Life as a modern, entrepreneurial woman is nothing short of a wild ride. As I reflect on the state of women in today’s ever-changing world, I can’t help but be filled with a sense of excitement and hope. This International Women’s Day, I want to invite you into a little bit of my own journey as a female entrepreneur. To highlight the women that have impacted and inspired me, to the men that encouraged me, and the many ways that strong women simply astound me.

Strong women around the world fascinate me

Last October, I had the privilege of visiting one of the most beautiful and magical countries in the world – Kenya. It wasn’t long after leaving the bustling streets of Nairobi and venturing out to the bush that my husband and I noticed women walking along the sides of the roads carrying twice their weight in branches on their backs. It wasn’t until days later that we learned that these women belonged to the Maasai Mara tribe of southern Kenya, and that they’re responsible for building the homes in their semi-nomadic villages. In addition to this physically arduous and laborious task, which they have to repeat every couple years, the women are also responsible for fetching water, cooking meals, bearing and rearing children, weaving, creating, and washing clothing, picking and scavenging for other food, and maintaining the homes and village. Incredible! My mind and heart was baffled. I couldn’t believe the strength, agility, and fortitude of these women.

international women's day founder's noteWhether in faraway lands like East Africa, or right here at home in Canada, women constantly amaze me. What fascinates me most about women in the western world is how we’re able to balance the health and vitality of our homes and families with freely pursuing and growing our professional endeavours. I know that these privileges I enjoy came at a high cost and sacrifice from women that came before me.

 

The women who inspired and paved the way for me

I was raised by one of the strongest women I could ever know – my mother. After losing my father in a fatal car accident, my mother bore the full responsibility of raising three daughters on her own. She worked at a prominent bank in Toronto’s financial district in her twenties and thirties, and eventually went on to pursue her passion for small business by running her own shop. Witnessing her emotional strength, her creativity, and her business prowess was the catalyst for many of my business and entrepreneurial ambitions today.

Also, I grew up attending a church outside of Toronto which has been led for nearly 30 years by a strong, vivacious, single woman. For most places of worship around the world, this is still an anomaly. Every Sunday morning, she spoke with conviction, confidence, and an infectious charisma that drew people in and kept them in the congregation for decades. Seeing a woman owning the pulpit with such grace left an indelible impression on my sense of power and my ability to influence others.

The men who believed and supported me

Perhaps it was losing my father and having to take on responsibilities at such an young age, but, I never felt like there was anything I couldn’t do. Of course, I credit most of that to my mother, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge two pivotal men in my life; men who never let me discredit myself in any way.

The first was my maternal grandfather. Despite being from a generation with very traditional ideals about gender roles, he never imposed any of that on myself or my sisters. In fact, he pushed me to towards higher education, and encouraged me to pursue a professional career. He was always interested in knowing about any side endeavours I was dabbling in, and never constrained me with traditional gender norms. He truly believed in me, and made me feel like there was nothing I couldn’t do.

My husband is the next man that stepped in and never tried to change or thwart my ambitious nature. Rather, it was that very thing that attracted him to me. He came alongside my dreams and has supported every venture I’ve ever done from the moment we met. Between running a non-profit organization, to starting an online magazine, to now running Paper & Coin, he’s been my biggest cheerleader and encourager. And for that, I’m forever humbled, and grateful.

 

The biggest takeaway for me on days like today, where we celebrate the women both in our lives, and those making an impact around the world, is a greater sense of responsibility and urgency. There are still so many parts of the world where women don’t enjoy the privileges and freedoms that we in the western world do. There is still so much to be done in the marketplace to create a safe space for women to thrive as they pursue excellence in their careers. There are more opportunities that need to be created for female entrepreneurs to be able to showcase their expertise and ideas and receive the support they need. There’s still much to be done! So, I’m going to do my part to continue cultivating and growing this company and beyond, and creating opportunities for other women around me and those who will come after me to leave their mark.

founder's edit octavia picWishing all the strong, ambitious, courageous, hard-working women out there a very Happy International Women’s Day!
Sincerely,
Octavia Ramirez