Happy International Women’s Day, Victoria!
Across the country, everyday female entrepreneurs are making history by pursuing their entrepreneurial passions, many of which reside right here on Vancouver Island.
From self-defence classes, tasty treats and stunning greenery, local entrepreneurs across Vancouver Island are inspiring the next generation of female business owners to strive for greatness as they achieve their aspirations.
In celebration of all they do, here are eleven female-owned small businesses throughout Greater Victoria that you won’t regret supporting:
Freeman Fabrication is a female-owned and operated, custom fabrication and furniture design business located in Victoria.
After finishing her kinesiology degree at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Bronté Freeman was living in Whistler where she discovered her passion for welding during the winter of 2015.
Now eight years later, Freeman works alongside her clients to provide beautiful designs built to last. Their style is one that combines a passion for quality metalwork and for sourcing raw local materials. With this, our aspiration is to create a unique and noteworthy piece for every customer.
- Where: Freeman Fabrication, 2740 Rock Bay Avenue.
Accent Inns/Hotel Zed
Hotel Zed’s motto, “rebels against the ordinary” is a business standard local accommodation owner, Mandy Farmer still holds strong to this day.
Farmer leads a family business that operates five Accent Inns throughout BC, as well as Hotel Zed accommodations in Victoria, Kelowna and Tofino.
In recent weeks, Mandy Farmer has been recognized by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce 2023 Award of Distinction.
Bin 4 Burger
Sarah Blackmore studied hospitality with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. A couple of years later, she met Dan, and Bin 4 Burger Lounge was born. Restaurants, marriage and a baby came next, and PROFIT Guide named Sarah one of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.
If you didn’t know, Sarah throws a mean party—you can often find her planning staff parties, contests and events.
- 3271 Maple Street, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- 911 Yates Street, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- 716 Goldstream Avenue, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
As the sole owner of the women-owned and operated, Iluka Espresso, Salter’s vision since the start has been to create a space that is entirely handmade, from the furniture, the design and the decor, while serving Australian-inspired coffee.
Providing a welcoming environment where people can connect, experience great customer service, and enjoy excellent coffee and local handmade goods and furniture.
In the near future, Salter plans on utilizing Iluka Espresso as a creative space used to host fundraisers, workshops, parties, pop-up shops for local artists, as well as inviting at risk youth for complementary workshops to learn new skills.
- Where: Iluka Espresso, 101 Island Highway
- Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Ha of Elegance Nails
Originally from Vietnam, Ha is a mother of 5 who has operated her own business for 14 years.
Ha specializes in nails, brows and waxing. “We saw it as a great business opportunity to start our business, as we knew Victoria at the time did not have a lot of nail salons where you could just drop in,” said Ha.
Ha tells Victoria Buzz, “as a female in the industry, it is something that can never be taken away from us and despite what happens in the world feeling pampered and beautiful will always be a priority. I think the challenge is breaking the stigma that nails brows and waxing is just for females when in reality it’s for everyone of all ages.”
You can find Ha at Elegance Nails in Westshore Town Centre at #158-2945 Jacklin Road.
(Sizzling Tandoor / Westshore Town Centre)
Narpinder is a self taught chef who started her business purely based on her passion for creating delicious Indian cuisine for family and friends.
Prior to opening Sizzling Tandoor, Narpinder was a pharmacy technician. Today, Sizzling Tandoor operates three family friendly locations in Victoria.
After years of hosting parties and events for friends and family, those around her strongly encouraged the self made business owner to launch her own restaurant.
While people often assume Sizzling Tandoor is a franchise, Narpinder wants Victoria foodies to know they are a local family business.
When it comes to the challenges of owning and operating the business as a woman, Narpinder wishes people would take the time to recognize the efforts and initiative it has taken for female business owners such as herself to stand out amongst male business owners.
“People always assume the owner is a male. People mostly affiliate my husband as being the owner. Although we own it together, and that’s okay, it is disappointing that this assumption still exists. Most chefs, bartenders and managers tend to be men so as a female our ability in these roles tends to get questioned often. As women in these roles, we shouldn’t have to work harder to prove ourselves, so hopefully, this will change in the near future,” said Narpinder.
- 3600 Uptown Boulevard
- 637 Johnson Street
- 2955 Phipps Road
Tiny flwrs was born one muggy late-summer afternoon while Ella and Ash were collecting yarrow and calendula in the garden.
Farmer fatigue had reached its peak, as we had both spent the previous spring and summer working as vegetable farmers on different farms on the Saanich Peninsula.
Daydreaming of farming that would pay the pair more than minimum wage and wouldn’t require us 10-hour work days, 6 days a week, seemed lofty and romantic at the time.
On their first day selling flowers, Ella and Ash drove their van down to Beach Drive and sold flowers to people who passed by.
As the sun began to set, they ventured downtown to Bastion Square, where we sold the rest of our bouquets from a bucket while dancing to live music.
This experience assured us that we could not only grow flowers but that people actually wanted to buy what we had grown…
After their first success, they began to arrange more ‘official’ selling opportunities, such as a weekly pop-up at Habit Coffee and deliveries to the Local General Store on Haultain.
Curious customers began messaging the local business owners on Instagram, asking for flwrs and next thing they knew they were succession planting and learning about floral design in order to meet our growing demand.
Together, they managed to successfully create their own small farming business that feeds their souls and local pollinators.
Sixth Sense Self Defense
Everyone deserves to have the tools they need to feel safe.
Yvette André is the creator and head instructor of Sixth Sense Self Defence, a Victoria company wanting to help young women and female identifying individuals feel safe through setting boundaries and learning how to navigate a boundary being broken.
Related: Inspired by passion: Victoria woman empowering young women through martial arts
“[Female identifying] women and girls have a very different challenge because we’ve been groomed to be quiet, don’t make a scene, don’t be rude, all of these factors play into a sort of societal grooming of how to hold a boundary or not hold a boundary,” André told Victoria Buzz.
Recently she has also partnered with the Capital Regional District (CRD) to offer her courses publicly in their 2023 programming.
Her programming and courses are being offered in a couple of communities throughout Greater Victoria because the CRD has recognized the importance of André’s vision and teachings.
Here’s when Sixth Sense Self Defence’s CRD courses are taking place:
- Introduction to personal boundaries and self-defence workshop for women (For ages 10 to 13-years-old)
- Where: North Saanich Middle School, North Saanich
- When: Tuesday and Thursday, March 21st and 23rd from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Price: $140 for two classes
- Introduction to personal boundaries and self-defence workshop for women (For ages 13 to 18-years-old)
- Where: North Saanich Middle School, North Saanich
- When: Tuesday and Thursday, March 21st and 23rd from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
- Price: $140 for two classes
Fatso Peanut Butter
Jill launched Fatso in the back of a health food restaurant in Victoria, BC in August 2016.
Armed with two stand mixers and lots of cleaning supplies (peanut butter is very messy), Jill optimized her recipe with the goal of creating a lower cost nut butter that packed more nutrition into one spoonful than any other nut butter on the market.
For the first two years in business, Jill packed up her small SUV with exactly 73 cases of Fatso and delivered her product to grocery stores all over BC.
She set up demos every weekend between Vancouver Island and Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, firmly believing that if people could just taste Fatso, they would buy it. And they did.
Today the delicious peanut butter is sold in stores across Canada and throughout the United States.
10 years ago Jennifer Robinson moved to Victoria with a spirit of Adventure and now that Adventure continues in a most exhilarating way.
Robinson is grateful for friends and family that continue to support our adventures along the way.
- Where: 560 Yates Street
- Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tessa McLoughlin is the Founder and Director of KWENCH, a full-service work and culture club.
Kwench is a community of creative, ambitious professionals sharing unique workspaces and new experiences. Their memberships are flexible and include everything you expect, and some you wouldn’t:
- Where: Kwench, 2031 Store Street
Notaries on Douglas
Prior to becoming a Notary Public in 1998, Sabrina Hanousek worked in various law firms in Vancouver and Victoria, as well as overseas in London, England and Sydney, Australia.
This global exposure has given Hanousek invaluable experience, expertise, and knowledge in all aspects of the legal profession.
- Where: 2420 Douglas Street
Originally launching in 2009 from a booth at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, Wendy Ouellet now operates Local Reflections, a successful gift and clothing shop at the Westshore Town Centre.
As a local female business owner, Ouellet attributes a great deal of her success to the support community around her.
“The community is growing, but it still has that small town feel, I love the regular customers who come in and we chat away like were long time friends. I have lots of friends and family in the area too, they support me and pass on my name. And of course I only live 8 minutes away and not having to commute is a nice bonus. I find that the other Westshore tenants and employees are always friendly waving and saying hello,” Ouellet tells Victoria Buzz.
- Where: Westshore Town Centre, 2945 Jacklin Road
- Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
As we celebrate National Women’s Day, what local businesses owned by female entrepreneurs are you proud to support?
With files from Curtis Blandy and Staff Writers.