Advice & Inspiration from 5 Women-Led, Black-Owned Businesses in Winnipeg

Starting up and running a business takes incredible grit, passion, and creativity. Last year, business owners had to get especially creative to overcome unpredictable obstacles. Supporting local stores is one way many communities have banded together to keep their neighbors thriving. In Winnipeg, a few online platforms for local store shopping started gaining more visitors, including goodlocal.ca, thelocalswinnipeg.com, and lovelocalmb.ca, among others.

While shopping local is a good start, supporting diverse voices in entrepreneurship is essential. One way to do that is to shop from local, black-owned businesses.


The Black-Owned Winnipeg directory is a helpful resource to do just that, and with it, we were able to connect with 5 women-led business owners who are doing great work in the local community. Their combination of values is exactly what we want to support: from encouraging sustainability to supporting their community, to spreading joy, to inspiring others’ personal growth.

In the interviews below, you’ll get to know a little more about the women behind 5 great local Winnipeg businesses, gain some helpful advice from them if you’re looking to start your own business and hopefully connect with their values as much as we have.

While February happens to be Black History Month, we acknowledge that supporting black-owned businesses is something to do all year, not just right now. We hope momentum around supporting diverse voices will continue throughout 2021 and into the future.


Whitney Simms from Together Loungewear in Winnipeg, MB

Whitney Sims, Together Loungewear

1) What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business? 

It can be very intimidating to start anything new. The best advice I was given was to just start! You don’t have to have it all figured out right away. Taking small actionable steps will lead you to the big picture.

2) Who or what inspired you to launch your business?

I think what inspired me to start my business was through my passion for self-care, wellness, and my education. Growing up I always loved clothing and shopping too. I think Together Loungewear is a mix of my love for wellness, clothing, and the feeling you get when you wear your favorite comfy clothes. In University I studied a lot about the environment, sustainability, and human rights. A topic that would come up more than once was the detrimental effects of fast fashion. I knew when I was starting Together Loungewear that my business needed to be responsible and ethical. I don’t want to be a contributor to fast fashion.

3) Tell us about your mission as a business: What are your values and what impact do you want to have? 

We value transparency! Our mission is to create responsibly made loungewear garments that put you, and the planet top of mind. We want you to feel comfortable knowing that the people who made your clothes we’re working in safe conditions and that we use fabric that doesn’t have any harmful substances or chemicals. We try to be very mindful of working with a manufacturer that understands our needs to be sustainable and is on the same page with us when it comes to reducing waste. The impact we want to create is educating consumers on being conscious consumers. Shopping less, and making more mindful purchases. Right now people are shopping online and receiving their order the next business day or two. Our small business isn’t operating that way — and we want to change that behavior of buying and receiving instant gratification. We think there’s something special about making a mindful purchase, waiting a little longer because you purchased from a business that is consciously producing your product.


Dionne Friesen, Poppy Joy Pompoms

Dionne Friesen, Poppy Joy Pompoms

1) What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business? 

Just start! There will never be a time when the timing is perfect, so just start. I’d also recommend starting small at first. Work hard at a few things, and then continue to grow as you hone your skills. When I started I only made garlands and ornaments.

2) Who or what inspired you to launch your business?

My husband inspired me to launch my business. He saw how much I loved to make pompoms for myself and encouraged me to share my love with others. My company is named after my daughter. Her cheerful name was perfect for a pompom business. 

3) Tell us about your mission as a business: What are your values and what impact do you want to have? 

My mission is to add joy and whimsy to people’s lives through pompoms. Hearing how happy a garland or keychain makes you feel when you look at it, makes me happy!
I also love that garlands are party decor that can be used time and time again. When they’re not being used as party decor, they can be used as home decor or saved until the next special occasion. 


Tanisha Salakoh, contemporary artist from Winnipeg, MB

Tanisha Salakoh, Contemporary Artist

1) What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business? 

I have a full-time career as an accountant, but I felt like I needed a creative outlet. I started painting as a way to express myself creatively and relieve stress and realized that I really enjoyed the artwork I created. I started reaching out to local businesses, asking to exhibit in their spaces, as a way to make connections and gain exposure. I currently have my work displayed at Sookrams – a local brewery south of Confusion Corner and Launch – a co-operative workspace in the Exchange District. I’d say, think of collaborations you could do. You never know!

2) Who or what inspired you to launch your business?

Initially, when I was living in the UK I contacted a local artist in London and asked them for advice. They said to ask yourself why you create art? Is it for yourself or others? I paint for myself, primarily as a way to express myself creatively, but I also occasionally do commissions to bring client’s creative ideas to life. My dad is also an artist. He said to me, just because you’re an accountant, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an artist too. We’re actually having an exhibition together in November at the Cre8ery Gallery and Studio. The name of the exhibition will be named “Baba ati Omo”, based on the idea of two generations.

3) Tell us about your mission as a business: What are your values and what impact do you want to have? 

My mission is to use art as an outlet. Painting to me is a form of mindfulness, where I can get creative, relieve stress, and focus on the present moment. It’s important that I’m doing it for myself, but it’s also extremely important that I am also helping to support the local community. My most recent project has been painting on crewneck sweaters. For any sweater that I sell, I donate a portion of the proceeds to Art City. I know that not everyone has the opportunity or financial means to access art programming in Winnipeg. As art has played such an important part in my life, I believe that everyone should have access to the tools to express themselves creatively. Winnipeg has always been home to me and has supported me, so I want to give back by supporting local organizations and businesses any way I can. In the Spring, I’ll be one of the vendors at LuckyGirl Pop-Up Show, and it’s nice to be a part of that.


Shanise Burgher, Level Up Therapy Practice

Shanise Burgher, Level Up Therapy Practice

1) What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business? 

My first piece of advice would be to take the risk! If you’ve done your research and it is something that you feel passionate about, take the leap! You will truly never know unless you try and I believe women need to occupy more spaces. My second piece of advice would be to do something that you love and truly believe in. You will be spending a lot of time and energy on your business, so you want to do something that brings you fulfillment. 

2) Who or what inspired you to launch your business?

This past year, discussions surrounding mental health were on the rise more than ever before. With everyone staying inside as well as the social justice movements that took place all over the world, everyone was at home and some were truly struggling. I saw the need and knew that this was the time to launch my virtual therapy practice. Being a sociologist turned therapist, as well as a woman of color, I understand the impact that society can have on all aspects of our well-being. I knew that this perspective was needed in the world of mental health. 

3) Tell us about your mission as a business: What are your values and what impact do you want to have? 

Though it is changing, therapy is not often discussed in communities of colour; as well as places like social media, the entertainment industry and more. I want to help break the stigma surrounding mental health and bring it into more spaces. I also want to inspire more sociologists to jump into the world of counselling and therapy. We bring a unique skill set that is needed in the world of mental health. My mission is truly to help people level up in life through healing, growth, and understanding. 


Gato winnipeg bakery, Laura Gurbhoo

Laura Gurbhoo, Gâto

1) What advice would you give to other women who want to start their own business? 

Research, trust yourself and go for it, there are multiple steps and they seem to be overly complicated, but it’s just jargon. Take your time and research it. There is always an answer to your questions.

2) Who or what inspired you to launch your business?

I wouldn’t say that I was inspired by anyone in particular, it just felt right, as I needed more room to explore different ways of doing things, environmentally conscious ways, ethical ways, and fair. 

3) Tell us about your mission as a business: What are your values and what impact do you want to have? 

As a business we aspire to be one where fairness and equality are above all, I value each employee and want to provide them with as much as I would want for myself, health insurance, maternity and paternity leave, mental days off, higher pay while moving toward decreasing our carbon footprint. I want to show Winnipeg that you can have a good dessert without using a berry in winter, that you can treat yourself while supporting sustainably sourced, local, environmentally friendly, and low carbon footprint products. As we are a small business we are moving slowly implementing one step at a time, we are a plant-based bakery with some options that aren’t vegan however the ingredients that go in the products are locally sourced and/or sustainably harvested/farmed to keep the carbon footprint to the lowest. We use fully compostable packaging, minimize using single-use baking items, compost, and recycle as much as we can. 


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