Arts + Culture,  Entertainment,  Lifestyle

4 Women Owned Businesses That Are Making a Difference

Each of the following businesses bring their own unique offerings to the Danforth, and you need to check them out. These businesses also happen to be run by some amazing—and very passionate—female business owners with positive missions for their businesses far beyond self-interest and profit. They have big ambitions for what they want their businesses to do and be. Each business has the opportunity to positively impact the community and make a difference.

Secret Planet Print Shop– 918 Danforth Ave.

Jackie is a screen printer who owns Secret Planet Print Shop, a screen-printing studio and gift shop that sells items made by local and Canadian artisans, as well as in-house screen-printed items like posters, stationery, and apparel. Jackie wanted to create her art and be her own boss. She also noticed that, while many art spaces existed in the West end, there were not many available to artists and creative people who lived in the East end. Jackie explains, “The East end seemed like a better market because I felt like there aren’t a lot of shops like this east of the DVP.” Therefore, she decided to open her shop on the Danforth. The store has given her the ability to help other artists, but Jackie also finds their influence on the store important to recognize: “They [other artists] also help sustain the store, so I think that’s a mutually advantageous situation.” Recently, the store has run screen printing workshops to introduce people to the practice. Jackie hopes Secret Planet can support, inspire, and encourage creative people in the community.

La Di Da Boutique–128 Danforth Ave.

La Di Da Boutique front

La Di Da Boutique has been bringing a wide assortment of cute and fun items to the Danforth since 2006. Co-owner Joanie wants readers to know that the store has something “for people of all ages and genders.” At this store full of unique fashion, home, office, and children’s items, you can find great gifts for friends and family, or maybe even a special something for yourself. The owners wanted to create a store where shoppers could do just that. Despite the large selection, the owners of the store carefully choose each product. Joanie tells me: “We wanted a business to be neighbourhood oriented.” Now, the shop is a community favourite of many local shoppers.

The Pink Studio–2053 Danforth Ave.

Natalie and her brother, Grant, founded The Pink Studio after Natalie saw a gap in the market: kids could find an abundance of extracurricular activities, but adults lacked them. Natalie wanted to create a supportive space where adults could take dance and fitness classes “to learn a new skill, to get a workout, to do something fun, [and] to step outside their comfort zone.” She also emphasized the studio’s focus on inclusivity for people of all body types and experience levels as the instructors “focus on really making people feel comfortable and safe.” At Pink Studio, no one has to worry about not having experience or feel intimidated by fast-paced dance lessons. It is really important to Natalie that everyone feels welcome. She says that the studio aims “to meet people where they are at.” Natalie believes everyone is a dancer and wants everyone to feel like one. At the studio, you can try your hand at classes in ballet, Bollywood, hip-hop, cabaret, pop, Broadway, heels, contemporary, and more.

Ethel 20th Century Living–1781 Danforth Ave.

Ethel 20th Century Living front
Photo by Laura Silva
Inside Ethel 20th Century Living
Photo by Laura Silva

Ethel 20th Century Living sells a colourful and eclectic collection of 20th century vintage furniture items and home goods. Shauntelle comes from an interior design background and has always loved vintage items. She bought Ethel from its original owners 13 years ago and has been running the store and picking furniture for it ever since. She describes the store’s focus as “vintage with a sense of humour.” Shauntelle also explains, “[her] happy place is an old lady’s basement; you never know what you’re gonna find.” Shauntelle personally picks furniture pieces from estate sales, auctions, and downsizings, but she always keeps in mind what her audience will want. While she likes to choose fun, weird, and kitschy pieces for the store, it’s important to her that all the pieces are usable and practical. Shauntelle emphasizes the value of “rediscovering and reinventing and enjoying older pieces.” She hated seeing the amount of waste generated in the interior design industry, so now she wants to keep items out of landfills and provide customers with furniture that will last. In addition to supporting sustainability, Ethel has helped to raise the property value of homes in the area.

A common opinion of nearly all the female business owners I spoke to is that women are not afraid of taking risks for their businesses. I identify this type of attitude in all of these business owners. They didn’t see businesses like theirs on the Danforth (or even elsewhere in Toronto, in some cases), so they took the initiative to change the status quo. When they opened their respective businesses here on the Danforth, they brought something different and created something special in the community, despite the doubts or criticism they might have faced.

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