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Women entrepreneurs share their stories and triumphs in honour of International Women’s Day

Women Owned Narratives hosts Intergenerational Storytelling event this weekend

Women Owned Narratives

Women Owned Narratives speaking at a previous event. // Submitted

The sound of women’s laughter and words of wisdom will echo through the crowd at a weekend event to celebrate the past, present, and future of women’s achievements.

On March 11, a panel of Calgary female business owners will convene for the Intergenerational Storytelling program to showcase their strengths and discuss their experiences as women entrepreneurs.

One of the panelists is Jenny Burthwright, owner of Jane Bond BBQ.

“I always knew that I would want to open a restaurant, so when I came to Calgary and saw the opportunity to start a food truck, I just jumped right in,” Burthwright says.

Although barbecuing has long been stereotyped as a male-dominated activity, the reality is that women are just as capable of mastering the grill and enjoying the art of barbecue.

Ignoring the doubters

Burthwright says she didn’t pay attention to the outside noise.

“When I first started out, there were a lot of side glances like ‘I don’t know about this,’ but I was very well-received and I feel very honoured about that.”

Women entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges in the business world, often having to work harder to gain respect and recognition.

“I think the biggest challenge is earning respect in the kitchen because I’m dealing with male employees that are just not used to having a female boss,” Burthwright says.

“We’ve just had to go above and beyond to really strategize how to earn that respect.”

Celebrating resilience

In order to push back against these challenges, Burthwright showcases what she knows she is capable of.

“I work hard. I don’t shy away from challenges and I look at every opportunity as a way to show great character and growth.”

This weekend’s panel is a celebration of the strength and resilience of local women entrepreneurs.

The event is designed to showcase the incredible diversity of talent and creativity among female business owners while also highlighting the importance of supporting these businesses.

“At Women Owned Narratives (WON), we realize how important it is to empower women and show the value in their experiences because that’s how we can truly make changes,” says Ornela Thieba, co-founder of WON, which is hosting the event.

Jenny Burthwright, owner of Jane Bond BBQ. // Submitted

Amplifying women’s voices

WON is a collective of dedicated local volunteers who strive to amplify women's voices and stories.

The group was formed during the pandemic when Thieba participated in a remote panel that included a variety of women of all ages and backgrounds.

“These women were sharing their story whether it be immigration, starting their businesses, finding environmental causes, and more, but we just saw how impactful it was just listening to their story,” Thieba says.

“So this year we decided to create a platform where women can share their stories and that is how Women’s Own Narrative came about.”

Held at Calgary’s Central Library, this event will not only showcase women dominating in their fields, but also highlight resources from organizations who support women’s work including mental health resources and more.

“We’ve also partnered with local schools to get children to create some art about women who inspired them,” Thieba adds.

Challenges pave the way to success

As an entrepreneur herself, Thieba has also faced challenges along the way.

“Shaping what my version of what success looks like has been a challenge as there are so many templates for success,” Thieba says, adding that it’s normal for there to be stepping stones along the career path.

“But I think being able to create your own initiatives and use your skills and strengths and power, we can make changes around us.”

The panel is designed to include women entrepreneurs at various stages of their businesses to help others realize that it’s OK to be in the early steps.

“I think oftentimes we only give a platform to women or people who have accomplished it all,” Thieba says.

“But sometimes having people who are going through that process and still have doubts is good because it’s not easy, but you will feel empowered through that process.”

Striving for success is a challenging journey, but the satisfaction of achieving goals and the lessons learned along the way make it all worthwhile, Thieba says.

“It is important to remember that the situation you are going through is not permanent.”

Triumphs and the struggles

Thieba says the journey to success can be overwhelming and lonely, which is why it was so important for WON to showcase not just the triumphs, but also the struggles.

“It is important to have panelists say, ‘This is how I struggled to get my business off the ground and here’s how I made it,’” Thieba adds.

Burthwright says she is honoured to be involved in the panel.

“I’ve been so busy hustling and to be recognized by various people in the community for what we’ve accomplished, and our success story feels amazing,” Burthwright adds.

It’s important to celebrate the achievements of women year-round, but on International Women’s Day it’s especially important to amplify their voices.

“We hope that these diverse discussions will empower and inspire Calgarians to carry the torch and continue this important work,” Thieba says.

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