Dream, Girl and the Female Entrepreneurial Experience

Thunder Bay screening of Kickstarter film brings women together to talk business

By Sam Mathers, News Editor

On October 26, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of Dream, Girl at The Chantrelle. Dream, Girl was created by Erin Bagwell, a New Yorker who felt suffocated by her day job, but found inspiration through her blog, “Feminist Wednesday,” which she worked on after-hours. Bagwell quit her job, raised $100K in a Kickstarter campaign, hired an all female crew, and met her production partner Komal Minhas. In 2016, the feature-length film premiered at the White House for the White House Council on Women and Girls’ Women and Entrepreneurship Event. Since then, it has been screened in 40 different countries (including the Paris Theatre in New York City) and was featured on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100. 

Presented by Loving her Life, the event brought together women (and a few men) from all over Thunder Bay to watch the film and hear from female entrepreneurs Kateri Banning, Sandi Boucher, Marlo Ellis, and Lauren Whitburn. Facilitating the panelist discussion was Loving Her Life’s Shawnassie-Lynn Galesloot-Bourgoin. Filled with encouragement, laughter, and girl power, it was an incredibly inspiring evening, that in many ways, felt like a gathering of old friends.

PC: @dreamgirlfilm (Instagram)

Here is what the panel had to say about the female experience in entrepreneurship:

On Going for It 

Sandi Boucher: I honestly believe that if there’s something inside you that you want to do one day, don’t get caught up in how. Because you don’t know how yet, that’s why you’re not doing it yet. “How” will happen, “how” will come to you. But I honestly believe if that’s inside you, you’re already collecting the puzzle pieces to make that happen.

Kateri Banning: I took maternity leave and that was when I enrolled in trade school at [Confederation] College and my daughter’s first birthday was my very first day of college, which you know, going to college, I’m scared shitless because like really, there’s two girls in my class…everybody else was men… Every single day when you’d walk into class or every time you were learning a new tool or you’re learning something where just you know that everybody’s just watching – can she use the drill properly? Stupid things like that. But then when I graduated trade school, it was within two months I started my company…I had a Chevy Cavalier, I couldn’t even haul plywood…and then you just keep growing from there and you buy the $500 GMC truck so you can haul plywood finally, and you just keep going. 

Shawnassie-Lynn Galesloot-Bourgoin: Nothing is reserved for special people…you can do whatever you want to do.

Marlo Ellis: When we’re challenged, the challenges are put in front of us often times so that we’ll step away. 

Lauren Whitburn: I never really had big dreams when I was little. I never thought I was destined for something big, and in my journey, I’ve kind of taken a look – and I do know I’m destined for great things, but the question I keep saying to myself over and over and over is: why me?… Somebody has to do it. Somebody does, so why not you?

On Fear

ME: Fear is the foundation of why we don’t do things. So, if you can take your fear and figure out what you can replace it with, you will accomplish what you dream of.

SB: Do I have challenges? Yes. Do I have rough days? Yes. Do I have challenges that scare the daylights out of me? Yes. Have I come father than I ever though I could? Abso-freaking-lutely.

SLGB: That’s the other thing – we’re all scared, we’re all kind of like shit scared, actually. No one is not afraid… you’ve just got to take it and do it.

On the Importance of a Tribe

ME: I surround myself with the people that I feel good around…When you have a tribe, you can do anything.

SLGB: The one thing about owning your own business, is you can be really picky about who you spend your time with. You’re not forced to spend time with people all day that you don’t like or don’t want to spend time with.

SB: It’s not about abandoning people, it’s about honouring you. Teach people how to treat you by treating you the way you should be treated.

On Authenticity

LW: I think that when we are our authentic selves that it is really a gift to other people; and whether that’s in business or just talking to someone on the street, I always make a very conscious choice if I ask someone how they are, I want to hear the real answer, and so if people ask me how I am… I’ll take a moment and if it’s not a good day, it’s like you know what, today is not that great of a day. And that’s ok, because its just one day.

ME: I learned that lesson when I wasn’t bringing all of myself to the table…I would always be a certain way and then I would always kick myself later in the car going, why didn’t you just say what you meant to say, why didn’t you just do what you meant to do? Because what I’ve realized is I’m far more powerful when I’m 100% me.

SB: Every [female] entrepreneur I know – we’re all very different no one has given us permission to be who we are, and we all at some point decided we’re doing it anyway. Every single one of us are successful because we are who we are. We stopped trying to be someone else and fit in some box, and owned who we are, owned the space…and dared to be us.

On Finding Beauty in Challenges 

ME: I’m the version of me that I needed four years ago when I was going through a really nasty separation that actually launched my career … Sometimes the darkest pain, [or] challenge that we have is the thing that launches us into the most beautiful place.

LW: I feel so strongly about the fact that we need to hear those things just as people – we need to know that especially in this day and age with social media where everything looks all pretty and perfect and tied up with a ribbon, that we need to know that when people are succeeding, other areas of their life could potentially be failing as well, because that is life…I went through a separation a few years ago and I’m now a single mom, and I wouldn’t say it launched me hugely in my career, but it launched me forward in so many other areas of my life because when you hit that rock bottom place, you have no choice.

KB: I felt like the biggest fraud last year. Last year, I separated from my husband – I was going through a very bitter, nasty divorce – it was the beginning of it. And of all years, that’s the year I won Entrepreneur of the Year, Influential Woman of the Year… it made me think though too, like it’s kind of a good thing that everything isn’t always sunshine and lollipops and roses because our stories wouldn’t be that great, we wouldn’t be the people that we are.

On Proving People Wrong

SB: My career started when I lost my mom. My mom was a beautiful Ojibwe woman with a grade four education…and the world looked down on her – she was Native, she was uneducated, she was unworthy. Not in our house, and not to me. Because I knew her wisdom and I knew her stories and I knew her teachings, and I knew how she had this power to make other people believe in themselves. When she died, I was so scared those stories would die. I had no idea how to write a book, I had no idea how to get a book published, and I sure didn’t know how to work as a motivational speaker. I knew I had to. So, I walked away from a well over 100,000 dollar a year job in Toronto to start my business and move home. Now I’m not at the $100,000 mark, but I’m bringing in over 80 this year and it’s all just me doing public speaking. They pay me that to talk, and they pay me that to share the stories of a woman with a grade 4 education. 

On the Next Generation

LW: We tell little girls they can be anything they want to be and where does that get lost along the way? …It lights a fire under me, because we have so much work to do, and we’re the ones who are going to do it.

SB: My culture says with a gift comes responsibility… All the awards I’ve won – because there’s a few of them – I take those into the northern communities and I let the girls play with them. And I show them my tattoos and I tell them about growing up in a house that didn’t have running water because when they look at the TV, they don’t see Indigenous people as successful.  And they don’t identify with people that aren’t Indigenous. It’s so important that we think of the marginalized, because telling them “what do you want to be?” well, dreaming is just not in their realm until they meet enough people that put it there.

Shawnassie-Lynn Galesloot-Bourgoin is a consultant, coach and facilitator at Loving Her Life, which “empowering Dreamers, Doers & Change Makers to build a life and business to love.”

Kateri Banning is the Chief Operations Officer and Project Manager of Skaarup Construction and the host of the show “Giant Dreams Under Construction” that aims to highlight positive stories of individuals in the community working toward their dreams.

Sandi Boucher is an award winning Indigenous speaker and activist, and the author of the books Honorary Indian and Her Mother’s Daughter. 

Marlo Ellis is a freedom coach and motivational speaker, who hosts retreats and mentorship experiences which empower women to “become masters of their own mindset.”

Lauren Whitburn is an independent Senior Cadillac Sales Director for Mary Kay Canada who teaches, trains, and empowers women to run successful businesses.