Getting a Seat at the Powerhouse Table: City MOGULS Gives Early-Stage Entrepreneurs a Chance to Receive Mentorship from Successful Female Moguls

If you had the chance to get in a (virtual) room with some of North America’s top female moguls, would you? 

It was the chance of a lifetime. On March 11, City MOGULS founders Dani Kagan and Victoria Marshman hosted the LeadHERship Power Hour, an intimate and curated virtual speed mentorship event, featuring four of North America’s top female entrepreneurs as mentors.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the group opened up the event to 20 early-stage female entrepreneurs from all walks of life, allowing them to share their stories, seek advice and get valuable real-time feedback from these female powerhouses:

  • Manjit Minhas: Co-Founder & CEO of Minhas Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries, Dragon on CBC Dragons’ Den
  • Vivian Kaye: Founder & CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki, Business Empowerment Coach at Vivian Kaye Consulting, Shopify Expert & Instructor, All Around Dope Woman 
  • Carinne Chambers-Saini: CEO & Co-Founder of Diva – the makers of the DivaCup
  • Alyssa Coleman: Founder of Your Most Profitable Quarter Yet, Productivity Guru, Globetrotter, Leader of the #FreedomRebellion

The LeadHERship Power Hour was created with the goal of providing guidance and support to female entrepreneurs, and to create a safe space for women to share any struggles they are facing in business. Those who applied had the opportunity to gain new insights and connect with other entrepreneurs. 

The team of mentors were blown away by how much heart and passion each of the women brought to the proverbial table, representing industries from food sciences and healthcare to personal services. 

The range of questions asked were notably diverse as well.

“Do I need to get comfortable with debt to finance my growth? Or should I stay in my comfy spot of making profit every month and just find an investor?”

“Do you have any insight on how to best position my brand? And how much should I expect to spend in order to get it to mainstream status?”

All four mentors imparted advice to the best of their ability, and urged many of the women to network, while providing a few with valuable connections outside of the group.

By the end of the virtual event, all those who attended became a part of a community of inspirational women and motivated leaders. All in all, the event proved to be a success, as it offered a supportive, safe space and connections for female business owners who are on a mission to make an impact.  

Meet the MOGUL Mentors  

Manjit Minhas, Co-Founder & CEO at Minhas Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries 

Minhas specializes in brand development, marketing, sales management and brewing operations, distribution, and manufacturing. Her companies –  Minhas Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries – sell beer, spirits and wine brands in Canada, the U.S. and 16 other countries. Over the last six seasons on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, Minhas has invested in dozens of Canadian businesses. Minhas is also the recipient of numerous high-profile business and community awards, such as Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 and Canada’s Top Woman Entrepreneur.

Vivian Kaye, Founder & CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki, Business Empowerment Coach

Kaye’s company, KinkyCurlyYaki, is a premium textured hair extension brand for Black women that she bootstrapped to over $6 million in revenue. As a Business Empowerment Coach, ecommerce expert, and TV, radio and podcast personality, Kaye sets out to empower, uplift and educate her audience into action. Along with her philanthropic efforts through mentorship and her position with the Founders Fund, she has worked with many notable brands, such as Shopify, Ted Talks, Uniliever, LG, RBC and Rogers Sports & Media.

Carinne Chambers-Saini, CEO & Co-Founder of Diva – the makers of the DivaCup

After finishing her undergraduate degree in 2003, Chambers-Saini turned away corporate offers and instead joined forces with her mother to develop the DivaCup. Seventeen years later, DivaCup has completely innovated the industry, taking the concept of menstrual cups from niche to mainstream. As Diva International’s CEO, Chambers-Saini and her company have received notable recognition, winning EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Sustainable Products and EY’s Special Citation Award for Industry Disruptor. In 2017, Chambers-Saini was also featured on Canada’s Top 40 under 50. Most recently, Chambers-Saini received a 2019 RBC Women of Influence TELUS Trailblazer award, in recognition of her industry-disrupting work with Diva International. 

Alyssa Coleman, Founder of Your Most Profitable Quarter Yet & Freedom Rebellion, Productivity Guru
As a self-proclaimed recovering procrastinator, Alyssa became obsessed with figuring out how the Oprah’s, the Beyoncé’s, and the Marie Forleo’s of the world were running empires, staying creative, and making it all look easy. As soon as she figured this out, her business did a complete 180. She mastered the exact process to take entrepreneurs from over-worked and under-slept to productive and profitable, and from that, the Freedom Rebellion was born.

How to Handle Failure in Business

So: You’re a plucky, young entrepreneur just about to dip your toe into the untested waters of starting your own business. You’ve got pep, you’re full of moxy, and you’re not afraid of failure.

There are those among us, wise beyond their years, that would share with you their hot take that “you should be afraid.” We’re not beyond doubting those who share their feelings so freely and loudly, but we think this isn’t the point. It’s not whether or not you should be afraid of failing, but whether or not you are prepared to fail.

Failure is a very real possibility in the high-stakes world of entrepreneurship. Approximately 7,000 businesses go bankrupt each year in Canada. If your new business isn’t part of the 20 percent  that fail in their first year, you could very well be part of the 60 percent that fail within the first three years of operation.

Starting your own business is a risky proposition with no certain outcome. That’s why in order to succeed, you need to know how to fail. You won’t know how to run a successful operation before you’ve learned how to take a fall.

Are you ready to stare into the abyss? Here’s a few tips to help handle failure in business:

Plan It, Janet

You’ve gone over all your plans. You’ve optimized all your variables. You’ve done everything you’ve needed to do, and yet you still have one more thing to do: consider what happens if you fail.

There are entrepreneurs who will tell you that they simply don’t consider failure to be an option. They consider it to be pessimistic thinking, and that it’s negative; they think that by preparing to fail, you are welcoming failure to happen. (Spoiler alert: These kinds of people usually aren’t entrepreneurs for long.)

To become successful, you need to plan for the best, and prepare for the worst. You need to consider every possibility, and have an exit strategy in place. It’s not as fun as fantasizing about your end goals, but being an entrepreneur isn’t always fun. It’s hard work, and it’s challenging.

Do your due diligence; be ready for the potholes of calamity that lie ahead, and your business will have a much smoother road.

Spectator Support

Building a network is vital to entrepreneurs; you need to make connections to build your business and find new opportunities. But, as you make with the gladhands and schedule appointments for lunch, be sure to also create a network of people that are there for you.

Every person starting their own business needs a strong support network. They need confidants to confide in, and advisors to seek advice from. By building a support network (like participating in our monthly Networking Happy Hour events),, you’ll have positive people in your life that can help you when you need it, especially when things go south.

And about that—don’t ever make emotional decisions. As an entrepreneur, you need to be level-headed and not make snap decisions based on gut instinct or your current mood. Use your support group to be your emotional anchor; find clarity before you get dragged out to sea in the heat of passion.

Setback & Chill

Failure in business seems like a huge setback, but every successful businesswoman needs to focus on the positive. You may not have achieved your goal, but you’ve learned a valuable lesson; knowing what you’ve learned, you are sure you won’t repeat the same mistake again. After all, once you remove its negative connotations, you’ll see that a failure is nothing more than a learning opportunity.

For this reason, it’s important to not take yourself too seriously. Your business may have meant a lot to you, but you are much more than just a business plan you implemented. Don’t take failure personally. You have much more to give, and the world hasn’t yet seen the best you have to offer.

Keeping the proper perspective is also important for the next point…

Sting Like a Humblebee

As the animal metaphors tell us, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve all tasted defeat at some point, and we know what it’s like to fail. That’s why it’s important to stay humble at all times—even during your biggest successes.

As a person with a support group, you know you didn’t do it alone. You’ve come to accept victory gracefully because you treat failure the same way. What’s more, by getting rid of your ego, you are confident enough to admit your failings to others, thereby demonstrating that you’ve transcended the limitations that a fear of failure has upon new entrepreneurs.

This is the way. And, it could be your way.

Some of us aren’t so lucky to be encumbered with success, but it’s this state of mind that we should all strive towards. We shouldn’t be afraid of failure, but accept it as part of the unending cycle of incremental iterations towards perfection. And, by incorporating these tips into your operation, hopefully you’ll be better equipped to handle failure in business.

Are you interested in starting your own business? Do you need help? Find a mentor in the MOGUL Crews Accelerator program at City MOGULS!


How To Give Your Startup A Booster Shot From Day One

As a budding new entrepreneur, your eyes are full of stars, your belly is full of butterflies, and you’re both nervous and excited to get started on the path to building your business into a full-fledged empire. While it’s true that it’ll take some time to establish yourself as a power player in your respective industry, it’s best to lay the brickwork right from the very first day.

There’s no particular secret sauce or magic cocktail that turns startups from an idea into an overnight success, which is why erring on the side of wisdom is always the best recourse. From our lips to your ears, here are some tips that every entrepreneur needs to put into practice from day one.

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

Yes, most startup companies fail. But you don’t have to be part of that statistic, and one of the easiest ways to prevent it from happening is to plan ahead. Startups are not nearly as much a fly by the seat of your pants affair as you might think. Sure, there’s plenty of wiggle room when you’re going guerrilla with only yourself, or perhaps one or two team members by your side. Failure to plan out for the long road is a big pitfall that you should work to avoid, early on.

Make sure you’ve got a clearly defined roadmap as to where you want your startup to go. Leave room for spontaneous surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant) while you lay out a schematic for future growth. Are you going to hire a few more people over the course of the next year or two? That means you’re going to have to put procedures into place to establish a uniform working environment. Do this now, rather than later when your quiet office turns into a bustling zoo.

And yet, to make things work, sometimes we have to act against our instincts. These days, you’ll hear people say “act first, change later” at a time when things are constantly changing. Of course, planning is important, but we must admit that the pandemic has changed all the rules when it comes to well-laid plans.

In short: Do your due diligence, but also be ready to completely change your business overnight.

IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY, HONEY

If you’re half the entrepreneur you think you are, you’ve already ran a check on your finances to see if you’ve got the cheddar to make this dream of yours come true. That’s a good thing, and you’ll need to do more of that until you start cartwheeling joyously into the black. Hopefully, you walked into the bank armed with knowledge regarding financing options as they pertain to your business plan.

Bank not feeling particularly generous? Be resourceful; look for another way. It may not be easy, but there are alternatives to funding that don’t involve the bank. For example, look for government grants and subsidies that specialize in helping startups. If you are in the high-tech industry, perhaps search for a business incubator. Got a strong family? Perhaps there is a loved one willing to lend a hand (or a dollar or two).

Growth can happen quickly if you’re reinvesting money back into your business. Make sure there’s more to sink into the company, rather than less. This means abstaining from going nuts on fancy office decor, expensive furniture and thousand-dollar espresso machines, at least for now. The perks come later. The time to re-inject your startup with capital is now!

UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO BRAND

Your startup is your brand, and so are you. However, many entrepreneurs make a huge mistake here. They believe that branding is all about corporate colors, fonts and a company voice. In reality, branding is everything, all at once. If your demeanor is good, your ability to find and close leads is great, and you can generate sales and contracts with poise, professionalism and confidence, you’re on the right track.

If you understand that every single fiber of your business drives your brand, you’ll have a powerful weapon at your disposal that many of your competitors have probably neglected. Things like reputation management, a dynamite social media presence and a polished website are all vital components of good branding, provided your messaging is consistent, enthusiastic and professional.

MARKET LIKE YOU OWN IT

Whether you’re in a product or service-based business, it doesn’t matter. You’re selling something, and you’ll need customers and clients who are interested in buying. Marketing is a crucial component of startup success, and it’s a good idea to pay close attention to it. You may not have a multi-million dollar marketing budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your company in front of prospective buyers.

Solid, strategic digital marketing can be a real benefit here. You can start small, and scale up almost indefinitely according to your business growth. Analytics are the key here. Work with a company that can deliver the data to you in an easily digestible form. That way, you’ll see what’s working, what needs to be scrapped, and what might simply need a little tweaking. The key takeaway here is to market your product or service as if it’s the best in the business. Don’t be afraid to show confidence, because your customer base will be looking for it.

IN CONCLUSION, JUST KEEP AT IT

Yes, it’s easy to tell any budding entrepreneur to persevere, but it does help when it comes from people who have already been there. City MOGULS has run the gauntlet countless times when it comes to starting and growing businesses, and we get it. We really do! If you quit, or you’re too scared to try, then you may regret it down the road. Luckily, we’re here to empower you, and help turn you into a successful entrepreneur who can weather any storm, or tackle the hardest challenges that come with owning a business. Just remember to pay that success forward to the next generation! Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Why Every Entrepreneur Needs A Mentor (Including You)

You might think you’re the most business-savvy person on your block, and indeed, you probably have the skills and the personality type to back it up. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to play in the big leagues just yet, however. Every entrepreneur starts out green, which is why it’s important to seek out a mentor that can help guide you through those rough patches that you’ll no doubt experience along your journey.

While anyone can overcome a challenge, the truth is that it can be costly to do so. Think of the time and money spent dealing with a problem that could have been solved simply by asking a mentor for advice. Never let pride get in the way of your progress, especially during those first few crucial years. Instead, allow your mentor to boost your confidence and turn you into a fully independent business whiz, with all the empowerment necessary to tackle whatever comes your way. Here’s a few reasons why mentors are so important while you pursue your career path.

THOSE FIRST STEPS

Chances are, you’ll start out a lone wolf on your path to greatness, with only yourself to turn to. You’re the Boss, and you’ll make all the decisions, but with no personnel (yet) or managers to turn to, those first few months (and sometimes years) can feel pretty daunting. Encouragement and advice becomes more important than ever, perhaps more so than any other stage in your entrepreneurial journey. Mentors can keep your spirits up, give you a warm smile while you’re walking through your insecurities and self-doubt, and kick your behind back into the game when you feel like giving up and hiding under the covers. Sure, friends and family can do the same thing, but only a mentor truly understands what you’re going through. If they made it, so can you.

EXPERIENCE TRUMPS ALL

Your education level could be platinum-grade, but there’s no replacing hands-on experience. Let’s face it – colleges and universities can’t prepare you for the anomalies of owning and running a business. Each one is different, with its own unique set of challenges that hinge on a multitude of factors, including location, demographics and competition (to name a few). Mentors have run the gauntlet and emerged intact on the other side, with valuable insight to share. Remember when your parents gave you solid life advice that you refused to take? Don’t make the same mistake in business. Entrepreneurs should listen to the wise wizards and sages that came before, and take their knowledge and recommendations to heart. They stepped on those garden rakes so you don’t have to.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Mentors can turn into wonderful friends who are enthusiastic about paying their own success forward to you. That’s a win that money simply cannot buy, unless you’re willing to fork out thousands of dollars to hire a consultant. The other key takeaway of a great mentor is their social network. This is an excellent opportunity to rub shoulders with the best and brightest existing and upcoming talent in the business, in an organic and friendly fashion. There’s no telling what kinds of opportunities and doors might open up, simply by meeting your mentor’s colleagues. Plus, it’s always great to hear warm and encouraging kudos and advice from like-minded entrepreneurs, particularly if they’re of the seasoned bunch. 

PAYING IT FORWARD

You may be a green-belly right now, but you won’t stay one for long. As you gain more confidence and success, you’re going to feel more empowerment and determination to build your business. When you’ve gone from zero employees to one-hundred (and counting), you’re going to look back at your mentor and appreciate all the advice you were given along the way. That will be the perfect opportunity to become a mentor yourself, for an entirely fresh new entrepreneur just learning the ropes, and unsure if they can win out. You’ll remember every stage of your career, from the highs to the lows, and you’ll pass on that knowledge to a new generation. It’s all about helping each other achieve, and exceed our own potential. After all, that’s what a great mentor does!

City MOGULS takes great pride in our mentorship philosophy, which has led to the forging of our amazing ACCELERATOR program. We invite you to join up so that we can get to know you, and start guiding you around the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

READ MORE ABOUT THE ACCELERATOR AND MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

Pressure to Help the World: A Founder’s Journey from Fashion to PPE

City MOGULS: Founder Profiles Series

Stories of strength, growth, and resilience. A spotlight series featuring founders and leaders from across Canada and the US whose stories and experiences will inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.

A conversation with Esther Vlessing, President of Canada Emergency Medical Manufacturers (CEMM), a company that specializes in organizing rapid response initiatives that deliver emergency solutions to regions in need.

Rewind to mid-March 2020. Esther Vlessing, like many people, found herself tucked away in her West-Toronto home, adjusting to the first real days of mandated isolation due to COVID-related shutdowns across the province.

Vlessing remembers watching Ontario Premier Doug Ford on TV, as he addressed the province live and called for domestic factories to “step-up to the plate and manufacture PPE.” Hospital wards and long-term care homes (LTCH) were in dire need of protective equipment as outbreaks were hitting their floors and ICUs were maxing out.

Then the phone rang. It was Vlessing’s father, Robert Vlessing, a furniture manufacturing veteran.

“Who do you know in the government?”

A call for a hero

Together, they quickly drafted a plan to create a network of manufacturers who could effectively mobilize and retool domestic furniture, apparel and automotive factories across the country.

It should be noted that at this point, Vlessing knew no-one in government, but after a few email introductions, she was soon looped into calls with the Premier’s Office, Deputy Minister’s office, Ontario Health and Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Before she knew it, a $13.8 million dollar purchase order landed on her desk.

This was the first of many purchase orders as government bodies and hospital networks from across the province turned to Canada Emergency Medical Manufacturers (CEMM) for reusable isolation gowns made in Canada. CEMM built a robust domestic supply chain to produce and deliver isolation gowns to healthcare facilities in need. CEMM swiftly retooled and mobilized furniture, apparel and automotive factories, tapping into the domestic manufacturing power of hundreds of sewing machines, cutting machines, and skilled labour. By the end of the first quarter, CEMM had received over $30 million worth of purchase orders.

How a biotechnology student jumped into the fashion industry

Vlessing’s success with CEMM could be traced back to her dorm days as an undergraduate biotechnology student at the University of Toronto, when she first discovered the opportunity to solve a problem. Vlessing purchased a new parka that she loved, though the trim became matted easily and lost its appeal.

After some quick thinking, Vlessing discovered that the fur trim also came with a zipper for laundering purposes, which meant that new, colorful and fuller fur trims could be zipped onto the hood easily.

“With a $3,000 investment, I founded a nationwide accessory brand that manufactured Made-In-Canada replaceable fur and faux fur trims for winter coats,” Vlessing said.

Arctic Trim ended up on the shelves of big-box retailers across the country including Sporting Life Inc. And eventually, after discussions with the Canada Goose executive leadership team, Vlessing ended up on their design team, focusing on materials research and product innovation.

Advice for young entrepreneurs trying to help the world

Looking back on her career thus far, Vlessing says great inspiration and motivation is required for a company to succeed. Vlessing describes her great motivator to be the pressure of working in a life-or-death, high-stakes environment. According to her, everyone from Ontario’s Premier to “your next-door neighbour’s grandmother” was counting on CEMM to succeed, so the pressure was definitely on.

Vlessing doesn’t like to believe that individuals need to pursue a linear career path, and in her experience, the best companies, entrepreneurs and inventions are the results of interdisciplinary crossover. From her studies in science at U of T to running Arctic Trim and working on Canada Goose’s design team, Vlessing became well versed in product development, material sciences and supply chain management. By merging her experience in fashion manufacturing with her science background, Vlessing was prepared to meet the challenges of running CEMM.

“I recognized that if you build your company with a mission to be of service to others and improve society’s well-being, things flow much more easily,” Vlessing said.

Vlessing’s advice to all young aspiring entrepreneurs is to take the focus off of yourself and onto what needs to get done. Her hope for all young aspiring entrepreneurs is to build companies that will help this world.


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