About the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN)
There is a lack of awareness and storytelling of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs in Canada. Staying true to our core values and role as a national convener, Startup Canada wants to connect entrepreneurs with the support they need to help tackle this gap.
Thus, we have created the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN) – a network of 13 early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs from each province and territory to champion the needs of women entrepreneurship throughout the whole year. SWAN members can amplify their business through our platforms and are given exclusive opportunities to have a seat at vital government roundtables and other events that are crucial to creating real change.
This is just the beginning. The hope behind SWAN is to create an ever-growing network of champions across Canada to ultimately increase the visibility and voice of women-identifying founders, and the instrumental role they play in improving the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Meet Lourdes Still, SWAN representative from Manitoba
In the spirit of amplifying women entrepreneurs, we will be sitting down with each of our SWAN members to learn more about their founding journeys. Introducing our seventh member Lourdes Still, Founder of Masagana Flower Farm based in Manitoba.
Lourdes Still is the creative Founder behind Masagana Flower Farm & Studio, a small-scale flower farm, dye studio and new tourism destination near La Broquerie, Manitoba. In this immigrant, Filipina-lead small business, she places priority on sustainable growing practices. Masagana Flower Farm got its name from Lourdes mother tongue of Tagalog, in which masagana means abundant, plentiful and prosperous – a two-fold representation of Filipino heritage and the mindset Lourdes brings to the venture. She grows seasonal blooms, dye plants and makes hand made, small batch naturally dyed textile goods. She grows crops without synthetic fertilisers in garden beds where lawns previously existed.
In the summer season, she offers experiential tours called “Tinta – A Dye Your Own Wearable Art Experience”. A three-hour engagement at the farm where guests participate in a multi-faceted experience on flower farming, dye plants cultivation, flower u-pick and natural dyeing. She advocates for an eco-conscious lifestyle and inspires others to re-imagine their green spaces. She believes that growing joy (through flowers) and creating magic (through dye plants) is right at our fingertips and our gardens present opportunities to respond positively to the climate emergency.
We’d love to learn a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey towards founding Masagana Flower Farm.
I was a flower buyer by profession between 2012-2018, which opened my world to the global floral industry. Later on, I learned of Manitoba flower growers and was intrigued by how they do it in a province with such a short growing season. I eventually took an online course in 2018 on small-scale flower growing through Floret Flowers to equip myself with the knowledge needed to run a flower business. By this time I was quick to realise that a business model solely relying on Manitoba grown flowers is not a sustainable one but when I became aware of natural dyeing using garden-grown flowers I became hopeful that it might still be possible to run a seasonal flower business in Manitoba – I’d just have to diversify and include natural dyeing in my business model. Masagana Flower Farm & Studio has now evolved into an agri-tourism business and sells naturally dyed goods.
What has been the most challenging obstacle for you in starting your business? And how did you overcome it or is it something you are still tackling?
Proving that my unique take on agri-tourism is worth spending money on by lenders and customers alike. I needed funding to build a studio so that I can offer my TINTA Experience year-round. I overcame this hump by doing the hard work of crafting my experiential tourism offering with the help of my coaches and investing in a marketing coach in 2021. It laid a good foundation for designing a tourism offering and the marketing coach helped in creating a strategy to reach my target audience. Now that I have the funding to build a studio, inflation has become an obstacle so I am still trying to raise additional funds.
What brings you the most joy or excitement in working on your business?
Being able to wow people with “plant magic”. Most of my Tinta Experience guests are new to natural dyeing and sharing with the colours we can get from flowers and using them to create wearable art never gets old for me.
You advocate for an eco-conscious lifestyle and inspire others to turn their lawns into garden beds. What advice do you have to someone wanting to grow their own garden beds?
It takes a lot of patience and hard work in turning even a small section of your lawn into something more productive but it will be so worth it. My advice is to join your local Horticultural Society because they would have the best knowledge on what grows best in your region.
What does being a part of the Startup Women Advocacy Network mean to you?
Representation and credibility building. To be asked to join the roster of these incredible women entrepreneurs has meant a lot in building my credibility, too. It’s an opportunity to represent the unique experiences of immigrants navigating entrepreneurship in Manitoba. And I think it made me feel that I deserve a seat at the table!
In the spirit of advocacy, is there a woman-identifying, early-stage entrepreneur in Manitoba that you admire or are following along their entrepreneurial journey?
YES! Ramona Heidi of RH Spiritual Direction.
A lot of the time when founders talk about their journey and their business, they talk about their “why” – why they do what they do. So, we’re interested to know – what is your “why”?
To inspire and empower people to learn and look for “better than” alternatives to how we used to do things. In my work specifically, I’m all about showcasing the benefits of using locally grown flowers and using eco-friendly mechanics in floral design versus the use of traditional floral foam which is a microplastic; and natural dyes vs synthetic ones.
Is there anything else we haven’t touched on that you would like to share with our community?
Not a thing!
If someone wants to get in touch with you or connect with you, where is the best place for them to go?
You can learn more about our 2022 Startup Women Advocacy Network at https://www.startupcan.ca/startup-women-advocacy-network-2022/