Mission-minded focus for women in business

Emira Mears

Emira Mears is a busy woman.

In addition to running the company she co-founded, Raised Eyebrow Web Studio, and raising a pre-schooler, she’s also the lead organiser of Social Venture Institute Women—Vancouver (SVIW), taking place May 1-3 at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on the SFU Woodward’s campus in Vancouver, BC.

Building on Success

Mears should be used to this level activity by now. In 2011, she co-created and produced the Women Entrepreneurs for Social Change conference, and filled the same role for the Women Entrepreneur track in last year’s inaugural SVI Vancouver. Like its predecessors, SVIW is modeled after the successful Social Venture Institute held each September at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, and is designed to lend practical skills and support to women leading small socially conscious businesses and non-profits.

Dana Bass Solomon

Helping Mears assemble the stellar agenda of keynote speakers, case studies, workshops and panels are fellow SVI Hollyhock alumnae Madeleine Shaw and Denise Taschereau, along with Hollyhock CEO Dana Bass Solomon (left). Each of these women offers rich experience balancing the demands of running a mission-driven business and having a full family life, and each has a personal passion for seeing women grow and succeed in the business world.

Madeleine Shaw

One of the things about SVIW that most excites Shaw (right), founder of Lunapads International Ltd and Pads4Girls, is the mixture of those who’ve previously attended some form of SVI and new faces. “We’re attracting a ton of new people into this community, women with fresh perspectives and ideas that will help shape SVI as it evolves,” she says.

Learning from Failure

An example of such evolution is the addition of two new panels to this SVI, creating more opportunities for group discussion and peer learning. One panel focuses on mentorship, while the other, conceived by Fairware’s Co-Founder and CEO Taschereau, is called Rough Roads: A Discussion on Learning from Challenging Times. “It’s very rare in these settings to have the front of the room taken up by people talking about their failures rather than their successes,” Taschereau says of this panel.  “Hearing just the success stories can be very alienating for those of us who know that life is full of failures and challenges. It can seem like no one else feels like their business is going under, or their staff team is falling apart.”

Denise Taschereau

Taschereau (left) was inspired to create this panel after seeing a “Failure Panel” at another conference last year, where the panelists’ stories ranged from projects that “totally bombed” to entire companies going bankrupt. One panelist talked about how her fear of sharing ‘the writing on the wall’ was ultimately her greatest mistake. Taschereau recalls, “She said, ‘If I had shown some of my trusted advisors what was really going on instead of being afraid, I probably would have avoided this situation.’  I was really inspired by this.”

Taschereau points to FailCon and other events that are focused on mining business failures for innovation and creativity as a positive sign. Shaw concurs, adding, “Telling the truth is rich—because when we ignore our failures, we miss so much wisdom.”

Early and Later Stage Companies Highlighted

Another SVIW highlight promises to be the two evening “True Confessions” conversations, revealing some of the “behind the scenes” realities of running a successful social venture. This year’s speakers come from companies in the food and beverage industry, each in a very different stage of its lifespan: mother and daughter Ratana and Jyoti Stephens will share stories from their internationally-established family business, Nature’s Path, while Janie Hoffman of Mamma Chia will speak from her experience as founder of a relatively new but quickly growing business.

Like her co-presenters, Mears sees tremendous value in introducing more like-minded women to this community of purpose-driven businesspeople. “I believe there’s still a need for women entrepreneurs to have these shared conversations,” she says, echoing Hollyhock’s mission to inspire, nourish and support people making the world better.


Junxion is proud to be a sponsor of SVI Women—Vancouver. For more information, go to http://hollyhocklife.org/sviw/

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