Candina Elendu helps women feel safe and confident in their workwear
Running a business

Candina Elendu helps women feel safe and confident in their workwear

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias. 

Name: Candina Elendu

Location: Regina, Saskatchewan

Business: True North Women’s Safety Apparel 

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What does your business do? 

It’s an e-commerce store that sells safety workwear and apparel specifically designed to fit women’s bodies. 

Why did you decide to start your own business? 

I love commerce and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, so having my own business comes as a natural transaction for me. This business venture supports my values in empowering women by tackling an inequity that hard-working, competent women face in a male-dominated industry. 

How did you get started?  

I was inspired to increase the accessibility of safety workwear and apparel for women working in trades and other hazardous environments after becoming increasingly aware of the sustained difficulties that women face in sourcing the required safety apparel needed to perform their jobs safely and confidently. 

I have female friends who work in the trades, and their work experiences within the industry are similar. These women struggle to access properly fitted safety workwear and apparel. This is not just an inequity but also an occupational health and safety issue. These women all want change… and they deserve better. 

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

Having a plan is key, and it takes hard work and effort to ensure the plan is executed properly. I have also learned to be nimble, and to make quick adjustments to the plan to keep the momentum going. 

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

I needed to learn more about e-commerce and entrepreneurial management. I did it through practical experience and education, which is necessary to stay relevant. I completed an entrepreneurial management program which equipped me with the tools and knowledge to become a successful entrepreneur. I am continuously learning how to use my resources and skills to create my own path, and how to create success on the journey.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

Empowered! And humbled, yet proud. 

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

That somehow being a female entrepreneur means that I need more mentorship rather than more funds. Yes, mentorship is important: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed,” says Proverbs 15:22. But having access to funds is just as important to put the plans into action. It’s also quite a challenge trying to build a female-focused brand identity within a male-dominated industry, but we have risen to the challenge and we will overcome. 

What are your proudest moments? 

Launching the business, having my first customer, being asked about my business, being asked to share my experience, bringing value to our customers… I can keep going. 

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

To create value for our customers by expanding our women’s safety workwear and apparel products. To create partnerships with private and crown corporations by becoming a female-focused supplier of their personal protective equipment programs.

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

Unwavering support from family and friends, having the right team, and good old hard work.

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners? 

Creating balance between family and running a business. Female business owners are always faced with having to nurture and care for both family and business simultaneously and in equal proportion. Limited and unfair funding options are ongoing challenges that female-owned businesses face, and this is based on gender and cultural biases within the financial system, angel investment platforms, and our society.

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? 

There is hesitance and difficulty in being taken seriously. Business, commerce, skilled trades, and occupational health and safety are also considered to be male-dominated fields. There is this fanciful idea that women must first “be given permission” to pursue careers in these fields. 

Have you come up against any bias? 

Yes, of course! Biases are unfortunate, but they are not surprising. I have encountered gender bias in trying to get a proper debrief or feedback on a proposal for a bid. When I asked how my business scored on an evaluation criterion, the procurement officer wasn’t forthcoming, and he treated the process as a huge inconvenience.

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

Do your research, acquire information, and gain all the knowledge you can. Then create an appropriate value proposition that solves a problem for your potential customers. Have a strategic plan and be realistic about your goals and timelines. Most importantly, know who your target market is and surround yourself with the right team including family, friends, mentors, and potential investors. 

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

My faith is my source of strength and keeps me focused on fulfilling my purpose. The love and support of my beautiful family and loyal friends inspire me to keep going. Even in the face of opposition, setbacks, and challenges I know they are by my side. It’s not about the destination, but who journeys with you! 

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

Through networking and creating strategic partnerships with each other. Female business owners all have similar goals which include providing for our families, empowering ourselves and other women, and creating value in our communities.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“Brave” by Dynamite. This is a soca song and it’s fun! It makes me want to dance, I get happy and feel more relaxed. This is exactly what I need when I am having a challenging day or a tough week.

To learn more about True North Women’s Safety Apparel and to support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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