Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Sarah Saska, Co-Founder and CEO of Feminuity, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Feminuity is a full-service diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) firm that supports companies to build diverse teams, equitable systems, and inclusive products and workplace cultures. We've been re-imagining "business as usual" since 2015 and have worked with start-ups to Fortune 500s.
Tell us about yourself
Growing up in a feminist household, I was interested in being a human rights lawyer. However, when the time came, and I was presented with the decision as to whether to go to law school or not, I realized the legal system wasn’t the way that I could best bring value to the world and advance change. Instead, I ended up at Western University to complete a Ph.D. in Equity Studies and Technology and Innovation Studies.
I led doctoral research at the intersection of equity, technology, and innovation. This research highlighted some alarming (and sometimes harmful) gaps in technologies that are supposed to make our lives better. In the case of car crash safety testing, for example, crash test dummies rely on the normative default of a non-disabled, 180-pound male body. I wanted to solve problems like this by working with companies to produce cultures, services, and products that empower everyone. I wanted to help companies innovate by embracing feminism and ingenuity.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The relationships I've built along the way! We’ve worked with over a hundred clients across six continents, and we've never had to pay for advertising. We plan to continue scaling our business so we can make an impact on a larger scale. For us, “innovation” that harms people or the planet is neither radical nor revolutionary, and we need organizations to do better.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Generally, the most challenging thing that comes with being a business owner is knowing when it’s best to outsource and pay other people to do something and when it’s best to invest in my own learning and development. We cannot do it all. There just aren't enough hours in the day!
In my industry specifically, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the momentum going. Organizational DEI efforts tend to ebb and flow based on tragedies, such as the murder of George Floyd. Such unstable efforts are not sustainable and will not produce the desired change. We must get a handle on the momentum and generate urgency for the cause within ourselves every day. Additionally, we are continually evolving our practice/approach. For example, we have moved from solely championing the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to advocating for a decentralized approach scaling efforts across the entire organization’s operations and alleviating the burden from the CDO.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't falter on things that really matter to you. Early on, we got some advice that pushed back on the name "Feminuity" (a combination of the words "feminism" and "ingenuity.") It was difficult for some to pronounce. Sometimes it’s confused with the term “femininity” or the former half of the conjunction, “feminism.” We were told that people will assume we just do "women stuff" or that we will scare prospective clients away because it's too "feminist-y." I considered succumbing more times than I could count. However, I’ve realized that this is simply part of the work - breaking assumptions.
So, in other words, get really good at identifying and taking the advice that’s right for you and what you’re building, and have the guts to leave the rest behind. If you don't want to take an opportunity or work with someone because your values don't align, then don't.
- Surround yourself with a sound support system. As a young person, I didn't always have confidence in my abilities or surround myself with people who supported my vision. I overcame it by doing the work and building an incredible support system. I now know and believe that I am resourceful and resilient enough to handle anything, and it’s made all of the difference.
- Set the tone. It’s become clear to me from our work that the characteristics and qualities of entrepreneurs quickly become a core part of an organization’s culture, whether for better or worse. So it’s up to us to continue to do the work to lead in more human, ethical, and equitable ways.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.