Exhausted after working late into the night on a special job project, Emily Mills posted a note on Facebook about feeling like she was always hustling.
Surprised by the overwhelming response of women expressing a similar sentiment, the media relations and communications specialist organized a brunch five years ago at a midtown restaurant for some of the respondents to talk about the challenges of juggling personal and professional careers.
A total of 50 women attended the event at which How She Hustles was launched.
“Word spread organically via social media and five years later, 3,000 women are connected to this online network via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and we have sold out five networking events,” said Mills, who was the recipient of a Women United Network (WUN) Award recently. “Women attend our events to network, get inspired, share tips for success and generally enjoy themselves. We just don’t get together enough, especially as Black and diverse women.”
The married mother of two young boys said the award is fulfilling in many ways.
“It says I am doing something right that makes women feel empowered, I need to keep creating spaces for Black and diverse women to network and we need to keep debunking the myth that women can’t work together,” said Mills, who is a senior communications officer at the CBC. “We can and we do and I am proud to say women have found jobs, mentors, friends and new business contacts through How She Hustles. It’s not easy to juggle it all, but when I see the overwhelming response to this network, I know I can’t stop.”
In addition to providing a forum for women to network, How She Hustles has raised hundreds of dollars for charitable causes and promoted grassroots community organization projects.
A 1999 Northern Secondary School graduate, Mills holds a journalism degree from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree from York University, where she also pursued public relations studies and is a former CTV News assistant diversity producer.
WUN Awards were also presented to Olivia “Moy” Fung, Kike Odusanya and Karlyn Percil for starting women’s networks.
Migrating from Jamaica at age seven, Fung became pregnant shortly after graduating from York Memorial Collegiate. As a single mother with little support, she endured many challenges before landing on her feet.
Finding writing as therapy, Fung developed a love for reading and shared inspirational messages with relatives and friends. In 2009, she launched Card in a Frame Inc., that offered inspirational messages and greetings and two years later established You Inspire Me Women to provide coaching opportunities for women to grow their businesses and build brand awareness.
“This award will inspire me to do more to provide women with the support they need to achieve success,” said Fung, the recipient of the 2014 MicroSkills Women’s Enterprise & Resource Centre Entrepreneur of the Year Award that honours graduates who overcome obstacles and successfully realize their dream of starting a business.
Fung is on the verge of signing a lease with MicroSkills to sublet office space in Brampton that the agency used to provide their employment training program, which she graduated from a year ago.
“They are moving and this just fell into my lap,” she said. “The space will provide entrepreneurs with incubation services to get their businesses off the ground.”
The president of the Scotiabank Caribbean Professional Network, Percil started a monthly group session – Sister Talk – for young women to meet and freely discuss personal and professional issues.
“They have honest conversations about life, love and relationships,” she said. “It’s a small and intimate group and I can tell you that the tissue box is often used to wipe away the tears during our revealing sessions.”
A Canadian resident since 2003, St. Lucian-born Percil worked with Scotiabank in her eastern Caribbean birth island, established her own clothing line – Bellemoun – and was St. Lucia’s Carnival Queen runner-up 14 years ago.
A certified connector and coaching professional, Odusanya is the owner of a women entrepreneurs fashion boutique coaching company, kikelolaodusanya.com, and the founder of The WE Network that provides content specifically crafted for women entrepreneurs.
“Our community consists of women that have decided to create their life according to their own terms, negating the standard paths and choosing to blaze their own trails,” said Odusanya, who was born in Toronto to Nigerian and Kittitian parents. “Simply put, The WE Network Woman is different. She is driven, savvy, stylish and very focused on where she’s going with no time for competition. She’s mainly concerned about creating the life she wants to live.”
Founded by realtor and author Makini Smith, entrepreneur Monique Prince and fitness trainer Angel Deen, WUN recognizes women who are empowering themselves and lifting other women along the way.