Room full of business women listening to a presentation

StrikeUP 2024: Empowering women entrepreneurs to drive change

When it comes to growing a competitive business in Canada or abroad, upholding your values isn’t always easy. But for many women entrepreneurs, making a positive impact on the world is a top priority.

“It’s fair to say that most entrepreneurs start out with a dream. You want to build a company that will do something better, and you want your company to reflect your fundamental values,” says Myriam Francisque, Export Development Canada’s (EDC) national lead for Inclusive trade, Black and racialized exporters.

Myriam Francisque, Export Development Canada’s national lead for Inclusive trade, Black and racialized exporters

“Putting your own values front and centre can feed into your company’s value proposition, and in turn, it can result in a competitive advantage that can help you grow your company throughout Canada—and beyond,” Francisque says.

But she admits creating a sustainable, values-based company is easier said than done. It takes perseverance, trusted networks and unwavering confidence.

On Feb. 29, StrikeUP Canada is hosting a digital conference, sponsored by EDC, focused on helping women entrepreneurs drive social change and scale their business without compromising their personal ethics.

“StrikeUP is our platform to unite women entrepreneurs and the women entrepreneurship ecosystem to learn from one another, work together, and move forward with a united vision and approach for equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth for the future,” says StrikeUP founder, Wendy Curtis.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Canadian business women from a range of sectors and industries will share their successes, challenges and insights on everything from how to go global and accelerate growth with grants and tax credits to tips for financing your business forward and elevating your leadership skills.

“At EDC, we’re especially committed to inclusive trade, and empowering businesses that are owned by equity-deserving groups, so they can reap the benefits of global growth. This includes women, Indigenous, Black and racialized Canadians, as well as people with disabilities and members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community,” says Francisque, who’ll be moderating a 45-minute panel discussion at the conference entitled The power of authenticity: Growing your business your way.

She’ll be joined by three successful entrepreneurs who’ll explain how their core values helped shape their business and give them a competitive edge. They’ll also discuss why leveraging authentic storytelling can strengthen your brand and share their views about the importance of finding partners aligned with your vision who can champion your business to set you up for long-term success.

Featured guest speakers at the conference include:

  • Jenn Harper, founder of Cheekbone Beauty, Canada’s first Indigenous-owned cosmetics company

In 2016, Harper founded her online business in St. Catharines, ON, to honour her Anishinaabe roots and create a space in the beauty industry where Indigenous youth and women felt represented and empowered. A certified B. Corp company, Cheekbone Beauty’s mission is to help every Indigenous youth see and feel their enormous value in the world while creating sustainable cosmetics and giving back to the community.

  • Robin Kovitz, president and CEO of Baskits Inc., North America’s premier gift basket service company

Baskits designs, manufacturers and delivers luxurious gifts for all occasions across Canada and the U.S. and has been featured in mainstream publications, including Forbes, House & Home, Elle Canada, Canadian Business and the Huffington Post. In 2022, the Toronto-based company was recognized for the third year in a row as one of the Top Growing Companies in Canada by the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine.  In 2017 and again in 2022, Kovitz was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.

  • Claudette McGowan, founder and CEO of Protexxa, a cybersecurity software and services company that leverages artificial intelligence to identify and resolve cyber issues

For more than 20 years, McGowan has been a global information technology leader, designing new solutions to protect businesses and individuals from online cyberattacks. A strong proponent for advancing women in technology and breaking down systemic barriers within innovation, she founded Protexxa in 2022 to help identify gaps in cybersecurity and educate customers worldwide on how to protect themselves from online risks.

  • Kulbinder Saran Caldwell, founder and CEO of Reallife Pictures Inc., a literary agency representing diverse, neurodiverse and LGBTQ writers

Born in northern British Columbia to immigrant parents from India, Saran Caldwell grew up wishing there were more people who looked like her in the movies and on TV.  In January 2020, she launched Reallife Pictures Inc. in Toronto, ON, to help break down the barriers of race, gender and sexual orientation and bring more diverse stories to the screen.

  • Nita Tandon founder and CEO of Dalcini Stainless, specializing in chemical-free stainless steel food storage containers

Tandon left her career in biopharma in 2009, the same year Health Canada issued a ban on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles. Despite being declared “toxic to human health and the environment,” BPA continued to be widely used in food storage. As a new mom, Tandon knew there had to be a better way. In 2015, she launched Dalcini Stainless, offering easy-to-clean, eco-friendly food containers, lunch boxes and tableware made from quality stainless steel. Her products are sold in Canada, the United States and New Zealand and she recently landed a lucrative contract with Lowe’s in the U.S. 

Read more about Dalcini Stainless on on March 4. Nita Tandon will also join Joe Mimran, host of EDC’s Export Impact Podcast, on March 6. 




Date modified: 2024-02-13