Celebrating Pride Month: Building an Equitable and Inclusive Community

WeBC May 26, 2022

As entrepreneurs, having a support network in both your business and personal lives is fundamental.

As we celebrate Pride Month this June, we want to foster an inclusive community where everyone is empowered to lead a fulfilling life and business.

So, we caught up with some incredible LGBTQIA+ women entrepreneurs who are fostering inclusive communities to ask what community means to them, and what it has meant for their business.

Samantha Panter, Founder, K’waahlgahla (Changing the Tide) 

Q. What does it mean to be a part of a community?  

Before I started reaching out to professionals that I was inspired by, I was feeling lost and alone. This allowed self doubt to flourish and strengthened obstacles to prevent me from changing or reaching other levels of success.

Connecting with WeBC was a huge turning point, listening to webinars, speaking with the incredible staff, and attending training events was a game changer. Knowing and engaging with inspiring people that are excited for you and willing to connect you to resources you didn’t know were available. 

I connected to professionals from all diverse and minority groups including, but not limited to, First Nations entrepreneurs, and LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirited entrepreneurs.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  

Jim Rohn

This quote has shown me the impact of who I choose to surround myself with, both personally and professionally. Connecting to a community, network, and a group of positive and uplifting peers is truly priceless.

Q. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned on your entrepreneurial journey?

Connecting with community, networking within that, and having positive peers is the most valuable resource you can ever acquire personally and professionally. 

I am so grateful to all my communities. If you feel you don’t have one, or belong to one; build yours.  Start with reaching out and asking for help, or take someone out for coffee. You’ll see the opportunities and resources that are available that you were previously unaware of. I guarantee you will find your community, and feel at right at home.

Learn more & connect with Samantha Panter (Two-Spirited Cultural Ambassador), K’waahlgahla (Changing the Tide):  

Facebook – @k.waahlgahla 

Sabrina Roc Founder, Wojack Productions

Q. What does it mean to be a part of a community?  

Being part of a community gives me strength, courage and a sense and security of having a voice. I am the community, and the community is me.

I am proud to be Polyamorous and Pansexual. Sometimes I don’t like the label as it leads to more stereotypes. However, I use it to inspire young people, and to let them know that it is possible to be themselves and to create the life they want.

Q. What has that meant for your business?

For my business it means that I can dare to think differently and bring stories to life in a different matter.  As a storyteller, it is important to me to get big-screen original content that celebrates diversity—I never  saw myself on tv, or in the movie industry! 

Learn more & connect with Sabrina Roc (she/her/they)

Website – wojackproductions.biz   

Ariss Grutter and Tess Gobeil, Co-Owners, Awl Together Leather

Q. How has your community played a role in your business’ success?

Our community has played a huge role! To us, a community is a group of individuals with similar values, who care for each other’s well-being and enact change to better all our outcomes. 

Our community of LGBTQIA+ people, other business owners, and environmentally-conscious consumers helped launch our business through our Kickstarter campaign last year.

It was incredibly heartwarming to see the community come out for us, and made a big difference in our starting momentum. 

Since launching, we have helped 1,428 customers, 940 of whom became repeat customers, and we have completed 6,694 individual repair jobs—which means thousands of items kept out of a landfill.

Q. What important role does your business play in your community?

We aim to provide a safe employer, for people to enter our industry who otherwise wouldn’t. The support of our community has enabled us to expand our staff to a team of 6, most of whom identify as queer or trans. 

As young, queer entrepreneurs, it has been important for us to be visible and disrupt our largely male-dominated industry. One of our goals is to train a new wave of Female, Queer, Trans and/or BIPOC Leatherworkers so that they can open shops and the industry can grow and flourish. 

We are able to rent space to shoemaker Amy Slosky, who now runs her shoe making business out of ATL. Amy offers a skilled service that is difficult to find and we’re very grateful to both boost her business and have our own enriched by it.

For our customers, it’s our hope that we can provide classes and services (specifically leather alteration) that can’t be found anywhere else in Vancouver, taught by unique Leatherworkers. It’s important for us to connect with people in that way. 

We feel strongly that there is more room for skilled people in this industry and we hope to provide training that is equitable and valuable. We look forward to seeing more industries shift to having marginalized folks reach positions of leadership and power, and for those leaders to enact change that sustains all our related communities and our environment.

Learn more & connect with Ariss and Tess: 

Website – awltogetherleather.com

About WeBC

WeBC is a not-for-profit that has been supporting women business owners across the province for over 25 years. Working with our regional partners, we’ve provided thousands of entrepreneurs with business loans and expertise, training, resources, and peer network support to help businesses grow and thrive.

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