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.

Bridgit found success by looking for problems, not ideas

Written by Jacqueline Leung

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 Mallorie Brodie, CEO and Co-Founder of Bridgit, a software company focused on developing mobile and web-based solutions for the construction industry.

Eight years in business is no small feat. For Bridgit, a software company that develops solutions for the construction industry, the key is focusing on solving problems; talking to customers about solutions then figuring out ways to create those solutions.

“Don’t fall in love with ideas,” says Mallorie Brodie, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Canadian start up. “We’re always trying to research and find real solutions.”

Those solutions are now helping some of the largest contractors in the world manage projects and drive workforce productivity.

What is Bridgit?

In brief, Bridgit makes construction less complicated.

Bridgit builds mobile and web-based solutions to solve problems for general contractors and subcontractors across North America.

For those of us who are not familiar with the construction industry, that means replacing manual work (think taking photos, marking them up in Microsoft Paint, then emailing them to yourself) with digital software solutions, ultimately saving contractors a ton of time and money.

Bridgit was founded in 2014 not out of a great idea or personal pain point, but as a result of a lot of research and multiple conversations with leaders in the construction industry.

“Everyone is waiting for this ‘aha’ moment,” remembers Brodie, “but Lauren and I have based our products on research.”

Brodie met Lauren Lake, Bridgit’s COO and Co-Founder, while participating in The Next 36. During their time in the Toronto program, she and Brodie got on the phone and spoke to people and asked them about their pain points. The company’s first product, Bridgit Field, was the outcome of those conversations.

The founders have continued to build their business around this philosophy.

Growing With Bridgit

Fast forward five years, in 2019, the company launched its second product, Bridgit Bench, a solution that helps contractors manage their workforce capacity, skills tracking, and employee scheduling. It is yet another solution that was the outcome of dozens of conversations with customers.

Brodie remembers speaking to over 50 executives at construction companies to gather insight for their second product.

“We talked to an IT exec for an hour, and in minute 61, there was this idea of resource planning,” Brodie said. “Going into this meeting, we didn’t even know what resource planning was.”

But the team got to work doing what they do best – researching, asking questions, and iterating based on customer feedback – and created a solution that replaces manual work done on spreadsheets and whiteboards. Emails back and forth with the executives they already spoke with gave them confidence they were on the right track. The founders received several signed letters of interest that allowed them to raise capital to pursue what is now known as Bridgit Bench.

Last summer, in the middle of a global pandemic, Bridgit raised $9.4 million to advance features of Bridgit Bench, add new partner integrations, and overall increase the company’s aggressive pace of technology innovation.

Brodie said that they were fortunate to have started their conversations with investors before the pandemic got really bad.

“Obviously, there was this moment of fear that things would fall off the rails,” the founder remembers. “When we asked Autodesk why they didn’t pull out of the deal, they said that they were betting that even if things slowed down in the next two years, they believed this industry would be digitizing in the future.”

Autodesk, BDC, and Salesforce Ventures, are just a few of the investors that have bet on Bridgit. In total, the company has raised over $21.2 million since they launched in 2014.

Rising to the top in a man’s world

When asked whether the male-dominated construction industry made it difficult for a female-led company like Bridgit to break through, Brodie replied no.

“Both tech and construction are male-dominated,” Brodie said. “What was more of a barrier was the tech world. It has been proven that women don’t get as much funding at the idea phase. So, we were very metrics driven.”

In fact, in Canada, female founders only receive 4% of venture capital. In the U.S., that number drops to just 2.2%.

“We were looking for a pain point to solve and we were just there to help. There were actually no obstacles because we stood out. We helped solve problems,” Brodie said of the company’s experience entering construction.

The industry has since welcomed Brodie and her team with open arms. Last year, Bridgit was named one of Canada’s top growing companies by The Globe and Mail and Brodie was recently recognized on On-Site and SitePartners’ top 40 under 40 in Canadian construction list.

In terms of COVID-19, Bridgit was one of the lucky ones. The company didn’t feel the negative impacts that many other small businesses felt during the pandemic.

“With construction recently restricted and projects delayed, contractors have needed to shift their processes and are demanding the workforce data insights that Bridgit provides,” Brodie said. “We’ve definitely had moments when we felt tired or stuck, but I’ve never had a moment where I wanted to quit. After the customer interviews we did, hearing their actual pain points, we couldn’t walk away from this. We felt determined to solve their problems.”

To recap, Bridgit was not the product of a great brainstorm session, or an ‘a-ha’ moment, or even a personal pain point. Bridgit’s success is the culmination of curiosity, research, and problem solving. Imagine that.

Building a 12-year-old business in a quick-exit startup culture

Written by Jacqueline Leung

City MOGULS: Founder Profiles Series

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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 Toni Desrosiers, CEO and Founder of Abeego, the original beeswax wrap that breathes.

It didn’t take long for Toni Desrosiers to realize what she wanted to be when she grew up. At a very young age, the now-CEO and Founder of Abeego, was entrepreneurial. In a small village of 500 people, Desrosiers started her first business: a lemonade stand, before venturing off to shovel leaves, then snow, among many other hustles. She credits her entrepreneurial spirit to her dad, who is also an inventor and business owner.

One with nature

Desrosiers invented Abeego in 2008 while she was a practicing holistic nutritionist. She noticed that airtight (usually plastic) wrappers that are meant to protect leftover food are actually not letting food breathe (not to mention, are bad for the environment).

“In nature, there isn’t anything airtight,” Desrosiers said. “It’s all breathable – peel, skin, rind – I wanted to make wraps that better mimicked nature.”

Not one to just sit on the sidelines, Desrosiers went ahead and invented the world’s first reusable beeswax food wrap. Nbd.

Today, Abeego sells food wraps made from beeswax, jojoba, tree resin, hemp, and cotton, all while maintaining a zero-waste production process.

“Together with my hard-working team of Abeego makers, I have found innovative ways to repurpose even minimal amounts of excess materials into new products like Abeebits (beeswax twist ties) or promotional items like business cards,” Desrosiers said.

The long game

“You can’t just invent something then expect people to buy it,” Desrosiers said. Speaking the truth.

Most entrepreneurs discover this early in the startup journey; convincing other people – customers, investors, employees – to believe in your product or service is one of the hardest things to do.

“For us, it was all about getting people to notice and understand.” Desrosiers remembers having to educate customers throughout the years. Now, having been in business for over a decade, Abeego has had to incorporate customer education into every pivot, every aspect of the business.

“When you invent something, you create a market, you nurture that market, and eventually, you harvest from that market,” Desrosiers said.

In Canada, over 30% of small businesses fail within the first five years. Abeego has been in business for over 12.

When asked what advice she would give herself back when she started Abeego, Desrosiers said, “enjoy the journey and celebrate your wins frequently. You’re not building a business. You’re living your life.”

The beauty of building something new is that you get to build it in a new way.

Desrosiers reminds aspiring founders that there’s no one way to be an entrepreneur. “You’re going to make mistakes, but those mistakes might actually be the right path,” she said.

Not all glitz and glamour

Having a solid foundation has helped Abeego get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most small businesses, Abeego saw a dip in revenue in the initial days of the pandemic and had to revamp its goals for the year.

Over time, Desrosiers began to see the pandemic as just another low point in the company’s life cycle. “I’ve never seen a business as going straight up. Low points for me are always foundation building time,” the founder said.

It’s those foundation building times that have allowed Abeego to stay solid during a time of uncertainty. The company had to lay off about a dozen people because of the pandemic, but has since rehired many of them and is now working on building processes to get ready for when business picks back up.

Today, Abeego products are sold in more than 300 retailers in North America and online around the globe, success that is largely credited to the company’s core value of living where logic and innovation meet.

In other words, Abeego treats logical decisions with curiosity – ‘Can this be done better, in a new way?’ And looks at innovation with a critical eye – ‘Will this new software help me make decisions faster?’

You’ll never see Abeego implement new technology for technology’s sake, even if an advisor or industry expert recommends it. Desrosiers warns new founders to be wary of asking for too much advice from “experts” who may pull you in different directions. “If I didn’t break up with my experts, I’d be in a totally different space,” she said.

Building wealth

Every business owner starts off with big goals, lots of excitement, and seemingly endless determination to do whatever it takes. But somewhere along the way, every business owner hits a wall, loses steam and feels like nothing else can be done.

For some founders, that moment comes and goes often. For others, that moment comes often but lingers. Desrosiers admits that there have been times when she has had intense breakdowns and has had to take a few days off. But, “I’m so persistent as a natural state,” she said she can’t see herself doing anything else.

“I think there are points when you should change, admit that it’s not working,” she pointed out. And when asked how a founder should make the difficult decision to call it quits, an emotional Desrosiers simply said, “put yourself first.”

“We keep telling these stories about entrepreneurs who skyrocket to riches,” the founder said. “But how about those entrepreneurs who build wealth – wealth in health, emotions, life, and money?”

Desrosiers reminds entrepreneurs that “if you’ve gotten far enough to launch a business, you are someone who has good instincts.”

Not everyone is willing to take the risk, to do the work.

“A lot of entrepreneurs sacrifice themselves and their safety. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for Abeego, and now, Abeego owes me.”

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