Advice to Female Entrepreneurs from Women-Owned Small Businesses in Windsor, ON

In recent years, there has been a growing consciousness over the importance of shopping local rather than shopping at big-box chains. Scroll through your Instagram feed and you’re bound to find a plethora of infographics listing the many advantages of supporting your local businesses. More and more, the general public is being made aware of how shopping local bolsters the local economy, promotes the creation of unique and high-quality products, and supports passionate and talented entrepreneurs. Owning a small business isn’t easy, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even harder. Being a female entrepreneur also has its added challenges, since business has historically been the exclusive domain of men. So, in honor of Female Ambition week here at HerCampus UWindsor, we reached out to women-owned small businesses in Windsor, ON and asked them to share advice they would give to female entrepreneurs who are starting a business.

  1. 1. November’s Eve Jewellery

    November’s Eve Jewellery was created by Amanda Russo in August of 2019. Russo had recently completed the Concurrent Education program at UWindsor and wanted to take on a new challenge. She had always been interested in jewellery but often had difficulty finding pieces that spoke to her, so she decided to take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship and started NEJ. As a resident of the small city of Windsor, her ultimate goal was to create something new and unique to distinguish herself from other local businesses. She creates gorgeous minimalist pieces out of a variety of materials, from polymer clay to 18k gold-plated metals, and uses dreamy recurring symbols like stars and abstract faces. NEJ pieces are stocked at seven stores in Windsor and two outside Windsor, which you can find listed here

    Russo teaches full-time in addition to running November’s Eve Jewellery, which she says has been challenging. Luckily, she has found a balance between the two and considers herself blessed for having the opportunity to pursue not one, but two careers she loves. She is also grateful for all the mentors and people who have helped her along the way and the many skills she has so far acquired. She considers one of her biggest challenges to have been the imitation of her products by others, which is an especially difficult experience for a business in a small city. Nevertheless, Russo is a strong believer in community over competition and thinks it’s important for business owners to build each other up and celebrate one another’s successes. She advises new small businesses to never give up and always remember why they started, despite all the setbacks they may encounter. “When something that was once a small thought in the back of your brain blooms into something so beautiful and beyond all of your expectations, it becomes all worth it,” she says. She also emphasizes the importance of people and connections in business: “For me, it has always been more than monetary value or about the amount of Instagram followers. It is about the experiences, relationships, and amazing feedback.”

    You can stay updated on NEJ on Instagram and shop on the NEJ website and NEJ Etsy.

  2. 2. Plant Joy

    Plant Joy is Windsor’s only vegan doughnut shop and is owned by 27-year-old Jordynne Ropat. She describes her career path as somewhat unusual. She initially planned on attending medical school and even obtained a Master’s Degree in Neuroscience to that end. She never really thought that baking would become her career, although she has always loved it. Ropat went vegan while pursuing her Master’s degree at Western University in London, ON, and upon returning to her hometown of Windsor, she realized that the vegan options in this city were comparatively sparse. So, in her words, she “took matters into [her] own hands” and started making vegan doughnuts, one of her favorite comfort foods. She began her business in April of 2018 as a pop-up shop, and for its first year, she worked midnights using a rental kitchen to make doughnuts to bring to local events and markets. Her following grew and so too did demand for her doughnuts, so in May of 2019, she officially opened her own storefront at 5622 Wyandotte St E. Plant Joy doughnuts are made with high-quality organic and fair-trade ingredients and are offered in over a dozen flavors, in addition to the occasional feature and seasonal flavors. Since the opening of the storefront, Plant Joy has won a variety of awards (and deservedly so!), including but not limited to Best Pitch in a 2019 Windsor Soup Entrepreneurship Competition and the Platinum Award for Best Donuts in Community Votes Windsor, not to mention the many awards for which the business has also been nominated. 

    Ropat considers one of her biggest accomplishments to be building a team that she’s truly proud of: “I have some truly incredible staff that have always been amazing but have really stepped up to the challenge during all of the changes COVID has brought.” She advises young women entrepreneurs and business owners to be true to themselves. In her words, “The right customers will resonate with your brand, your creativity, your humour‒so keep being you and your people will find you.” She adds that it is also important to make time for yourself, especially in the early stages of your business, when it can be so easy to prioritize the daily demands of your business because it’s new and you’re trying to prove yourself. As she explains, “It will be a challenge to prioritize yourself, but as the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup. Make an effort every day to (at the very least) get a full night's sleep, eat a few healthy meals, and drink water.” 

    Keep up with Plant Joy by following the shop’s Instagram. If you’re local to Windsor, you can pre-order doughnuts for curbside pickup on the Plant Joy website.

  3. 3. Maddie’s Creations

    Maddie’s Creations, owned by Madison Curtis, offers ethically handmade and trendy hair accessories, from headbands to hair scarves. The business emerged during a gap year Curtis took after graduating from UWindsor in order “to focus on the non-academic areas of [her] life that needed a little T.L.C.” During this time, she began to notice all the amazing women-led businesses popping up around the city and decided she wanted to be part of this local entrepreneurial scene, which led to the conception of Maddie’s Creations. She started off by selling a few hair scarves here and there on Instagram, but her shop has exponentially grown now that she has her own website, has participated in pop-up shops and markets all over Windsor, and has even raised money for various charitable organizations by hosting fundraisers through her business. 

    However, she remarks that none of this came easily. She says that her biggest hurdle in the process of developing her business was overcoming her own self-doubt and insecurities. She was worried that her business would be a flop and that she would be judged by others, which she says almost stopped her from even launching her business, humorously adding that these worries elevated her heart rate for a week after the official launch. Curtis elucidates: “I was so focused on what everybody else would think, that I forgot to focus on what I thought… and this hindered me from seeing how great this experience and opportunity truly was. [...] I feel that, as young women in society, we’re so used to constantly having our lives and actions put under a microscope and we’ve been conditioned to feel insecure anytime we do anything ‘out of the ordinary’ or that makes us stand out as individuals. The best advice that I could give to future female entrepreneurs is to not let society win and to stop thinking about, caring about, or paying attention to what anybody else may think. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about what you choose to do with your life because it’s exactly that…your life. Do whatever makes you happy and the rest will fall into place.”

    Stay up to date on Maddie’s Creations via Instagram and shop for her hair accessories on her website.

  4. 4. Full Circle Vintage

    Full Circle Vintage first opened its doors in Windsor’s downtown core in the middle of winter 2012. It was created by Sarah DeLuca, who, since the inception of Full Circle, has strived to sell high-quality, pre-loved vintage fashion for all shapes and sizes. About two years ago, the shop relocated to the Walkerville neighborhood for an expanded space that could accommodate its rapid growth. This December will mark the 9th anniversary of the business. This is not DeLuca’s first time owning and running a retail boutique, as she used to own a new alternative clothing shop in the 80s. However, it is her first time working with pre-loved clothing, which presents its own unique challenges. Despite DeLuca’s extensive entrepreneurial experience, she admits that she will never stop learning and adapting.

    She describes entrepreneurship as a “24-hour job” that requires a lot of passion. “Owning a retail shop is hard; resale-retail is even harder,” she says. Selling vintage is multifaceted, from acquiring, cleaning, mending, researching, to finally merchandising different pieces. This process is both physically and mentally demanding, as “you’re constantly innovating and thinking of new ways to thrive.” She says that the most important thing to remember as a female business-owner is to “not be afraid to say no to something that doesn’t align with your values.” Moreover, she knows that she’s part of a small market and that entering the niche that is vintage clothing was a risk, but asserts that this risk-taking confidence is exactly what is needed to be a successful female entrepreneur. “You know how many people told me I was crazy for doing this when I opened 8 years ago?” she asks rhetorically. “You can never aim too high, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

    Be sure to follow Full Circle’s Instagram, check out the shop’s Etsy page, and learn more through the Full Circle website. If you’re a Windsor local or visiting the city, be sure to also check out their brick-and-mortar store at 1334 Wyandotte St E.

  5. 5. The Avocado Pit Sushi

    The Avocado Pit Sushi is run by Rachel Guest and Holly Perreault, a mother-daughter team offering ethical and plant-based sushi rolls to the YQG. They have been “avid sushi lovers” for nearly a decade, so making sushi quickly became an at-home hobby for Guest, who would share her creations with her friends and family. After the duo went vegan, they were surprised to discover how difficult it can be to enjoy sushi, so they began experimenting with homemade vegan alternatives ranging from vegan tempura to the classic Philly Roll. In fact, they initially started their business to cater to other vegans, later learning that it would appeal to a much larger crowd. They say they are grateful to have connections and support from other woman-owned businesses, who have helped pave the way for them to make it in a male-dominated society. 

    One of the biggest challenges for the pair has been advertising their business on social media, which they say can be more work than the sushi-making itself. “Since we don't have our own dine-in sushi restaurant (yet),” they explain, “we have to put extra effort into promoting how and where you can get our product. That can be a huge hurdle for us because in a time where convenience is everything, our ordering is done in advance.” On the bright side, however, they have a special niche that sets them apart. Most importantly, they stress the importance of good customer service when it comes to building a business: “There will always be competition when starting a small business, but our advice is to make yours personable. We put a lot of effort into our customer service and take the time to respond to comments and messages as if we were talking to a friend. In most cases, we are! By placing an order with a small business, you are directly investing in the future of that business, which to us, is the most rewarding part of shopping local.”

    Stay up to date on The Avocado Pit by following their Instagram, where you can also DM the team to pre-order sushi for pickup or delivery in Windsor. You can also pre-order by emailing them at [email protected].

After corresponding with these incredible women business-owners, we can’t help but feel completely in awe of their hard work, talent, determination, creativity, and charisma. Be sure to shop local not just during this holiday season, but year-round, and to give these local female-run businesses the support and recognition they deserve. Know about another woman-owned business in Windsor, ON that we should feature? Email us at [email protected] to let us know!