Women, Weed & Wellness

For millennia before bong hitting bros and the cowboy culture of today’s emerging industry, women were healers and herbalists, using cannabis for menstrual cramps and labour pain. Today, women are sending the stoner stereotype up in smoke.


Through advocacy, venture creation, and organizing, women are leading the charge to legitimize and celebrate the healing powers of this female plant that has blossomed worldwide alongside human migration.


Last week, Shecosystem brought together a panel of women entrepreneurs to take a look at the industry through a feminist lens and create a safe space to explore the wellness applications of this healing plant. We gathered in a circle, honouring the experience of the diverse crowd – from “cannabis evangelists” to closet consumers, chronic pain sufferers, new moms, industry insiders, and wellness practitioners looking to expand their toolkit.


The cannabis-wellness industry is not just for healers and growers. Women are applying their “straight” skills from other industries to make sure that their stories and needs are represented from the kinds of medical research being done to the way products are marketed.


According to the Canadian Press, women currently make up only 5 per cent of the board seats at publicly traded marijuana producers. With over 80% of household purchasing decisions and over 90% of healthcare decisions being made by women, we have immense power and can shape this industry by getting involved all the way up the chain.


Though their businesses range from an online platform, a dispensary, and event company, the women on our panel shared a similar mission: making space for women’s voices and experiences. Devon Scoble led the panel starting with her experience using cannabis to ease her neuropathic pains, arthritis, and insomnia. As content boss at Hempster, Devon provides education about products and strains and shares recipes, how-to guides, and stories that inspire wellness through healthy cannabis choices.


Tania Cyalume, a chemist and cannabis veteran who has been making edibles for medical patients for over 10 years, first became a patient – and advocate – after an accident which resulted in degenerative lumbar disease. Through her work with the feminist, LGBTQ+ positive dispensary Queens of Cannabis and Bloom High Tea Social Club, she has been building community and helping patients feel comfortable asking questions, not to mention creating jobs for women in weed.


Melody Hassan is applying her skills from the hospitality industry to cultivate educational, stigma-busting events through her business, Cannabuzz. As a Muslim woman, she struggles with the stigma associated with consumption, but is proudly speaking up about weed’s health and wellness benefits.


The evening wrapped up with a cooking demo from Hempster’s Head Chef, Ronnie Fishman – a gorgeous Vietnamese pomelo salad with cannabis infused honey in the dressing (recipe here!). She went over an easy how-to guide for making your own edibles, safe dosing, and food pairing to complement the aromatic terpenes found in different strains.



With legalization on the horizon, cannabis industry events are looking more and more like mainstream business events. As one attendee remarked, “Where there’s money, there are white guys in suits.”


What used to be a subculture of conscious consumers and people on the margins is being flooded by opportunistic players from within the business establishment. An attendee working in the industry noted that she has often been the only woman in the room.


People in the audience commented that there is a need for more places where people can ask honest questions and “come out” in a brave space where their experiences are mirrored by the people around them. They shared stories of fighting with doctors and insurance providers, being told they had to try every alternative including surgery and heavy pharmaceuticals before being covered for a medical marijuana prescription. A new mom shamelessly advocated for using cannabis to relax and get some sleep after a long day caring for a toddler and a 3 month-old.



While the space felt safe and inclusive, questions remained about the equity of the industry. From a feminist perspective, we cannot simply celebrate white women making strides in “rebranding” weed while women of colour continue to deal with the negative consequences associated with cannabis consumption. Black, brown and aboriginal people have been disproportionately criminalized for marijuana related charges in Canada and as weed moves toward legalization, a criminal record means that these people will be shut out of the burgeoning industry.


As a white woman in the audience pointed out, she can freely walk down the street smoking a joint, but for a black woman, this would be much riskier. Devon pointed out that she has had a hard time finding women of colour to feature on Hempster – not because they aren’t out there but because of the risks associated with going public.


Groups are fighting for amnesty for people with marijuana convictions, as well as for lower barriers to entry into this industry. Cannabis Amnesty is urging parliament to pass legislation granting full pardons for people convicted of possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less. Sensible Ontario is advocating for a mixed public-private model that includes legal places to consume. Women like Abi Roach, Annamaria Enenajor and Jodie Emery are among the loudest voices fighting for policies that make the Canadian cannabis industry accessible and safe.


We’re grateful to everyone who came out for this elevated evening and we hope to see more women shaping the industry, policy, and culture of cannabis in Canada!

First Generation Feminist

By Marla Raymundo


Growing up as first generation Canadian, I was always encouraged to pursue a professional career as either a nurse, doctor, lawyer or accountant. I had this linear perception of “success” and thought that it only came from careers related to science, law or business. These jobs provided financial stability, which I was under the impression was the key to happiness and satisfaction. Despite my lack of interest in anything related to math or science, I came into University assuming I would spend four years pursuing my undergraduate degree in Psychology.

University granted me the freedom to choose my courses and create my own timetable without the usual bias or guidance from my parents. I would have never predicted that I would switch majors entirely from science to a major in Women and Gender studies after taking the intro course as an elective in my first year. To my surprise, “feminism transformed the way I viewed the world and the systems which existed to oppress myself and the others around me.” I had been desensitized to the inequities that occured on a daily basis and despite being socialized to comply, I became intrigued with the idea of questioning the institutions which drove society. This new awareness allowed me to critique and analyze my actions in a new way.

I’m now in my final year at U of T which has led me to Shecosystem as part of a 6 month co-op program, embedding myself in a feminist organization to have a hands-on experience with a business that values inclusiveness, visibility and empowerment in the local community.  

My time at Shecosystem has allowed me to observe and bask in an environment where feminism thrives and is put into practice daily. Shecosystem stays true to their values and my Fridays consist of being surrounded by motivating, inspiring and empowering entrepreneurs who genuinely enjoy the work they do.

It wasn’t until Emily asked me to take part in the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum where I came to the realization of how feminism can truly pilot social change. In the classroom we are taught that the concept of feminism is not fixed and is constantly evolving to current issues, and this was certainly true at the EFF.

The conference introduced a new concept of feminism I was unfamiliar with. Crafted and defined by Dr. Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliot, the authors of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs, the term Entrepreneurial Feminism can be described as enacting feminist values within venture creation and entrepreneurship policy. Prior to the conference, I was unaware of the power differentials embedded within the heteronormative system of entrepreneurship. I had always assumed that gender equality through ethical capitalism was the norm.

Entrepreneurial Feminism is a new movement, a new way to do business, and ensures equity-based outcomes for females, trans, queer, women and women-identified entrepreneurs alike.

The workshops and performances held throughout the day by entrepreneurs from across North America demonstrated how entrepreneurial feminism can produce “success” through passion and wellness. One of the speakers, Rania Younes, co-founder of WelcomeHomeTo, held a workshop on how the current settlement system fails newcomers, with many having difficulty adjusting and seeking employment upon arrival to Canada. Those frustrations have since resulted in the creation of The Newcomer Kitchen in Toronto, which is a non-profit organization that invites Syrian refugee women into a space where they mingle, cook and sell cultural foods. The kitchen encourages integration through socialization and interactions with customers and members of the community. Despite the barriers that the Syrian refugee women face, the kitchen became a way for the women to cope with homesickness while generating an income to support their families.

Success can be achieved through feminist business models, self-regulation, non-hierarchical leadership roles, collaboration and operational practices deterring from the heteronormative model.

Entrepreneurial Feminism and feminist capital contribute to a new movement which changes the way entrepreneurs run their businesses. My experience at the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum has since shaped and altered my personal definition of success. It was inspiring being surrounded by such a diverse groups of entrepreneurs who despite challenging the patriarchal system are able to thrive, making themselves visible and paving their own way in the competitive market!

Now I spend my days dreaming away and cultivating entrepreneurial ideas as I approach graduation and the dreaded “real world.” I’ve come to the realization that I can no longer hide behind my student status and the safety of the routine I became too comfortable and familiar with.

Shecosystem and Entrepreneurial feminism give me the hope that I can thrive creating my own path!



Top Picks for International Women’s Day 2018 in Toronto

Global women’s activism is taking centre stage this year, fuelled by women’s anger, passion, and vision. Women are speaking up in unprecedented numbers against issues ranging from gender violence to missing and murdered indigenous women to the wage gap and inequity in childcare support. We are joining in community online and in person to support, witness and heal each other, our planet, and the wounds of our ancestors.


Here in Toronto you can literally spend every day and evening over the next couple of weeks learning, celebrating, and supporting an array of women’s causes.


We’re hosting our own event on the afternoon of IWD inspired by Shecosystem’s commitment to honouring our inner work and gathering in sisterhood. We believe that self-care is a form of resistance to the patriarchal culture that we live and work in. On this day of international action and awareness, we’ll look to each other for solidarity, nurture, inspiration and support.


Gloria Steinem said, “Gather in circles. Instead of looking up, look at each other,” and that is exactly what we’re doing on March 8 from 2-6PM.


We believe that self-care is a form of resistance to the patriarchal culture that we live and work in. Join our circle for an afternoon of collective healing in support of SISTERING featuring:

The Magic of Menstruation with Amanda Laird

Tarot Readings with Kayla Subica of Uplitfiting Tarot

Reiki with Tasha Jade Banate of Daily Magic  

Decorate a Pussy Cupcake!

Write a letter of action or gratitude to someone who is making a change to improve outcomes for women and girls

Join a safe and supportive talking circle


Here are some of our other picks for IWD2018 in Toronto….


March 3 | IWD March + Justice for Tina Fontaine


This year’s theme is LIBERATION – Honouring our sisters, Celebrating Our Victories, Strengthening Our Resistance…On Indigenous Land. Speakers include Lee Maracle. Rally at 11AM at OISE and march to City Hall, to meet with the Justice for Tina Fontaine march.


March 6 | Menstruation’s Moment: Why period politics matter now more than ever


Grab a Bloody Caesar and bask in the energy and expertise of women at the forefront of the menstrual movement. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf – author of Periods Gone Public, the book Gloria Steinem says is “the beginning of liberation for us all” – is joined by entrepreneurs, activists and international development leaders. These vibrant, vocal visionaries are coming together in challenging and real dialogue about smashing shame, period policy, values-based business, shedding taboos, and bringing down barriers that prevent people with periods from accessing menstrual supplies.

Come explore the role that the menstrual movement must play at this turning point for intersectional feminism. Proceeds support Mother Nature Partnership.


March 8 | Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation: Breakfast with BMO and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce


At this breakfast event, panelists will speak to the implications for business and the Canadian economy resulting from gender differences in approaches to innovation. They will also deliberate the different roles that industry and various levels of government can play to create a robust ecosystem for women business owners.


March 8 | “A Better Man” Screening and Panel in support of The Redwood


This film documents a personal experiment for Attiya Khan and her abusive ex-partner – a step towards understanding and accountability. By getting closer to the truth of what survivors experience, and why men choose to use violence, we can help to stop the abuse.


March 9 | Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum


Presented by SheEO and the City of Toronto, this event is aimed at early stage women-led ventures in Toronto who have an idea, have started a venture, are growing a venture or are contemplating starting a venture. Featuring panel discussions, breakout sessions, and SheEO’s signature Radical Generosity experience.


See you on March 8! Sign up for WombSpace: Collective Healing on IWD here!


I’m a feminist, you’re a feminist, the Wing is feminist…let’s get to work.

This weekend Shecosystem was mentioned in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times – a brief mention but a cause for celebration nonetheless!

Unlike The Wing, the main subject of this feature, we may not have (or want) a primping room or a partnership with Chanel, but our members are just as thrilled as Wing member Tavi Gevinson, who is quoted in the article saying, “It’s crazy that this place exists in real life.”

I spent the day on Saturday as a committee member at the first ever Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum, and that experience in combination with our mention in the Times article was powerful validation that feminist businesses like Shecosystem are gaining momentum.

Because to me, women focussed coworking spaces are part of a movement, not a trend.

There is a need for spaces where women and feminists of all genders can gather to do business their way. We are forging new models, experiences, strategies and definitions, and we are doing so in the spirit of collaboration and with values embedded in the creation of ventures that drive positive outcomes for women and girls.

We are innovating in ways that, as OCAD Dean Dori Tunstall said, succeed when we can show that we have “created more compassion and harmony with each other and with the environment”

Shecosystem is not The Wing, but we respect what they’re doing to raise the profile of women’s spaces, and we are equally proud of sister spaces like Make Lemonade here in Toronto, Hera Hub, The Riveter, Working Ensemble, Rise Collaborative Workspace and so many more worldwide, each with their own vibe and values to serve the needs of their unique communities.

As Feminists at Work’s CV Harquail said yesterday in her opening remarks, “I’m a feminist. You’re a feminist. We have 100 different feminisms in the room and we are working together.” 

Let’s hope one day the Times runs a feature on this emergent movement: Entrepreneurial Feminism.

In the meantime, here are a few resources to check out:

Feminists at Work

Liisbeth Magazine

Feminine Capital

Feminist Business Model Canvas



Mother F#@ing Business: The Start of a Big Conversation

A few months ago, one of our community members shared a blog post called Motherhood and the Feminist Dream in our closed Facebook group. In her post,Snjezana Pruginic shared that she was having a hard time reconciling her desire to have a child with her identity as a feminist and entrepreneur:

“I feel like I am standing at the  floodgates of mixed messaging that we are given as women throughout our lives. The need to fight for being extraordinary leaders, change makers, the desire to live our life doing what we love, having the kind of social life we want, the pull to have (biologically or otherwise) a child and raise a human being, etc. All these different aspects of ourselves come into play at the same time and due to the social constructs of the time we are living in, often times feel like they are pulling against each other.” 

The post sparked an active thread of comments from business owners thinking of having kids, people who delayed having a family while they started a business, moms who launched or closed down their businesses while raising kids, and everyone in between.

In typical Shecosystem style, we decided we needed to take the conversation offline. One of the reasons we exist is to serve as a purpose built container for women to come together in a safe space and have open conversations about issues like this.

And so Mother F#@ing Business was born.

Around 15 women gathered on an autumn night at Shecosystem to meditate, reflect, and discuss the tensions between motherhood, feminism and entrepreneurship. We mapped women’s identities and explored what it means to be a woman if it’s uncoupled from motherhood, and we explored how women who don’t have kids can still have creative, nurturing, generative roles. We looked at our external and internal narratives around motherhood. We shared personal stories about setting boundaries as a working parent, suffering from gendered roles in home-life, facing the judgements of colleagues and relatives, and contemplating alternative family arrangements. 

The conversation was fiercely honest, non-judgemental, and productive. Women left feeling seen, supported, and less alone. One thing was for certain: we need more of this.

We will be hosting another conversation on January 17 (save the date!).

In the meantime, here is a Resource List sourced by the women who participated in our first Mother F#@ing Business Circle.

If you have something you’d like to see added to this list, please send a short description and link to admin@shecosystem.ca.

Resources for Motherhood, Entrepreneurship & Feminism

Amy McCready- “If I have to tell you more time…” : A Fantastic parenting book for various types of challenges

Working Ensemble: A Toronto coworking space with onsite childcare 

TellentAn online community and resource for professional women to pursue flexible careers. 

Canadian Government: Information about Special Benefits for Self-Employed people – including maternity leave.

Today’s Parent: An article about planning for parental leave when you’re self-employed Mat leave for self-employed.

Snjezana’s original blog postMotherhood And The Feminist Dream

Ann Davidman.  “Is motherhood for me?”:  Online course + book for people unsure if they want kids.

Womb Wellness 101: Clare Kenty’s workshop “The Power of Sound” (November 4th) Connecting to the power of our voice for  womb healing 

The Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum: More conversations about feminism and business (November 11)

Vania Sukola:  Feminist Therapist and with a focus on perinatal and postpartum themes like thinking about becoming a parent, birth trauma, the transition to parenthood, grief and loss, and supporting couples. 

One Part Podcast: Episode #84- Not having children by chance or by choice with Jody Day, the founder of the Gateway Foundation.


If you have something you’d like to see added to this list, please send a description and link to admin@shecosystem.ca.

Lisa Simone Richards (PR & Visibility Coaching)

Lisa Simone Richards

Business:  PR & Visibility Coaching

What is at the heart of your business?

I help health, fitness & wellness entrepreneurs go from unknown and underpaid to standing out and selling out.

Why did you join a women’s coworking and wellness community?

I wanted to find a space of like-minded people on a mission to help others live their best lives full of health & vitality. Finding a women’s-specific community wasn’t on purpose, but it’s an inadvertent natural fit. Somehow there’s always been a female-only area of my life, whether that was Girl Guides, an all-girls high school, or being in a sorority during undergrad. So I’m definitely not surprised I stumbled into a women’s coworking facility!

What does thriving look like to you?

To me, thriving is living in a space of full abundance and possibility – financially, professionally & personally. And of course, having the freedom to enjoy all of those things.

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

Collaboration definitely resonates with me the most. I’m a big believer in collaboration over competition, and as a natural connector, I love to partner with others on certain types of projects.

What do you wish to give and/or receive from this community?

I know that a lot of women in the space are entrepreneurs and it’s totally my passion to work with health, fitness, and wellness entrepreneurs – the kind that really wants to make a big difference in the world. However, a lot of the time entrepreneurs can’t afford traditional PR agencies or publicists, so I hope to help the women in the Shecosystem community learn how to stand out in their industries, get known as the experts that they are, and magnetically attract their ideal clients right to them.

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life: 

Middle of the day naps. Lots of ’em 🙂

What’s your top piece of advice for other women entrepreneurs?

Don’t wait for permission or perfection. Also, persistence without being a pest is *key* – everything I’ve ever wanted and gotten is because I haven’t been afraid to be persistent, go after, and claim the things I want.



Website: lisasimonerichards

Twitter: @ellerich

Facebook: Get Seen Get Clients Get Paid

YouTube: Lisa S. Richards


Jake Hassel-Gren: LEAP Learning Lab

Jake Hassel-Gren

Business:  Founder of LEAP Learning Lab

What is at the heart of your business?

Enabling women to join forces and turn their combined resources and expertise into the power they need to make the life, and business they want.

Why did you join a women’s coworking and wellness community?

Because I believe women are more powerful and successful together.

What does thriving look like to you?

Thriving is about feeling good in my skin, giving to others, and contributing to my community.

Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

Community for sure! In fact, I believe a community is foundational to the future economic model for women entrepreneurs. To thrive, women entrepreneurs need to be willing to bring their businesses together to collaborate and build revenue in a likeminded community.

What do you wish to give and/or receive from this community?

I will give my time and my expertise. I am also willing to be a mentor for younger women in the community. I wish to receive support for my new business and hopefully access opportunities to deliver workshops, talks, and small group sessions based on topics relevant to the community.

Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life: 

I am an avid Crossfitter and I am in my Crossfit box 5 mornings per week without fail

What’s your top piece of advice for other women entrepreneurs?

Seek direction from women who have gone before you, find your niche, find your community, hold your breath and leap!


Website: leaplearninglab

Twitter: jakehg8

Instagram: Jake_hassel_gren

Facebook: leaplearninglab 

YouTube: LEAP Learning Lab


Pat Kack “the Get it Done Girl” is a Startup Enabler

Name: Patricia Kack

Business:  Simplified Communications

What is at the heart of your business?

I am a startup enabler


Why did you join a women’s coworking and wellness community?

 Want to empower female entrepreneurs


What does thriving look like to you?

Progression over perfection.


Shecosystem’s core values are openness, community, collaboration, accessibility, sustainability, feminism, and wellness. Which of these resonates most with you and why?

All of them – I am an open-minded, collaborative, community-driven feminist, who believes in simplifying life to be sustainable and ensure opportunity and longevity for all.


What do you wish to give and/or receive from this community?

Support, networking, goodwill.


Tell us one way you integrate self-care into your working life: 

I don’t. I need to learn how to do this consistently.


What’s your top piece of advice for other women entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid to ask – for help, for more.


Anything else we should know about you?

I am the Get It Done Girl – I can help, all you have to do is ask.


Connect with Patricia!