Personal growth

From Personal growth

What does a feminist business look like?

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There has been a fair bit of criticism lately about “marketplace feminism” (New Republic, Huffington Post, In These Times, and even a hilarious spoof of the concept from the New York Times). Marketplace feminism in these cases can be loosely understood as the commodification of feminism and female empowerment for commercial gain.

The conversation has given those of us who count ourselves as both entrepreneurs and feminists pause for thought: what does it mean to deploy a political ideology – in this case feminism – in a business context? Is marketplace feminism an inherently exploitative phenomenon, or – if done well – something that can be a positive force?

As a longtime self-proclaimed feminist and career entrepreneur, I am clear on my bias and will come right out of the gate with it: I believe that feminism has a valid and even essential place in business – just like it does everywhere else.

For the record, however, I didn’t always feel this way.

Growing Consciousness And Raising Capital

When I first came to feminist consciousness in my late teens as a university student in the 1980s, unchecked corporate greed was an article of faith. Sure, there were rumblings about divestment in portfolios containing South African mining businesses, however for the most part the Bonfire of the Vanities was still burning bright. Profit was awesome, bigger was better and ideas like corporate social responsibility were barely on the horizon.

As an activist, and furthermore a person of such privilege that I had never been faced with the raw necessity of earning a real living for myself, I turned up my nose at the idea of pursuing a business career. It felt suspect, greedy, dirty to be a money-chaser. I naturally assumed that I would go off and save the world, I would never need to worry about profit or margins, and my income would come from… somewhere. (As an aside, there really is nothing quite like being 19. It feels so great to know everything, even if that time is short.)

When, edging into my mid-20s, the penny (ha!) finally dropped that my limited and condescending attitude towards business served no one, and was actually pretty troubling given my championing of gender equality across the board. I realized that business in fact had the potential to be an elegant and powerful tool to create the social change that I craved, and that meanwhile I had rent to pay and groceries to buy. In short, I got over it.

My entire rationale for commercializing Lunapads and Luna Undies (then known as Lunapanties) in 1994 was to promote feminist values. The company’s original mission statement was “To create more positive and informed relationships between women, their bodies and the Earth”. The first marketing tagline was “Your Body. Your World. Your Choice.” A feminist agenda was the why. Lunapads was the how.

Thanks in large part to the mentorship of my amazing business partner Suzanne, I’ve become a fierce proponent of entrepreneurship as a vehicle for gender equality. Done from a values-based place, it can bring creative freedom, financial independence and workplace flexibility, an aspect particularly critical for parents. Why fight the corporate patriarchy when you can have your own scene, on your own time and terms?

Meanwhile in the for-profit menstrual space, we have watched in recent years with mixed emotions how multiple firms of varying sizes have taken up the banner – or at least the voice – of feminism in the service of marketing their goods and services. Some have featured brilliant, relevant messages about, for example, the absurd double standard of throwing/running/fighting “like a girl” in the service of selling chemical-soaked disposable tampons. Great message. Products? Don’t get me started.

Buying and Selling Empowerment

It rankled us deeply to witness what had essentially been our philosophy since day one get doused in marketing dollars and co-opted by companies that sincerely don’t care about their customer’s health or the environment, let alone gender equality.

The phenomenon, recently explored at length by Bitch magazine founder and creative director Andi Zeisler in her recent book We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement, takes on the disconcerting fact that since feminism has in recent years become “cool”, it’s now essentially being sold back to us as consumers, erasing the movement’s all-too-real goals and challenges. To be sure, we wholeheartedly agree that buying “feminist” lip balm will not end gender-based violence or pay inequity, nor will it safeguard reproductive rights: it’s an insincere ploy that ultimately adds insult to injury.

As feminists, entrepreneurs and marketers, it leaves Lunapads in an interesting bind. On the one hand, Andi’s critique of the “empowertising” shill is bang-on. On the other, where does it leave “real” feminist businesses (whatever that might be, which begs yet another question) like ours? Do we check our politics at the door? It reminds me of how I think about women in the military, as in I really wish that this thing didn’t exist in the first place, however if things are ever going to change then we need to get in there.

For all practical intents and purposes, a market-based economy is all we’ve got for now. If we’re making useful, environmentally responsible products and thus supporting our employees and community – is profit so bad? How are people supposed to be able to earn a living otherwise?

The current vitriol towards marketplace feminism – almost entirely coming from non-entrepreneurs, I should add – leaves us with the feeling that there may be some babies getting thrown out with the bathwater. Limiting the meaning of marketplace feminism (or not offering a more nuanced take on it) to something inherently negative – as opposed to a practice that can range in quality from appalling to awesome – feels deeply unfair and risks discouraging entrepreneurial feminists from seeking to earn a living, grow the economy, create progressive jobs and generally be their awesome selves.

It bothered us to read, for example, Andi’s sweeping statement in a recent Bitch editorial that “...corporations do not exist to change collective minds, normalize diverse bodies, or promote real-life equality. They exist to profit, to satisfy investors and stockholders, to cut costs to maximize efficiency, to skirt labor laws where they can. The recent elevation of feminism from political movement to brand ideology doesn’t change those goals.”

Ouch. We are not disputing that there are some major assholes out there who take every advantage of the capitalist system in the name of profit at any cost (some even calling themselves feminists while doing it), but – hello, what about those of us who are trying to find a better way?

I can almost hear Andi in my head now saying “I didn’t mean you!”. (Full disclosure: we have had a warm, respectful and entirely successful business relationship with Bitch for a heap of years). But nevertheless there’s something here, something that I recognize because I’ve been there and thought that. And that something goes back to the stereotype that you can’t be a “good” feminist while trying to make a buck. Because then you’re a capitalist, which, as Sarah Jaffe so acridly spelled out in her New Republic article, doesn’t work because “… what is good for capitalism is not necessarily good for women.”

At the risk of getting mired into a potentially endless debate about what qualifies as a “real” feminist business or “good” or “bad” marketplace feminism, here are a few personal guidelines on how, as marketers and consumers who are committed to doing their best to live their politics both personally and professionally, we support our own decision making.

  1. Does a product or service offering meaningfully support feminist values, or is their “empowerment” message just a ploy to sell an otherwise unrelated, possibly dodgy, product? Does the message imply that you are personally deficient (disempowered) if you don’t use their products, or use crappy ingredients or labor practices?
  2. Does the company behind the offering practice what they preach in terms of their internal policies and practices? When I first heard about REI’s Force of Nature campaign, for example, the first thing I did was look up how many senior managers and directors the company employs. Same/same, or different?
  3. Look for consistency, thoughtfulness and tone sensitivity. It’s hard to quantify this one, however as a recent example we were stunned to spot another menstrual product company passing out business cards at the Women’s March in January 2017. Sorry, ladies: not cool.
  4. Is the company taking a stand or otherwise supporting relevant issues and organizations outside of marketing opportunities? Look for initiatives and donations that are not related to marketing. At Lunapads, for example, we donate time and money to organizations that we believe in (Planned Parenthood, and our local Sexual Health and LGBTQ2S activist nonprofits) that we don’t try to “leverage” – we just believe in what they do, support them to the extent that we can and leave it at that.
  5. Look for certifications like Fair Trade, Cruelty-free and Women-Owned and (big shout-out here) B Corp. In order to qualify for B Corp status, a company’s entire operation, specifically its social and environmental impact, is third-party assessed and quantified. Chances are, if a company is committed enough to commit to being transparent enough to participate in these types of programs, there is a good chance that the rest of their values will be a fit for you.

Finally, for those who remain sceptical of the possibility of the feminist reinvention of capitalism, or an authentic expression of feminist values in a business – or at least small business – context (responsible marketplace feminism?), we urge you to, at a minimum, cut us some slack while we rise to the challenge and – better yet – support us. But then again, there we go again using our politics to sell something 😉

PS: if you have read this far, here’s a bonus for you! There is a Canadian blog called Liisbeth that is dedicated to Feminists in Business. Don’t miss their interview with me if you’d like to hear more on how and why I think that feminism can actually save capitalism. Liisbeth’s founder Petra Kassun-Mutch, has even developed a Feminist Business Canvas: check it!

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The Solomon Effect

We can all name the people in our lives who have inspired, influenced or otherwise taught us the most. For us as impact entrepreneurs and social change leaders, there are few who meet this profile more strongly than Joel Solomon.

We discovered Joel not long after we fatefully met one another while attending a  Community Leadership course in the fall of 1999. Madeleine had recently closed her store and garment manufacturing business to focus solely on developing Lunapads and Suzanne was seeking ways to leave the corporate world.

The course brought together a cohort of over forty leaders from diverse backgrounds and invited guests from numerous sectors (ie: the Arts, homelessness, First Nations, transportation and politics) to engage and develop us into leaders of our community. At one of these sessions, a young woman made a presentation called “Green Venture Capital”. She worked for a firm that invested in local businesses with a demonstrated social or environmental impact. We were mesmerized and promptly asked for her card.

Renewal Partners was the name of the firm and Joel was the President. We set to work crafting a business plan and pitch deck to land them as investors. It was tricky to get a meeting with the mythical Joel Solomon, however one fine day he walked through the door of our office and, following a 3 hour conversation, our dream came true. We still remember how closely Joel paid attention to each of us personally in that meeting: what were our stories and where had we come from?

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At the Renewal offices following an annual one-on-one meeting with Joel

The next couple of years actually brought a heap of challenges. The market for alternative (washable, reusable) menstrual products was still in its infancy in the early ‘90s, as was online shopping. Our original model – selling to US-based distribution companies who would in turn place the products on the shelves of health food stores – proved expensive and challenging with a very limited marketing budget.

One of our most iconic Joel moments was actually one of the hardest: basically going to back to him to report that Renewal’s original investment capital had been drawn down and we needed more. He was incredibly patient in hearing us out and then explained that while he was not prepared to continue to fund a model that was not panning out, he believed wholeheartedly in us as leaders. Sending us a healthy dose of tough, yet supportive love, he told us to go back to the office, put our heads together and figure it out.

And that we did. Buoyed by his faith in us, we decided to invest our remaining few thousand dollars in a new website, with an emphasis on online shopping. It took a few years to turn the ship around, but it totally worked and we have never looked back. Today over 80% of our sales are transacted online and we are often held up as models of small business e-commerce success.

Thanks to Renewal’s investment in Lunapads in 2000, we not only gained an investor who was highly aligned with our mission and values, but a trusted advisor who would provide guidance and introductions. Whether during our annual one-on-one meetings to talk about the business or during brief exchanges at social or professional events, Joel provided us massive doses of insight and inspiration, both personal and professional. 

Over the years we observed Joel work his similar magic, mentoring hundreds of other social entrepreneurs and people involved in not-for-profit and philanthropic work. His work has attracted and inspired an entire community of impact investors and philanthropists, including Kay, one of our past investors, who proudly made her first entrepreneurial investment at the fine age of 85! Since then, she donated her shares in Lunapads to her adult granddaughter. Fresh out of University, her granddaughter is now an investor participant in the growth of Lunapads, allowing us to mentor the next generation of feminist capitalists and impact investors.

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Celebrating our 10 year anniversary with Joel and Kay, our most recent investor!

There are few people in our circle in higher demand than Joel. What if all his knowledge and wisdom could be available to everyone? Fortunately, now it can.

Joel’s new book The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism lays out a hopeful plan for the future of capitalism. By sharing his personal journey and providing examples from his own and other people’s investing decisions, the book provides a valuable perspective on how capital, when deployed for social, environmental and economic justice, can chart a better future.

For example, seeing beyond the old-school patriarchal business world, Joel identified early on the value of Lunapads achieving B Corporation certification. Joining the global B Corp movement to use business as a force for good has not only allowed us to walk in the same circles as the likes of Patagonia, Warby Parker and Ben & Jerry’s, it has inspired our company to take annual measures to improve our social and environmental impact; in 2016, Lunapads was honoured as a Best for the World (ie: top 10%) company in the environment category.

Those of us lucky enough to get some quality time with Joel know how to use it wisely. For those without that access, his book is an inspirational guide and model for both new and seasoned social entrepreneurs and impact investors to follow. The tone, stories and calls to action (“Let us be billionaires of good deeds, billionaires of love, billionaires of meaning and purpose”) feel like Joel is sitting beside you in a local coffee shop wisely counselling you to take the torch and see what could happen. You’ll come away eager to grab the torch, take action and help ensure The Solomon Effect shines brightly for future generations.

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5 insights from a Facebook-free month

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Me on Facebook – no airbrushing this time

I am admittedly a bit of an odd duck: I love new ideas, people and conversation and am part of a couple of organisations that rely heavily on digital marketing to build community and get the word out about our products and events. You would think that, given this, I would be a social media natural.

Not so much, as it turns out.

This has not always been the case: I have been an avid Facebooker for several years, and have often joked that it’s my version of TV (I don’t even watch Netflix – I just never get around to it), in that it provides me with a variety of news, stories, and education that is part informative and part (mostly) pleasant distraction.

I faffed around with Twitter for a while and, after trying to reinvent myself and follow the plot on a few occasions have finally admitted that, as useful as it can be, I just don’t get it. Instagram I have never gotten the hang of, despite several of my nearest-and-dearest’s entreaties and clear affection for it. As for the rest of it, I have little interest or capacity to learn a new platform, developing a following and so on.

Just over a month ago I spontaneously gifted myself with not checking Facebook during a week-long family holiday. Like, really not going there. At all. I did not make any kind of announcement about my decision, I just decided to let it go. A week soon turned into a month, and, while I felt mildly curious now and again about reconnecting, I felt even more curious about the feelings and insights that resisting the urge has surfaced.

Other than sharing a couple of posts last week to welcome a new G Day team member and share an article that featured my wonderful business partner Suzanne, I have been off for over a month until yesterday: here are a few insights based on the experience.

  1. Tick, tick, tick. I can easily lose track of an hour or more surfing from one thing to the next, on top of a day spent mostly with my face stuck in a screen. I feel a similar sense of regret about the hour-plus that I spend driving every day: what would you do with a extra hour or more a day? I often complain that I don’t have time for yoga or gardening, two of my favourite activities: Hey Madeleine, how about you do the math on where those “extra” hours might come from? See you at yoga 😉
  2. It’s not just about time, it’s also about attention. In addition to my regular work with Lunapads and G Day, for the past 6 months I have also been actively working on a new business case on the side. Sure, I have had to carve out time to spend on this new project, but I have also had to carve out precious mental and creative bandwidth. Perhaps others have more of this than I do, however I have become somewhat guarded about how I “spend” my creative and emotional capital. I am feeling a bit cocooned within myself at the moment in order to focus and feed this new idea: social feels noisy and distracting at a time when I need inward quiet.
  3. When it comes right down to it, it’s not about Facebook: it’s actually about me. I have a ton of insecurities, that if not checked prior to clicking the blue F icon, can have a big ol’ party. It’s often said that others mirror us, for better or for worse. I find this to be magnified in the case of social. If I am not feeling 100% grounded, emotionally healthy and otherwise cool with myself, the comparison impulse gets triggered and all of a sudden, rather than feeling proud and excited by others’ accomplishments and moments of joy, I am feeling like a loser. I can also be a judgy so-and-so, another aspect of myself that I am not proud of that loves to make a self-satisfied appearance at these times.
  4. Appearances can be deceiving. Full disclosure: I am as guilty as anyone of putting on a perpetually shiny-happy face in social (profile portraits included!). One of my pet peeves is when people assume that Lunapads is perpetually “killing it” (can we stop using this expression please?). For sure, we need to celebrate ourselves and our successes: absolutely. Where is the rest of the story, though? The story about hard work, dealing with uncertainty, bad luck, bad timing, mistakes and misunderstandings, overcoming challenges, coming to terms with failure? My fear is that our social “lens” makes it look deceptively easy to aspiring entrepreneurs, or like there is some magical point that we reached long ago where we “figured it out” and are now just counting our money and going to parties.
  5. I missed the “about you” part! I miss my friends and learning about all the cool things that they are thinking and doing! Assuming that I am well and balanced, there are few things more delightful than seeing images of my friends and colleagues’ exciting life events, travel and so on. If I was to reach out and line up a coffee date or phone call to catch up with everyone I know and love, it would basically take the rest of my life: not gonna happen. I feel a bit sad about the cool moments, provocative opinions and interesting events and news items that I have missed.

Yesterday I re-entered the world of Facebook and have since found timely posts related to my new project, a disturbing video about the impact that social/our phones can have on our self-esteem, discovered great local events and “liked” (even Loved – because I do!) so many of you and your cool news and opinions. And – truth be told – I also skirted a ton of stuff for fear of doing another demon dance. Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon in the virtual – or in-person – world.

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Lessons learned as a Roller Derby parent

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G Force jamming: it’s derby night in Canada!

When I found out that I was pregnant in the summer of 2004, one of my first concerns was about what I would teach my child: after all, how much did I really know? One of the more pleasant surprises of the actual experience of parenting is how much I am learning from her, including new life experiences that I would never otherwise have chosen or anticipated.

On the occasion of her 10th birthday, one of Gigi’s Godmothers gave her a fateful gift: Roller Girl, a graphic novel by Portland OR-based author and Rose City Rollers skater Victoria Jamieson. It’s a wonderful, humourous, touching story of friendship and overcoming challenges based around a girl who gets bitten by the derby bug. Gigi devoured it within hours and shortly thereafter we were googling whether this excellent activity existed in Vancouver. We quickly learned that indeed, there was a Junior league as well as a full-fledged adult league.

Never having been much of a sporty type myself, I have instead relied on deriving my personal sense of strength, accomplishment and teamwork in primarily non-physical ways. As a youth Gigi’s age, I tried a few of the more physical-contact oriented options out there (soccer, karate) and wound up feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. Without getting into the details, let’s just say that I am not a naturally physically imposing person and typically shy away from any form of sporting competition.

And yet as a feminist I was intrigued by the idea of Gigi trying it. What might I have missed out on by not having learned to fully express myself in this way? I have experienced my share of physical intimidation and even force imposed on me as a woman: how might things have been different if I had had the skills and attitude to literally stand up for myself? And yet: full contact? Was it safe?

Her Dad and I surprised Gigi a few weeks later with a field trip to see a Terminal City Rollergirls bout (derby match). We had actually told her that we were going to see an opera (an idea also inspired by Roller Girl, where the protagonist’s Mom takes her to tedious “cultural enlightenment” evenings, one of which turns out – fatefully – to be derby), a plan to which she was vehemently objecting until she spotted a “Roller Derby Today!” sandwich board outside the venue and the penny dropped.

Gigi was riveted, practically levitating with glee off the bench as we took in our first taste of derby. For anyone who has not yet had the pleasure, I often explain derby as rugby meets roller skating meets Red Rover, with a side of Halloween. It is fast, rough, complex and thrilling. I have yet to determine the finer points of scoring, however it basically rests on the lead players – Jammers – busting their way through the opposing team’s four Blockers.

Witnessing the awesome skill, raw strength and open fierceness of the skaters was unlike anything I have ever seen: urban amazon warriors in ripped stockings, fearsome makeup, emblazoned with edgy “derby names”. Derby names are the best: “Princess Slay Ya”, “Merry Chris My Ass”, “Brawl Flanders”, “Lady Trample”, and so on. I love the idea of skaters having a persona or alter ego, not just a number or position. The camaraderie between all of the players regardless of team affiliation was also palpable, and expressed itself with jokes and hugs even in the midst of intense play.

One of the things that struck us as we entered this new world is that it was unlike any sporting event that we had ever attended: we – particularly Gigi – felt distinctly welcomed. The crowd was full of piercings, body art and spooky makeup, but, as Gigi quickly observed, “everyone is so nice!”. Following the bout, the crowd surrounded the track to high five the players as they skated by, who then happily stuck around to autograph t-shirts. The kid was over the moon.

IMG_20161119_190142Come September, we signed up for the Junior league, got G Force (Gigi’s derby name) kitted out at a local derby specialist (conveniently located in a former dance hall, complete with a free, derby-themed pinball machine) and got her – well, rolling.

Again, not what I would have expected: while it was mostly girls, there were also a few boys, and the age range is immense: literally grades 1 to 12. I can think of few sports or physical activities that are as age and gender inclusive.

Including such a full spectrum lends itself naturally to mentorship, and it wasn’t long before an experienced Grade 11 skater generously offered to take Gigi for a spin around the seawall to work on her skills. Gigi was beyond thrilled and they had a great time. As it happens, Roller Girl protagonist Astrid is surreptitiously encouraged via an exchange of notes by Rainbow Bite, one of the more fearsome Rose City Rollers skaters whom she idolizes.

Now back for her second season, G Force is following her mentor’s lead and paying it forward herself, supporting and encouraging the new kids. She is confidently skating, jamming and blocking, and is eagerly anticipating becoming “combat cleared” (full contact) as soon as possible (the minimum age is 13, and requires passing a variety of skill and safety tests).

Physical confidence is one thing, but I am also noticing something else that I have not seen much of out there: the healthy expression of aggression. I hadn’t realized how even I – card-carrying “girls can do anything” type that I am – would not necessarily have sought out such an experience for my daughter: it’s rare that girls – or adult women for that matter – are taught how to literally fight their way through something, or to express these types of natural, inevitable feelings in a socially sanctioned way. And it is precisely this that is being done within a container of one of the most diverse, supportive, fiercely proud communities that I can imagine.

I know that there will come a day when she will take a big hit, and we will gasp and shudder from the side of the rink. But it feels worth the price to see our confident, joyful, connected tween blossoming in the meantime: may her derby days serve her well in all facets of her future.

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Dancing with the demons

DSC_0561“You ladies are killing it!”, “Congratulations: so well deserved!”, “Rock stars!”

There’s a odd thing coming up for me these happy, successful days. We are on a major winning streak – SheEO, New York, speaking gigs, awards and so on (you will love what’s coming up around the corner for that matter, but I digress ;-), and the above comments are just a few of the supportive sentiments that our community have shared. Feels great, am I right?

Having just shared some thoughts about failure, let’s talk about success. The good times, the parties, the spotlight: woo hoooo! Absolutely. We have worked our asses off and are deeply grateful for every bit of recognition that comes our way. And.

Here’s a story about a very recent success that actually conjured up some of my worst demons, what it took to have a dance with them and then let them go.

I don’t know about you, however I can find myself occasionally slipping into the old, yucky, comparison game, particularly in the social media milieu. You know: my inside vs. your outside. You always win, by the way: and you didn’t even know that you were playing!

OK, so, yeah, yuck. We all have them: the voices, gremlins, inner critics, whatever you want to call them. Like rats in the basement, the only way that you are going to get rid of them is to turn on the lights, admit that they’re there, and get down to business. I went with demons this time for their alliterative value, however that’s more credit than they deserve.

Several weeks ago Suzanne and I were invited to attend an event that was billed as “A Celebration of Women Entrepreneurs” by some treasured colleagues over at BMO Bank of Montreal. BMO is actually doing an extraordinary job at recognizing the value of women, and women entrepreneurs in particular these days, and have been putting their money where their mouth is in the form of supporting SheEO, among multiple other initiatives. Check it all out here.

Normally we have a practice of essentially taking turns attending the events that we are invited to that allows us to have personal downtime, family time and so on.  The event was on a Friday night, and happened to fall just under 24 hours after I was scheduled to return from Paris (pauvre moi!). Knowing that I might not be feeling 100% awesome (I wasn’t, as it turned out) and that Suzanne would attend, I took a pass.

Something different was going on though, and I kept getting emails encouraging me to come. I am a total sucker for enthusiasm (Lunapads and G Day job seekers, take note!), and agreed to attend on the condition that I could bring my Mom, who has been a customer of BMO’s for over 60 years, which of course was more than fine.

All good! Lovely reception, thought-provoking keynote, and then: awards! What awards? Something-something Innovation something Global something and then over the speakers comes our story, no names, delivered in the third person by the MC: we are the honourees and are invited up on the stage.

Wow, how wonderful! How exciting! Suzanne is closest to the mic and says some eloquent words about our work and expresses gratitude for the recognition. Would I care to add anything?

For reasons I am still trying to come to grips with (demon foreshadowing hint!): actually, no thanks: she nailed it, I’m good. Big smile, a wave and hand-over-heart gesture were all that I had in me. No “Thank you so much!”: nothing audible at all, in fact. It all passed by in an instant, and the next thing I knew, there I was back in my seat feeling like a spoiled child.

Enter THE DEMONS!!! Here are some of their soundbites: “That was the lamest performance ever”, “You looked like a total @$$hole”, “You let down Lunapads, your business partner, BMO and your esteemed colleagues who fixed this all up for you in the first place”, “Is that all you’ve got? Your Mom was there, for Pete’s sake!” We are talking demon fiesta, a demon freaking Christmas.

Nothing like feeling like a loser when you’ve just won an award: Score one for you, Demons!

As painful as it is for me to recall these feelings, writing this post in actually my way of shining the light into the dark basement and saying enough. I don’t know where these voices come from, and am uncertain that knowing would necessarily make then shut up and go away in any case.

As it happened, I was scheduled to connect with my wonderful SheEO coach MJ early the following week as I was still churning over the previously described scene, who clued me into the neurological fact that, thanks to the flight-or-flight response, our adult brains are “velcro for the negative and teflon for the positive” (as opposed to children, who track success, not failure). Good to know. But what to do about it?

Part of my unchecked baggage has to do with feeling ashamed of my privilege and wanting to shut things down when I feel like I am receiving “too much” or taking up too much space energetically. Like, say… “undeserved” awards, as a random example. Hmmm.

Processing things with a friend, skilled Coach or suchlike can go a very long way, but ultimately I knew that the work was up to me. I sat with MJ’s insights and my crap for a while, and then noticed the large, lovely crystal vase that I had made into an albatross – my award – sitting on the mantelpiece, sadly empty.

There are a bunch of posts about my enthusiasm for gardening over at the Lunapads blog; let’s just say that I enjoy growing things. There is something so wonderfully tangible about it, and also accounts for my predilection for in-person conversations, products and other more-physical, less-abstract pursuits.

Without thinking twice about what I was doing, I went into my garden, picked up my shears and helped myself to a brilliant, generous mass of some of my most treasured favourites: calla lilies, delphiniums, foxgloves, rose campion and even a late peony.

Putting those gorgeous flowers into the vase was total therapy: I had finally found the celebration, the landing, the rightness of the award by putting it so gloriously to its intended use.

Flowers may seem like an unusual weapon of choice with which to fight demons, however they gave me the permission that I needed to forgive myself and enjoy something that I was worthy of. Nature and its creations are a far more potent power than we normally credit it with, and for me at least, using the vase in such a deeply personal way was the perfect tonic for me.

Thank you BMO, Nature, Mom, Suzanne, and the amazing community that is and supports women entrepreneurs in their blooming, whatever shape it takes.