Now more than ever, International Women’s Day is a cause for some serious estrogen-fuelled celebration.
That’s why Melody Adhami, co-founder of Plastic Mobile, invited along three driven, young female entrepreneurs for an afternoon off the clock (on a Monday, no less) – a rarity in the world of entrepreneurship.
Adhami co-founded Plastic Mobile in 2007 with her now husband. As COO of the mobile marketing agency, she’s led countless groundbreaking initiatives, collecting a plethora of awards and accolades along the way. Adhami’s strategic savvy has attracted the confidence of major brands like Blackrock, Shoppers Drug Mart, AIR MILES, Pizza Pizza, and Rogers Communications to name a few.
So, who exactly are these inspirational young women that she decided to hit the town with for the day?
Olivia Simmons is the Co-Founder of ConferenceCloud, a forward-thinking company that allows conferences to scale audiences and monetize their content through online conference stream. In addition to being a University of Toronto graduate, Olivia is also a graduate of Founders Institute, and is now incubating ConferenceCloud at MaRS Discovery District.
As the CEO at Journey, Chenny Xia is an award-winning innovation consultant at the crossroads of experience design and culture strategy. She believes innovation is a mindset that teams can learn and combines millennial-specific insights with experiences working in business development, service design, and private equity, to collaborate with her clients and deliver context-tailored solutions.
Ami Shah is the CEO and Co-Founder of Peekapak, a company that teaches skills for success, like empathy and gratitude, both in the class and home. Peekapak is backed by the Edtech vertical of YCombinator, Imagine K12, based in Silicon Valley. Ami is a mentor at Founder Institute Toronto and a member of the DMZ Steering Committee.
Now that you have the background info, on to the day…
The first stop was Colette, the favourite French restaurant in the Thompson Toronto, where we chatted over caffeine, salad bar offerings, and a glass of wine (well, for some of us). Our topic of conversation was the concept Xia referred to as “greyhairism,” or the unfounded undermining or misjudging of the capability of millennials by older, more seasoned professionals. Xia said she had considered dying her hair grey to counter this effect (and yes, I’m pretty sure she was serious). We also discussed the merits of persistence, with one woman revealing that one company (now a client) told her that they purposely waited for three follow-up emails and a phone call before taking a meeting with her.
The next stop was an escape room, where our FBI and problem-solving skills were put to the test. As it turns out, starting a hugely successful company can be easier than getting out of a locked room. Needless to say, thanks to a collaborative group effort, we did indeed make it out of there on our own (eventually).
Whether chatting over cocktails or trying to crack an escape room code, if there’s one thing these women share, it’s a sense of empowerment. Being born female isn’t a hindrance for them, but a cause for celebration.
“On average, we rank slightly higher in the emotional intelligence (EQ) department than our male counterparts,” says Xia. “EQ means the ability to perceive and understand how emotions impact how people think and act. In today’s relationship-driven world, having a high EQ is becoming increasingly important in leadership.” For Adhami, she says she feels empowered as a female because it’s she who has created her corporate culture in the first place. “As an entrepreneur I feel that social factors such as race, gender, politics, age can’t stand in my way the way they can when working in corporate settings,” she says. “I have the power to make my own rules.”
For the most part, none of the women felt like their gender has been a disadvantage to their career, though Xia did acknowledge that sometimes men have the wrong motives when going into a meeting, sometimes mistaking “meeting” for “date.”
“I don’t feel my gender has been a disadvantage during my career,” says Shah. “I have found regardless of my gender, when I show up determined, passionate and prepared for work or any challenges, I earn the respect of those I am working with quickly.” Simmons shares a similar sentiment. “I have never felt disadvantaged by any of my classmates, colleagues, or mentors,” she says.
“I feel like I have won the lottery every day when I have the control, power and freedom to create my own new reality and invite others to join me in an ever exciting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding journey of entrepreneurship,” says Simmons (who is just 26-years-old, by the way).
Another important and completely relevant topic of conversation to arise at lunch was the often-inevitable stress that comes with the job – in everything from pitching for funding to parting with employees – and how to manage it. When you wear so many hats as a young business owner, it’s not always easy to make time to balance it out with things like yoga and meditation. That’s why Queen West’s Downward Dog yoga studio was our final destination of the day.
While the yoga definitely helped to achieve our inner end-of-day zen, it was the infectious sense of collective forward thinking, ambition, and desire to burst through boundaries that left me truly optimistic about the future of the female on the walk home. Of course, it continues today on International Women’s Day.
I hope you’re celebrating as well.