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Feminist Practices Transformative Ideas

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemon Aid

Rachel Kelly, founder of Make Lemonade, 2019. Photo provided.

Like the many enterprises that relied on in-person interaction, Make Lemonade, a Toronto-based, women-centric co-working space for entrepreneurs was suddenly squeezed dry by the pandemic and closed its doors in August 2020. It was the third closure in three years of a well-loved physical co-working space focusing on women — the others were Shecosystem and Women on the Move. LiisBeth talked to Rachel Kelly, the 30-year-old founder and sole owner of Make Lemonade to learn about the journey and where they are now–given the pandemic. 

LiisBeth: Let’s rewind to get the full story. Why did you start Make Lemonade?

RK: It was 2015 and I had been freelancing for a couple years, bouncing from coffee shop to coffee shop and working from home — way before it was cool. One day while travelling on a streetcar to yet another café, I realized I couldn’t keep lying to myself. I was trying to convince myself that this way of working, like a nomad, alone, was great and that the indie freelancing life was sustainable for me. It occurred to me in that moment the key thing lacking in my work life was a day-to-day community of colleagues.

Around this time, I signed a salaried contract with a company I was freelancing for and let go of all my freelance gigs. And even bought a couch! But shortly thereafter, they called to say the contract was cancelled. They never told me why but I suspect it had to do with their budget.

I reminded myself, I am only 26 years old. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

The old dream I had of starting a co-working space for independent freelancers like me resurfaced. And I have to thank my parents for inspiration. They were also entrepreneurs and taught me to dream big and worry about the details later. Which is exactly what I did.

I started by creating an Instagram account called Make Lemonade to gauge interest about the idea and guess what … it generated traction! In fact some people already thought the space existed and actually emailed me saying “you might like this space” not realizing I was the one posting about it. Ha! With this validation, I got to work. I put together a business plan. Landlords required me to submit the plan along with an offer to lease the space because we were a startup. I looked for places that offered bright, natural light and a canvas that made shared work possible. Finding a space with a good landlord was also important. The commercial rental market was hot at the time. I found a beautiful 3,000 square foot space at 326 Adelaide Street West in the heart of downtown Toronto and quickly signed a five-year lease.

LiisBeth:  Tell us about the Make Lemonade Community? Who showed up?

RK: At first, I thought the space would attract mostly 25 to 35-year-olds but we ended up with members from of all ages — all the way into their sixties. Members paid $500/month for a three-month plan with a fixed desk; $300/month for Monday to Friday access; $30/month for community membership. Make Lemonade offered a communal kitchen, phone booths, printing and mailboxes. About 80 per cent of the members — or our “lemons” as we affectionally referred to each other — were full-time self-employed creative types, writing or producing professionals and other artists. Other members included graduate students working on their thesis, a few salaried folks looking for an inspiring focus zone and people with full time jobs who needed space to work on their side-hustles.  

One of our members, Breeyn McCarney, is wedding dressmaker who designed non-traditional wedding gowns. She lived in Hamilton but most of her clients were in Toronto so she regularly booked our meeting rooms for client fittings. When her customers came for their final fitting, she would host a champagne celebration in our “virtual” patio room, an indoor room that was decked out to look like an outdoor patio.

Breeyn hosted beading workshops for aspiring artists — they worked with their hoops and beads and used Make Lemonade as a production space. At its peak, we had over 200 members.

Many of our members have seriously grown their enterprises since joining the Make Lemonade community. For example, when newcomer to Canada Katy Prince joined, she could only afford to come on Mondays (half price days) at first she didn’t have many friends or a network. Katy significantly expanded her network while at Make Lemonade. Today, Katy works for herself as a full-time coach and has a handful of staff members. Katy’s experience is testament to the benefits that co-working spaces have to offer and we are proud to have helped play a role in their success.      

LiisBeth:  Did you ever participate in startup program or receive any startup or government grants to help finance or start your business?

RK: No. Truth be told I never applied! I didn’t really know what was available.

Liisbeth: What happened when the pandemic hit?

RK: In early March 2020, we started to hear all about the coronavirus I remember going to sleep one Sunday night knowing the next day I would have to close our doors. At first, we thought it would only be for a short time, but it soon became clear the closure would last for a while. When we made our announcement (a year and a half after our temporary closure) in August 2020 that the doors were closing, we received close to 300 comments on just one Instagram post. I still haven’t read through them all because it’s emotionally overwhelming. What’s important to note — and also bittersweet — is that our busiest time were the months leading up to the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rachel Kelly’s announcement on the closing of Make Lemonade’s physical coworking space in Toronto. Screenshot via Instagram.

When the pandemic hit, we were not sure what to do but quitting was not an option. Our mantra was (and still is): when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. We had to try something new.

My staff member, Ashley Fulton, Director of Good Vibes, and I began brainstorming about how we could bring and keep the community together online. We started with free virtual co-working meet ups. Then added free daily support calls. Next, we added a short newsletter called “Your Daily Dose of Sunshine”. We later added online co-working sessions and work sprints and didn’t charge for any of it.

Once we were confident we had something worthwhile to offer, we invited people to start paying us for the services. And a good number of them did.

Over time, we added more features such as accountability calls and introduced The 4-Week Challenge that involved working on goals for four weeks in community. People loved it and paid to participate! We noticed multiple repeat participants for the program and eventually turned it into a new service called the Get Sh*t Done Club. 

As time went on, we learned that while the physical space with tables and internet access was great, our real strength was supporting entrepreneurs through all the highs and the lows of business ownership. Lemonade became more like lemon aid.

Today, the Get Sh*t Done Club is still running strong as a 12-month online business foundations community that supports entrepreneurs to hustle less, grow more and have more fun. We do virtual kick-off brunches, offer workshops on goal setting, host work sprints, brainstorms and facilitate small  groups within the program. We have an event called the Lemon Mixer—an open conversation where members ask for what they need and are able to give back by offering services or expertise. Members also get full access to our Business 101 online course. And of course, we have fun! We celebrate successes with an honour roll and give shoutouts and cheers when progress happens for someone.

LiisBeth: As a player in the women’s entrepreneurship ecosystem space, what would you like to see change or happen in the coming years to further strengthen the women’s enterprise space?

RK: It almost seems ridiculous with the kind of company that I created that I didn’t get a “Hey, welcome to the women’s entrepreneurship support world.” Or a “Did you know, these are the resources that are available?”

We build community for others, but where is OUR community support?

LiisBeth: What’s Next for Make Lemonade? You?

RK: Looking to the future, we have some new ideas percolating, including meeting up with our “lemons” in real life again.

Things have been tough, but the pandemic was the catalyst for creating something bigger than the physical space. It led us to creating an online community and a new way of providing members with the support they need. The pandemic was also a wake up call. Which means it’s time to start making lemonade again … whatever that looks like. Funny how things are kind of coming full circle.

Also, when I think about what’s next, I’m reminded of how my parents started out and where they are now. They founded an automotive manufacturing company. But like so many businesses, that’s not how the enterprise started. Believe it or not, their original business was selling fruitcakes. So whenever I worry about not knowing what the future holds, I remind myself, I’m still in my fruitcake, or perhaps lemon cake, phase. I’m experimenting with different ingredients, making up recipes to see what works best.

LiisBeth:  Thank you for sharing your incredible and inspiring story

Related Reading

Selling Up, Moving Up

While numerous organizations for women entrepreneurs exist in Toronto, Women on the Move is the only one that incorporates co-working space, business training, venture capitalist funding and a community network.

Read More »
Sample Newsletter



Aren’t Anti-Feminists Feminists Too? 

At first, I had to do a double take. Did I read that right?

In an article titled “Liberals Accused of Using Feminism as Political Weapon,” Rachael Harder, a Conservative critic for the Status of Women and former successful dog kennel entrepreneur in Lethbridge, Alberta, complained that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government were—get this—hogging feminism.

If you read the rest of the piece published in the Ottawa Citizen on May 7, you essentially learn that she is concerned the Liberals are doing too many good feminist things, leaving little room for those who define feminism differently. For example, “feminists” who are anti-abortion, don’t believe the pay gap exists, and believe equality is possible without also addressing equity.

Can a word mean anything you want it to mean?

These days, it would appear that the Progressive Conservatives (Canada’s official opposition party) are noticing that aligning one’s identity with feminism gets votes, and they desperately want access to some of that firepower. Some, invoking the Humpty-Dumpty principle of definitions, are suggesting that how one defines feminism is a matter of personal choice. Translation: even anti-feminists are feminists too. #AllFeminismsMatter

If you were old enough to watch the ERA debate unfold in the media in the 1970s, this attempt by anti-feminists to hijack feminism is probably making you feel like you just ate a bad brownie and saw Rod Serling sit next to you holding a cigarette.

Next stop, the Twilight Zone. Even Phyliss Schlafly, North America’s iconic and proud-to-be conservative anti-feminist who mobilized conservative women and successfully blocked the passing of the ERA amendment, is probably rolling over in her grave.

What is additionally odd about watching Canadian political candidates—and even corporate leaders of all stripes and genders—scurrying about to also be known as feminists is that, until recently, the very term was considered the other “F” word. To call yourself a feminist threatened your career and could clear the room like a bad smell. Several polls from that dark pre-2015 era showed that only a minority of Canadian women (ranging from 10 to 32% depending on the survey) and even fewer men identified as feminists.

But here we are just three years later and people are actually lining up to be pinned a feminist as though it’s an Order of Canada being bestowed. One survey even shows that today, there are more men identifying as feminist than women in Canada.

Think about that for a moment.

It’s great that the word feminism has been suddenly embraced by so many, so fast. But reductively, I say shame on thinly veiled opportunists looking to reduce, redact, and reframe a living movement whose proponents were, not too long ago, roundly vilified and socially punished, just to win today’s vote or sell products.

Some women died fighting for women’s rights. Thousands more died because they didn’t have rights at all.

Feminism. Not Just a Word.

Feminism is a 200-year-old movement justice and rights-based movement and here’s the kicker-an enormous body of work that, when translated at a societal level, imagines a safer, more inclusive world that can only be made possible by fundamentally eradicating gender inequality. There are many pixel level undertakings that make up its colourful landscape, but there is undeniably one shared photo of the goal.

Then as now, feminists of all genders across the globe continue to work hard to challenge, replace, and evolve systems and cultural beliefs that reinforce all forms of gender-based oppression. They are guided by a shared set of values that prioritize gender equality and equity, generosity, inter-independence, economic inclusion, intersectionality, and most importantly, agency.

The latter is key and implies a woman’s control over her own body, health, and right to determine her future.

If the candidate in your area, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t respect or speak about any of this, they ain’t a feminist. Don’t be conned.

Kartrina McKay

When You Need Help As An Entrepreneur, Who You Gonna Call?

Feminist entrepreneurs with advancing enterprises are looking for two things: 1) help! and 2) the opportunity to support women-led enterprises that can provide that help.

That is where serial feminist entrepreneur Katrina McKay comes in. Her new enterprise, Uplevel Solutions, is an outsourcing enterprise for entrepreneurs. Think TaskRabbit, but with fair wage practices and a trained female staff that makes outsourcing hassle free. You can learn more about Katrina and how to level up here.

Lex Schroder

What Makes An Event a Feminist Event?

Event planning for the fall is in full swing for many activist entrepreneurial feminists. So the timing is right to ask the question: what makes an event a feminist event, that is, other than the subject matter or the nature of the community that gathers?

In this months’ refresh, co-producer of the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum and our newest contributor, Lex Schroeder (pictured above), noted five feminist event design practices that worked. Schroeder shares her insights and experiences here.

The 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum will be held on Sunday, December 2 and Monday, December 3, 2018 at Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East, Toronto, ON. Save the date!


Off the Radar: A Special Report by LiisBeth for YOU!

Back in March, we set out on a quest to create a list of active women and other gender minority entrepreneurship support clubs, meetups, investor groups, and networking bands that do not currently exist on other mainstream lists. Why? Because here at LiisBeth, we receive inquiries every day from women and feminist entrepreneurs of all genders about where they can find support for ventures and startups that don’t fit the dominant mould of startups that are typically male-led, low-cap, extreme growth, or flip-it-to-make-it-oriented, which get most of the attention in today’s mainstream entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The good news is that this is changing thanks to dozens of initiatives by activist women entrepreneurs and investors looking to support and grow high, multi–bottom line alternative innovations and ventures. In a few short days, we were able to list over 100 amazing groups working across Canada to help entrepreneurs.

You can get a copy of the summary report here.

If you would like to download the Excel spreadsheet or add/edit the list, please visit our Excel spreadsheet on Google Docs here. Tell us and the LiisBeth community that you exist!

And if you appreciate the work that we are doing to surface the feminist and women’s entrepreneurship community, please consider donating $3, $7 or $10 a month via Patreon or our subscribers’ page. It will help us do even more!

The Ontario Election: Who to Vote For?

Last week, Toronto’s NOW Magazine called the election a “crapshoot.” And while all three candidates have legitimately icky unelectable baggage piled high on their backs, there are three questions that LiisBeth suggests you consider before heading to the polls:

  • Which candidate genuinely cares about advancing gender equity, inclusion, and innovation in this province?

  • Which candidate would you at least even mildly enjoy being stuck in an elevator with for four hours?

  • Which candidate even mentions advancing equity for Ontario women, and specifically women entrepreneurs in his or her campaign/platform?

To find out what initiatives, if any, each party has documented in its platform for the advancement of women entrepreneurs, we made the effort to reach out and ask.

The first to respond was Kathleen Wynne’s campaign team. And in less than an hour, they sent us an entire document—hot off the press! You can find it here.

Highlights for women entrepreneurs include the creation of an Ontario Women’s Entrepreneurship Association to increase women’s access and opportunity to scale up and expand ventures, and $500+ to support additional women entrepreneur programs and the advancement of entrepreneurship opportunities for girls in high schools. The document also highlights new investments in child care, elder care, and ending gender-based violence. Andrea Horwath’s NDP government is also committed to investing in child care and Ontario women.

To find out what the Progressive Conservatives, aka Ford Nation (led by Doug Ford), is planning for women, we decided to ask him directly via Twitter (see below) as he has yet to release a platform. We have not heard anything from Ford Nation yet (24 hours later), but let’s give them more time. At the moment of writing this newsletter, Ford has yet to reveal or articulate his platform, but we have some idea of how he views women’s rights by reviewing articles and his voting history.

As of today, we could find no up-to-date, post-March articles or news on Doug Ford’s initiatives related to women entrepreneurs—or women at all.

What about the NDP? We know Horwath is also committed to investing in child care in Ontario but were unable to find information regarding the party’s initiatives related to women’s entrepreneurship on its platform website. We did, however, find an initiative to revitalize the horse racing sector. Cool. But #odd

In our opinion, the Green Party and its leader Mike Schreiner would likely win question #1 and the “stuck in an elevator” question most of the time for a lot of people. Being stuck in an elevator with him might also be the only way we get to hear him talk given his unfortunate exclusion from the televised debate.

The Greens are often thought of as just a pro-environment party, but the Ontario Greens these days are smartly positioning themselves as a pro–social enterprise, triple–bottom line party. Uniquely, they support the introduction of a hybrid for-profit and non-profit legal form (like the U.S.-based Benefit corporation option). Like the Liberals and the NDP, they also support expanded child care and elder care support plus strategies to advance pay equity. At present, they do not have a specific program laid out for the advancement of women entrepreneurs.

Well, that’s our roundup regarding each party’s plans for women entrepreneurs. And if you feel there is any bias in our report, we admit that there is. #AnyoneButDoug

Now it’s up to you to go and vote.

Make Lemonade

In April, LiisBeth checked out Make Lemonade, the newest inclusive-yet-women-centred co-working space in Toronto, which opened in September 2017. The space was founded by Rachel Kelly, a 26-year-old Toronto gig economy entrepreneur who saw the growth in gendered co-working spaces as a promising new venture opportunity.

The space is fun, airy, and light. Its offerings are similar to co-working spaces in town. And the good news? It doesn’t exude that misguided “girl boss” sorority brand concept (unlike WeWork’s The Wing, a women’s co-working social club that opens in Toronto later this year).

As with all these spaces, it’s really not the decor or yoga classes that count, it’s about who’s in those spaces, the vibe, and the reflection of values held by the people who founded, occupy, and animate the space.

To see if Make Lemonade is your scene, check it out for yourself by signing up for a tour here.

Feminism and AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Meet Dr. Parinaz Sobhani (above), director of machine learning at the University of Ottawa and LiisBeth’s latest feminist-woman-in-tech crush!

Iranian-born Dr. Sobhani was the keynote speaker at the launch of Inspiring Fifty, a new award established in Canada to celebrate inspirational female role models in tech and innovation. Her talk, “Importance of Diversity in AI,” was both chilling and a call to action.

While the technology can overcome gender bias and risk of misused data, it will take the will and vigilance of humans to ensure that it does. We need a feminist-leaning watchdog organization in Canada.

Interested in being part of an initiative to start one? Email us and mention AI Watchdog in the subject line.

To hear part of Dr. Sobhani’s speech, click on the approximately seven-minute audio file here.

LiisBeth Is Hiring!

Eeek! Our little feminist media startup is growing so we need a little more help.

We are currently looking for a three- to six-month contract freelance newsletter editor. Ideally, the newsletter editor will be someone with exceptional writing, critical thinking, and research skills, have a women’s studies, journalism, or gender studies background, plus demonstrated familiarity with WordPress, MailChimp, and Canva or Adobe Photoshop. The workload is anticipated to be about 10 to 20 hours per month (less in the summer). The pay is $40/hour.

Since we have begun, we have published more than 125 articles, 37 newsletters, and provided fair wage income opportunities for more than 35 feminist-leaning freelance writers, editors, illustrators, and photographers.

Lots of groups are working on moving the dial for women. But we go beyond that. As a feminist organization, we work for economic, social, and political systems change. As a community of feminist entrepreneurs, we work to drive change through the power of entrepreneurship and innovation.

For more on our work and impact, you can download LiisBeth’s 2017 Impact Report. The job description is available here.

Preference will be given to applicants who actually read this publication. Duh.

If you are interested in joining our community in this capacity, please e-mail your resume and link to best writing examples to by May 15, 2018.


This book covers important issues facing Indigenous people: violence against women, recovery of Indigenous self-determination, racism, misogyny, and decolonization. This new edition also covers Indigenous resurgence; feminism amongst the Sami and Aboriginal Australians; neo-liberal restructuring in Oaxaca; Canada’s settler racism and sexism; and missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

Okay, so the City of Toronto and Google’s Sidewalk Labs organization are working on designing an amazing new Jetson-like district on the Toronto Waterfront in an effort to explore what the city of tomorrow might actually be like. At present, the vision includes driverless cars. Once you read Elly Blue’s Bikenomics, you will soon be wondering why any vision of an urban future has to include cars at all.

  • This month’s uncommon find? Check out Feminist Economics Yoga, a fusion of yoga, capitalist, and feminist economics taught by Cassie Thornton, a yoga instructor, feminist thought leader, and activist artist from Thunder Bay, Ontario. According to Thornton’s website, she teaches kundalini yoga while also instructing students on issues related to money, debt, race, gender, and class. You can read her article over at Guts Magazine.
  • Kelly Diels, a Vancouver-based feminist marketing guru (our word, not hers) writes in her last newsletter: “For a long time, I’ve been encouraging the people I write for and the authors and entrepreneurs I work with to share what they truly know—even when it’s polarizing.” Despite its challenges, Diels believes you can succeed. Most of us know first-hand that mixing business with feminist systems change work is dicey stuff. Succeeding requires unique insight—and Diels has this in spades. If you are not following Diels’ newsletter, you are missing out.
  • The new anti-harassment Bill (C-65) is in its final stages. As a feminist entrepreneur, it is important to be up on the facts and the discussions. It’s not perfect, but its good. You can read the latest point of view on the bill (published by CUPE) here.


Black Women in Tech
Saturday, May 19, 2018
2:00 PM–4:00 PM
220 King Street West, Unit 200, Toronto
Cost: By Donation

I Love You Mary Jane: Women, Weed and Wellness
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
7:00 PM–9:30 PM
Shecosystem Coworking + Wellness
703 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Cost: $20. Register here.

Startup & Slay: Panel & Meetup With Diverse Female Entrepreneurs 
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
6:00 PM–9:30 PM
180 John Street, Toronto
Cost: $45-50. Register here.

Financial Planning for Entrepreneurs: Learn About Cash Flow Management
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
10:00 AM–11:30 AM
Verity Club
111D Queen Street East, Toronto
Cost: $15. Register here.

The Big Push Expert Series: Best Hiring Practices to Increase Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Thursday, May 31, 2018
6:30 PM–9:30 PM
370 Dufferin Street, Toronto
Cost: $15–$250. Register here.

Walking Your Why: Discovering Your Values Perspectives
Thursday, June 14, 2018
6:00 PM–8:00 PM
School for Social Entrepreneurs
720 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Cost: $0-50. Register here.

That brings us to the end of our May newsletter. The next newsletter is scheduled for late June 2018. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook for updates, news, and provocative views.

You can also watch for new feature articles on feminist outsourcing plus more this month at

If you are looking for an easy way to support feminist entrepreneurs, look no further than considering a subscription to LiisBeth! We humbly remind you that subscriptions are $3/month, $7/month or $10/month.

If you would like us to promote your event, we are happy to do so if it suits our readers’ interests! It’s free for current subscriber donors; for non-donors there is a one-time donation of $25 per listing.

We accept PayPal and credit cards. And we also now have a Patreon page!

Funds go directly towards paying writers, editors, proofreaders, photo permission fees, and illustrators. LiisBeth needs your love—and financial support.

In the meantime: stay bold, be safe.

Petra Kassun-Mutch
Founding Publisher, LiisBeth