Today is International Women’s Day, a day where the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women across the word are celebrated. Saskatchewan is flourishing with talented, unique, and qualified women-owned business. Today, we’d like to introduce you to two of them.
We had the opportunity to chat with Linell Grudnitzki and Owners of The Grudnitzki Group of Companies in Regina, as well as Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote, Co-owner of Block Fox Farm & Distillery outside of Saskatoon to learn more about their journey as women entrepreneurs and to hear their ideas about how women can #EmbraceEquity—this year’s theme for IWD.
WHAT SPARKED YOU TO START ON YOUR ENTREPRENEURSHIP JOURNEY?
Linell: Throughout the years in my various careers, I had experienced some amazing leaders, and some not so amazing leaders. It was because of both leadership types that I wanted to lead my own team. I thrive on networking and relationship building, and have experienced great success in business keeping the Saskatchewan small town mentally as my base for everything I do. My first successful business was my photography company. I had the privilege of holding some major contracts that put me and my cameras in front of concerts and events, The WHL and NHL, multiple modeling agencies, world travel photography, and landed my images in many magazines and books. When I was thinking about starting up a construction-based company, I knew that I would have the support and experts at WESK to help guide me and help me navigate this endeavor.
Barb: Growing up on the farm and farming my entire life, it was in my blood to be my own boss, responsible for my own success. I had briefly tried the 9-5 environment and did not function well. I believed I could do better by investing in myself. As our business grows, my personal challenge has become learning new roles as I transition from working on my own to working with a team and being a leader.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED GENDER-SPECIFIC CHALLENGES, STEREOTYPES, OR BARRIERS IN YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY?
Linell: First off, having both past and present companies being in male dominated industries, I am quite often mistaken as “ Lionel”. Because why would a woman be showing up to photograph an NHL game, or why would a woman be signing construction contracts and agreements? When I show up to a jobsite wearing a pink hard hat, I am often thought to be “The Safety Girl”. Because all women on a construction site must just be the safety girl, right? The barrier I still face today is getting an invite to the Boys Club Table. We have some male owned companies that have been around forever in this province, and that is amazing. But, we need to start pulling up a chair for the new, women owned companies that bring a fresh new take to the industry.
Barb: This is not specific to my entrepreneurial journey, but it disappoints me to see that women are still subject to unsolicited sexual attention. No one ever approaches a young man at a conference and claims: “You really fill out that suit well” yet women hear it repeatedly. It does a lot to undermine confidence when you worry people are paying attention to your body rather than what you are saying. Women deserve to be recognized as the professionals that they are.
WHY DO WE NEED MORE WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS?
Linell: Women lead differently. We lead with a full holistic approach. We are born nurturers. When we focus our energy on nurturing our teams and our companies, and that’s when the success follows. I also think that we need more women in leadership for the future of our youth. When I feel like throwing in the hard hat, I remind myself that little eyes are watching. If we can be seen in leadership roles, our young women can believe that they can achieve this also. If we can reach leadership levels, our young boys can be raised to believe women are equals.
Barb: We need more women in leadership for balance. Women are different, not better, not worse just different. We do approach problems differently; we bring unique perspectives. Who would not welcome a broad range of solutions to any challenge? Over centuries women have honed their abilities as caregivers, to be sensitive, compassionate, and understanding because that was what was expected of them. This is not to say that they cannot be practical, scientific, forceful, decision makers. The best part is that they can bring all sides to the table, which makes for a better outcome.
HOW CAN WOMEN WORK TOGETHER TO #EMBRACEEQUITY?
Linell: It is our jobs as women leaders to create space for others to learn what embracing equity can look like. Equity is a new word and concept to many. We need to work together to put down our amour that we have had to wear to get to the positions we are in and come together in peace and celebration. By sharing each other’s successes and failures, with understanding that women are better united than divided, the shift to #EmbraceEquity will occur.
Barb: By sharing business experiences with each other, talking openly about the wins and the misses. By following the Thumper rule “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” And lastly, by bringing up our daughters to see that they too are worthy of a seat at the table, if they so choose, which most importantly means that we need to educate our sons that males and females are equal.
ABOUT THE GRUDNITZKI GROUP OF COMPANIES
The Grudnitzki Group of Companies is a multi- disciplinary organization focusing on Powerline Construction, Civil Construction, Mining Services and Project and Safety Management. Currently our flagship company, GC Construction, supports Saskpower in infrastructure upgrades, including but not limited to, Substation demolition and expansion and data capture and survey. Learn more here.
ABOUT BLACK FOX FARM AND DISTILLERY
At Black Fox, our purpose is to create exceptional spirits and experiences. We are one of few Type 1 craft distilleries, showcasing our unique Saskatchewan terroir in world-class gin and whisky. We take great pride in fostering a connection between the land, the farmer, the craftsman, and the customer. Learn more here.
To learn about other great women-owned businesses right here in Saskatchewan, visit our Women-Owned Business Database here.
If you’re a woman entrepreneur yourself and haven’t yet self-declared with WESK, be sure to do so! Signing up is free, and gets you access to an exclusive woman-owned Saskatchewan business logo, social media template, and the opportunity to be listed in our Women-Owned Business Database. Learn more here.