Celebrating women in Westboro
March is a very exciting month here in Westboro. The promise of Spring and of course, Spring Break – a perfect time to get out with kids of all ages. If you haven’t tried out the SJAM Winter Trail yet, this is a perfect opportunity with warm(er) weather and snow. There are plenty of places here to drop by for hot chocolate and goodies as a treat.
We are excited to announce the new Board of Management: Chair, Molly van der Schee, Vice-Chair, Darren Prashad, Treasurer, Alan Whitten, Sheba Schmidt, Richard Bown, Steve Harding, and Rick Eisert. These are Westboro business leaders who will be volunteering their time to govern and lead the Westboro Village BIA and its strategic direction. We are grateful to have this leadership to continue the great success of the outgoing Board.
On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. There are so many businesses in Westboro that are managed, owned and operated by women. Please take some time this month to support these women-led businesses!
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’d like to also recognize someone in our community who has contributed so much to women – Sue Garvey, Executive Director of Cornerstone Housing For Women. Sue has spent her career building and expanding Cornerstone to support nearly 1000 women in Ottawa who face emergency need of shelter, who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Most recently, Sue led the new opening of the Princeton, Westboro location. She is retiring this year after decades of hard work. Thank you, Sue, for everything you have achieved for women in Westboro and Ottawa.
Shining a spotlight on women-led businesses in Westboro
This year in honour of International Women’s day we are recognizing a few of the many businesses owned by women in Westboro Village.
Helen Aikenhead, Three Wild Women
Connection to Westboro: I’m the owner of Three Wild Women, which opened in Old Ottawa South in 2005, Banff AB in 2006, and Westboro in 2008. I bought out two partners and closed the Bank Street and Banff store. I just have the one location now.
Career highlight so far: All the wonderful women I’ve met over the years, both staff and clients.
Advice to women in your business:
If you’re thinking of opening your own business, always do a Business Plan.
Listen to your staff/clients and be open to their input and feedback.
Work with your suppliers to have a mutually beneficial marketing plan.
Patricia Barr, WALL SPACE Gallery
Connection to Westboro: I’m the proud director of WALL SPACE Gallery + Framing, our family business with 32 years in framing + 10 years of art in the heart of Westboro Village.
Career highlight so far: We just celebrated 10 years – not so easy for an art gallery! We’ve seen our mission to make contemporary art accessible through thought-provoking, engaging exhibitions while building our local community. Last month, we hosted a lively fundraiser for Ottawa Riverkeeper, connecting artist Stew Jones, art patrons and people like him who are passionate about our local watershed. Our annual exhibit on March 8, International Women’s Day’s #BetterforBalance features five strong female artists, Ottawa’s Ariane Beauchamp plus Alex Chowaniec, Lori Richards, Marjolyn Van der Hart, and Sharon Kelly. I am grateful our team (including Assistant curator, Erin Crowell and associate, Stacie De Gonzazue) + our WALL SPACE has provided an arena for artists to shine.
Advice to women in your business: In the words of Nellie McClung: “Women who set a low value of themselves make life hard for all women.” Believe in yourself and your vision. The rest will fall into place.
I also love a quote of hers we have used in a previous show: “Never explain, never retract, never apologize. Just get the thing done and let them howl.”
Sheba Schmidt, West End Kids
Connection to Westboro: When our son, Benjamin, was five he attended Hillel Academy, a very short distance from Westboro Village. I was 38-years-old and started thinking about opening a children’s fashion boutique. I had noticed that the residential area of Westboro was changing to young families.
At the time, Richmond Road in Westboro Village, had one small strip of trendy boutiques and restaurants. That’s when I thought this would be a fabulous location and the rent may be cheap! Yes, it was, $10 a square foot!
On August 15, 1995, West End Kids opened. We are very proud to be a long time business in a fabulous, vibrant, eclectic and busy retail and restaurant spot in Ottawa, Westboro Village. In 2007, westendkids.ca was launched and in 2014 we migrated to Shopify.
Career highlight so far: I am actively involved in our Westboro BIA (Business Improvement Area) and I am currently a member of its Board. I try and support all local, kids related, fundraisers.
Advice to women in your business: Yes, retail is tough and sometimes hard to figure out. The wins outweigh the losses and this has kept me driven. Yes, I had to endure bumps along the way, but through it all, the one piece of advice is to remain focused and believe in the product(s) you sell.
Due diligence and stay current and up-to-date on all trends happening in your industry.
Most importantly, believe in yourself!
Sonia Fisher, E.R. Fisher Ltd.
Connection to Westboro: Our family has proudly been in business in Ottawa since 1905, but moving our store to a progressing Westboro Village in 2005 felt like coming home. The Fisher family grew up in this area and know it well. We’ve seen the community grow around our store – its vibrancy, great mix of homes, outdoor space, offices, retail, and condominiums really compliment a business like ours. And, most importantly, a large percentage of our customers either live, or work, within two kilometres of our store.
Career highlight so far: Expanding our selling space and sportswear selection in 2012 is a decision I’ve felt very proud of. It enabled us to hire new staff, introduce new brands, and improve our visibility within the community.
Advice to women in your business: If you want to open your own store, put a lot of thought into demographics. Sell products that bring true value to your clients. Manage your inventory wisely. Don’t overbuy. Believe that Sales is a profession like any other, and an art. Don’t get into retail if you don’t like helping people. Don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risk and don’t be afraid to fail. Owning your own store, or simply working in retail, can be a very fun and rewarding career choice. And… if you really love the industry, let’s have a coffee!