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LIISBETH DISPATCH #53

Photo of Ani DiFranco, Righteous Babes Tour Poster

PK’S VIEWPOINT 

To detox from a full day of narratives about entrepreneurship from a technology sector point of view at Toronto’s recent mega technology sector conference, #Collision, I turned to Ani DiFranco and her newly released memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream. 

It was such a joy to read.

DiFranco is an award winning, singer-songwriter who embraces the activist label as well as being a political and feminist entrepreneur. She has sold over 5.5 million albums—on her own terms. In fact, DiFranco was one of the first artists to create her own label back in the early 1990s. She built her fan base by playing gig after gig in tiny bars and at off-beat music festivals…for two decades. She has been celebrated and vilified for her views. Not to mention her “bad feminist” moments. But many have looked to her for inspiration on how to stay authentic while building growing a successful, values-led enterprise.

As a flawed human and fiercely independent entrepreneur with ambitions to build a sustainable enterprise, I sometimes ask myself after attending tech sector events like #Collision, where it’s easy to get caught up in the intoxicating and chromatic entrepreneurship narratives, “am I doing it “right”? After all, if everyone else is out there  practicing lean startup methodology and signing with a “label,”—the tech equivalent to inking a deal with a VC—or learning the right way to pitch so they can get into a hot accelerator, shouldn’t I be doing the same? If I want to see my enterprise and everyone involved with it thrive, shouldn’t I be playing along?

Fortunately, a line from page 115 of DiFranco’s book 115 helped me answer that question.

Difranco writes, “I think my one shining gift in life has been to know who my teachers are and to follow them around looking for ways to be at their service. It was easy for me to turn down record deals because I didn’t find any of my teachers in the music industry spheres.“

Brilliant.

It’s so important for those of us going against the grain to find the right teachers. Finding the right teachers means knowing who you are, understanding what you want, and finding ways to connect with the people you want to learn from.

It’s also important to find—or build from scratch—the right community. Not an echo chamber, but a community that has the capacity to challenge you, and hold you accountable. In DiFranco’s case, that community was her fan base.

I sometimes imagine what DiFranco’s music would have been like if, as a young entrepreneur, she had attended the music industry’s equivalent of events like #Collision. What if she believed going after only mass markets was the only way to succeed, and signed that record deal? I shudder at the thought of her dressed up and behaving like a Pussycat Doll, smiling and singing: “I’m telling you to loosen up my buttons baby (uh huh)”, instead of showing up in jeans, shaved head and a t-shirt singing: “Science chases money and money chases its tail / And the best minds of my generation can’t make bail.” A few lyrics from Garden of Simple, Ani DiFranco

DiFranco’s record label Righteous Babes includes a touring company, a retail operation, a music publisher, and a foundation, all in addition to the label. Annual revenues are reported to be approximately $5M. The company employs over 20 people. Righteous Babes purchased a 19th century church in Buffalo, NY, and converted it into a 1200 seat concert hall called appropriately—Babeville.

Now let’s think about that. Take it in. And then ask yourself how the next Ani DiFranco or outspoken political, activist entrepreneur with no desire to compromise or “exit”, might go about finding relevant support, or the right teacher, within today’s impressive maze start up ecosystems?

Exactly.

THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH 

Pleasure Activism book launch by
Another Story Book Shop at Lula Lounge in Toronto

ONE NIGHT STAND WITH A REVOLUTIONARY 

adrienne maree brown is an author, doula, women’s rights activist and black feminist based in Detroit, Michigan. And a revolutionary.

Known for her best seller, Emergent Strategy and now, Pleasure Activism, she addresses ways we can shape our often heavy social change work into meaningful, collaborative, pleasurable experiences. LiisBeth caught up with AMB in Toronto at her Pleasure Activism book launch.

In our interview with AMB after the show, we asked Brown what it would take to create a socially just world and about her experience as the Executive Director of The Ruckus Society, a multi-racial network of trainers dedicated to ecological justice and social change movements. Listen to the audio recording here. Or read about it all here!

FEMINIST FREEBIE! 

The Coupon code LIISBETH will be good for 15% off Pleasure Activism books at akpress.org from May 31 through June 30.

Paul and Ruby McConnell

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD TO SUCCESS 

It’s summer (sort of). The outdoor cannabis growing season is here. We felt it was time to check in once again with women cannabis entrepreneurs. Which led us to these two incredible stories.

Full Circle C02 Comes Full Circle?

When Ruby McConnell’s co-owned cannabis company, Full Circle CO2, was about to be shut down due to local protests, she used her small town Oregon community connections to stop the closure. And instead of filing a grievance over the shut down effort, she asked to join the rules-making committee to prevent such a thing from happening to others. She was the only female processor in the room.

McConnell’s “canary in the goldmine” story is what a female cannabis entrepreneur’s journey looks like in a new industry and environment where everyone is still sorting out how to interpret new legislation. It’s also a place where not everyone is pleased to see cannabis become legalized. Her harrowing experience gives the phrase “reefer madness” a whole new meaning. Her advice and insight is pure gold.  You can read the full story here.

PHOTO of Reena Rampersad / PHOTO CREDIT: Mai Nguyen

WEED BE BETTER OFF

Women in grassroots agriculture, food, and health and wellness enterprises shaped, nourished and tilled the market for today’s legal cannabis industry. But it didn’t take long for the patriarchy to take over once legalization was on the table.

Today, only eight out of 99 licensed cannabis companies in Canada who have public information available, are headed by women.

While women’s role in society has changed and afforded new possibilities to many, the way power works and who has power, clearly has not.

Still, women entrepreneurs like Reena Rampersad, are forging ahead. Rampersad is also uniquely mindful of the importance of creating opportunities within this new sector for marginalized, socially oppressed communities who have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition for a very long time.

Learn more about Reena’s story here.

Jonathan Hera, founder of Marigold Capital

FEMINIST  FREEBIE / DOWNLOADABLE COMBO

HOW TO APPROACH AN INVESTOR?

Jonathan Hera, Managing Partner of Marigold Capital, is happy to help by offering a one hour complimentary investment readiness coaching session to the first LiisBeth reader to *meaningfully* comment on this month’s adrienne maree brown interview article!

Jonathan Hera is one of Canada’s leading impact and gender lens investors. Marigold Capital is specifically looking to invest in enterprises that advance social justice while providing just returns for investors. You can learn more about him and Marigold’s $20M Canadian fund here.

Marigold Capital is the first venture fund in Canada to sign up to The Billion Dollar Fund for women’s initiatives which invites venture capital fund companies to increase the number of women-led companies within their investment portfolios. At present, still less than 12% of all venture funding goes to venture capital eligible women-led companies. For an idea of what Marigold looks for in company, download their handy guide here.

To be the first to comment on the AMB article and claim your reward here!

LIISBETH FIELD NOTES 

Filmmaker Barbara Hager used this photo as a vision statement to illustrate how she would be collaborating with communities in the production of 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus. It was included in information packages sent to community members and used by her team as the basis for presentations to Chiefs and Band Councils.

“NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US”

On May 10th, Ontario Creates held an informative session for non-Indigenous content creators regarding protocols for working with Indigenous communities. The report, “A Media Production Guide to Working with First nations, Métis and Inuit Communities, Cultures, Concepts, and Stories” was released in March, 2019, and covers etiquette, proper consent and permission, and best practices related to working on Indigenous lands, working with Indigenous content, working in Indigenous communities, working with Indigenous crew or cast, working with archival materials, releases, and marketing and distribution strategies.

The practices recommended can, and perhaps should be extended to anyone working with content that might involve community or individual sensitivities.

You can download the report here.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS UNDER SEIGE IN THE U.S. 

Everyone reading this newsletter is aware of the mind blowing anti-reproductive rights legislation wave in the United States.

If you are outside the U.S., and/or believe it can’t happen where you live, think again.

Here in Canada, Bloc Quebecois MP Monique Pauzé recently asked for unanimous consent on a motion asking the Canadian House of Commons to “reiterate that a woman’s body belongs to her and her alone, and to recognize her right to choose an abortion regardless of the reason.” Everyone stood, except the Conservative Party members. Canada’s federal election is in October, 2019.

Kellee Maize

About 14 hours after the motion in the House of Commons, we received an email from Kellee Maize, an internationally-renowned independent rapper/singer, motivational speaker, activist, feminist, and entrepreneur based in Pittsburgh, PA. Maize found us on social media and asked us to share this abortion-ban protest video she created as a way to voice her rage and mobilize resistance.

It took us about one second or less after watching it to say yes. We encourage you all to watch it as well, and share widely.

TURNING HATE INTO ART

Artist Ness Lee and writer Vivek Shraya discuss Death Threat, a compelling act of resistance in the form of a comic book published by Arsenal Pulp Press

Hecklers in real life. Internet trolls that tell you to piss off. All part of the scene for women who work online or dare to use their voice in public.  But descriptive death threats? That’s a whole other level.

When Vivek Shraya, a transfeminine person of colour started receiving vivid death threats, she decided to turn her hate mail into a graphic novel. Talk about resilience.

Vive la resistance Vivek.  You can get a copy of her book here.

LIISBETH IS GROWING!

Champagne Thomson, LiisBeth Assistant Editor

Soooo incredibly happy to have Champagne Thomson on board as Assistant Editor for LiisBeth Magazine. Thomson will be be reviewing queries, helping with event planning and supporting the growing Liisbeth community in general!

Thomson is a Human Rights and Equity Studies student at York University with extensive work and volunteer experience in grassroots NGOs across Ontario.  Her passion for social justice and equity (rather than equality) has led her to work in harm reduction VAW and anti-Human Trafficking shelters but also to conduct anti-oppressive, feminist research aspiring towards bettering the world in which we all are meant to share peacefully. Thomson has also worked with newcomers, youth, and can speak with varying levels of proficiency in Ojibwe, ASL, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

Oh, and she also has an obsession for houseplants and waterfalls. Welcome Champ!

CONNECTING WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD

Marika Arovuo’s interview with Gina Romero, Co-Founder of Connected Women. In the last year, the organization hosted 167 meetups that had over 7000 attendees in 47 cities across 6 countries includingPakistan, Singapore, UK, Philippines and more. [14 minutes]

The interconnectedness of all things…and people.

Here are two organizations that are connecting women on a global scale. 

Above, Marika Arovuo hosted the first Canadian Connnected Women meetup in Toronto in April 2019. Aruovo grew up in a Finnish farm village, started her tech journey after high school by studying computer science in a class of 30 boys, and this week was newly elected as the President of the Canada-Finland Chamber of Commerce. After living and working on three continents, she now runs her digital marketing agency, GRIT Online and has been employing women from the global community of tech-powered women entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals for the past 13 years. Aruovo fully supports the idea of connecting talented female virtual assistants with female entrepreneurs around the world.

Speaking of international women’s networking organizations, LiisBeth was recently introduced to WOW (World Wide Network of Women). WOW Canada held their launch dinner Toronto 2019 earlier this month at the Gladstone Hotel. WOW got its start in Lisbon, Portugal. What stood out for us? The European tone and sensibility. And the fact that speakers spoke knowledgeably about feminism, fearlessly took on the patriarchy, equity the workplace, colonization and were great examples of reformists and radical new world-builders. Local organizer Maike Althouse says the launch dinner was just the beginning. Watch for more on WOW in the coming year!

WOW Dinner, May 21, 2019 at the Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, Canada. From Left to Right:  Val Fox, The Pivotal Point, Canadian Federal Government’s Minister of Small Business and Export Development, Mary Ng, WOW Founder Isabel van der Kolk, and LiisBeth Publisher, PK Mutch

A PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO AI

Politicians, investors and entrepreneurs everywhere are betting on AI’s ability to refresh and drive new economic potential (unless you live in Ontario, where our “Open for Business” Premier actually cut funding). But what does the average entrepreneur or person really know about AI and how to use it?

Via our collaboration with Allied Media, we are pleased to be able to share a downloadable guide that will help you unravel what the fuss is all bout.

Written in 2018 by Mimi Onuoha and Mother Cyborg (Diana Nucera), A People’s Guide to AI is a comprehensive beginner’s guide to understanding AI and other data-driven tech. The guide uses a popular education approach to explore and explain AI-based technologies so that everyone—from youth to seniors, and from non-techies to experts—has the chance to think critically about the kinds of futures automated technologies can bring.

The mission of A People’s Guide to AI is to open up conversation around AI by demystifying, situating, and shifting the narrative about what types of use cases AI can have for everyday people.

You can download it here.

Sometimes you gotta just curl up and let it sink in.
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LIISBETH STORY VOTE

OK LiisBethians, we are changing it up a bit! This poll is going to be different.

First, LiisBeth is SUPER excited to announce its Feminist City Series which includes a collection of articles, profiles and an event focused on how cities can advance gender equity by design.  

The series will launch during Gender Equality Week coming up September 23-29th, 2019. Commissioning is under way!

So, this time instead of a story vote, we have a feminist city vote!

Here is a link to the 3 minute survey! We can’t wait to hear your ideas. Your thoughts will help us source the kinds of stories for this timely initiative.

A reminder the winning pitch from May is: A story of the legacy left behind following the Wakefield, UK miners’ strike which was famously supported by gay and lesbian organizations—and serves as an example of an intersectional movement long before the word was coined. Readers are wondering what Wakefield is like now? Did activism have a lasting impact? Watch out for the story in the fall.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Libby Davies has worked steadfastly for social justice both inside parliament and out on the streets for more than four decades. At nineteen, Davies became a community organizer in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She went on to serve in municipal and then federal politics, advancing to the role of Deputy Leader of the New Democratic Party.

Davies looks back on her remarkable life and career with candid humour and heart-rending honesty. She addresses the challenges of her work on homelessness, sex workers’ rights, and ending drug prohibition. She illuminates the human strengths and foibles at the core of each issue, her own as well as those of her colleagues and activist allies. Davies’ astute political analysis offers an insider’s perspective that never loses touch with the people she fights alongside. Outside In is both a political and personal memoir of Davies’ forty years of work at the intersection of politics and social movements. – BTL Books

“Libby’s memoir isn’t only a personal journey of strength and resilience, but also an incredible story of a passionate social organizer who became one of the finest politicians in Canada. In today’s state of pathetic populism, Libby’s personal political account is an inspiration for citizens looking for real change.” – Monia Mazigh, author of Hope Has Two Daughters

This is a manifesto for the 99 percent.

Unaffordable housing, poverty wages, inadequate healthcare, border policing, climate change—these are not what you ordinarily hear feminists talking about. But aren’t they the biggest issues for the vast majority of women around the globe?

Taking as its inspiration the new wave of feminist militancy that has erupted globally, this manifesto makes a simple but powerful case: feminism shouldn’t start—or stop—with the drive to have women represented at the top of their professions. It must focus on those at the bottom, and fight for the world they deserve. And that means targeting capitalism. Feminism must be anticapitalist, eco-socialist and antiracist.

“[The authors] cut through the corporate feminist ‘Lean In’ noise to offer a feminism rooted not just in intersectionality of identity but also in economic justice. After years of books on feminism that have started to say the same thing, everyone (not just women!) should buy this one.”
Vogue

[Arruzza, Bhattacharya, and Fraser] have collaborated and written what is effectively a prospective programme for the global women’s movement, a feminist manifesto for the 99%.”Socialism Today

AND FINALLY . . . IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!

  • Dames Making Games programs provide accessible space, instruction and mentorship for diverse game makers. DMG offers a wide range of free events, workshops, resources and services to genderqueer, nonbinary, femme people, Two Spirit people, and trans and cis women. DMG prioritizes people who are traditionally marginalized in tech and game spaces, especially those whom DMG specifically serves, as well as people who are racialized, neurodiverse, and/or have disabilities. DMG is an explicitly feminist space but open to any and all genders. DMG expects their members to do the same. Become a member or submit a workshop proposal here.
  • In May, 40 members of New York’s Power Bitches gathered to talk about feminist entrepreneurship. Find out what they had to say in founder Rachel Hill’s summary article “Six Thoughts on Feminist Business” here.
  • Kerry Clare, author and blogger writes a post on her blog, Pickle Me This, titled: Women who say no. A wise and healthy reminder about the value of time. “The most feminist thing I’ve done lately was send an email including the line, “It sounds like a great event, but to do the job effectively it would take up a bunch of my time and I can’t afford to do that for free.”
  • From the 2018 archives: “Right up there with more sales is more diversity,” says ZJ Zadley, HR strategist and community builder who is passionate about diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, and building brands that candidates love. Listen to Hadley is in conversation with Rotman MBA Student Fellow (2017-18) Vanessa Ko in this BEYOND THE BUSINESS CASE podcast. “Track what you’re doing. If you’re not looking at analytics and measuring those things [hiring practices] you’re not going to be able to act appropriately.” Ko talks to Hadley about the state of gender diversity in the startup world. Listen to THE STARTUP ‘GENDER PROBLEM’ episode here. [12 minutes]

That was newsletter #53! It brings you up to date!

Our next full newsletter will be a combined July/August edition scheduled for release on July 29th! Just in time for the long weekend! On the roster includes a profile on social entrepreneur and women’s advocate, Pramilla Ramdahani, a review of CV Harquails’ long awaited first book “Feminism: A Key Idea for Society & Business”, plus much more!

Also watch for short announcements about LiisBeth’s initiatives and plans for the coming months!

You might also want to check out our new “About Page” and “Sponsor Page” and note that we changed our tagline from “Dispatches for Feminist Entrepreneurs” to “Dispatches for Feminist Changemakers”.

We felt that was more representative of what our community of readers and supporters has grown into over the past three, yes THREE years!

Also remember, if you have a story tip, email us a publisher@liisbeth.com.

We also appreciate all donations and paid subscriptions that continue to fuel this effort.

If you enjoy LiisBeth and believe that smart feminist stories and and feminists writing on current events, entrepreneurship and innovation can accelerate change in our culture and society, please consider becoming a donor subscriber.  Just click here.

A happy, shiny, summer solstice to you all!

Categories
Activism & Action Our Voices

This Amuse Bud’s For You

Reena Rampersad, Founder and Owner of High Society Supper Club, Hamilton, ON.

 

Reena Rampersad makes a killer cannabis-infused chimichurri sauce. Not only does she drizzle in some cannabis oil, she incorporates the non-psychoactive leaves to give it more texture and a boost of antioxidants. As the owner of the High Society Supper Club, Rampersad creates private dining experiences featuring all kinds of micro-dosed dishes – from amuse bouche (or is that amuse bud?) to infused butters, dressings for salads, sauces for mains, and fudge and cookies.

“It took me some time to experiment and figure out my menu,” says Rampersad, who lives in Hamilton, Ont. where her business is also based. “I asked friends on their day off if they could test out my recipes. That’s how I figured out how to dose properly. We started doing unofficial dinner parties. Then we did larger dinners and started bringing them to Toronto.”

Over the past several years, she has catered more than 100 supper parties for all sorts of clients, from corporate beverage companies to owners of resplendent mansions to family dinners. Buffets start at $55 per person, while table service is $65. She gets two to three bookings a week and has eight people on her payroll.

But there’s just one problem: Even though recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, it’s not yet legal for establishments to produce and sell cannabis-infused food and drinks. That legislation comes down October 17, 2019. So, for now, Rampersad runs the High Society Supper Club as a complementary service to her Limin’ Coconut catering company, which specializes in Indo-Caribbean cuisine. She had a license to operate since 2015. If a clients request an infused item, Rampersad must get them to provide their own cannabis while she provides the infusion service—at no extra charge.

“This is how we have to do it for now,” says Rampersad. “The irony is that the High Society is really what’s been taking off. People are interested in seeing what infused dining is all about. But I can’t officially operate as a business, which has been so hard because I could be paying my bills really, really well right now.”

It takes guts to run a business that occupies in such a quasi legal area, especially if you’re a woman of colour. Out of the 99 licensed cannabis companies in Canada who have public information available, only eight are headed by women.

Rampersad, who is the daughter of Trinidadian parents, says she’s often one of the only minorities at the cannabis conferences and panels she gets invited to, and, to her disappoint, discovered that there is not even much talk about diversity and inclusion. “All too often it’s a message that people are trying to censor out or don’t care about or are trying to silence,” says Rampersad. “When we talk about implementing change and creating an equitable industry, I don’t see how that’s possible if we don’t have that from the top down. If we only have one narrative being represented, that’s going to carry out everywhere else in terms of the images that are being marketed and the policies that are being created. It’s actually very alarming since cannabis is slotted to be the largest and most influential industry out there.”

Rampersad is pushing for change in her own ways. She prioritizes women and women of colour when hiring, and she pays her staff at least $15 an hour. She has also started organizing marketplace events where people can purchase products from vendors from marginalized communities and folks who have been affected by the long prohibition on cannabis, such as Rastafarian organizations and Indigenous exhibitors.

“This is how I’m able to work back in my social justice aspect since so many people are being left out of this newly emerging industry,” she says.

Working in the cannabis space isn’t just a political and professional endeavour—it’s also deeply personal. Rampersad has lost a number of family members to the war on drugs and the destructive policies that have negatively impacted marginalized communities. Growing up, she saw her father get accosted by the police for his cannabis use, over and over. What she learned from witnessing this was that the law enforcement could over look some dabbling in recreational use of cannabis before it was legal, but often came down hard on people of colour using the substance. “It’s enraging to see how racist it was in the beginning. It showed me that sometimes the law can be wrong.”

Wanting to right the wrongs of the past, Rampersad joined the Campaign For Cannabis Amnesty as a volunteer coordinator. The group’s main push right now is to convince the federal government to amend and pass Bill C-93 so that it gives expungements rather than pardons to Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana. With expungements the government would be admitting it was wrong in the and would permanently delete an individual’s criminal record. Pardons, on the other hand, would merely forgive individuals of their criminal past, but would not protect them from having their convictions reinstated or accidentally disclosed.

As for her High Society Supper Club, Rampersad looks forward to legalization of food and drink this fall but worries whether the legal framework will extend to grassroots companies such as her own.  Cannabis edibles alone could be a $4.1 billion market in Canada and the U.S. by 2022, with large companies vying for the action. It’s only fair that entrepreneurs like her get a taste of that too, she says. “We are the people that helped to build the demand and set certain standards. All we want is for them to include us too.”


 

Categories
Sample Newsletter

LIISBETH DISPATCH #43

VIEWPOINT

How to Kill Feminism

Well the good news is, you can’t.

Many have tried and still are trying. From Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s, to the likes of Jordan Peterson, Suzanne Venker, and Penny Nance who have also discovered that, unlike advocating for feminism, working to crush feminism has become a fast way get an audience and make serious cash. But they will ultimately fail.

Here is why.

Because it lives our hearts—not our pocketbooks.

It’s always a surprise to me to learn how few people realize feminism is both a gender equality movement and a set of values which serves to unleash undervalued human potential; its origins are rooted in compassion and love. From Maya Angelou to Louise Arbour to Zunera Ishaq, its history sparkles with stunning stories about overcoming man-made odds and finding the courage to speak truth to power despite searing personal risk. Though the mountain that feminists must negotiate to drive change is steep, rubbled, and treacherous, not to mention career and income limiting, the approach is learning-centred, innovation-led, and powered by unrealized possibilities—punctuated by brilliant colourful bursts of killer Schumer-esque insight and humour along the way.

Feminism realizes that what humanity has today is not even close to having it all. Its passion for realizing the benefits of fresh alternatives to current systems is what fuels its persistence to ascend again and again—like Japanese filmmaker Tomoyuki Tanaka’s gender non-confirming Godzilla, also a mother, who rises from the sea with a vengeance to defeat man-made monsters designed to do nothing but destroy and empower it’s masters.

There. I feel better now.

This was a brief excerpt. For the full essay, click here


THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH

Op Ed: Does Vigilante Justice Help? Or Hinder. 

Last week, #metoo struck Ontario’s bucolic Prince Edward County. Norman Hardie, one of the area’s most successful winery entrepreneurs, faced allegations of sexual harassment as a result of an extensive Globe & Mail (Canada’s national newspaper) investigation. We know what the reporters think. But what do locals think? Read Prince Edward County resident and LiisBeth contributor Valerie Hussey’s op-ed here.


Emily Mills Hustles and Slays!

Emily Mills, founder of Toronto’s fast-growing network of diverse women entrepreneurs recently left her day job to work on developing How She Hustles full time. Thank goodness. Because women entrepreneurs need enablers like Mills.

On May 30, Mills held a marquee event featuring a panel of six diverse women entrepreneurs. LiisBeth’s newest contributor, Bee Quammie, was assigned to go, check it out, and share what was learned in this month’s feature article, How She Hustles Can Fire Up Your Startup.


Chessica Luckett Takes a Stand

At LiisBeth, we get over a hundred queries for story ideas a month. One day we received an email from a 22 year-old entrepreneur named Chessica Luckett from Helena, Arizona. She wrote, “No one wants to respect a young person but to respect a young person who has started her own business while being of the minority is another story.”

We wanted to know more. Here is her story, published as is, and only edited slightly for clarity.


FIELD NOTES
Vivek Shraya sings “Part Time Woman” at Luminato’s “No Going Back” panel held on June 9 in Toronto. Take a listen. It’s great!

Luminato Highlights

Luminato is a Toronto-based arts festival that aims to feature “…critically acclaimed, globe-spanning, and expansive theatre, dance, music, and talks.” This year’s program had a lot of feminist-oriented events.

LiisBeth attended most of these events, including the “No Going Back” town hall, which looked at the future of feminism through the eyes of young adults. Among the stellar four panellists, two stood out: Vivek Shraya, a trans woman artist, writer, and educator, and Krysta Williams, an Indigenous feminist. Both shared novel insights and perspectives.

You can listen to the entire panel session here. Note: it’s one hour and forty minutes long.

Other events at Luminato included a screening of !Women Art Revolution, a new documentary film that chronicles the history of feminist art in the United States (Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party was a highlight).

There was also Burning Doors, a harsh and challenging theatre production named one of the top 10 best theatre works of 2017 by The New York Times. Burning Doors was billed as an “explosive demonstration of the power of artistic resistance.” But it also underscores the power of the state.

Pussy Riot‘s Maria Alyokhina was part of the troupe, and mid-way through the play she stopped to answer questions from the audience about her incarceration experience as well as the aftermath. She said that as it turns out, being in jail is not much different from being out of jail when you consider the role systems of oppressions play in one’s lived experience.

The sum total of what was learned by participating in Luminato’s human rights–related programming can be reduced to this: driving human-first centred social change is complex, hard work, and the activism associated with its advancement has varying degrees of consequences depending on where you live.

Burning Doors talked a lot about courage and the importance of not accepting an unacceptable status quo. For those who don’t have that kind of courage, the very least they can do is support those willing to stand in the front lines on our behalf.


From right to left: Natasha Raey, founder of Cadence Health Centre; Aniko Farkas, co-founder of the Green Tent and founder of BodyBeautyMind; and two other Green Tent friends.

The Green Tent: Creating Spaces for Women on Trade Show Floors

After attending several cannabis industry conferences, four women noticed that there was zero opportunity for women at these conferences to convene, connect, and talk to each other in a non-“push-push-push” sales environment about how to successfully navigate a fast-moving new industry that is increasingly and systemically shutting women out.

Their solution? To create The Green Tent, an oasis-style space in the midst of the trade floor where women could stop in, find each other, have a coffee, meet the speakers, try some cannabis-infused hand cream, and learn from each other’s experiences as new entrepreneurs in the space. Says Aniko Farkas, the space’s co-founder and owner of BodyBeautyMind, “I have been in business for 18 years but am new to the cannabis space. This is a space where we are teaching each other.”


Above: Melissa Pierce, COO of Ellementa, in Toronto

Ellementa Comes to Canada

Yes. More news on the cannabis front. But for good reason.

First the Senate of Canada passed the bill last week. Legalization of nonmedical use of cannabis will follow in approximately two to three months, depending on who you ask.

Cannabis is a $6-billion-plus industry in Canada already, and while Bay Street investors titter about how current valuations are inflated, innovators and entrepreneurs don’t really care. Shortages? New, messy, market? Awesome! And while some entrepreneurs are focusing on creating products, others like Ellementa, a U.S.-based women’s network focused on wellness and cannabis education see services–namely health and wellness education- as the bigger opportunity. We met Ellementa co-founder Melissa Pierce at their Toronto launch. “I grew up in the ‘just say no’ generation,” says Pierce, “so the idea of using cannabis medicinally for me personally was a difficult transition.”

However, cannabis is now recognized in North America for being a legitimate and effective herb for a variety of medical and wellness-related issues like chronic pain management, insomnia, menopause symptoms, and anxiety. As a women’s advocate, Pierce, who is 41 and a mother of four, believes that women over 40 will likely comprise the largest user demographic and the main household decision maker in the cannabis market. Pierce also recognizes that women working to ensure equality and equity will have their work cut out for them. “We have to keep fighting…and we need to be mindful of the industry culture we hope to create. Collaboration, not competition, will be important at this stage.”

Ellementa currently has two chapters operating in Canada (one in Vancouver and another in Toronto). A Montreal chapter opens on July 9th.


Above: Sarah Lacy, founder of Chairman Mom, speaks to a full house during an event called “Detoxing the Bro Economy.”

Tech for Good?

The inaugural and unique True North conference that was held in Kitchener, Ont., attracted over 2,400 tech industry revellers. The purpose was to start a conversation about how technology and, more importantly, the industry as a whole can work to create social good—and ground zero “bro culture” once and for all.

Two sessions were devoted to creating a “Tech for Good Declaration,” which organizers hoped would, once it’s in final form, be adopted by tech companies everywhere as a code of conduct credo. You can download a copy of the draft here. Do you think they’re on the right path? See for yourself.


We didn’t know what governance feminism was, so we decided to find out. Turns out it’s about feminists in power. The authors of Governance Feminism look at what happens when feminist critique inverts into governing norms. What kind of feminism becomes law and what becomes of arguments among feminists when it does? How are feminist challenges to male super-ordination transformed and distributed by bureaucratization and NGO-ification? How might we honestly assess feminism that governs? It’s worth reading.

Lately, LiisBeth has been fascinated by these questions: What is a feminist city? What defines a feminist city? And is it worthwhile to develop one? While we explore the idea further in our feature essay, How to Kill Feminism, we have also been fascinated by China Miéville’s book, The City & The City, which “skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities.” This book was a referral by Tim Hurson, the co-founder of Mindcamp. A good cabin read for those who love fantasy, mystery, and dream about bridging divides.


And finally…in case you missed it!
  • This month, Startup Canada announced a new $5K per successful applicant women’s entrepreneurship grant fund. The grant program is underwritten by Evolocity Financial Group, a small business lending enterprise with just two women out of nine on its senior management team (predictably, one in HR and one in accounting). Is this another case of gender washing? We think so. It’s not the amount–it’s what women are expected to do with the money if they get it.  Apparently, “grants are awarded to established women entrepreneurs and women-led companies in STEM from across Canada to support operations, access opportunities, and new markets, and to invest in training to upskill and grow, while accelerating gender parity and further unleash the economic potential of women.”
    Not sure who does the shopping at Evolocity, but most of us building companies will soon realize that $5,000 barely covers the time it takes to fill out their form, plus maybe a cup of coffee or two. This is just another “must perform miracles with pennies” initiative for women entrepreneurs. Some say it’s better than nothing. We say organizations trading in gender halos should stop selling women entrepreneurs short.
  • Have you heard about the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s new initiative, the Gender Equality Network? Its goal? To identify and articulate the need for policy changes, build inclusive intersectional leadership, and take collective action to advance gender equality in Canada. Find out who’s on it here (there’s 137 women).
  • Is encouraging women’s entrepreneurship or, more accurately, self employment in developing regions a good thing? Not always. Based on 10 months of fieldwork in Ahmedabad, India, as well as 30 interviews with women engaged in home-based garment work, a study by the Rotman School of Management’s Institute for Gender & the Economy examines how women perceive themselves as workers, and how this relates to economic accounts of the benefits of entrepreneurship. Do North American self-employed women have similar experiences? Check out the research brief here.
  • The Kapor (pronounced KAY-por) Center for Social Impact aims to make the technology ecosystem and entrepreneurship more diverse and inclusive. In its 2017 study on why people leave the tech industry, it found that unfairness-based turnover in tech is a $16-billion-a-year problem. The study points out why the problem exists, and how tech enterprises can avoid this costly result. Read more here.

CAN’T MISS EVENTS

This time our list is short, because it’s summer! But here are two events worth putting on your learning journey calendar:

Queer & Trans Inclusivity for Entrepreneurs
This workshop provides entrepreneurs with the language and tools they need to promote inclusivity for folks who identify as queer, trans, and non-binary.
Monday, July 16, 2018
6:15 PM – 8:30 PM
Make Lemonade
326 Adelaide St. West, Toronto
Cost: $35. Get tickets here.

Blockchain for Your Organization
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Opera House
735 Queen Street West, Toronto
Cost: $77 for a 3-day pass. Get tickets here.

Panic in the Labryinth
A series of performances centering on intersectional feminist poetics.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Gardiner Museum
111 Queen’s Park, Toronto
Cost: Free. Register here.

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

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


That brings us to the end of our June newsletter. The next newsletter is scheduled for late July 2018.  Watch for some cool upcoming announcements too (Hint-we’ve hired!). In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook for updates, news, and provocative views.

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

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

In the meantime, stay bold, stay woke, and slay.

Petra Kassun-Mutch
Founding Publisher, LiisBeth