We initially met you through a mutual feminist ally, Emma May, right after your launch. I remember seeing the line thinking it was brilliant and f’ing needed! How did you and your co-founder Sarah Elder-Chamanara come up with the idea, and what are your plans?
Emma May is a perfect example of a powerhouse entrepreneur and community building woman active in politics. We love to feature real models in our Madame Premier shoots that are recognizable for their community and political contributions. We believe that advancing women in politics should become a priority for all political parties, so we feature women and men from all parties and perspectives that support our values and mission.
I met my co-founder Sarah on the board of Ask Her, a local non-profit organization that works to increase the representation of women on city council. We were both board members at the time and quickly bonded over politics, feminism and being mothers to young children. Sarah had wanted to create merchandise with political and feminist designs while I saw a gap in the marketplace and wanted to create a business. Sarah and I later connected, and Madame Premier was born over a cup of coffee.
We designed Madame Premier to spark dialogue on the lack of women in politics, the unique barriers that women experience running for office and to create positive change on this topic. Madame Premier has a social conscience and a portion of every sale is donated to a local gender equality seeking non-profit organization. One of the most rewarding parts of Madame Premier has been to share our mission and values with people, spark discussions on these important topics and to see people all over the world wearing and supporting our message and designs.
…I participated in an exchange program in the U.S. for one semester where I was sexually harassed and stalked by a Professor. When I went to report the Professor to University officials, I wasn’t taken seriously and was asked what I did to make him do this to me…
Marcie, you've got this fantastic background and experience. Tell us how your journey got you to where you are today?
Growing up, I went to school at Balmoral Hall, a feminist all-girls school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My Mom was the eldest child with two brothers in a very patriarchal family who entered Nursing, became a City Councillor for awhile and is now a Vice President at Athabasca University. My Dad grew up in poverty and became a lawyer, an MLA and started the first rural food bank in Canada. Both my parents and my schooling raised me to be a feminist from the very beginning and active in global and local politics.
Feminism is inherently political to me because advancing the social, economic and political equality of self-identified women requires political and government leadership. Feminism is also about disruption, about disrupting the status quo and constantly innovating to be more effective and to be able to help people in all of their diversity while creating happier and healthier more profitable workplaces in the process.
During my undergraduate degree, I participated in an exchange program in the U.S. for one semester where I was sexually harassed and stalked by a Professor. When I went to report the Professor to University officials, I wasn’t taken seriously and was asked what I did to make him do this to me, which was nothing. This experience fuelled my passion for gender equality and justice and is one of the reasons why I love working with post-secondary institutions to help and equip them to prevent situations like mine. This is also why it is so important to get more women and diverse people into elected office and decision-making positions with power, in order to affect this kind of change.
First image above: Marcie in her Madame Premier t-shirt and favourite HK item, The Palma Trouser. Left: Marcie in a Madame Premier t-shirt and HK Palma Trouser. Right: Political AF t-shirt from Madame Premier clothing line.
We love your LinkedIn headline - Gender, Diversity & Inclusion Expert. This is so relevant for today. How did you become an expert?
Thank you! It is an expertise honed over time. I studied political science and international conflict resolution in my undergraduate degree and in my Master’s degree. I have focused my research and work in the international human rights field ever since. I previously worked in human rights and gender mainstreaming at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, at the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ottawa and also at Status of Women in Alberta. I am trained in many dispute resolution processes including mediation, gender mainstreaming, gender equity lenses, intersectionality and feminist international development. My expertise is derived from a long-standing passion, a continued development of skills in this area and experience working with clients from all sectors to advance gender equity in the workplace.
All of us have a personal mission. What is yours?
I think my personal mission is to achieve gender equality in my lifetime. There are so many other gender equality champions around the world and if we all keep working hard, meet people “where they’re at” and focus on steady incremental change along with catalytic systemic levers, we can achieve this goal together. I also want to see violence against women and children ended - I have been advocating for the government to prioritize this issue (as it is also exacerbated during economic downturns) by establishing a Premier’s Advisory Committee and funding for an integrated services response and prevention centre.
Tell us about the partnership you have with Sarah – how does it work, how did you find each other, and what do you most admire in Sarah?
I most admire Sarah’s creativity. Our business works very well because we both bring a strong work ethic, vision and determination to the table. Sarah is a creative genius - she is the graphic designer for the company and also does communications work. I focus on partnerships, inventory and business development. We both have a strong shared vision for the company and look forward to many new partnerships and exciting announcements in the future.
The only person holding me back from doing what I want in life was myself. Realizing that lesson made a huge impact on me and is what gave me the final confidence push to start a business.
We've talked before about entrepreneurship and what that looks like for us women. Have you faced any challenges and if so, how did you overcome them? Do you have any advice for us?
Finding reliable suppliers and screen printers was our first challenge. We networked and talked to as many suppliers and screen printers as we could to get quotes and a feel for them to see if they’d be a good fit. Our next challenge is determining if we want to scale our business up and enter new markets by securing investors, we are still working on this one.
I started my consulting firm, Canadian Equality Consulting before I co-founded Madame Premier and starting that first business is really hard. I would say that if you have a great idea and there is a market need and customers identified, do not doubt yourself. Take risks that you’re comfortable with and just go for it. The only person holding me back from doing what I want in life was myself. Realizing that lesson made a huge impact on me and is what gave me the final confidence push to start a business.
Do you have any mentors or champions that have been life changing for you?
Sarah and I also recently met with Rona Ambrose to discuss Madame Premier. She is so amazing and is incredibly supportive of our work. My favourite message from our meeting with her was that women have a right to participate in politics and that women belong in politics. It often doesn’t feel that way, political campaigns and conventions seem to be dominated by men, especially older men, and it can be an unfriendly place for a woman. But when you keep coming back to the message that you belong there just as much as everyone else and even more so, to share your unique perspectives and views that are not getting heard, and that you have this right to participate, it gives you a renewed strength to keep pushing back the barriers, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult they may be.
Is there a certain celebrity or high-profile figure who wore one of your pieces, that made you high-five Sara and say “YES!! Awesome”!
Rona Ambrose! Jody Wilson-Raybould and Elizabeth May have our Woman's Place T-shirts, also the Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature has worn our GoKnockDoors design. MP Stephanie Kusie has also been super supportive and worn our #GoKnockDoors design...
Ok, now for some fun! We are headed into the depths of a Canadian winter, any recommendations on what we should watch?
I am currently really enjoying the new series ‘The Morning Show’ on Apple TV. I also really like ‘Shine On’ with Reece Witherspoon (Netflix), ‘One Strange Rock’ (Netflix) and my 5 y/o son and I love to watch ‘The Final Table’ (Netflix) and can’t wait to check-out Chef Darren MacLean’s restaurant ‘Shokunin’.