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Randa Roberts - So Comfy Designs - Sarnia, ON
August 02, 2021

Randa Roberts - So Comfy Designs - Sarnia, ON

Proud to introduce one of the first Girl Gang Members with a unique small business that has won her awards and high praise in her community. 

 

 

What is So Comfy Designs? How did you start and how long have you been in business?

It goes back to 2012, where my first collection was headbands and sandals made from upcycled t-shirts. The first, and most common feedback I got was "it's SO COMFY!" and my BFF suggested I name my business So Comfy Designs. Starting out I had a lot to learn, and I just tried to be open and find something that resonated with me, and to make a product that nobody else was making. Eventually upcycled sweater mittens, and then upcycled leather bags became what I was known for. And here we are! 

 

Creating new designs and keeping up on trends can be tricky, how do you maintain your growth and keep it fresh?

Well, the materials will always inspire me, so when I get handed some leather for a custom bag, or I find a couch on the curb to strip, that's when the first ideas come to me. I've found that the trick to keeping trendy is to pick one element of a trend I love, then include it in my work. That way it's timely but also timeless. So, a recent example is I love the trend of the pieced wood art wall hangings/furniture, so I was inspired to design something similar, but with leather, and made it into a coin purse. I do my best, and if it doesn't resonate with me, then I don't make it.


Tell us about your new Vessel Collection you just launched.

It came from the need to de-stash my couch leather collection! I'd been stripping couches and had a lot of really useful leather, but no idea what to do. I was totally inspired by the thickness and the beautiful suede back that was in excellent shape, so I created a collection of bags that didn't have linings, and really are a vessel for your essentials. Wallet, keys, phone. Simple bags, that in my opinion, were very beautiful in their own minimalistic way. I've been carrying one of the fold over styles for months and I love to use it. Perfect for summer!

  

What was one of your most memorable pieces you’ve made to date?

Like asking me who's my favorite child. No, there are so many stories behind most of my pieces, especially the custom bags that are made from a loved ones jacket. It's very meaning for me to be able to use my skills to give a family a little souvenir of a loved one in the form of a wallet, or bag, or keychain. I'll always value every single one of those experiences. I do want to give an honorable mention to the Louis V fringe out's that I've been doing. I had one customer come to me a few years ago with a picture and a Louis Vuitton, and since then I've lost count on how many I've done. Each one unique. I'm working on one right now actually!

 

Looking back now what would you never expect from working for yourself?

Funny story. 12 years ago I crossed paths with a psychic who told me that I'd be in business for myself. And she told me that it would be very hard and I'd want to give up a lot, but to keep going and it would work out. I never in a million years imagined at that moment that I would be a handmade maker and actually have been able to make hundreds of bags and mittens!

Working for myself is without a doubt the hardest job because there are a million steps to take before you make a profit for yourself. And that was unexpected, because I thought that a low overhead meant more profit, but really there are so many factors. And I'm still hustling towards that profit, so you have to be resilient as hell sometimes. I had hoped it would happens sooner (lol).

  

What goals have you set for So Comfy in the next 5 years? 10 years?

The next frontier will be recording some of what I've learned and hopefully turning it around and teaching and selling some sewing patterns. I've been a part of the OLFA Craft team for a few years, and I hope to continue working with them. I have some really exciting projects coming up, so it's already starting! I've been super inspired by my fellow maker and OLFA Expert Carla who paid for her kids university directly from her sewing and crafting, that truly is my number one goal in the next 5-10. 

 

How has the pandemic affected the way you work and what have you shifted that would enhance your skill set going into 2022? 

Maybe I could have had a pandemic-proof business, but the truth is, I'm a mom first, and having our lives flipped with the kids learning from home affected me a lot. It definitely robbed me of my creativity because of the stress and uncertainty that the pandemic brought. Like a lot of people, I struggled, and had to accept that it's okay, and I'm okay. Not easy. So going into 2022, I've been laying the groundwork for more social media posts, more tutorials, and making answering e-mails and message a top priority. Those things had suffered over the last 18 months and they are really important to my business.  

 

You were apart of the making of Girl Gang, over the past 3 years what would you say Girl Gang means to you?

Girl Gang is a like-minded group of super creative and fearless female makers, a lot of whom I call personal friends, and that's the real core reason why I love and support it. I know you speak to a huge market, and it is amazing that I can hand you my product, and you'll show it to them. I've loved your photography, location, mission, and marketing, and that's what I think makes the Girl Gang stand out. Also, you're pretty awesome women!

 

Who has been your BIGGEST support system through all of the ups and downs, the unknowns, and the successes?

My family and friends. My husband is very selfless and supportive always, and my Mom is the first person I call when something exciting happens for my business. It's really easy to have doubts, and see all the flaws in something when you're the creator, so having like minded friends who are also makers, and seriously the best customers a girl could want are the secrets to my longevity.

 

Lastly, any advice you would give to someone that is thinking of working for themselves?

Don't give up! Always be open to learning a new way. Search for podcasts that will teach you or inspire you. Show gratitude. Believe in yourself. Ask for help. And, don't give up (that one bears repeating).

 

Randa

Instagram

Facebook

Photography by Meghan Chute Photography

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Stacey Le Poivre - Operation YOU Academy - Sarnia, ON
June 30, 2021

Stacey Le Poivre - Operation YOU Academy - Sarnia, ON

Hey girl, hey. Between running her own business, literally running, being a mom and balancing a full-time career...Stacey has it going on. 

 

 

GRL Fitness just graduated! Tell us about Operation YOU Academy.

GRL Fitness graduated! We are so happy to now be Operation YOU Academy. Where we believe in the continuous learning and progression of self growth and development through our three foundational pillars: mindset, nutrition and movement.

 

Is personal training your primary career and why did it interest you?

Personal training for me started over a decade ago when I was in college for policing. I would help classmates in my program as well as paramedic and fire sciences in order to be successful in their respective fitness testing. I became certified shortly after that and haven't quit since. After a successful career within the military, I have recently stepped away and am focused on coaching full-time while also offering mindset and nutrition along with movement coaching.


Being a mom, balancing nutrition, mental health and exercise is important. What tips do you have for moms post-partum?


In short:

Food prep saves time and leaves guessing out of the equation.

Rest. Rest. Rest.

Don't beat yourself up if you didn't get the things done. Tomorrow is a new day.

Above all else, remember you are a human.

Mental health is #1 ! Always. Being a mom who knew nothing about babies until I had one was rough, as well as being in a isolated area where help was hard to come by. One thing that has been hard for me to learn is to slow down and let the small things stay small. Those dishes you hate looking at vs spending an hour to just sit and chill, you owe it to yourself to rest. Momming is a full-time sport in it's own. Rest for your mental, emotional and physical self is important now than before. That little person needs you, but YOU need you.

When Harper was a newborn she was easy to cart around for walks/hikes, and she slept or rolled around when I took her into my home gym. If you're trying to get into a routine start small. Add in weekly walks, and don't over due strength training or jogging before your BODY is physically ready. Now that Harper is a toddler she's super busy. We frequent walks/jogs, bike rides and I'm always blasting the music for a dance party. Involve your kids, show them an example even if you are focusing on purposeful movement, strength training or whatever your activity of preference is.

 

What are your personal fitness goals?

My personal fitness goals are to keep my body strong due to a medical condition involving my back. As well, regain flexibility. I move because I'm grateful that I can -  but I also love pushing my body to see how far it can go.

 

What was the most difficult part about creating your own curriculum?

The most difficult part is condensing the content for each program. I cap 2/3 curriculum programs to two months and even then I am always finding things to add. We really cannot put a cap on learning more about our bodies.

 

We are now halfway through the year, what would you say was your biggest hurdle?

 

Leaving the military and going full-time into my business. Leaving a structured and routine life for uncertainty has been a struggle but the benefits have shown to be worth every minute.

 

You have been in Girl Gang since the beginning, what was your initial objective and what has kept the relationship continue?

My biggest objective was to network and stay connected to my home area while I was gone. I knew I wanted to come back to the area and I didn't want to feel like I was starting from scratch when it came to getting locally involved. Being in a network of other badass women who own and run businesses is so thrilling and empowering to me. Now that I've returned, I am hoping to be more involved not only with the Girl Gang, but within the community as well.

 

What would be advice to someone starting a business who has a family, side hustle and full-time career?

Don't spread yourself too thin and make sure you're starting it for the right reason.

 

Blunt answer.. Careers are replaceable. Family isn't.

If you're finding yourself burnt out from the career, side hustle and cant find the time for your family.. Something has to give.

Ask yourself the hard questions. Or just,

Take the leap. You might surprise yourself. 

 

What is one of your biggest accomplishments that you would have never imagined happening 5 years ago?

 

Leaving my career to be a full-time entrepreneur. But I think I knew deep down I couldn't live my entire life following someone else's agenda. The resistance was real.

Headed toward 2022, what can we expect from Operation YOU Academy?

 

We have two more curriculum programs coming up within nutrition and movement.

 

As well, fingers crossed for in-person options when we move!

In all honesty - possibilities are endless and we are rolling with it.

.

 

Stacey

Instagram

Facebook

www.opyouacademy.com 

 

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Missy Woods, Pottery By The Woods - London, ON.
May 02, 2021

Missy Woods, Pottery By The Woods - London, ON.

Coffee has never looked so good. Missy's pottery pieces keep hot drinks hot with a natural down to earth feel. Get your own hug from a mug.

 

 

How did Pottery by the Woods start? 

It all started in a small classroom off campus through Fanshawe College. I was excited but intimidated all at the same time. I dove straight in getting my hands dirty! Knowing the love, I had to master clay, I was my own worst critique. I knew in order to hone in all the skills I was taught classroom time was just not enough. A wheel became not a “want” but rather a “must!"

I purchased my first used one that looked something not from the century! It was fully Cast Iron and to shift the arm (instead of a pedal) took 2 arms! The Wheel became part of my furniture and home décor. As time went by friends and family begun asking me to make things than I was approached by M.S. Society asking me to go in their Christmas show and it just kind of lead the way to where I am today.

 

Where Do You Find Most Your Inspiration?

My Inspiration comes mainly from my family and my customers which, I prefer to not call them because most become friends to me. I guess on social media, or in person. I like to know I create a bond with each person especially when I am making a pottery piece, so that mug or bowl speaks to who they are and is special or unique. The other part of my Inspiration comes from being on the wheel itself or other well known hobby potters.

 

How many are involved in the business?

It’s a one woman show - from designing and cutting labels to making products, it’s just me. I do get help with hauling my products to markets and a ton of moral support. My family are my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. 

 

Are you a One Woman Show?

Yes, I absolutely am. It takes 2 weeks to make one vessel (Mug or Bowl) from start to finish. I myself, prefer hand painting, all my pieces over dipping to ensure extra protection on rims etc. (but this is my preference). It then goes to trimming each piece and sanding. Each item goes in the kiln at least twice up too 2400 degrees. Therefore, all pottery is oven safe (which many people do not know.)

 

What was the first piece you ever made?

This was pinch pots, and it was horrible! It looked like an elephant foot haha!

 

What were you doing before pottery?

I was raising two beautiful daughters whom one is now in University and the other in Quality Control for Windmills. I had a small candle business in Grand Bend, Ontario. I do have a job background in Social Services, Human Foundations, and Sexual Deviance. However, due to a traumatic event I no longer am in the field and I am now an Epilepsy Warrior!

 

In five years where do you want to be?

I will and I am always growing as a Potterist. I Know it takes 5 years to see any profit from your business, so I would like to be sitting there. I would love to open my own café and sell my own mugs to drink from! As well a bigger studio.

 

Who is your largest support system?

All of my followers, friends and family! I would not be “Pottery By The Woods” without any of you!

 

What can we see next from Pottery by the Woods?

Oohh lala…. this is going to be dinnerware; Modern and Contemporary. I cannot wait to show off the new pieces! Some of my inspiration plates came from Italy, as they are egg like shaped and I am still learning, (and waiting for my molds) however I will be glazing them in contrasting colours and they will be a must see! I also am working on some platters and larger bowls.

 

Who would you say is one of your greatest role models?

This Question is hard to answer... as I have so many! I have three that keep me focused and in check!

First my Mom! – Hello? Who wouldn’t? She taught me everything in life and to boot … she was a hobby Potterist back in the day! She can still kick it and she rocks on the wheel!

Secondly, Ruth Dean. She has seen me at my worst and best. She is my Grand Bend Yoga Bear! Full of feminism and spirit, she empowers, she’s a leader, a mother and an activist and highly loyal. Ruth takes life and lives it, she is a remarkable woman I look up to and honour for her dedication and teaching.

Lastly, Kathleen Parker from London Ontario, this woman was my mentor before I went into the field of social services. She taught me a lot that corrective criticism was empowering! Who would have thought! This woman is community caring even when not at work! She has huge empathy and empowers families every single day! Kathleen is very self-less and highly motivated and dedicated in caring! She is one of those people you do not meet very often through life.

Without these Women in my life I honestly do not know where I would be or “Pottery By The Woods”. They have kept me dedicated to my business, honest of who I am really am as a person (not just a business owner) they believe in me, and keep me centered and driven and focused.

For someone starting their own business what would you say is the most important piece of advice you would give?

Pay attention to small details, I can get consumed by my pottery so my receipt books were neglected. Tax time was a mess, your receipts must be counted for every number you cannot just rip one out! Being a new business owner with a GST number I did not know this. Print receipts or transactions off as you buy them and put them in a folder for each month, if you do not have time to log them right away. This saves you from a tangled mess of email sorting! Also account for advertisement costs, they can add up very fast.

- Missy Woods

potterybythewoods@gmail.com

 

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Heather Sipkens, The Aesthetics Clinic - Sarnia, ON.
September 09, 2020

Heather Sipkens, The Aesthetics Clinic - Sarnia, ON.

Say hello to Heather, our September Feature on The Girl Gang, her skills are real with natural looking results. 

We asked Heather 10 questions, find out how she got her business started, where she is headed next and how to book your appointment... cause you know you want to

How did The Aesthetics Clinic start?

I have been a nurse for nearly 10 years now, and about 5 years ago was when I became really interested in “cosmetic nursing”. The starting point of becoming an entrepreneur was when a friend commented on my makeup and asked if I could do a few makeup applications for a photo shoot. Since that day, I haven’t stopped evolving. 

I am a self taught makeup artist, and have taken courses for lash and brow services (lash lift & tint, lash extensions, facial waxing). I’ve always had a love for art and took art class all through high school. Makeup became my creative outlet in my 20’s.

I was working a full-time nursing job, while building my business for over a year and a half. I worked 7 days a week, seeing clients every evening after work and on weekends. I was booked solid for weddings, and eventually saved enough money to take Botox and dermal filler courses.

I moved into Pixie Spa from my home studio back in January 2019. Since then, we expanded our space and I now have a clinic of my own, located right beside Pixie Spa (who has been one of my biggest cheerleaders btw). In August 2019 I was at a point where I had to make the extremely stressful decision to leave my “steady” nursing job to pursue my dream job on a full time basis and I’ve never looked back!

Is this where you planned to be 5 years ago?

5 years ago I was living in Niagara Falls and working as an acute mental health nurse. A friend of mine was an injector and she told me how much work it takes to get to the place where she was, but I was determined. She was right. It was a long and bumpy road but so worth it!

 

What treatment is your favourite to give/why? 

My favourite treatments are lip fillers. So many men and women are incredibly self conscious about their lips/smiles. The moment I hand the client the mirror and they see their new smile, it gives me goosebumps every time. I’ve actually teared up a few times seeing reactions. It’s one of the best feelings in the world for me.


What has been one of your biggest accomplishments thus far?

One of my biggest accomplishments thus far has been building my dream career during some of the most difficult times in my life. No matter what the circumstances, I would show up for work and be there for my clients and make them feel beautiful and make sure they were 100% happy with their results!

I moved into Pixie Spa from my home studio back in January 2019. Since then, we expanded our space and I now have a clinic of my own, located right beside Pixie Spa.

 

 

"Follow. Your. Gut. ...  learning to say no and to walk away from anything that doesn’t feel right"

 

 

What was one of your least favourite jobs?

One of my least favourite jobs was working on a mental health and addictions team in St. Catharines. My role was to provide interim nursing care to vulnerable populations. I felt as though I wasn’t able to do enough for them, and encountered so many issues within the mental health system. Every day felt like a failure, but I know I was able to make a small difference in their day, even if it meant getting them a coffee or helping them find a family doctor. 

 

Who is one of your female role models and why?  

One of my favourite female role models is Brené Brown. She is a research professor and an author. A lot of her work is about vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. I’ve read most of her books and listen to her podcasts. She is also from Texas and says ya’ll a lot which makes me love her podcasts even more!

 

What does Girl Gang mean to you?  

 Girl Gang means supporting each other. I’ve been bullied and left out a lot in my life. If you know the feeling, you know how much it hurts. We are capable of so much more if we raise each other up instead of being mean girls.

Being a part of a community of strong, kind, women who all want each other to succeed is incredible. It also sets an example for other girls and women in the community that we can follow our dreams and have successful careers that we are passionate about!

 

What are your professional goals in the next year?  


I would like to become certified in a few more treatments, however my main goal is to continue to grow my clientele and really be well known for my Botox treatments and lip augmentations

 

If you could tell your 20 year old self some advice what would it be?

Follow. Your. Gut. 

I’ve made a lot of bad decisions when I knew I wasn’t following my instincts and I could’ve prevented a lot of heartache and headaches! Sure, there is growth within those difficult times, but now I’m learning to say no and to walk away from anything that doesn’t feel right.

 

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?  

That I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. I think this is something we all try to hide and feel others will look at us differently if we share our mental health diagnoses and seek help. Times are changing, and we don’t have to suffer in silence. I’ve been able to accomplish so much more in my life after receiving proper treatment and making positive life changes. 

 

It is so nice to get a deeper sense of the boss behind the business, we are looking forward to watching your future success!

 

Instagram: @nurseheathersipkens
Facebook: @TheAestheticsClinic

100 East ST S, Sarnia
519-466-1641

 

Do you want to be a monthly feature to The Girl Gang?
Contact us today at contact@thegirlgang.ca

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Sarah Jansel, Sadi & Sari -London, ON
March 05, 2020

Sarah Jansel, Sadi & Sari -London, ON

Have you heard of Sadi & Sari? You're going to love her boho chic fashions.

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Candice Mills, Flora & Forage - Camlachie, ON.
January 22, 2020

Candice Mills, Flora & Forage - Camlachie, ON.

Your Local Girl Gang with florist Candice Mills

What is Flora & Forage?

Flora & Forage is a floral design studio that focus’ on local grown, garden sown and also flown in flowers / product to create magical weddings, events and every day floral needs that evoke emotion, consider the environment and provide inspiration. We strive hard to use as much local love as we can so you can find us foraging in the bush or at the side of a road quite often. We understand that seasonally not everything we want is available so we will order product in from all around the world to fulfill the designs that we customize for our brides, clients and customers.

How did Flora & Forage start?

There were two moments in the last three years that made me decide to launch ff. The first is when I met my first official bride at my sisters 25th birthday. The second is after I had a super intense wedding week at a flower shop I was working at in Toronto. First - long story short, I had built a flower crown for my sister on her birthday. One of her friends that was there saw it and was instantly in love and wanted us to do her wedding. It was the first time I had someone full trust in designing a wedding with out any one else to over look the final look. Melissa was a dream first bride and basically let my imagination run wild. It was epic and I learned a lot; my sister is a fricking power house, the body can withstand going for a restroom break for about 10 hours if ones mind is occupied enough, and also how to price my designs a bit better.
—> please see Melissa & Elliots wedding on our website for the pics of our first wedding <—

The second moment in my life was, again long story short, after a 5 wedding week on my own with a team of 3 other designers. I planned it, made sure the team stayed on task and had the boss, after her vacation in Florida, shocked she didn’t have to stay late to finish the stuff we “ didn’t do”. It was all of this, and much more to be honest, that made me realize, I had booked 40+ weddings for her that year and had handled this + that… again and again. I figured it was time that I could do this on my own.

Who is one of your female role models & why?

One of my female role models would be my first floral lady boss Wanda with wildflowers in Calgary. She has been in the industry for 25+ years and is the literal definition of a lady boss. She can weld, she can design, she’s owned her own biz for 35+ years and she has always been herself around me and allowed me to be me around her. If it wasn’t for Wanda giving me a chance without any experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She taught me the basic mechanics of everything flowers. Their names, large to small bloom placement and how to properly care and cut the flowers so they lasted as long as they could. Our designing is very different today but I will always be thankful for the chance Wanda gave me as it was everything I needed to get me where I am. She supported me through a drug addiction, rough relationship and the loss of a very close friend. Wanda was the first woman to show me you only need yourself to get through the problems of life. Watching her raise a child on her own, on her own decision to have one out of wed lock and out of relationship, showed me a strength in a woman I had never seen before.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I literally second guess everything and have an out of body experience after a major design. I live on a high afterwards that almost makes me feel like I didn’t even do the wedding or installation. Its insane. I actually don’t have the vocabulary to express how it feels but 90% of the time I’m telling myself “ you cant do this, you wont do this, the flowers are dying, your business is failing ..Etc etc..” and then its done and I go.. “ wow, ok, I’m amazing “ it doesn’t sink in like it should and I know its a horrible spiral. Silly, but I can’t help it.

What is your favourite flower?

Thats literally the hardest question ever. Truly. Just when I think “ you’re the one “ something else comes along and I’m like ooooooooooooooo, if I had to choose…. I couldn’t. I have like a top 10 that is constantly changing when I discover new flowers, grasses and greens.

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

To be creative. In any way. I read a book called “ women who run with the wolves” and she speaks of the creative life vs. The “ stuck “ life, a life thats full of expectations and supposed to not what you want and how you feel. I am soooo lucky to be in an industry that not only is creative but supportive of women entrepreneurs that I think if you are able to align yourself with the same career, hobby, passion or what ever you can that allows you to express your true self, then you wlll never loose your wild ways.

What does it mean to you to be a woman?

This is one of the hardest questions I have been asked. Its actually taken me a few times to answer it. I have had a love hate relationship with being a woman my whole life because of toxic / abusive relationships, social media pressures and my own personal insecurities. I hate my period, I hate my hairy legs, and lets be honest, who has time to wax their moustache every week. If I am being honest, the most I have loved myself has been in the last 4 years. After finding strength in myself to get out of the relationships I thought I deserved, away from the drugs I thought I needed to pursue a career that changed my life, I learned that being a women is one of the most powerful, resilient, beautiful things in this world. I have learned that the lessons I was put through made me the honest, loving, creative and kind woman I am today. A woman that puts her heart into everything she does without fear of failure. A woman who can admit when she is wrong and needs to retreat and repair. A women who is in touch with her wild ways and is in love with her being. Finally.
I also have to thank my fiancé, adrian rende, for allowing me to continue to grow and support the woman I am. When someone finds someone who lets them be their true self at all times and loves them no matter what.. Its one of the most empowering feelings to be loved the way you love yourself. If not more.

What are your goals for f&f in the next year?

Our goal for ff in the next year is to hopefully have a home that we will make into my studio / cut flower garden. I want to align myself with more local gardeners and farmers so we can get as much Ontario grown flowers as possible. I would also love to see our everyday orders open up, more workshops and one on one lessons. If we can inspire more people to be creative then we have done our job and we hope to keep doing it!

What do you hope to see from Girl Gang?

The continued support of local artists and female entrepreneurs. It’s absolutely amazing what you have done to bring awareness to hard work and dedication artists have in regards to their passions, creations and careers. Thank you!


Instagram: floraandforage
Email: floraandforage@gmail.Com

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Bluewater Health Foundation in Sarnia, ON
January 22, 2020

Bluewater Health Foundation in Sarnia, ON

What is Bluewater Health Foundation?

Since 2003, Bluewater Health Foundation’s sole purpose has been to raise funds to support our community hospital, Bluewater Health.
We envision a healthy community sustained through a culture of generosity, while creating, inspiring and cultivating expressions of generosity to equip Bluewater Health in its care for our community.

Thanks to the contributions of businesses, organizations and individuals in our community, we are proud to have provided millions of dollars of financial support to aid in the purchase of equipment and provision of patient, staff and family programs for Bluewater Health.

What have been some fundraising initiatives you have done in the past?

Bluewater Health Foundation hosts a variety of special fundraising events and initiatives each year. Our signature events include Golf Fore Health, Tribute Gala, Winter Wonderland, Do It For Sarnia Block party, and the Dream Home Lottery.

What is the Dream Home Lottery?

Over the past 24 years, the Dream Home Lottery has raised almost $7 million dollars for Bluewater Health. It’s a unique opportunity for the community to support our local hospitals while having the chance to win exceptional prizes.

This year’s home, located at 444 Lucas Ave. in Sarnia, is valued at $717,004.63, includes furniture, electronics and appliances, and is the largest prizeboard in the history of the lottery.

This year’s home is built by Stelobrook Homes and furnished and decorated by Brush Strokes Interiors. In addition to the grand prize, two early bird prizes (all inclusive vacation for two and diamond bracelet with $2,000 cash) and 62 cash prizes are up for grabs. The home is once again fully VisitAble.

Proceeds raised from this year's lottery benefits Mammography at Bluewater Health, specifically, to help purchase two new mammography machines for the hospital.

Where can we purchase tickets?

While we are approaching the end of this year’s lottery season, tickets can still be purchased at the Foundation office (located inside Bluewater Health across from Tim Hortons) or via phone with a credit card at 519-464-4428. They are also available each weekend at the Dream Home open houses (1-4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday).

What are some other events and fundraisers you have coming up this year?

With the support of presenting sponsor LiUNA, we are excited to welcome Canadian rock band The Trews to Sarnia as headliners of this year's Do It For Sarnia Block Party on Saturday, June 22. Proceeds from the event benefit Mental Health & Addiction Services at Bluewater Health. For tickets and information, visit bwhf.ca
Our other signature events include:
Golf Fore Health (June 6)
Tribute Gala (date to be announced)
Winter Wonderland (Holiday Market and Kid’s Fun Fest) (November 22, 23)

We also have some exciting other new events and initiatives planned for 2019. Stay tuned!

What goals does Bluewater Health Foundation have for 2019?

We’re looking forward to our 25th anniversary of the Dream Home Lottery, which will launch in October. In addition, we are excited to continue partnering with local businesses, organizations and individuals to support our local hospital.

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

The Foundation employs five unique, talented women who are the backbone of the organization. We firmly believe that we are an exceptional team because we lift each other up, nurture and celebrate each other’s strengths and fits, and support each other to be our best both as individuals and as a team. We, too, are a ‘girl gang’.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

While government funding supports the operations and administration of hospitals, it is your donations that fund critical equipment purchases, replacements and upgrades throughout Bluewater Health. This is equipment that helps perform everything from day to day tests, clinical treatments, surgeries, and critical, possibly lifesaving, diagnostic scans.

What ways are there to be involved with Bluewater Health Foundation?

There are many ways to get involved with the Foundation. We’re always on the look for new volunteers to help out in the office, at special events, and to sit on committees. Many in our community have also held fundraisers benefiting one of many departments in the hospital.

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Dani Hanicz, 519 Boutique - Sarnia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Dani Hanicz, 519 Boutique - Sarnia, ON.

What is 519 Boutique?

519 Boutique is a one-woman owned, online clothing boutique aiming to help women find trendy, affordable fashion! 519’s clothing is a curated collection of women’s and young contemporary brands.

What made you start a clothing boutique?

519 started just over a year ago out of frustration over the lack of trendy, budget conscious clothing in town. Assuming others had to feel the same way, 519 Boutique was born!

What is your favourite part of running your own business?

Owning my own business has been one of my most rewarding yet challenging experiences. There was definitely a lot of self doubt and tears in the beginning stages BUT watching my boutique grown and getting positive feedback is such an amazing feeling. I also love how being a business owner has introduced me to so many amazing people!

Do you have a favourite season you like to promote?

Fall is definitely my favourite season for fashion. Warm and comfortable are two of my favourite things!!

When you aren’t working, what are you doing?

Spending time with my husband and two daughters is my number 1 priority when I’m not working! Getting out for bike rides and spending the day at the beach are two of our favourite activities!

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

One thing most people don’t know about me is that I have my black belt in karate! I haven’t kept up with it since high school but I always get quite the reaction from people when they find out.

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

Girl gang has been amazing for me. Without this awesome group if women boosting my confidence, offering advice, and bringing so many exciting opportunities to my business I wouldn’t be where I am!
Having two young daughters, it feels good to show them that be a part of a team of girls supporting girls opposed to competing with other women is cool.

What are your goals for 519 Boutique in the next year?

I really hope to be able to extend our sizing range so we can accommodate a wider range of shapes and sizes!!

Who is a female role model to you and why?

My mom is my #1, hands down. She is always selflessly helping and doing for everyone around her. She is so supportive and always there to lend an ear, even when I text/call her 900 times a day (sorry mom).

What is one thing you would tell anyone looking to start their apparel shop?

Before starting any business, make sure you have a great support system. My husband has been so supportive of me. There were times I wanted to give up but he encouraged me to keep going and put my all into it. I couldn’t have done any of this without him.

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Kim McConaughy, Wellness Warriors - Petrolia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Kim McConaughy, Wellness Warriors - Petrolia, ON.

Your Local Girl Gang with Kim McConaughy from mental wellness warriors

How did your profession begin?

I only recently grew into my purpose as an Empowerment Coach for Mental Wellness Warriors after years of personal growth. I struggled with my own mental health for as long as I can remember and a few years ago I had no choice but to learn life-coping strategies. My own strength to show up has paved a path for others to walk with me, even on the days they think they can't, we work together to build them a foundation of daily rituals and mindset for mental wellness. It's where my heart is.

What are Mental Wellness Warriors?

A Mental Wellness Warrior is a testament to resilience in the face of mental illness. She is brave, she's a fighter and she's so f*ng strong. She has found the light through darkness and she's ready to rise. She's ready to show up for herself and for her life.”
And here I am.... coming

Can you explain to us what an Empowerment Coach is?

As an Empowerment Coach, I support women who have moved through the darkness of mental health and are stuck in the motions of the day to day to day, just existing. And that's not enough anymore, to just exist. I empower them to show up over and over again, even on the hard days. I help them rewrite the stories written in the darkness of mental illness and step into their power to know that they create their life.

Your coaching programs are called ‘Show Up for Yourself’ and ‘Create your Life’. What does showing-up each day mean and what does it mean to create your life?

Showing up every day means committing to the rituals and mindset that make you the greatest version of yourself. Creating your life means knowing that you have the power in every moment to choose the life you want to live, to live your life with intention and on purpose.

Who is one of your female role models & why?

Right now, I'm loving Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face. I love her for her authenticity and her commitment to show up everyday for herself. It doesn't sound like a big deal until you actually step up and commit to feeling the way you want to feel and living the life you want to live. It's hard work. But it's so worth it.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

That I am an aspiring professional beach glass hunter, and that there was a season in my life that I didn't want to live and contemplated suicide.

What is your go-to relaxation/meditation routine?

I believe that the daily rituals we commit to for our own wellbeing are essential. My go-to is an early morning (I HATED mornings for 30 years!) walk, meditation, and journaling. I also love a nightly soak in the tub to wind down before bed.

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

Oooooh, good question. The first thing that comes to me is to take an intentional breath. To breathe on purpose and discover the power that comes with sitting in stillness with our breath.

Where can we begin to improve our mental wellness and what changes can we make day-to-day?

The first step is knowing the truth in that you are worth it and that the world needs you. If you don't see that, an appointment with your doctor and therapy is a great place to start. When you're ready, you can learn the changes you need to make and be supported through it and to find the support you need to drive yourself to show up for yourself and for your life. The day-to-day changes and motivation and accountablity to commit to improving our mental wellness is exactly what I support women in through the Show Up for Yourself www.kimmcconaghy.com/workwithme coaching program.”

What are your goals for the Mental Wellness Warriors Facebook community in the next year?

That's such a powerful and exciting question!! These women are my drive to keep showing up for myself so I can show up for them. They ignite a passion in me to inspire them to step into their own power... To keep showing up for themselves for their own lives.

INSTAGRAM: KIM_MCCONAGHY
EMAIL: INSPIRE@KIMMCCONAGHY.COM

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Kirsten Mouland, Tiny Island Photography - Sarnia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Kirsten Mouland, Tiny Island Photography - Sarnia, ON.

What is the Tiny Islands Photography?

Tiny Islands Photography is a Southern Ontario based photography business owned by me, Kirsten Mouland.

What inspired you to start a career in photography?

I was given my first camera when I was 8. It was a little, lime green film camera made by Kodak and I used to take it to school and take photos of my friends. I’d pose them in little groups of three and it was just a ton of fun. It got to the point where I was taking rolls upon rolls of film every week. So as cheesy as it seems, I guess I’ve always had an inkling that this was the career I wanted to have.

Who is one of your female role models and why?

I think for my particular industry, the obvious answer has to be Annie Leibovitz. Photography has long been seen as a kind of “boys club” especially in its earliest days, but Annie has managed to make her name iconic, so much so that even those not privy to the photography world can recognize her work and her name. To emulate a career anywhere near hers at all, would be incredible.

Where does the name “Tiny Islands Photography” come from?

I have a skin condition called vitiligo and lost pigmentation in patches of my skin when I was seven years old. Growing up with a visible skin condition and having people gawk at me in public was incredibly overwhelming at times. I found a quote on a vitiligo social media account when I was in my teens and it had something to do with seeing our skin as holding tiny little islands of beauty; that our skin was comprised of little worlds that made us beautiful. Over the years, I forgot the exact quote, but always had the phrase, “tiny islands” in my head. When I decided to start my business, it was the first name that popped into my mind.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m a huge Disney fan! My family and I try to go to Disney World at least once a year, I have an embarrassing amount of Mouse ears, and I know all of the words to every single Disney song.

What do you think is a common misconception about photographers and their craft?

I think a common misconception is that we aren’t necessary. The amount of times I’ve heard people say that they had a friend take their wedding photos or real estate photos and they’ve not turned out the way they wanted them to.

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

To me, Girl Gang is an inclusive group of women coming together to offer support to one another whether it be through business endeavours, fighting for social and political changes, or just being there to lean on.

What are your goals for Tiny Islands Photography in the next year?

I would love to open a studio space! I would also love to be published in a magazine and just grow my business with every new project.

Who would be your dream person to shoot?

Oh my, there’s too many to pick from! Hmm, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ariana Grande at the moment, so we’ll go with her.

What should every woman try at least once in her life

Every woman should try freeing herself from the overwhelming grasp of the patriarch society we live in. Is that too deep of a statement to end on? ;)

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Dayna Langlois, Sarnia Sold - Sarnia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Dayna Langlois, Sarnia Sold - Sarnia, ON.

What is Sarnia Sold?

SarniaSold is a brand I have created at Royal Lepage, a real estate lifestyle. I remember when I was buying my first house I was terrified, everything seemed complicated and foreign to me. Once I became an agent I realized that it didn't have to be like that. I wanted to create a brand that was simple, relatable and available to everyone. To show myself and lifestyle as an agent keeping it as real and transparent as possible. Because home buying and selling should be a positive experience. I am dedicated and invested in the Sarnia community, and believe I am selling more than homes; I am selling Sarnia, which is how the name SarniaSold was born.

What inspired you to start a career in real estate?

Some kids play with lego, some play with barbies. Me? I locked myself in my room and built mini model homes and designed rooms out of cardboard boxes. I would dream of selling homes at a young age. As I grew older I took the traditional route, went to school for marketing, got a corporate sales career because of the security I THOUGHT it offered. But I always had a love for homes. I began to buy run-down houses, renovate and redesign them as income properties. This eventually translated into my career as an agent, providing a perspective on both areas. Liv Gogas, owner of the Olive Branch Studio, was the one that gave me the push to chase this dream, telling me everyday how much she thought that real estate was my path.

Who is one of your female role models and why?

Michelle Obama, one of her sayings has been the mantra for my life “when they go low you go high“. Anytime I'm in a situation where I have doubt or anger these words ring in my head. Things are not always easy but they are good, people are good. This is a reminder to take the high road whenever possible. Michelle Obama, as a public figure uses her platform for the greater good, and inspire females to be their best. She was an underdog who did not come from much, but she never gave up, she inspired females everywhere to love themselves, and be true to who they were. She focused on health, happiness, and female leadership. These are three fundamental aspects of my life. I find I relate to her as a leader, and I looked to her in times of inspiration. But I also have to make a special note to Jillian Harris, because come on.... she is a design queen !

What is your favourite part of your job?

THE PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE. I love waking up every morning to do what I do, everyday is different, but the part that brings me the most joy is the people I get to work with. I become very invested with each client, and every project, investing my whole heart into every single client. I love that my job gives me a platform to be an active member of my community, and give back to causes that sit close to my heart.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I came from a very simple life, growing up in Windsor, I moved out at the age of 16 and worked two jobs to put myself through school. I was not born into the path I am on today. I created it, which is why I like to inspire others to realize your past does not define your future. Dream big, work hard, because you can have it too, luck is a thing you create. Get a clear vision, and go for it. FAIL, fail a lot, learn, improve and grow - then never stop learning and evolving until you are living the life you thought was only possible in your dreams.

What would you tell people who have never purchased a home before and don’t know where to start?

Call me ;) all joking aside. I understand that a first time home buy can be daunting. But if you step outside of the emotion it is no different than any other purchase. Home buying is actually one of the most secure investments you can have. "Real estate can not be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for with responsibility, and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

Everything. The girl gang is more than a community, it is friends, support, laughter and family. It is a safe haven for like-minded females on a mission. It is a group of women to bounce ideas off of, call in times of doubt, and remind you that no one has to do this alone. The girl gang is a powerful mission of change. Change in our city, in our community and more than anything culture. A culture of collaboration instead of competition. It is a powerful shift to a new way of doing business and a reminder that together we can.

What are your goals for Sarnia Sold in the next year?

I think this is two fold, I have individual business goals and targets I would like to achieve. I would like to develop a strong relatable brand that represents buying, selling, building and investing in the community. But more than that I want to use this platform for a few key points; to inspire young females to see the possibility of female entrepreneurship. To know that together we can do more, I believe the era of cutting others down to get ahead is over. I would like to be behind this shift to a collaboration mindset. I think as woman we can be the leaders of change. So over the next year, I would like to inspire change. I want to be a critical part of the growth and change to Sarnia and its neighbourhoods. Attracting an outside eye, bringing positive change and new influence to the community. I love this city and think it has so much to offer. I stand behind this city with my whole heart, and look forward to highlighting this to those in the community and outside eyes looking in.
To be an agent that is real, honest and trustworthy. I want people of all ages in all genographics to know that I am working for them and keeping the processes real and simple as possible.

What should every woman try at least once in their life?

Solo travel. I am a big world traveller, travelling solo has changed my perspective more than I could have imagined. It has taught me an appreciation for culture and given my confidence. Travelling solo forces you outside of your comfort zone to become resourceful, try new things, meet new people and instills independence and confidence. This was a critical aspect to developing resilience and confidence in who I am today, as well as offering downtime to reflect, learn and grow as an individual.

What has been your favourite experience as a realtor so far?

I do not think that there is one defining experience that shaped my career. I think it is a culmination of numerous little experiences. I heard a saying years ago that said when work feels like play you will never work a day or life. Everyday I get up and truthfully love what I do, of course there are moments that I don't like, there are let-downs and disappointments, but when I take a step back and realize it's all the little things that have got me here. I don't think I could pick just one experience I think it is enjoying and learning from each individual moment, then looking back on where you've come from to see where you're at today, and dream of where you are going. So to answer the question there is not one single experience It is every little experience on the way that I love and appreciate.

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Kristine Andali, Crossfit Athlete - Sarnia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Kristine Andali, Crossfit Athlete - Sarnia, ON.

Our Local Girl Gang with CrossFit Athlete Kristine Andali

Who is Kristine Andali?

I have a mentor who asks me this all the time.. my response is always I am strong, capable and in control. Outside of that I am a 27 year old woman who is extremely focused and dedicated to my sport of CrossFit. I have been in this sport for about a decade and have gone through many trials and triumphs. It has helped me grow immensely both as an athlete and an individual. Outside of my sport I have a passion for nutrition and for helping others to become their best selves so they can life a healthier happier life.

What drew you to your fitness journey?

The majority of my child hood I was an elite gymnast so physical activity was always apart of my life. As I moved on from gymnastics and starting training on my own, my older sister had found this type of training called “CrossFit.” She introduced me to it back when I was in highschool and I haven’t stopped since!

What do I feel is important for people to know about what I do?

I think the very first thing people should understand is that CrossFit can be for anybody. I think a lot of people get scared or nervous about it because they see what im doing and think its too much for them. Being an elite athlete in this sport is much different than being someone who is doing classes at the gym. Anything can be modified to your abilities and I think that’s what people don’t see.

Who is one of my female role models?

I have this friend and her name is Raffaella Dobles. She has a husband and 2 little girls. I met her when I was living in LA. Her and I both deal with something called PCOS. Unfortunately, a lot of women deal with this syndrome and it can wreck havoc on your self-esteem. I’ve watched this woman juggle a lot of struggle from her health to her career. She is so incredibly selfless and is constantly looking to help others. Through her struggles she still continues to stand so tall and show up for her self, her family, and anyone she can lend a helping hand to and I admire that so much.

What do you believe are the first steps everyone should take to achieve a healthier lifestyle?

I think the first steps in achieving a healthier lifestyle is to have a simple plan. Pick a couple things to start out with that are sustainable and realistic for you. A few examples would be:

  1. FOCUSING ON GETTING MORE QUALITY SLEEP
  2. CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE WAY YOU EAT.
  3. INCORPORATE SOME MINDFULNESS WORK ONCE A WEEK (MEDITATION, YOGA, JOURNALING)

Then build from there. Start small and don’t overwhelm yourself by going from 0-100.

What is something you would tell every woman that is afraid to get started on something new?

The best advice I can give to you on this is to just take the leap and go for it. Just like starting on living a healthier life, start small. Take one step at a time but just take that first step. It’s important to take risks in life and it’s also important to fail, because that’s where we learn and grow. Taking that first step and moving forward even just a little bit is better than staying in one place.

What does girl gang mean to you?

Girl Gang means coming together as strong and beautiful woman empowering and supporting each other in all we do.

What are your goals for the next year?

My personal goals in the next year are to get back out on the competition floor and gain more experience and grow as an athlete. Outside of that I have some business ideas that I would love to see flourishing by this time next year. Stay tuned ;)

What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I think one thing people might be surprised to know is that I love riding street bikes (crotch rockets).. I’ve got a need for speed, but maybe that’s not as surprising as I thought. Haha!

FOLLOW KRISTINE ON INSTAGRAM AT KRISTINEANDALI

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Imogen Lawer, Wave Aesthetics - Sarnia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Imogen Lawer, Wave Aesthetics - Sarnia, ON.

What is Immy’s Lash Lab?

With a focus on health and safety, Immy’s Lash Lab offers a wide array of services to help amplify ones’ natural beauty. Eyelash extensions, lifts and waxing services are all done with the utmost attention to detail and care in this home based beauty studio. Now offering Classic Lash Training Immy is determined to teach people interested in Lash Extensions the proper and safe techniques for application along with tips and tricks to becoming your own boss. Every service is performed according to the clients specific needs and desires, with the clients health in mind.

What inspired you to start a career in esthetics?

My career in esthetics was inspired mostly by my love of making people feel beautiful. My service focus mostly on enhancing natural beauty as opposed to changing ones features to look different. Seeing clients leave my studio feeling beautiful puts a smile on my face. In a day and age where everything we see online is fake, I think it is important as women we feel beautiful in real life – not just with filters!

Who is one of your female role models and why?

My Mum is my biggest role model, hands down. She is the strongest and most supportive woman I have ever met. Putting others needs before her own has always been her tactic to life. She has my back and supports everything I do, no matter the outcome. No matter what “knocks her down” in life she always gets back up and grows from it. I only hope I will have her care and resilience in my life.

What is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job, other than making people feel beautiful, is definitely the fact that I get to become friends with my clients and help them through things. As most estheticians, we somewhat take on a therapist role which I find extremely honoring. My clients put their trust in me and I am able to become someone they rely on which means the world.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Though beauty plays a major role in my life/career and I love to help others feel beautiful, I rarely have time to pamper myself so I typically don’t get the chance to be on the receiving end of any beauty services!

What would you tell people who maybe have had a bad experience with lashes before or who maybe have never had them before and are a little hesitant to get them?

Lashes are NOT damaging if they are done by the right person. Doing your research when choosing a lash artist is extremely important and unfortunately, the time someone has been working and their price points don’t show their skill level. Just because someone has been certified for 10 years, doesn’t mean they have continued with their education and take care in their work. Word of mouth is the best way to find out if someone is following the correct procedures. All lash artist in Lambton County should be inspected by Lambton Public Health (legally) to ensure they are following proper disinfection procedures, so check you lash artist has this inspection! Also ensure they are actually certified, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. If they are doing what they should be, there should be no hesitation!

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

Girl Gang to me is a support system. A group of incredible women who support one another in their ventures with no sense of competitiveness or bitterness.

What are your goals for Immy’s Lash Lab in the next year?

In the next year I’m hoping to launch a Volume Training Course to go with my newly introduced Classic Training Course! Other than that there may be a couple new services added, but my main focus is now on training and ensuring my students get the best education possible!
What should every woman try at least once in their life?
Tacos & Travel

Aside from lashes, what is a daily must have for you?

Skin. Care. Routine. – SO IMPORTANT!

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