“When I grew up in England, women were to have children and they didn’t spend money on education for you. So it’s something to do something like this,” said Sue Truman, owner of Cabin Creations.
Truman is one of many female business owners in Sooke, who have built successful companies from the ground up. With International Women’s Day rolling around the corner on March 8, Truman reviews her success and giggles at her school girl days in Devon, England, where women were strictly meant for domestic work.
Truman owns a sewing, knit and wool shop, where she also teaches sewing lessons to children. She began her excursion into business nearly 13 years ago with a store selling home-made dolls, which would later snowball into a shop with walls covered in yarns of every imaginable colour, boundless sewing paraphenalia, and an infinite amount of knitting supplies.
“In a way, I always felt I was insignificant to my brothers,” Truman said, adding her brothers were “brilliant.” Which propelled her to challenge societal views and do more than cook and clean.
“Everything I did went against my upbringing, all my life,” Truman laughed. “I just wanted to achieve something, and be proud and work.”
Kathy Drover, owner of the Reading Room Bookstore & Cafe, has been in operation since 2003.
A former social services worker for over 20 years, Drover has made a second career out of one of her passions — reading.
The bookstore was opened first, and the cafe followed four years later. Drover is the epitome of the hard-working woman. Although opening a second business was twice the work, she still revels in it.
“It’s two separate businesses, I didn’t really realize it would be twice as much work, but it is. It’s very challenging, and it’s always interesting — every day is different,” she said.
Drover has a sense of pride being a surviving business in a time of economic turmoil for many other local operations, but stated that gender has little to do with it.
“I have never thought of myself as a woman business owner, I’m a business owner with the challenges of everyone else,” adding that Sooke has a great model for successful business women.
“I know lots of female business owners here in Sooke that just work really, really hard. Maybe that’s why I’ve never thought about it because I’ve seen so many good examples of business women,” Drover said. “There’s a real core group here in Sooke that really support each other.”
One of the prime examples of business women in Sooke noted by Drover was Diane Bernard, owner of seaweed-based skin care line Seaflora.
Bernard owns the only USDA approved organic seaweed harvesting business in North America. She also owns one of the largest, seaweed harvesting operations along the West Coast, collecting different species living within the water.
According to Bernard, her company has been increasing their harvest tonnage every year.
Seaflora is in it’s tenth year of operation, and Bernard has much to celebrate, as the company has gone international, selling products in high-end speciality shops in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. In addition to an overseas market, Seaflora is also found in spas within Canada and the U.S.
Bernard tries to produce her products as locally as possible, and proudly states that the headquarters marked on each label is ‘Sooke, B.C.’
The peculiar, but popular seaweed venture began in 2000 after 12 years of working in politics.
“I’m a big proponent of value-added,” she said. “So I decided to take a wild resource and value-add it and sell it.” Bernard started by supplying seaweed to internationally-renowned chefs, but later focused her business primarily on the spa market for stability and creative purposes.
The skin care line was initially met with skepticism by critics, but Bernard has since proven them wrong as research continues to substantiate the beneficial properties of seaweed, and the ability of skin to absorb nutrients topically.
“We’re so different from other seaweed companies out there. We’re in charge of our resource, we know how to harvest it, we know how we handle it,” Bernard said, adding the nutritional properties of her seaweed products are not harshly stripped like other seaweed extracts on the market.
“We have 700 species sitting off this coast, we knock the socks off of the world in terms of the quality of seaweed,” beamed Bernard. “We don’t mess with the seaweed — we juice them, blend them, grind them, mix them.”
“People love it, our customers love it and our spas love it,” she said.
Although Seaflora has met with great success, Bernard has to force herself to celebrate, at the behest of her employees.
“My staff is pushing me, ‘You got 10 years here, you got to have a party,’” Bernard repeated. The beginning of the celebrations will start with an anti-aging line that will launch in Vancouver on March 19. An open-house at Seaflora’s new headquarters in Sooke will follow shortly afterwards.
The skin care line can be viewed at: www.sea-flora.com.