Cheryl Appleton
Running a business

Cheryl Appleton is Proud to Celebrate Women in the Food Industry

In honour of Pride Month we are celebrating amazing LGBTQIA+ small business owners that are a pillar in their community. 

Name: Cheryl Appleton

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Business: Canadian Women In Food

What does your business do? 

At Canadian Women In Food (CWIF), we are the place where women in food who crave connection come to grow themselves and their businesses through mutual respect and support.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

Throughout my career in the food industry, I was often asked to build a business inside a business. You could say it unlocked some entrepreneurial spirit within me. And when I founded Canadian Women In Food in 2014, it was partly in response to an underwhelming lack of industry support for female, and female-identifying food entrepreneurs.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

That it truly takes a village to grow a business, and you don’t have to do it all yourself or be alone.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

Being a business owner really does free you creatively in ways I had never imagined. You’re committing to creating something of value for society – it really is a beautiful journey. 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?  

It’s true that you become the CEO of literally everything. As we like to say, Chef, Cook, and Bottle Washer. One of the amazing things about Canadian Women In Food is how we bring education to our Members in bite-sized pieces with a weekly virtual Zoom session we call Monday Morning Manager. 

How does running your own business make you feel?  

It makes me feel fired up each and everyday, purposeful, and making a difference.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner?   

The biggest challenges to overcome involve accepting your own limitations and knowing when it’s time to ask for help or hire the experts, like a creative agency to manage your marketing. 

What are your proudest moments? 

There are so many, like the recent Pavilion we hosted at The National Women’s Show in Toronto, where we featured more than 22 women owned food brands across a dozen booths. And pre-pandemic, there was our culinary event - Turn Up The HEAT, where we featured 5 female Chefs in an incredible evening of gastronomy, entertainment, and building community. 

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?  

Being able to see the best in people, having the work ethic to draw it out, and engaging with others to be problem solvers – not problem pushers.

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Being a business owner really does free you creatively in ways I had never imagined. You’re committing to creating something of value for society – it really is a beautiful journey.

What challenges do you feel are unique to small business owners in the LGBTQIA+ community? Have you come up against any bias?   

Too often stories and voices of our LGBTQ+ community go unseen and unheard. Our motto is “We Stir You Up” because we want women in food to be seen, be heard, be loved, be accepted, and be respected. This is why we work so hard to amplify our Member’s stories so everyone can see how incredibly talented and layered they are.

It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, invalidating a person for being LGBTQ+ still exists. Sometimes the actions of invalidation are covert and sometimes overt. In either case, it hurts. We believe our actions to inform, uplift, support, and connect may be more important now than ever.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the community?  

Get connected, join entrepreneur associations, and leverage those networks to help support your business as much as possible.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

I look to our members, who are all incredibly resilient women in food, and remind myself that it’s okay to rest, and things don’t always work out the way you want them to, just ask a soufflé.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“Titanium” by David Guetta featuring Sia, because as a business owner, you need to be made of strong stuff.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?  

Now that in-person events have returned, you’ll start seeing more Canadian Women In Food everywhere. We also invite readers to learn more about our Members by visiting our Meet The Maker section of our website. And of course, you can buy some uniquely curated gift boxes in our shop.

To learn more about Canadian Women in Food and support their business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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