While great strides have been made in gender equality, much more work remains to be done. In Canada, women own only 16% of small and medium-sized companies, evidencing a clear gender gap in the entrepreneurial sector. The women who are leading businesses are breaking down barriers with talent, hard work, and endless enthusiasm. In Vancouver, many of these inspirational women run food companies that make artisanal products well worth supporting through your purchasing decisions.
What Are Women-Led Businesses?
While a woman-led business is primarily one with a female founder or co-founder, the term also encompasses ones that have a female in a management or executive role. Ultimately, a women-led company is driven by the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of a female leader.
3 Reasons to Support Women-Led Companies
Besides the fact that female-led companies offer amazing products, there are numerous other reasons why supporting them is well warranted – and necessary.
1. Women Juggle Multiple Roles: Many women in business have far more added responsibilities than their male counterparts. According to Statistics Canada, women still do the majority of household chores as well as child rearing. This imbalance makes it even harder for them to devote the necessary time to a business enterprise. Any support they receive would ease this burden.
2. The Pandemic Has Hit Women Particularly Hard: While the pandemic has been challenging for most small businesses, women-led enterprises have particularly struggled for a variety of reasons, such as increased childcare loads and the loss of other employment.
3. Women Face More Systemic Challenges: Whether it’s not having access to the same business networks as males, or being less likely to be approved for financing, female entrepreneurs have to overcome many systemic obstacles on their paths to success. Levelling the playing field means giving them as much support as possible.
3 Ways You Can Support Women-Led Organizations
There are numerous avenues for helping women-led companies. They don’t have to be grand gestures; instead, they can be small, but meaningful acts that show you care about empowering women.
1. Become a Conscious Consumer: Learn about the stories and the women behind the goods you buy. Not only will this research ensure better quality merchandise, but you’ll also appreciate the tireless efforts that went into crafting your purchases.
2. Donate and Invest in What they Do: Since female entrepreneurs are often at a disadvantage when dealing with financial institutions, consider investing in their crowdfunded initiatives. Or, donate money and/or time to organizations that support women in business, particularly ones that empower females from marginalized communities.
3. Tell Others: Spread the word about female-led businesses to your friends, family, and colleagues. Explain to your contacts what makes their products so incredible and why these companies deserve their support.
Top 8 Women-Led Food Businesses Near Me
British Columbia has seen an exciting rise in women-led startups, fueled by initiatives like Dream Cuisines, which helps kickstart local food businesses run by refugee women. The food items from these women-led companies are so delicious, you’ll want to buy from all of them regularly.
Founder Alia Sunderji is inspiring on so many levels. The Sustainable Innovation Lecturer at Simon Fraser University used her expertise to craft a company devoted to repurposing ‘ugly’ and bruised fruits and veggies to make artisanal spreads and chutneys. Luv the Grub also offers paid training programs to disadvantaged workers, like newcomer refugees. Because Sunderji’s own mother was a refugee from Uganda, she knows firsthand how important it is to support immigrants to Canada.
Best Products: The Spiced Mango Chutney with sliced almonds, serrano peppers, and sultana raisins goes with practically everything while the Chai Apple Spread is wonderful on toast or as a topping for yogurt or oatmeal.
Gift this: The Chutney and Spread Sampler, which comes with 2 oz jars of the Chai Apple Spread, Spiced Mango Chutney, and Pear Walnut Chutney, is a lovely gift to anyone who likes unique condiments.
Why buy from Luv the Grub: The company contributes actively to both sustainability and immigrant skills training.
Address: 1370 East Georgia Street, Vancouver
Dynamic duo Rachel Chew and Rachel Leung named their company Dilly Dally Granola because they wanted to advocate for a slower, more thoughtful lifestyle. The two home bakers teamed up to make granola inspired by their love of nature and the outdoors. Ingredients are fresh, natural, and aimed to fill you up with hearty nutrition.
Best Products: You’ll never tire of Dally’s Fave, which comes with granola, toasted almonds, coconut, hemp seeds, vanilla, and chai spices. It’s a great start to the morning, or perfect as a snack during your next adventure.
Gift this: Let your giftee experience the best of Autumn Morning, with a granola blend packed with pumpkin, coffee, pecans, pepitas, pumpkin spices, and espresso dark chocolate drizzle.
Why buy from Dilly Dally Granola: The Rachels are exuberant entrepreneurs, evidencing the power of female led-businesses to energize customers with their business philosophy and products.
Mis Cazuelas got its start with Dream Cuisines, the business pilot program for newcomer women, and since then has been proudly and lovingly preparing northern Mexican cuisine for customers. Owner Angeles Canedo drew upon her memories of her mother preparing food in the kitchen when she came up with the recipes for her Mexican comfort food. Expect classic staples, like vegan Tarascan bean soup that will warm your heart and your belly.
Best Products: For those weeknights you’re too busy to cook, the Pastel Azteca is a go-to option. The casserole consists of layers of corn tortillas, shredded chicken or mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, onion, cheese, and poblano and jalapeño peppers. Serve it with a side salad for a no-stress, very satisfying meal.
Gift this: Show your love with some vegan Green Pozole (frozen). This traditional stew is hearty and exceptionally cosseting, made with hominy and flavour-heightened with coriander, spinach, swiss chard, and mushrooms. Your giftee can add to this goodness by topping the bowl with shredded lettuce, avocado, and a squeeze of lime for zing.
Why buy from Mis Cazuelas: The business represents everything that’s wonderful about female-led businesses: a sharing spirit, a passion for a well-made product, and a strong sense of community.
Address: 1370 East Georgia Street, Vancouver
For those looking for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free baking, Marie’s Guilt Free Bakery has treats for all your dietary needs. Marie Brown, the eldest child in a vegetarian household, began making plant-based desserts from an early age. When her brother and mother were diagnosed as celiac, she began exploring gluten-free baking. Marie’s Guilt Free Bakery is a regular at farmers markets across the Lower Mainland where people line up to purchase from her stall. She sells a wide assortment of baked items, including sugar cookies, pumpkin loaves, and blueberry muffins.
Best Products: A dozen of the vegan chocolate or pumpkin spice donuts will definitely make you popular at your house (or at any gathering), but don’t forget the Nanaimo Bars, which are just like the classic version, except vegan and gluten-free.
Gift this: Her walnut chocolate truffles are decadent but also make for a beautiful present, with the addition of gold leaf.
Why buy from Marie’s Guilt Free Bakery: You can reach for that delectable cookie or square without worrying it might contain gluten, sugar, or butter and eggs.
Address: 403-20540 Duncan Way, Langley
Drawing from ancient healing practices, Shorba Bone Broth offers high quality elixirs intended to improve gut health and reduce inflammation. Founder Mithalee Rawat worked in the food industry as a chef and kitchen manager before deciding to devote herself to bone broth. She uses only the highest quality local grass-fed beef bones and free-range chicken bones for her broth, which she simmers for 24 to 48 hours. Rawat adds whole spices, like turmeric root, green cardamom pods, and cinnamon bark, which, according to Ayurvedic principles, have medicinal benefits. Apple cider vinegar further amps up the nutritional value derived from the bones.
Best Products: The 48-Hour Beef Broth with Ayurvedic Elixir will supercharge your day, with spices like fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. It comes in 750 mL packs for easy reheating. Drink it in place of your usual cup of morning coffee.
Gift this: Like a loving hug, give someone the 24-Hour Chicken Bone Broth with Ayurvedic Elixir. It’s soothing, flavourful, and packed with restorative goodness.
Why buy from Shorba Bone Broth: Mithalee Rawat is also the co-founder of BIPOC Foods Van, a platform devoted to spotlighting the best of BIPOC food, wellness, and art in the city. Her bone broth is part of a larger aim of building community.
Address: 547 East Hastings, Vancouver
Not only is the True NOSH Company female-led, but it’s also purpose-driven. Founder Renée Chan, a registered dietician, launched her business in response to the loss of her father to diabetes. She produces with integrity by only using local ingredients and keeping her items free of added sugars. Even better, they’re preservative- and gluten-free, in addition to being vegan. The company showcases that healthy eating can still be highly enjoyable with products that range from granola power bites with goji berries, pumpkin seeds, figs, dates, and flax seeds to a Home Run Hot Sauce featuring ghost pepper, cherries, and smoked paprika.
Best Products: Dumpling aficionados will adore the Frozen Gluten Free Veggie Dumplings and the Frozen Vegan Shiu Mai XLBB (Xtra Large Bite Beyond Meat). Meanwhile, the Monk Fruit Ginger Tea and So Figgity Lemonade are refreshing all natural beverages.
Gift this: The company produces some amazing sauces that would be wonderful as gifts. The vegan XOXO provides instant fiery umami, while the Black Garlic, Sweet Potato and Apple Sauce is a healthy take on classic hoisin.
Why buy from the True NOSH Company: If you are looking to decrease your sugar intake without decreasing flavour, you’ll quickly become a fan of their products.
Address: 1488 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver
When Jasmine Bourret and her husband decided to adopt a ketogenic lifestyle, they became frustrated at the lack of baked goods available. And the ones they found didn’t have the best texture or flavour. Bourret started making gluten-free and sugar-free treats that the two of them could enjoy, and it wasn’t long before people they knew started asking if they could place orders. Bourret sources local ingredients, whenever possible, and makes sure to use natural sweeteners that won’t increase blood sugar levels. Besides desserts, she sells chia strawberry jam, Better Than A Bagel Everything Seasoning, and flavoured almonds (dill pickle, cinnamon mocha, and hot ‘n’ spicy).
Best Products: The Better Than Cheddar Bay Garlic Cheese Biscuits are scrumptious, especially when toasted and dipped in your favourite soup. After your meal, you can treat yourself to a heavenly strawberry cheesecake bar.
Gift this: A bag of the Brownie Bites will always be appreciated. They’re classic and the perfect size for a mid-day indulgence or two.
Why buy from the Friendly Keto Lady: Because Bourret has become an expert on ketogenic baking, you can trust the items she makes are suited to the diet. Plus, her treats are ideal for anyone else watching the gluten and sugar content of their food.
Address: 108-375 Lynn Avenue, North Vancouver
Once you taste the kimchi from Salty Cabbage, you won’t be able to go back to the mass produced kinds found in chain supermarkets. Founder Kailyn Chun took family kimchi recipes and adapted them to incorporate seasonal local fruits and vegetables. Her kimchi is made in small batches, using only the highest quality of ingredients. Without MSG or other preservations, her kimchi has a freshness and vibrancy of flavour you’ll adore. Entirely plant-based options make kimchi accessible to all.
Best Products: The Classic Kimchi, which also comes in a vegan version, is made from napa cabbage, garlic, ginger, and green onion that have been naturally fermented until tangy and rich in probiotics. Local pear and apple are added when they’re available.
Why buy from Salty Cabbage: Serve Chun’s handmade kimchi as part of your banchan (small dishes) before your main meal, and you’ll very much impress your guests.
Address: 150-1507 Powell Street
Raise Up Female-Led Businesses
While these companies led by women are all unique, they share values embedded in community, wellbeing, and healthy eating. By championing these businesses with your purchases, you’re making sure that female entrepreneurs continue to thrive. Hopefully, their success will motivate more women to take the leap and open their own businesses.