I love supporting other mom entrepreneurs whenever I can. When my friend at Felicity PR (run and operated by moms) invited me to their inaugural Woman Cave event, I promised I'd be there, and I'm so happy I went. I saw many of the awesome women I usually only chat with online, and I met some smart entrepreneurs who shared their advice. I was exposed to new products and services, and the day reminded me how important it is to get out and network!
Here's some of the stuff I saw that had me hooked:
The day started off with a surprisingly yummy treat and a neat twist on granola bars. We were treated to parfaits created with crumbled Fibre 1 Bars, yogurt, and fresh fruit. It was a delicious, healthy treat, and the best part? Each Fibre 1 bar equals 20% of your daily fibre intake.
Sad fact: 62 million girls around the world don't attend school. I adore this Pink LemonAid fundraising initiative launched by Plan's Because I Am A Girl to support girls around the world. My daughter has already hosted a few Pink LemonAid stands to raise money for Plan Canada and even made this video to raise awareness. If you're looking for a meaningful family activity this summer, consider running a Pink LemonAid stand to raise funds for this worthy organization!
Taessa believes it's time for women to have an alternative to yoga wear when you just want something comfy and casual to throw on. Her collection of high end jumpsuits are "the perfect balance of playful sophistication and luxurious comfort." You can see her collections here.
These fun practical bags come in so many bold colours and designs that it's impossible to pick a favourite. They're made of durable, waterproof fabric so they can be wiped clean and are great for schlepping stuff to the beach, cottage, or on vacation. I'm taking mine to Italy when I go to Me and Mom in Tuscany with my daughter this summer. It folds flat in a suitcase so it's easy to pack and will be perfect as a shopping bag for my Italian excursions. You can buy them online here.
Yummy made-to-order cookies including these handmade ice cream sandwiches are what Sweet Flour Bakery is known for: decadent and delicious treats. Check them out in Toronto here.
These are brilliant little chic diaper bags developed by a couple of moms. You can use them to carry your baby’s diaper changing essentials; you can use them for your potty training with toddler (holds a change of clothes, extra underwear etc.), and then as your baby gets older, use as a makeup or travel case. Look at all the cute colours here.
It's so important for women to take care of ourselves. Forget guilty pleasure - there are real medical benefits to time at the spa. Everyone who attended the Woman Cave was invited to experience a signature Elmwood Spa massage. I was too busy schmoozing, but every single person who was treated to a massage was in heaven. Here's more info about Elmwood Spa massages.
Congrats to the team at Felicity PR for such a fun, interactive event. Make sure I'm on your guest list for next year's Woman Cave!
This week I - along with thousands of other TDSB elementary school parents - received a letter from Donna Quan, Director of Education at the Toronto District School Board, informing parents that report cards will not be completed this year as part of a provincial-wide work-to-rule strike action.
To say I am upset is a massive understatement. If the teachers and their union think that pissing off parents is the way to get action, they are sadly mistaken. If teachers, the school board and their unions think that acting in this petulant manner will evoke empathy from hard-working taxpaying parents and caregivers, they're wrong on that account as well.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but educators are getting paid to do their job - yet refusing to finish the job they're getting paid for. Educators are getting paid BY PARENTS and are refusing to complete the job because they're angry and not getting the attention and answers they want from the government. The problem is with the government, but the kids and parents pay the price.
Teachers, our kids are watching you, and they're watching us. They are hearing the conversations happening around dining room tables and in minivans. They are disappointed and hurt and feel let down and SO ARE WE.
My daughter has worked so hard this year to earn a top notch report card. Her teachers have been fantastic. They've been inspirational, stern when necessary, fun, and full of leadership. It's been a great year for her; her last in elementary school. Next year she moves to middle school, but now instead of finishing her year with a document capturing all her hard work, she's being told by teachers, "Sorry, the union's demands are more important than all your hard work over the school year. Sorry kid. We've gotta do what's in our best interest."
Welcome to the school of hard knocks, kiddo.
As an entrepreneur who works hard to earn a living, not to mention never knowing when the next paycheck will come in, I have little sympathy for teachers who are well-paid to do a noble job they ostensibly love and then pull this stunt. Teachers in the public sector have health benefits, their union pays them generously with their pension investments, plus they get perks like an ample vacation time like not having to work all summer. Times are tough for many of us eking out a living, and frustration at unions is understandable: more and more of us (many of whom are also highly educated and trained for specific careers) are finding it hard to find decent jobs. I understand that not all teachers support their union's actions but are unable to say so - and that in itself is another huge problem. Because teachers? You are pissing off the very people who pay your salary - parents.
Those of us not employed in the public school system work hard all year round and hope we make enough money through to pay our bills. And we only get paid when we complete work to our bosses or clients' satisfaction. In other words, the job teachers agree to do includes having report cards completed for kids at the end of the school year. No report cards? Pay should be docked accordingly. Give that money to stay at home moms and dads who can use some extra cash and let them input the report cards. Can't do that, says the union. Privacy issues. I cry bullshit again. If you polled parents and ask if they choose privacy over getting a report card, I'm pretty sure you'd have an avalanche of support of outsourcing the data inputting, but instead the union is holding the information hostage.
You want to get results? Why not stop angering the very people who can help you make change? Why not start a full-on campaign inviting parents to HELP YOU make the changes you feel are necessary to improve our kids' education?
Yesterday, I sent out a series of tweets expressing my deep displeasure on the decision to punish families by refusing to complete report cards. Some random Twitter follower responded to me with "It's been nice following you. Unfollow." I'm sorry that my opinion offends you and anyone else in the school system, but you need to know that you are alienating parents and have lost support based on your actions. I love and appreciate how hard you work to educate our kids, but your union's decision to express displeasure with the government by punishing my daughter is reprehensible and infantile; and this is a union you voted for and support. When my local school board Trustee noted my frustration on Twitter, I was impressed that she took the time to send me an email to explain the situation. However, it just fueled my anger, reinforcing the political game of passing the buck.
Any parenting expert can tell you that tantrums don't work. Any parent will tell you that bullying is unacceptable. Any kid not receiving their report card will tell you they're very sad and confused that all their hard work has been for nothing.
Life is about choices. Teachers and educators just made a very bad one.
So there I was, standing at the #SocialforGood Conference podium about to hand out awards to some well-deserving social entrepreneurs like EMBERS Marcia Nozick. But first, I had to get through my keynote without crying. Each time I attempted to start my speech, that feeling of overwhelming emotion would rise up, making it impossible for me to talk without tears.
I looked out into the audience and spotted three people who work at YMC. The words I was trying to speak were written for them.
I get emotional when I talk about YMC. It started almost a decade ago as a way for me to meet other like minded women with kids. As the site grew and evolved into YMC Works, a profitable digital media company, I have managed to surround myself with a team of self-motivated, hardworking, creative people to help me grow the business. But what my unsuspecting staff didn't know was that I had an "evil plan" involving them which was hatched way back in the 80's.
Back in the day when I made a living talking about music and wearing kooky hats, I worked for a major broadcasting company with less than stellar management skills. There was a distinct lack of employee training, I was paid less than the men who did a comparable job, and I was frequently reminded I could be easily replaced. Basically, the implication was I should thank my lucky stars I had this dream job. Well, they were right; I did have a dream job I adored, but their management style made me feel off balance and insecure. I remember experiencing anxiety coming into work as self-doubt crept into my work - not great for someone representing the company on camera on a daily basis.
I remember thinking to myself that if I ever had people working for me I would treat them the exact opposite way I was treated at my job.
Fast forward twenty-odd years and here I am, the CEO of this amazing digital media company, writing cheques to 90 people a month, and now standing in front of a kindred audience of social entrepreneurs.
Conference founder Leigh Mitchell introduced me as someone who practices social good by virtue of empowering moms through YMC. But that's really only half the story - the half that reflects the public face of my business. There's another equally meaningful side to the business of YMC.
Erica with Cass
I stood at the podium describing how I practice #SocialForGood behind the scenes, and how it ties into my evil plan to change your world.
For the past ten years, I've been able to walk the walk and talk the talk because I make it a priority to ensure each person who works with YMC knows how they are appreciated. Unlike my past bosses, I make it a point to tell them, show them, thank them, and let them know they are NOT easily replaceable. No one is. Everyone brings a unique perspective and voice to make a business what it is.
Erica with Andrea, Hailey, Jen, Jen, Evelyn, and Annabel
For me, it's essential that everyone I employ feels valued and heard. The trickle down effect? Hopefully the people I work with feel good about themselves and pass that good vibe onto their friends and family. Six degrees of goodness!
And that's my evil plan - to very subtly change the world, one person at a time, simply by treating them with respect.
Erica and Jeni, Katja, Candace
And there's another evil agenda those of us with businesses can't deny. When your team well, you reap the financial benefits of productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion. I can tell you that the gang at YMC have told me on several occasions they have never worked harder at any job and have never enjoyed what they did more. (THANK YOU AGAIN!) (Ed. note: Every word, all true.) Because of their dedication, the business of YMC continues to flourish. It's really a win/win scenario for everyone involved.
Erica and Sharon
So, what's the point of this post? Not to brag about the awesomeness of the team I have the honour of working with everyday. No; instead it's a rallying cry to other business owners to take a hard look at how you work with those who work with you. If your experience is anything like mine, you will reap the benefits and then some.
Trust me. It's good to be "evil."
(Ed. note: And trust us, Erica; we are all equally as glad to have such an "evil" boss. XO)