Anne is the Manager of the Social Ventures Zone where she helps social entrepreneurs build their businesses.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up around 7 am and listen to the CBC while I make coffee and breakfast. On my walk to work, I listen to a podcast – either How I Built This, This American Life, Two Dope Queens or the Moth. At work, I start my day off by catching up on emails and trying to do at least one task that I want to get off my plate.
Tell us about your career path?
I currently work at the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone where I get to help social entrepreneurs build their businesses. On the side, I have co-founded the Good6, along with Bianca Sayan. Good6 is an online platform that allows consumers to shop sustainable and ethically for fashion brands.
My career path is likely similar to many entrepreneurs in the fact that I had no idea that I would end up working in the field that I am. I did my undergraduate degree in International Development. When I graduated my friend, and later my co-founder, Consuelo McAlister and I decided to start a fashion brand that connected consumers with the producers and tailors that made their clothing. We launched Local Buttons in 2010 as an up-cycled fashion brand (up-cycling is the process of taking something of a lower value and remaking it into something of a higher value). We did this by working with tailors and artisans in Haiti to create professional wear from old suit jackets, dress pants, and dress shirts. Through the four years of Local Buttons I learned more and more about fashion and the impact it has on the planet and those that make our clothing. While running Local Buttons I completed a Masters Degree in Environmental Science and Management where I focused on sustainable fashion. Our work allowed us to partner with Ryerson to lead a class on sustainable fashion in design and practice where we brought a group of students to Haiti. We also partnered with Cornell on a project to create zero waste pattern designs.
After 4 years we shut down the business. It was the hardest decision I ever made, but it was the right one. After that, I felt a bit lost. I worked for a year and a half at a solar company and learned a great deal about the renewable energy sector, and learned that the sector was not where my passion was. I transitioned into my role at the Social Ventures Zone where I feel fortunate to be working in the startup space with passionate entrepreneurs looking to solve complex social and environmental issues.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
As a woman working in the startup space, I see similar challenges that women across various sectors face. Most obviously, female entrepreneurs receive less funding than their male counterparts. In venture capital-financed, high-growth technology startups, only 9% of entrepreneurs are women.
In addition, women are often overlooked or spoken over in meetings. However, I am fortunate to work in a space where women are more likely to run social enterprises, so we see less of this. I hope that this will soon lead to more capital being allocated to women-led businesses. When running Local Buttons I was very conscious of the fact that we were thought of as too “feminine” and we were often not taken seriously at first. We were two young women starting a fashion line that was looking to address social and environmental causes, people tried to brush us, and our business off as a fad. But I learned how to deal with that by really knowing our industry and being prepared to take criticism in stride.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
My advice to young girls looking to get into entrepreneurship or sustainable fashion is to follow your passion and take chances. Innovation is created by taking chances and challenging the status quo.
I also recommend young women to ask for help when they need it. Seeking out advice and mentorship is not a sign of weakness, but demonstrates a willingness to learn and grow. People genuinely want to help others succeed and if you come from a place of passion you will find that many people will jump on board.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
It took me a long time to learn this. When I was running Local Buttons, I really felt that the business and I became one. It became difficult to separate the two, which made dissolving the company that much more difficult. I really like what I do, and am deeply vested in the sustainable fashion movement, so my personal life and work life often intersect. To make sure that I create boundaries, I actively take steps to disengage. I don’t have any of my social networks or emails pop up as reminders on my phone. I have to check each account to get an update. When I am out with friends, I don’t check my work accounts. I just remind myself that what I do is not a life or death situation and most people can wait 24 hours to hear back from me.
What inspires you?
My mother has always been of great inspiration to me. It was my mom that first taught me to value myself, and to take risks and to challenge myself. My mom was an early environmentalist and instilled in me a deep desire to give back to try to make the world a better place.
I am also inspired by the entrepreneurs I get to work with each day, I have learned so much from them.
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
I love the outdoors, so as often as I can, I try to get out of the city and into nature. Toronto has some great paths that you can get lost in for a few hours. In a past life, I was a dancer, so I try to find time to get into the studio and take a class. Living in a city like Toronto is great for that, you can take any type of dance class you want! Most recently I started a book club, and it’s fantastic.