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Celebrating Female Leaders for International Women's Day

4 Mar 2019

Simons is donating 10% of its sales made on March 8 to the Canadian Women's Foundation, which supports over 1,500 community programs across the country.

Altogether, that's $137,500 that we're able give to this organization.

At Simons, we know the magic that happens when women work together
and support each other, since our company is primarily made up of women. Today, more than ever, we are proud to promote women leaders. 

Throughout the years, women have left their mark and inspired us in so many ways. Whether they have worked towards gaining the right to vote, fought against racial inequalities, or broken the glass ceiling, each has helped to create a better future.

 

We present three inspiring women who are making Canadian history in their own way. Together, let's celebrate women leaders.

BRANDI LEIFSO: ADVERSITY AND COURAGE

It was at the age of 21, while living in a women's shelter after leaving an unhealthy relationship that Brandi Leifso conceived the idea of a cosmetics line that she called Evelyn Iona. (She later changed the name to Evio Beauty). At that point in her life, she learned that she was much stronger than she thought. With only 15$ in her pocket and nothing to lose, she launched her cosmetics line, Evio Beauty. She photoshopped a catalogue of products that didn't yet exist and distributed it in stores. From her humble beginnings to her present-day success, Brandi's path has been one of courage and particularly inspiring determination.

Among the setbacks that she had to overcome, she remembers right away how she was rejected by all who did not believe in her and her brand. Through difficulties, Brandi learned to be patient and to focus on why she was doing what she was doing. Since she launched her company at the lowest point in her life, every time a hardship arises she remembers that she's gone through much worse.

CEO of the eco-conscious cosmetics line Evio Beauty, Brandi is inspired by her own challenging upbringing and surrounds herself with inspiring women she can learn from and who keep her motivated. Throughout her journey, the entrepreneur has showed courage and dedication by breaking into an industry that's still dominated by men and by breaking taboos.

 

To women who want to follow in her footsteps, she encourages them to fully understand their mission, the reason behind their project, and to never lose sight of that. “Work hard, work with kindness, and define achievable limits for yourself and your company. And also, go big!” She hopes that what she has created with Evio can encourage others to achieve their dreams.

For her, success is measured by the impact she has on others and the difference her company can make in women’s lives. That’s why Evio’s mission is to make the future better for the planet, animals, and humans. One of her recent successes includes breaking the taboo of being the youngest CEO to sign a deal with a cannabis producer for the launch of her new line of beauty products. 

Today, Brandi gives back by donating $1 for every product sold to the Canadian Women’s Foundation as a way to thank those who helped her and gave her hope when she was in need. Despite her success, Brandi’s values have remained the same: she hopes to help women and be honest with those who buy her products. For her, beauty goes far beyond looks: it’s about being authentic, kind, and humane.

 

Her wish for all women in 2019?

Kindness, but also empathy and respect in how women speak to one another, and especially to themselves. 

HUDA IDREES: AID AND DEDICATION


Technology and the Canadian healthcare system don't always go hand in hand, which is exactly what Huda wants to rectify. Her mission is to democratize access to healthcare through her latest venture, Dot Health, which allows individuals to access to their own health data.

Huda Idrees is the founder and CEO of Toronto-based Dot Health. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, she is a true tech junkie who founded her first company creating websites for small businesses at the age of 12. After moving to Toronto for engineering school at the University of Toronto, Huda found her way into technology startups, which eventually led her to found her own.

When someone close to her was diagnosed with cancer and had to receive follow-up care from a multitude of care providers, the first version of Dot Health was born. At the time, Huda knew little about the Canadian healthcare system and the specific needs of patients. When the first user of Dot Health started referring the service to others in a similar position, she knew this was a bigger problem that needed a scalable solution.

Dot Health helps Canadians access and understand their own health data from clinics, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies in a simple, beautiful, mobile-first way. It helps people track and understand their own care journey, and share it with their care team or loved ones.

Historically, technology and Canadian healthcare haven't worked well together. Dot Health's mission is to turn the concept of a paternalistic healthcare on its head, and put individual Canadians at the centre of their own care—instead of in the dark. Huda's team at Dot Health is small but mighty and has helped thousands of Canadians access their own health records from across the country.

Healthcare is a deeply entrenched industry, and entering it as a newbie was one of Huda's first challenges. Leveraging her background in design and engineering, Dot Health applies tried and true experience design concepts in the old school world of healthcare.

In her experience as an employer and an employee, Huda noticed women in the workplace being hindered in their professional growth compared to their male counterparts. One of the ways she's countering this notion is by speaking out and encouraging technology companies to create inclusive workplace cultures and acknowledge unconscious biases in hiring and promoting women to leadership roles.

Huda believes in leadership that helps others. "You can't be a leader if you're not willing to do the work yourself." The best advice she's ever received is, "Learn to ask for what you want." Too often, women are hesitant to say what they're looking for in their professional career. This significantly hinders their career trajectory.

Her wish for all women in 2019?
Safety. Huda believes that is foundational for personal freedom of all women around the world. When women feel safe, they feel empowered to make the best decisions for their personal and professional lives.

JANELLE HINDS: PASSION AND CHARITY

Photo credit: @aliayphotography

At 26 years old, Janelle Hinds is an entrepreneur who loves technology and has already left a positive impact around her. Known for her work with young people and her efforts to create positive change, she continues to receive awards and honours.

Janelle was passionate about charity from a very young age. She completed the required 40 hours of volunteer work in no time to obtain her high school diploma in Ontario. Though it may have been easy for her to complete these hours, the young woman quickly noticed it was not the case for her classmates. 

After speaking with them, Janelle realized that despite the good intentions of the Ontario government, there was a socio-economic gap: disadvantaged students and newcomers did not always have the contacts they needed to find places where they could volunteer. Added to this was the lack of resources faced by school guidance counselors. 

What seemed like an obstacle for some became an exciting and purposeful project for Janelle. It's how she came up with the idea to create Helping Hands, a mobile app that solves the problem her peers had regarding volunteering opportunities. The platform helps students connect with organizations in need of help, and therefore benefits both parties. 

By creating the app, Janelle helps to increase civic and community involvement, improve young people’s CVs, make volunteering more rewarding, and support the work of guidance counsellors. The ability to have a positive impact on her community is the definition of success for Janelle, who promised herself at a young age that she would one day serve her community.

She also works with community organizations and corporations to deliver workshops to youth about the importance of volunteering, get them involved in policy and decision making, and provides support to launch their own entrepreneurial endeavours.

Photo credit: janellehinds.com

Janelle's goal is also to encourage women and  traditional minorities excluded from STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to pursue a career in these industries. Having been bullied and underestimated when she was younger, Janelle believes it is important to be confident and step away from the need to be validated by others in order to move forward in life.

As a black woman, Janelle grew up without having a role model that looked like her in the media. She therefore had to create her own vision of what a leader is, which was a character trait that as a young girl made her rather uncomfortable when people associated it with her. Having launched her company without a mentor, she promised to help any young people who come to her for guidance and support. “I hope to show them that despite the obstacles, there are others who have come before them and are willing to help them.”

Rather than letting herself be discouraged by those who underestimate and doubt her project, she focuses her energy on the people who believe in her. She encourages women and marginalized individuals to do the same because, for her, there is nothing more motivating and inspiring than seeing a generation of young people making a positive difference in the world.

Her wish for all women in 2019?
That they be their own role models, have
self-confidence, and especially take the time to help other women in order to grow together.

On March 8, Simons will donate 10% of its sales in-store and online
to the Canadian Women’s Foundation economic development program
in honour of International Women’s Day.

 In Canada, the foundation is able to help close to 1,000 women directly
and 10,000 people indirectly because of these funding initiatives.

Let’s work together to create a better future for all girls and women in the world.
Happy International Women’s Day! 

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