Women that are Changing the Game, from the HCuO Aspire Conference 2018

Nov 10th, 2018 – Her Campus uOttawa Aspire Conference. 

At a coffee shop in Sandy Hill, on a blustery, early November evening, for the second year in a row, the Her Campus uOttawa Marketing & Communications Team put on another fabulous conference bringing together women of all different backgrounds to share their stories and empower the next generation of female leaders. The 2018 Her Campus uOttawa Aspire Conference brought together a former CASCAR driver, Kelly Williams, a self-made swimwear entrepreneur, Ashley Lemmon, and the co-founder of an NGO that seeks to end period poverty on a global scale, Sabrina Rubli. The first speaker Kelly Williams spoke about what it took to make it in a male dominated industry. Ashley Lemmon who was up second described how a lot of passion, and a bit of inspiration can change everything, and the third speaker Sabrina Rubli educated attendees on her project to break the menstrual taboo, and provide aide to girls internationally. Despite working in vastly different fields these women have many things in common in their values and aspirations, but the one thing that stood out most is their goal of empowering women.

Between Aspire 2017 and Aspire 2018 there were some major changes. In 2017, the conference’s inaugural year, it was hosted in the Faculty of Social Sciences building on the uOttawa campus. Aspire 2017, spanned from around 9am to 4pm. Speakers and panels were spread amongst classrooms with attendees having the choice to plan their day and follow topics that most interested them. This year, for Aspire 2018 the location was changed to a Sandy Hill favourite, Happy Goat Coffee where students were provided with a warm beverage and delicious snack, and the conference took place from 4:30pm to 6:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. With three speakers this made for a much more intimate event. On breaks attendees were able to chat with speakers and learn more about them. With the warm atmosphere of the coffee shop, speakers and students were able to connect in a different way that allowed what each person was saying to truly resonate with the attendees.

Read on to learn more about what each speaker had to say!


Kelly Williams – Racecar Driver, Educator, and Safety Advocate

Kelly Williams is a pioneer for women in racing. In her presentation, she described how after having grown up with racing influences all around her she decided to get in on the action for herself. She quickly made her way to the top and was consistently the only woman on the track. However, Kelly doesn’t see this as a disadvantage, as she said during her talk, “the gas pedal doesn’t know if it’s a guy or a girl pushing on it”. She paved her own path by going after what she wanted and being open to all opportunities, which is what she strives to teach women today. Now, retired from racing, Kelly fulfills her role as a teacher travelling across Canada and the USA giving car care clinics to empower women in a male dominated industry. In her free time, she gardens, supply teaches, and makes aromatic bracelets.

Kelly’s advice for succeeding at whatever you choose:

  1. Surround yourself with people who make you want to be better.
  2. Have mentors in your life.
  3. Be willing to take a risk.


Ashley Lemmon – Founder and Owner of NORA Swimwear

Not too long-ago Ashley was a student like many Her Campus readers, bored with school she fast tracked her way through, doing what worked best for her. After moving to London, England and having more free time than she had ever had previously she took up fashion design, in particular that of swimwear. From there she started NORA, a female swimwear line. It had always been a passion of hers, in high school Ashley was quick to be on top of new trends in the swimwear industry. From this industry, she found something she loved and ran with it. She took her passion and channeled it. From her designs, she sat down and made a business plan, with advice from her dad she focused on making sure that her brand stayed true to her values.

A big part of what kick-started Ashley’s journey was the book Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso which she credits with changing her life. This book was her inspiration and she still refers to her team, customers, and all those involved in the process as part of her Girl Gang. For Ashley staying devoted, and being authentic are incredibly important, and she has a hand in all aspects of her business. Today, Ashley still has a hand in all things NORA and has started a NORA Girls Fund to give other women their own kick-start. The NORA Girls Fund was an important aspect for Ashley, as she says, “Empowered women empower women”. As well she has recently launched FYN, a men’s swimwear collection.

Ashley’s tips for pursuing your dreams:

  1. Be driven.
  2. Believe in the power of the girl gang.
  3. Be authentic.


Sabrina Rubli – Co-founder and Executive Director of FEMME INTERNATIONAL

With a background in International Development, Sabrina Rubli is no stranger to helping those in need. She realized there was a gap in aide when it came to menstruation and that it was leading to larger issues like isolation, not completing school, and poor health for young women across the world. Sabrina recognized that the menstrual taboo was creating problems globally. From the question of “what do women on their period do in refugee camps, in slums, in rural areas in third world countries, and when women are homeless?” came a plan to fill the gap, and educate those in need. Thus, Femme International was born, an education based approach that seeks to provide sustainable, reusable menstrual products to those in need. By providing education on the female body, and a reusable Femme Kit, which includes hygiene necessities, Femme International empowers young women to forget about their period, so that they can focus on school and the rest of their lives. While Sabrina’s work is focused in Africa she did make mention of how menstruation is of issue close to home as well. One of the most requested items and least donated items at shelters is menstrual products. If you’d like to lend a hand in helping to end period poverty you can look into organizations like the Period Purse (Toronto & Ottawa), Homeless Period Project (USA), or if you’d like to get involved on a larger scale you can look in to Femme International

Sabrina’s suggestions for helping those in need:

  1. Do your research.
  2. Choice is important, give people agency in personal decisions.
  3. Sometimes you have to pretend like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.


Bonus Content!

A post conference exclusive interview with past HCuO President Chantelle La Rue:

HCuO: What was your previous experience (previous roles) with HCuO?

Chantelle: “I was a member of HCuOttawa in my second, third, and fourth year of university. I started on Large Scale Events, then lead the Marketing and Publicity team, and last year I was the President.”


HCuO: How did it feel to attend Aspire without having a hand in the planning? Do you miss the behind the scenes work?

Chantelle: “It was definitely strange to attend Aspire as a guest rather than an organizer. The initial Aspire Conference was my biggest project as President. I remember sitting in my living room with all of the execs the summer before putting together the initial concept and branding. I loved seeing how this year’s team has made the event their own and how everything came together, but it was definitely odd to not play a role in it. I loved my time with Her Campus uOttawa and as much as it was nice to just enjoy the conference and not have anything I had to do, I do miss working with such a great group of women.”


HCuO: This year was a lot more intimate than last year – last year was a big event put on in FSS with several panels on vastly different topics, this year a more intimate gathering at a small Sandy Hill Coffee shop with a huge focus on female empowerment – what do you think of the major change?

Chantelle: “The format of the conference really evolved. The first year we aimed to bring together women from all different faculties for a full day event and put a focus on achieving your goals but also on maintaining a balanced lifestyle. We had panels on specific career paths and workshops that highlighted physical, mental, and sexual health. This year’s event was much more intimate, taking place at Happy Goat Coffee, and featured three entrepreneurs who put women’s empowerment at the center of their business over the course of an evening. I don’t think that either format is better or worse than the other just that they offer different experiences. I found that one of the main differences is that last year’s conference focused more on how to succeed in your field and provided examples of career trajectories, whereas this year’s conference was focused more on women who have made women’s empowerment their mission and a core part of their business. Both focused on empowering and inspiring women just in different ways and through different means. With this being only the second year of the event I’m sure it will go through many changes in the coming years as the team learns from each event experience. I was really impressed and inspired by the speakers this year and I found that this format gave way to a lot more natural networking, so I’m really proud of this year’s team for taking that risk in making major changes. They pulled it off and did an amazing job.”


HCuO: What is one piece of advice that you would give to gals (and guys) working with HCuO?

Chantelle: “There are so many things I learned through my time with HCuOttawa it’s hard to say what my number 1 piece of advice would be, but I’d probably have to say be dependable. No matter how creative or amazing or brilliant you are if your team can’t count on you it’s of little use. When everyone commits to showing up and following through, and that’s with anything really, the amount you can achieve will surprise you and with HC in particular you’ll then find yourself a part of this amazing supportive girl gang.”


Hopefully you found some inspiration from the speakers of HCuO Aspire 2018, and past President Chantelle! Stay authentic, follow your passions, and keep on aspiring!