thrilled to win the bid. “We don’t see this as an opportunity to do research. We see this as an opportunity to drive change, and the diversity institute has a strong track record in terms of using evidence and research to make things happen. We have pulled together a good network of partners including universities who will be able to grow and sustain (WEKH) beyond the initial funding.” She says that Ryerson will reach out to work with partners beyond the consortium. “The whole point is to aggregate research and information available. The whole point is to map and grow the entire ecosystem.”

Kelly Diels, a Vancouver-based feminist marketing consultant and writer, hopes there is a channel that loops the research hub back to women entrepreneurs so they can turn it into useful information with tools to use in their businesses. That way, “it’s not a report disappears into the ether or was a big project that didn’t actually move back to the people who need it.”

Jena Cameron, Manager of Women Entrepreneurship Policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, says both applications were very strong and equally evaluated against the assessment grid that included things such as partnerships and sustainability. A lot of information on women’s entrepreneurship already exists, says Cameron, so a big part of the plan is to “package information (it) in a way that it becomes accessible to women business support organizations and women entrepreneurs themselves. Go through it and distil nuggets down into practical things that the ecosystem can use.”

Our initial take at LiisBeth? What, another study? This data better lead to change. It will benefit women entrepreneurs if the Ryerson-led consortium reaches out to the other side to tap into Canada’s leading feminist enterprise research and thinkers. Create an open door policy that lets everyone in so everyone can win, including community-based women’s entrepreneurship organizations and feminist entrepreneurs who are often off the mainstream radar.



Sample Newsletter


Image by Alexey Kuzma


In my line of work as a program consultant, I am often hired to help startup incubators and innovation spaces rethink how they attract and more importantly, retain more women entrepreneurs; In Canada at least, their public funding support is increasingly dependent on doing so.

Turns out, marketing only to women, tossing in a few pink bean bag chairs, and offering free tampons and perfumes in newly labelled gender-neutral washrooms doesn’t cut it. Neither does creating women-only startup programs embedded in co-ed spaces with programs that reinforces the patriarchal status quo. They sound good at first, but soon after the program starts, women entrepreneurs end up feeling ghettoized and stigmatized.

They end up frustrated. They leave. And they don’t come back.

Today, only 16% of incorporated enterprises in Canada are women-led and women majority owned. Reports show that participation in co-ed incubator spaces runs between 5 and 30% on average. Yet women start businesses at a rate of 20-30% higher than men. Studies showed that in spite of the extra baggage, women-majority owned businesses out-perform their male counterparts on several metrics.The fact is, ineffective programs for female founders is costing Canada alone billions of dollars of lost economic opportunity.

What economy can afford that?

Many people leading co-ed entrepreneurship and innovation incubators acknowledge the still growing body of research that confirms again and again that women face additional barriers as entrepreneurs thanks to gender-bias in our financial systems, sexism, and the realities of biology in an economy designed to privilege people who can delegate caregiving and don’t need time off after physically growing and finally squeezing a new eight to ten pound human out of their bodies–not to mention then feeding them exclusively via your boobs for months after.

In fact, the people running incubators witness examples of the many barriers first hand. They have VIP seats in the stadium when it comes to observing how women experience and must navigate entrepreneurship differently to succeed. They also see how women of colour, indigenous women, newcomers, and those working two jobs to make ends meet. They experience additional challenges.

So why are they having so much trouble figuring out how to help women founders, and their enterprises, flourish?

The answer is in knowing “how to get through a gateless gate“.

This article could help get you started. 


Woman Is Wolf to Woman

From a psychological and philosophical perspective, mental health counsellor, Maria Basualdo discusses the critical need for women to unite and work together. “…activism is the only way women can bring about transformation in ourselves, not just socially and politically, but by refusing to be wolf to women in our mundane realities.

Sounds like an obvious idea. But why doesn’t it happen?

Ria Lupton (middle), LiisBeth Contributor and friends at Montreal Startupfest 2018

Montreal Startup Fest 2018

New Contributor Ria Lupton got an “inclusion” ticket to Startupfest 2018 in Montreal last month. So we asked her to writing a story about her experience as a participant in a program dedicated to “…connecting entrepreneurs from diverse communities to equal opportunities.”

Ultimately, we wanted to know if to find out if things had improved since we last wrote about this tech-fest now in its seventh year.

Fallen Men of Thrones

I knew that billionaire motivational speaker Tony Robbins and I were not aligned in many of our beliefs about how the world worked. But he sure knew how to whip up mass hysteria.

In the video above, you will notice that his euphoric fans represent a diverse, mostly-male-but-good-helping-of-female crowd looking to be primarily…reassured. They are told that if they work hard, remain disciplined, clean, goal-focused, and believe in themselves, the world is theirs to exploit—despite the various systemic oppressions they face.  Blaming something other than yourself for your state in life is not part of Robbins’ creed. “Just Say Yes! And presto, you are halfway there!”

Come on. Who doesn’t love a message like that?

But then came Robbins’ #metoo moment where he showed incredible ignorance about the powers that shape the lives of women in the workplace. He apologized. But that wasn’t enough for Kelly Diels.

Kelly Diels, feminist marketing consultant

This is Diels, a feminist marketing expert, who is writing a new book about the female empowerment brand says “…when our most cherished self-help leaders, spiritual teachers, coaches and empowers-of-women are waving the same flag as an MRA, let us agree it is a red one.”

In her free-online-chapter of her upcoming book, Diels critically interrogates the female empowerment brand and highlights the dark role that motivational speakers—mostly male but also many female—play in advancing this dangerous opioid-like narrative.

If you are attending a conference with a motivational speaker as a keynote in the next few weeks, you might want to read this before you go.


Don’t You Want Me

global photography project showcasing the beauty and resilience of disenfranchised LGBTQ people with their rescued dogs. The coupling of compelling and personal images with accompanying narratives and a celebratory flair, the aim is to show that individuals of all stripes have the shared ability to transform their lives when they are given love and the question of ‘who rescued who’ becomes universal, no matter how you identify.

The project kicks off soon and is currently seeking subjects in Toronto, Brighton UK, and NYC. To participate get in touch here.

Feminist Economics Yoga in Thunder Bay

Cassie Thornton isn’t a healer, she’s just really angry. She is also an artist, an activist, and a kundalini yoga instructor who lives and works between Thunder Bay, Berlin, and Oakland.

In short, Feminist Economics Yoga is combining feminized practices and values like care, health and reproduction with a challenging but accessible yoga practice that focuses on breath and movement. It is designed to heal the nervous system, spine and brain—all areas affected by the experience and challenges of living, breathing, and working in today’s world.

Practicing feminist economics yoga is a way to remind yourself to check in with what you’re experiencing and see what parts you might want to break up with.” – Cassie Thornton, Feminist Economist

You can help fund production of a new series of yoga video tutorials that aim to help heal our social and economic wounds and move forward collectively by visiting Cassie’s Kickstarter campaign: Let’s Break Up w/ Capitalism!

She is planning a Feminist Economics Yoga workshop is in Thunder Bay later this fall. For more info go to:

Aspen Ideas Festival 2018

Is the Backlash back?

From the Aspen Ideas Festival…Good Feminist, Bad Feminist — Who Gets to Decide?

The beauty of feminism is that it’s always growing and changing and that we allow space for it.” – Tarana Burke, Founder of #Metoo Movement

If you have an hour on your hands, take the time to watch this panel talk. It will change your perspective. The star of the show in our view was Brittney Cooper, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University.  She is also the co-founder of the edgy and widely read Crunk Feminist Collective blog. Her new book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower is available now!

Hang on to your hat for this one. [90 minutes]

Joyce Lee, Founder, herPossibility

Summer Camp for Little Girls with Big Dreams

Joyce Lee is the founder of herPossibility, a summer camp for girls ages 8 to 14 that focuses on empowering youth to be confident and creative leaders.

The camp will have hands on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities to help girls develop their empathy and growth mindset, generate creative ideas, and build self-confidence in group settings.

This year we’re supporting a group of refugee girls that are new from Syria. And seeing them be able to speak their truth and be themselves is wonderful,” says Lee who encountered a lot of tech bias when she attended the University of Waterloo. “I was always that shy girl in the corner and having that experience really made me want to do something about it.”

Camp runs August 13 – 17th, 2018 at Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre in Toronto.

You gotta give Svetlana Ratnikova (pictured here hugging the woman in the foreground), founder of Toronto’s Immmigrant Women in Business network a bow.  She knows how to energize a group-in a whole hearted and dare we say, uniquely Russian way!  LiisBeth attended their last event. The quality of the talks were high. And you have to love the fact that the event was opened up with a toast to the opportunity to be in Canada.  If you are a entrepreneur looking to experience global feminism in one room, we highly recommend you give them a try.

Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky

Sarah Selecky thanks Kelly Diels in the acknowledgements of her debut novel, Radiant Shimmering Light. “Diels coined the term “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand” and confronts the subject deftly on her website,” says Selecky. The same could be said of Selecky. The novel is bursting with sparkle and satire, earnestness and colour. The story follows Lilian Quick, a struggling pet-portrait artist who reconnects with her estranged cousin, Eleven Novak, who runs a hugely successful women’s empowerment program called Ascendancy.

Through sharp insight and detailed, entertaining prose, Selecky examines the interconnectedness of art, commerce, and entrepreneurship in a timely resurgence of online feminism.

How We Get Free, edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The Combahee River Collective Statement was written in April, 1977 but is as relevant today as it was then. It has been referred to as “among the most compelling documents produced by black feminists”. This is one of intersectional feminism’s foundational texts.

The Statement itself has four separate chapters: The Genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism; What We Believe; Problems in Organizing Black Feminist; and Black Feminist Issues and Projects. The published book adds on to this; It includes interviews with original members of the collective.

The writing is eloguent, inspiring and clear as glass. Anyone looking for a good example of a manifesto–or deepen their understanding of intersectional feminism– need look no further.

  • CIX is seeking female entrepreneurs!
    Canada’s highly curated startup investment conference is looking for more submissions to the Top 20 program from female entrepreneurs across Canada as applications in the demographic are low. The summit runs October 22-23rd in Toronto. Apply here.
  • The Honourable Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism announced the launch of an $8.6 millioncompetitive process to create a Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub to accelerate the accumulation and dissemination of data, knowledge, and best practices regarding women entrepreneurs. Read the news release or find out about the application process here.
  • LiisBeth Founding Publisher Petra Kassun-Mutch will be speaking about feminist business practice at the upcoming MJBizConINT’L  Women in Cannabis Wednesday, August 15th at George Brown. MJBizConINt’L attracts more than 2,000 attendees and 125+ exhibitors from around the world will meet to discuss the role of the cannabis global marketplace.
  • NEW! The Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa released a report about benchmarking small and medium enterprises as suppliers to the Canadian government. The report provides new insights about gender of ownership, innovation, international trade, and firm performance.


Fall is coming! And oh la la! The list of events worth putting on your learning journey calendar is getting longer:

UN Women – Metro NY Chapter: Summer Info Session in NYC
Join the Metro NY Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women for our semi-annual info session. Learn about their all-volunteer organization and network with other like-minded gender equality warriors! Refreshments will be provided.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
6:30 – 8:30 PM
300 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Cost: Suggested donation: $10
RSVP here.

Networking and Inspirational Leadership Event
A new IWB (Immigrant Women in Business) Chapter in Bradford is hosting an exclusive, private gathering. IWB welcomes all, and is especially important place for immigrants. (All genders welcome). Saturday, August 25th, 2018
4:00 – 8:00 PM
CU Optical
157 Holland St E #4
Bradford, ONTARIO
Cost: FREE
Register here.

Venus Fest: A Canadian Music Festival Celebrating Feminism in the Arts
September 20–22nd, 2018
Opera House
735 Queen Street West
Toronto, ONTARIO
Cost: $77 for a three-day pass.
Get tickets here.

Anti-Oppression for Artists + Cultural Producers
This workshop for artists explores the language, theories and practices of anti-oppression in depth. Participants will have access to a plethora of digital and print resources to continue their learning journey beyond the scope of the session. Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
6:00 – 9:00 PM
Wychwood Barns Park
B Current Space
76 Wychwood Avenue
Toronto, ONTARIO M6G 2X7
Cost: PWYC – $55
Register here.

B-Corp Champions Retreat in New Orleans
The annual gathering of mission-driven leaders of the B Corp community focused on collective action and continuous improvement. Open to all employees of Certified B Corps, Impact management partners, nonprofits and academics, and other members of the ‘B Economy’.
September 25 – 27th, 2018
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cost: $400 – $1095 + fees
Register here.

Power the Economy: Growing Women Owned Businesses in Canada
WEConnect International in Canada will host its signature annual event, Power the Economy, for women-owned businesses, multinational corporations, senior government officials, and partner organizations supporting the growth of women’s entrepreneurship across Canada.
October 26th, 2018
Beanfield Centre
105 Princes’ Blvd
Toronto, ONTARIO
Cost: $199
Register here.

The 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum
November 10 and 11, 2018
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, ONTARIO
Ticket information coming soon.

That brings us to the end of our August newsletter. The next newsletter is scheduled for September 2018. 

We are looking for speaker and workshop proposals for the second annual Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum planned for November, 2018. For guidelines, visit the website.

And just one last reminder. If you are considering a way to support feminist entrepreneurs, or help connect women-led initiatives and communities, look no further than cbecoming a subscriber to LiisBeth! We humbly remind you that subscriptionsare $3/month, $7/month or $10/month.

We are now on Patreon!

Funds go directly towards paying writers, editors, proofreaders, photo permission fees, and illustrators. Building a more just future requires time, love—and financial support.

Enjoy August.  Summers are so short!