OK, let’s get this clear – you are CEO and founder of IOVIA, you’ve co-founded The51, you invest your family money with your husband Brian and you’ve co-founded Harris Kuipers. What fuels this professional fire?
For me it’s a curiosity bent on proving that alternative approaches and models can work – in all things business, and therefore discover new ways to create value and impact, by working together. I like to challenge others and myself, to do things differently to get different results. What I’ve learned is that I am often early and those around me don’t have the patience that I have – for me it’s all so clear and it just needs to happen. For others maybe not so much.
You have an ‘anything is possible’, ‘let’s fn do it’, crazy-awesome way of looking at the world. Where do you think this came from? Was it how you were raised?
Not sure where it came from, but it was definitely not how I was raised, I was raised to conform and stay in a lane but I didn’t do well with that. But I guess it's just happened over time. I gradually cared less what people thought of me and pursued things that were important to me and yet more challenging and ambitious.
You describe yourself as an activist in business, entrepreneurship, feminism and investment. What does that mean to you and how do your companies contribute to your activism?
My activism is my inherent irritating behaviour to always challenge the status quo. I know it drives people crazy but honestly, I can’t help myself. In my work at IOVIA I challenge brands invite their consumers in, really close and build new ideas, content and business models together. In entrepreneurship I seek out the most committed to their vision yet perhaps are authentically a bit vulnerable. I don’t like it when founders have it all figured out because you know it will be a journey, so I like to go on the journey with them. I believe all of us are feminists because it’s obvious – it just means we are people too. Sometimes I get push back on the word ‘feminist’ but I honestly I don’t care, there is a reason this word exists. In fact, we know that the US across all states still hasn’t passed an equal rights amendment where women are recognised as equal – did you know that? The US. Yep.
On investing through Adventure Capital, I constantly challenge all our founders to ensure a woman's perspective at all levels, including how they go to market and their leadership and boards.
The51’s focus is financial feminism, which is a form of activist investment. Can you explain the movement in a bit more detail?
At the heart of it, we know that women haven’t truly been leveraged in our economic society, we aren’t fully participating. For us at The51, it’s a business opportunity but we also know that if women’s ideas and business are funded, then the world will look very different than it does today. Our economy in Alberta is in desperate need of diversification so why not enable 51% of the population to participate in the much needed diversification. We could keep banging against the current system, or we could stop complaining and provide a unique, highly differentiated solution which says – women, step up and start funding the women and businesses, be curious about these women and their ideas, be an investor. Put your money to work, be an example for all women and yep, men. What we also know is that The51 is attractive to all feminists, regardless of gender.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can give to female entrepreneurs and founders?
Tell your story, then rally a team around you. Execute, even just initially with actual customers and then game on – get the capital onboard to change your world, the world. Surround yourself with people who actually care and support you, trust you and champion you. Your story is your most powerful asset in making your vision a reality, it’s your purpose and why you exist. So, stay with it. Find your tribe and make it happen. While we are on the subject, check out The51 and some of the badass women we have invested in - I guarantee you will be impressed.
What’s your favourite podcast right now and why?
“Pivot” by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. They pull no punches, say it as it needs to be said, call winners and losers and make awesome predictions. Just love their no bullshit way, it’s good banter and always clever and thought provoking.
What have you learned about the fashion industry since starting Harris Kuipers that you didn’t know before?
Whoa, so much. Truly sustainable fabrics are hard to find. Who knew? When our team first investigated, we needed to really dig to find them. I wear black all the time and when I heard that black dye can be harmful, it was a wakeup call. And I had to take a look at myself. Pretty much my entire consumerism wasn’t sustainable either. So, I think the gift of HK was realizing that more fashion wasn’t better. There are new models to be explored and making HK a fully circular fashion company is the way to go.
You have a wickedly distinct style when it comes to dressing. What’s your secret?
Mix it the f’up, always. Put things together that you don’t expect to be together. But overall, I love androgynous style, flowy isn’t me and if I do it’s all black or monochromatic, not feminine. I like boots, sneakers, suits, men’s shirts, shapeless dresses, and then I like necklines that plunge and tight jeans. I just don’t try to do the same thing, ever. Oh, and watch for the Shelley Suit – Summer 2020, I get asked that question a lot - are you making a suit?
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn?
Not caring what people think of me, and just being me.
Ok, let’s talk politics. Oh ya, let’s go there.
Do we have to? It’s a shitshow in my opinion, but then again that’s probably because I hang out on Twitter where all the crazies are. My party doesn’t exist, nor my desired leader. It’s all very polarised, no one is right, and everyone is wrong – it’s a battle to the end. To be honest I’d like to see more women in politics. Which reminds me have you heard of Madame Premier? They are so cool – fashion to raise awareness of women in politics and trying to change it.
What do you cherish most right now?
The health and wellbeing of my family, full stop. It’s my starting point every day.
What’s next for you?
To be prouder and louder about my achievements, fully realise what I can see, in all my ventures and projects, give myself more freedom and call my own bullshit along the way.