Name: Cheryl Appleton
Location: Toronto, Canada
Describe yourself in three words: Visionary, Purposeful, Builder
What is the name of your business and what do you 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? How did you get started?
You could say I was born to be an entrepreneur. I’ve been self-made since I started my first paper route at 8 years old. 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.
In just a few words, how does running your own business make you feel?
I never imagined how helping others to build their businesses would become my niche and bring me so much personal joy. Some have called it a talent for “herding cats,” although I prefer to define it as “executive synthesis.” In either case, it takes experience, art, and lots of creativity to add value for our members ongoingly.
What are some of the hurdles or roadblocks you faced/face as an LGBTQ+ small business owner, specifically? How do you overcome them?
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.
As an LGBTQ+ small business owner, do you feel you’ve been granted the same access and opportunities that other small business owners in your community have been given? If not, what are some examples? How did you push past that?
It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century that 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 unique perspectives do you feel you bring to the small business economy as an LGBTQ+ business owner?
I spent many years in the corporate world successfully building businesses within business, and it unlocked something entrepreneurial within me. I always knew that one day I could have my own business—I just didn’t know that it would become a reality years later.
What are your proudest moments?
We are grateful that CWIF has been nourished by the passion, inspiration, and expertise of many within the food industry and reflects their aspirations to ensure a sustainable future for female food entrepreneurs in Canada. We’re really proud of our members and the way they worked together to get through the pandemic.
What are some of your major wins or accomplishments since starting your business?
When we launched our “Gifts of Goodness” program—a specially curated, socially conscious gift box program—we had no idea it would impact people the way it has. Originally, we were looking to create a kinder, more meaningful way to shop as everything shifted online. And with our “Pride Parade in-a-box,” it’s been truly remarkable to see such a high level of collaboration between allies and LGBTQ2S+ small business owners to highlight queer activism and act as a reminder of why Pride needs to be celebrated.
What are the next big plans you have for your business?
If there’s no rest for the wicked, then we must really be wicked. Seriously though, we’re rolling out a new platform to help connect our members to resources they need and faster.
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 OK to rest, and things don’t always work out the way you want them to, just ask a soufflé.
How can LGBTQ+ business owners give back to their community?
Be visible, show your pride and lift up others who do the same, and give back to charities who do meaningful work in your community.
What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ small business owners just starting out?
Get connected, join entrepreneur associations, and leverage those networks to help support your business as much as possible.
What’s your “power song” and why? (A song that always pumps you up and makes you feel powerful)
“Titanium” by David Guetta featuring Sia, because as a small business owner, you need to be made of strong stuff.