West Coast Biz in Focus: International Women’s Day

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the week of International Women’s Day, the Westerly News talked to female leaders and newcomers on the regional business scene.

Over two decades, Sue Payne has seen women bloom on the West Coast’s business landscape.

“There’s a lot of women in business here and it’s great – there are lots of women entrepreneurs, businesses with women (as partners or) taking the helm,” she said. Changing economics may have played the silver lining for some remarkable trailblazing women. When the bottom fell out for some of the West Coast’s resource industries, many families had to make hard choices about how to stay on the West Coast and make a living, Payne said.

“Lots of women in the community decided if they were going to survive, they’d have to do something (in business) too,” she recalled.

In the 1950s and mid 1960s, there were no female chamber board members in Ucluelet; the chamber now has 11 female directors and two male directors, Payne said.

Mother of invention For Tofitian entrepreneur Rachel Sutton, necessity really was the mother of invention. A newly single parent, she needed childcare for her little daughter.

It was a great time for her teaching degree to get some business use. In December 2012, she opened Orca Play, an organic daycare in Tofino.

Sutton’s specialization for her teaching B.Sc. was special needs, and that helped her equip her facility to handle children who may have special challenges.

Working to develop a love of healthy movement and play and an interest in learning, Sutton seeks to foster a calm class environment with plenty of oneon-one attention. She brings to the play table her love for yoga and organic foods and materials.

“I’ve been very inspired by a ‘whole-Earth’ model,” she said.

Her advice for those considering becoming entrepreneurs? “I think that it takes a certain amount of personal tenacity, which often grows as part of growing the business. If they can hold strong to the rock like a barnacle, that’s what they need to do,” Sutton said.

Microgreens microbusiness In July 2013, Dolores Baswick bought a small microgreens business. The former commercial photographer quickly put up an indoor greenhouse so she could offer the crisp pea shoots and kale and wheatgrass year-round.

Her microbusiness, Green Lady Greens, was quickly seeding 20 flats a week of microgreens in vegan soil, with a small eco footprint, to supply area restaurants, groceries and veggie-loving locavores.

“The best thing about this is when I walk into a kitchen with a flat of greens – people actually stop and look at them and say, ‘Wow, those are beautiful,'” the Tofitian said. “Before I’ve even said anything, I feel so great about it. And I’m promoting a healthy way of eating.”

“They’re really thrilled to hear their food is local. I offer my customers an advantange larger companies like Sysco can’t deliver. They can deliver microgreens -but they won’t be as fresh as mine,” Baswick said.

An artist at heart, Baswick would have loved to make a living at it – but that’s difficult in a small community that’s a magnet for artists, she said, offering some advice to anyone considering going into small business for themselves.

“Make sure your idea is viable and research your demographic … Is it something the community wants or needs? Research your ability to actually do the work … and be prepared for seven days a week. But if you love it, seven days a week isn’t (so hard),” she said.

Designing woman She’s known on the West Coast for the bright bags, made from upcycled sails, that she and her husband Jens sell at the Ukee Friday Night and Tofino Saturday Markets.

But what few people know about Nelly Heyduck is that the Ucluelet resident holds the German equivalent of a masters in product design.

Actually, an international clientele for her Heyduck Design & Consulting enjoys her ability to design everything from a casual workspace or branding and identity for a small non-profit group to an entire showroom display, thanks to the connectivity of the Internet.

She finds the West Coast the perfect place to create a project of any size.

“I love it because it’s very inspirational and very focusing. You never feel disconnected, but it’s a smaller community – a simple life, with not so many distracted. I can focus wonderfully on things far away or right at my door,” she said.

“It’s really good for working space here.”

Growth through board service As the education coordinator for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, Tammy Dorward is working in many arenas at once.

“I love that … each day is unique,” she said.

Dorward serves on the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust board as the representative for Tla-o-qui-aht, an appointment made by her nation’s Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs).

The appointment meshes with her cultural philosophies and beliefs, Dorward said.

“To live respectfully with the understanding that everything is interconnected -to promote and support education, research, science, cultural knowledge … How do we ensure it will be here for our future generations; that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be able to live here and live well?” she said.

Dorward recommends board service for those seeking community involvement, iting training, networking and working collaboratively. For anyone considering a career in the non-profit sector, Dorward said the key to any career is to “follow your heart, find your passion and do what you love.” Give back, always For Ucluetians Judy Gray and her Re/Max team partner Betty Winpenny, business is about putting a strong business background to work for buyers and sellers of real estate. Gray began her career in retail, banking and co-owned a logging company. Winpenny’s work life started in insurance, banking, commercial fishing, administration and bookkeeping.

They shared a similar approach, which forged a sturdy business connection for the West Coast’s top-producing real estate professionals: a strong work ethic, learning the job from the bottom up, and keeping a professional standard of accountability and customer service.

But doing well means giving back. “Our kids are our future, and I want to do anything I can to help them be healthy and happy,” Gray said, explaining her office’s consistent contribution to causes like BC Children’s Hospital. “So many children in our community have been touched by BC Children’s Hospital. It’s amazing how many of my clients whose children are or have been patients there,” she said.

“Giving back is part of being part of the community – it’s all about the kids.”