In case you didn’t know, March 8th is International Women’s Day, “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” It’s occurred for well over a century, belonging to all groups everywhere for the sake of accelerating women’s equality.
As a blogger, I never really celebrated the day in the past, figuring I’d leave it to the many women in an industry that’s a woman’s world. But I realised it was short-sighted of me, since the fight for women’s equality need not be one fought by women alone, and so I got to thinking about what I might put together that’d do the meaning behind the day justice.
And that’s what got me thinking about my journey as a blogger.
International Women’s Day | Because We Should ALL Support Equality
Like I said—there are a lot of women in this industry. And for a good reason, too!
As an example, Moms are way better at establishing communities than Dads are, taking the time to talk with each other and build relationships. That difference in communication skill is the driver behind blogging, and likely a huge reason why there are at least a hundred mom bloggers for every dad blogger in Canada, a country that has six Moms for every five dads. And as a man working in an industry like that, there’ve been a lot more women who’ve helped me build this brand than men, and what better day to appreciate that than International Women’s Day?
But just writing about these women didn’t feel like it’d show my appreciation as much as I wanted it to—I needed something more that’d drive the point home.
And that’s when I thought back to the skills I’d decided to polish in 2020 and landed on one—drawing.
Twenty Women | Because No One Is An Island
In “Twenty Women”, I wanted to pay homage to twenty of the women who’ve helped me along the way, drawing portraits of each of them as a show of thanks. But with a month spent examining the things impacting my life as a Black man and the five days I spent in DC for the Dad 2 Summit, I only got as far as drawing out all of the line art.
It’s like they say, though, right? Progress over perfection.
So without further ado, I’d like to present “Twenty Women”, my ode to twenty of the women who helped take my brand as far as it is today. I hope you spend the time to learn about them and check out some of what they have to offer, because each of them is a rockstar in their own right, and bring a little something different to the table than all the others!
That’s enough yapping from me—let’s get to it!
Twenty of the Women Who’ve Helped Me Come This Far
1) Aneta Alaei
Aneta and her husband Mike are two of the most down-to-earth people I see whenever I hit events in Toronto’s parenting scene. We’ve always treated each other like family, and they’re part of the reason why I still go to events after all these years.
2) Natalie Bell
Natalie, a two-time contributor to my Black History Month series Live from the 3.5, reps Black culture in a city only slightly more Black than the national average. As my “sister from another mister”, we’ve chatted plenty about the industry and everything we’re looking to do in our lives. If you want some of the most heartfelt content on life, loss, and everything in between, Natalie’s got you covered.
3) Kathy Buckworth
For me, Kathy belongs to a group of women who paved the way for my breed of creator, putting the work in long before the internet grew to what it is today. Our chats have always given me great perspective and helped me to stop fretting over the small stuff, choosing instead to create what I can when I can, prioritizing my family over just about anything that comes in my direction.
4) Julie Cole
When many hear the name “Julie Cole”, they think of the Co-Founder of Mabel’s Labels, o the woman who’s a speaker everywhere, or perhaps the fact that she’s raised six kids and somehow still made it. But me? I just think of my friend I get to see from time to time, who’s just fun and wants to help everyone win.
If you ever get the chance to meet her, you totally should—Julie is good peoples!
5) Sonya Davidson
There are people who talk about being busy, and people who seem to have mastered the art of being everywhere at once. And of the latter? I think Sonya created the craft.
I’ve marvelled at the sides of Toronto I’d never have even known about without Sonya to show me the way, helping others with stellar stories as a freelance writer, but always leaving her flair and style intact in the process.
6) Maureen Dennis
For several years, Maureen was someone I’d see at every toy event, introducing me to the idea of “media tours” and getting paid to travel across the country to tell the tale of a brand. When I started creating content, I didn’t even know you could make money as a blogger, but Maureen and others helped me understand just how many options there are out there!
Our friendship only solidified further in my time as the only man at her STRUT conference in 2018, where I grew to appreciate her hustle and what can come together when you put your mind to it!
7) Kathryn Dickson
Over the years, we’ve tried again and again to build more collaboration between bloggers in Toronto, but after a long time, I finally saw four bloggers actually do it—Christopher Mitchell, Christopher Rudder, Kevin Wagar and Kathryn Dickson with the Toronto Bloggers Collective. I’ve been a member since day one, and I’ve gotta say I’m impressed by everything they’ve done so far! Press trips. Group events. Taking everything they’ve learned and passing it on to others. And at the epicentre of it all is Kathryn and her partners three making sure the group continues to thrive and grow over the years!
8) Caroline Fernandez
There’s a play centre in my neighbourhood that we took the kids to when they were younger because it was free and had good drop-in programs. And in that centre, there’s a wall that lists the donors who’ve helped it stay up and running for the year, some hundreds here, some thousands there. And of those donors, there’s one that always brings a smile to my face:
Caroline’s been a friend for a while now, bringing her experience as an author of children’s books into an industry that too often has nothing tangible to offer with their brands. She’s always bought a different perspective and thoughts that helped me think beyond what you learn from just creating for what people consume on the screen.
9) Heather Greenwood Davis
I’m going to preface with this—I have no idea how Heather Greenwood Davis does it.
In 2011, she and her family packed up for a round-the-world trip, with two boys only a couple of years older than mine are now. She left her law career, and her husband took advantage of a self-funded leave program to do it, but it set the tone for their futures and set them on an entirely different trajectory than they’d been on before.
It might not be as easy to fathom a trip like this in the age of the coronavirus, but I have plenty of dreams I’ve yet to chase after that have nothing to do with travel, so what’s stopping me from going after them?
I say we all need to build the futures we want to live, and I think Heather’s an excellent example of doing just that.
10) Tiffany Heimpel
With a crossover from a blogger at She’s So Savvy to hustling on the brand/agency side at places like Mom Central Canada and IZEA, Tiffany’s always been a good friend who’s seen the much bigger picture at play. It’s hard to believe that the Sales Manager of Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn she is today used to just hang in the Twitter trenches with the rest of us, just figuring things out as the world rapidly changed around us.
Life keeps us far too busy to see each other often (them kids, right?), but I’ll be forever impressed by what she’s accomplished in such a short time!
11) Solmaz Khosrowshahian
I think the relationship that Solmaz and I share is a little more unique than most, since, for me, Solmaz represents what life might’ve looked like had I gone a completely different way.
Solmaz and I both started up in the Ontario Internship Program in 2007 weaving in and out of the same bureaucratic social circles until things went another way. She left, I stayed, and it shaped our lives in very different ways.
Solmaz became The Curious Creature, the travelling mom blogger who loves fashion and food, successfully building a brand that sees her regularly on the move, one of the biggest names Toronto knows today.
And me? I’m still looking for that balance between the blog, the family, and this government career I’ve chipped away at all these years now, still trying to figure out my flow.
So Solmaz has had one of the most profound impacts on my #BloggerLife, evidence that even I could do it if I were willing to make the jump.
The only problem? I’m still standing on the edge.
12) Christine McNaughton
Since Christine’s up on Manitoulin Island, we don’t physically cross paths all that often. Still, ever since we first met at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, it’s been a pleasure to keep in touch! I’ve meant to get up there on a family road trip, but those precious weeks of vacation each year seem to get eaten up with other things.
But Christine’s one of the most helpful, friendliest people I’ve come to know, and I look forward to finding some time to connect in the future.
13) Yashy Murphy
People often tell me they tire from just watching my life play out.
And that’s how I feel about Yashy.
Arguably the busiest content creator I can think of in the GTA, Yashy somehow manages to fit in three to four events a day and still crank out content—all while staying married and parenting two kids.
I can’t stress how much of an accomplishment I find this.
She’s one of my favourite people to hang out with, and with any luck, I’ll manage to snag her for a future project I have in mind ?
14) Marie Nicola
You can tell how long someone’s been in Toronto’s social media scene by whether they remember the Nat and Marie Show, the web series from well before web series were a thing.
Back when Marie ran the show with Nat Tubanos in the early 2010s, I found myself chilling on set a few times, happy to just bask in the presence of people doing something different. And we’d keep well in touch over the years—to the point where we now belong to the same accountability group that meets once a month—and we’ve never had to mince words with our views on things.
If you haven’t listened to her new podcast Alt.Pop.Repeat yet, you should—it’s just the start of much more to come!
15) Christine Panourgias
Back when Toronto’s Twitterverse was the hot thing in town, I don’t think there’s anyone I hung out with more often than Christine, the two of us thick as thieves as we plotted our rise to the top of the social media stratosphere!
I learned much of what I know today from Christine’s early teachings, whether it was how I could tweet better, or things to know about the back end of my blog. There’s a wealth of information in her head, and you’d be wise to get it out if you want to take your brand seriously.
16) Hollie Pollard
I may have started my blog pretty early, but there’s a whole bunch of Torontonians who started their work before me, and Hollie’s one of them, writing as a financial blogger who hustled hard to get her family out of poverty.
And she’s not afraid to share her story.
But another thing Hollie’s unafraid to share is advice, and it’s from her example that I started treating my brand as a business, eventually seeing my brand the way I do today, filled with potential but still a ways from reaching it.
If you’re looking for someone who’s seen plenty behind the scenes and knows what it takes to create a highly-engaged brand, Hollie’s someone to check out!
17) Jenn Powell
If I could attribute my shift to finding real value from my work to one person, Jenn Powell would be the one, publicly putting a lot of faith in my brand at the final Blissdom Canada conference. She transformed my usual antics of documenting everything and weaving sprawling stories around it all into an opportunity to think beyond my brand and figure out where to go next. I’m grateful for her believing that there was more to me than just a blogger.
Jenn has a big heart and will do what she can to help others thrive, but she’s also very into healing and finding the inner peace needed to live a balanced life.
I learned a lot from Jenn, and I’m still learning—I hope to keep learning from her and become a better creator for it!
18) Natalie Preddie-Zamojc
Natalie Preddie-Zamojc—or “Natty P” for short—is someone I don’t get to see nearly as much as I’d like, but has always been able to throw just as much sass as I do whenever I do.
As a mom and travel blogger, Natalie has the Kitchener-Waterloo area on lock with regular TV appearances and travel reporting that should make everyone rightly jealous. In a lot of ways, she’s like the little sister I never had, and I hope to see her keep slaying in the years ahead!
19) Makini Smith
Do you know what makes Makini stand out in a way that makes her a complete bad-ass?
She’s a survivor in the most literal sense of the word.
Makini will tell you all about her life in her series A Walk in My Stilettos, an inspiring body of work meant to push women forward even when the world tries to hold them back. And though we’ve collaborated on Live from the 3.5 in the past, Makini inspires me just by existing, connecting with her audience in ways that few ever manage to.
Only having discovered the truths I’m looking to share fairly recently, I can say that I’m striving to reach Makini’s level of raw honesty, looking for the experiences in my story that’ll not only resonate with others but also give them the fuel they need to make better lives for themselves than they had the day before.
Make sure you don’t make the mistake of taking her work lightly!
20) Amy Worrell
Last but not least we have Amy—the mama behind Milk & Coco, a couple blog that has much the same flavour that mine does, telling the tale of a mixed-race family from a very grounded perspective.
Amy’s one of those friends where it feels like no time’s passed at all when I see her, the both of us going through very similar things as we look to raise biracial children in the Greater Toronto Area.
As I continue doing everything I can to wring the very best out of the work I created, I know Amy’s one of the people who’ll get it—she’s trying to do the same thing!
As Beyoncé Once Said, “Who Run the World?”
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole community to establish a great brand—I’m blessed to have so many women in mine who’ve helped my brand mature.
If you’re out there trying to build one too, never discount the help that your friends can give. It might come from many different places and in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the advice you receive today might not help now. Maybe not even tomorrow. But one day, you’ll see the pieces come together, and hopefully, it’ll make as clear a picture for you then as it does for me now.
In any case, thank you for checking this out—I hope you like it!
Until the next, I remain,