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A Message From ED Susie Braithwaite on International Women’s Day

This year on International Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate all of the amazing women of International Village BIA who own and operate businesses.

Next week I celebrate 11 years as Executive Director of the BIA and the most rewarding part of my job has been working with, and forming relationships with the business owners and operators in The Village, especially the talented and fierce females that add a bright light to our community.

It’s not easy running a successful small business in this city, especially given everything we are facing right now, but day after day we get up, and get at what we have to do to make this BIA and the community what it is today despite these challenges.

It takes drive and creativity, strength and talent to see the successes these women have. I respect each and every one of you for your dedication and motivation in growing your business and I’m grateful that because of this, International Village BIA has so much to offer to everyone.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Julie — Owner of J.H. Gordon Books

Since I was in my teens, I loved shopping in quirky little bookshops and often fantasized about owning my own bookshop one day. When my husband and I moved from Alberta to Hamilton, we saw a strong small business community here and I thought this might be the place to make my fantasy a reality.

Image of Julie owner of J.H. Gordon Books - International Women's Day

In my shop, J.H. Gordon Books, I have focused on carefully curating our collection of both used and new books, and I have paid special attention to creating a cozy, somewhat nostalgic environment. When people walk into my store, I want them to feel like they have stepped back in time, into a world where the printed word reigns supreme.

Running a small business can be lonely and overwhelming at times, but being part of a BIA gives me a strong sense of community. The International Village BIA provides its members with support and resources to help make us as successful as we can be, and I find it reassuring to know they have my back, they want me to do well, and will do what they can to help.

Follow J.H. Gordon Books on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Camille — Owner of Amorphous Hair Group

Amorphous Hair Group has been serving Hamilton since 1999. We are a salon that has an atmosphere of tranquillity and a sense of being in the company of your closest friend. We specialize in super curly hair doing such services as cuts, colours, silk press, dreadlock, braids as well as extensions. What makes us unique you ask….it’s the immediate connection that our customers get upon sitting in our chair.

Image of Camille owner of Amorphous Hair Salon - International Women's Day

Making International Village BIA our new home for now over 10 years was a decision that was made by the Most High….I was out for a drive and felt the urge to stop my car and walk…as I did, I came to our previous address 183 King St. I loved the diversity in the stores that were next to me as well as the team at The Village that was so involved with the community.

Follow Amorphous Hair Salon on Instagram.

Amanda & Erin — Business Partners at The Laundry Design Works

Amanda and Erin are two of four business partners at The Laundry Design Works, a boutique creative studio in the heart of International Village BIA. With over 20 years of experience in the design industry, Hamilton was the perfect fit for this small, agile team. The two women feel that Hamilton is bursting with innovation and creativity, making it easy for their team to feed off of that energy and passion.

A college of images of Amanda & Erin from the Laundry - International Women's Day

When starting the business five years ago, they knew they wanted a ground-level storefront with large glass windows to encourage drop-ins and promote creative conversation; International Village BIA provided a welcoming, affordable opportunity to make this dream a reality. Amanda and Erin attribute much of the studio’s success to this decision, believing that design should be a product of the community in which it is created.

Follow J.H. Gordon Books on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Michelle — Owner of Yearn To Urn

Using only the best foliage, flowers, and realistic synthetics, Yearn to Urn creates custom botanicals for both residential and commercial installation. Working with your aesthetic preferences, Yearn to Urn will set the mood and set the stage for your home, office, or special event. Whether indoor or outdoor, seasonal or timeless, tabletop or towering, Yearn to Urn works with you to design one-of-a-kind pieces that represent you, your style and your brand.

Image of Michelle owner of Yearn to Urn - International Women's Day

Michelle’s flair for all things creative and beautiful is rooted in family tradition and stems from her love of nature. Having grown up in the industry and with her floral design certification, Michelle’s abilities are a perfect combination of knowledgeable and creative, traditional and avant-garde. When she is not brainstorming with a client or creating living art, she is elbow-deep in dirt dreaming up another project. It is her gift to create what most cannot imagine.

The International Village BIA was the perfect place to set up Yearn to Urn’s Living Art Studio. In the heart of Hamilton’s vibrant arts scene, you can find anything and everything here. Michelle’s style is as eclectic as the area and she finds inspiration around every corner; be it in The Village’s street art, architecture, people or shop windows.

Follow Yearn to Urn on Facebook and Instagram.

Kristi — Owner of Tundra Leather

I’m Kristi, and my business Tundra Leather started when my Dad purchased a leathercraft business in 1991. The then leathercraft business that he worked for was closing and he decided to do it on his own! He and my Mom purchased the business and the building and instead of just selling crafting items, he began doing custom leatherwork as well, making all sorts of things that people needed – bags, cases, belts, etc. He hired an employee in 1995 to keep up with the demand. In 2015, my Dad passed away, and I took over the business. Without question, I left my finance job and started on the path of making Tundra Leather bigger and better, to carry on what my Dad loved so much. Don’t get me wrong, I had grown up in the shop and it held such a large piece of my heart.

Image of Kristi owner of tundra leather working with a piece of leather - International Women's Day

I want to bring leatherwork supplies to people who want to create, and custom leather goods to those who want to own a thoughtfully built item that will last forever. We’re ever-growing and adapting, and currently working on our website to bring even more people to our shop and to find what they need. As soon as COVID-19 is behind us, we’ll be offering classes once again, which are such a fun night out for a group of 4. We make things like belts, journals, clutch purses, etc. Or you can simply learn some simple leatherworking skills!

In 2020, my husband and I welcomed our first baby into the world, our sweet little daughter. She’s changed me and motivated me in so many ways. As much as I never want to leave her, I’m excited to get back to work this summer and start building this business again. My Mom took over for my mat leave but I need to let her spend some time with her granddaughter and get my hands back in!

Follow Tundra Leather on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sarah — Owner of Fit Barre

I first discovered barre fitness in 2015 while on vacation with my family. You could say it was love at first shake. I was hooked, I couldn’t stop thinking about how strong my mind and body felt. Fast track a year full of training and teaching barre, I took a giant leap of faith and by Fall 2016 I opened Fit Barre. One certified barre instructor (me), no client following or “brand” recognition I was determined to share my passion and love for barre.

Image of Sarah owner of Fit Barre - International Women's Day

Outside of my studio, I work part-time as an RN at the Hamilton General in the ICU with open-heart surgical patients. I’ve been at HHS for 7 years and I love my job. I’ve learnt from the best nurse of all: my mom and followed in her footsteps to Cardiac ICU. I work with some of the smartest and talented people. My ICU West coworkers are my work family. Their support has been unwavering.

I love spending time in Florida with my family, I feel most relaxed by the ocean. A perfect Saturday night is cooking homemade pasta and drinking wine with my partner, (he is the best chef). I love reading, coffee dates with friends and love the show This is Us. (I cry watching almost every episode). I prefer early mornings over late nights, bedtime is 9pm at my house. My weakness is pizza and donuts. You can find me at Grandad’s donuts on Sundays.

My favourite part of running my own business is the people and the community. My proudest moments are seeing the positive impacts this studio has on others.

Follow Fit Barre on Facebook and Instagram.

Robin — Owner of GOODBODYFEEL

I started GOODBODYFEEL out of my own need for healing; a need to be in a space that honours the realities of how our bodies hold the history of our traumas and how to use movement to empower us to face, overcome and manage the challenges life moves us through. As a queer Filipinx woman who has historically (and continuously) been challenged by body dysmorphia and disordered eating, I created this business and movement method so that I could feel safe in a movement space, free(er) of judgement and harm.

Image of Robin owner of goodbodyfeel - International Women's Day

GOODBODYFEEL is a movement studio that operates from anti-oppression, trauma aware and eating disorder informed frameworks. We are committed to accessibility, creating exclusive spaces for marginalized demographics, and using language and sequencing to help people feel resourced in their bodies; allowing them to tap into their joy and resilience. We host an annual teacher training that offers BIPOC scholarships and we have an admin team that is 100% BIPOC. We believe in self-care for community-care, believe that all bodies are good bodies and that if you are alive, you are a leader with a necessary role in seeding equitable and sustainable futures.

I love the community of small business owners in International Village BIA and throughout Downtown Hamilton. I often treat myself to things from Girl on The Wing. Red Church Cafe keeps me caffeinated and fed. Ajio Sushi is unparalleled. It’s fun being neighbours with Fit Barre. And I love everything that Sous Bas gets up to. I can go on and on about our incredible neighbourhood where everything you might need or crave is just steps away.

Follow GOODBODYFEEL on Facebook and Instagram.

Maja — Owner of Zoran Designs

I grew up in my father’s studio and had always been involved in the business so it was only natural to take over when he decided to retire. I kept the name Zoran Designs out of respect to my father who worked so hard to establish a reputation of excellence; the name is familiar and trusted with locals (and beyond) and I consider it an honour to be able to continue that tradition.

Image of Maja owner of Zoran Designs - International Women's Day
Exterior of Zoran Designs Jewellery on King Street

I love being a part of people’s milestone moments through jewellery. They know they will receive a high standard in terms of quality and design but my goal is to also make the experience as pleasant and stress free as possible. It doesn’t have to be intimidating or pressure filled. I take great pride when my clients leave positive feedback and mention not only how happy they are with the product but also that they actually enjoyed the process.

As a small business, it is important to be part of an active neighbourhood. The International Village is an incredibly supportive BIA and a wonderful resource in so many ways. Most recently, through the trying times of the pandemic, the BIA consistently stayed on top of the often confusing information coming our way and provided timely updates to its members in addition to organizing various initiatives aimed at lessening the blow to local businesses.

Follow Zoran Designs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Mina — Owner of Café Oranje

I have always wanted to have a business of my own and as I was nearing retirement at McMaster, I felt that a small coffee shop would suit me nicely. When the opportunity to purchase Café Oranje presented itself in July 2016, I jumped right in!

Café Oranje is a Dutch-Inspired café with a European flair. As well as fresh, locally roasted coffee, we serve up house-made soups, salads, savoury mini pies and toasted sandwiches, as well as homemade cookies and treats, a few of which are Dutch-inspired, giving us a unique spin.

Mina owner of Cafe Oranje pouring a coffee - International Women's Day

I love being in the International Village BIA in the heart of vibrant, downtown Hamilton. The downtown community has been very supportive, especially during this last very difficult year. Our loyal customers have gone out of their way to come in and purchase coffee beans, breakfast, lunch and treats. A number of guests I have never met have popped in to support us as they were driving by. It’s truly heartwarming. Our BIA has created a strong community, and has supported us every step of the way.

Follow Café Oranje on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Maggie — Broker of Record at Ambitious Realty Advisors

This is my 4th year as Broker of Record at Ambitious Realty Advisors. I am very proud to be a female Broker of Record in Hamilton. I have 4 daughters, a grand-daughter and two grandchildren on the way! My position as a Broker/Sales Representative and as Broker of Record lets me take care of people beyond my family, my realtors call me “Momma Maggie”.

I take my position at Ambitious Realty and in our community very seriously and act with honour and in gratitude for all that I have been given and the ability to share it and help others. I have a job that I can use to do good things in our community and for people, to be a positive role model, to impact change, to help those in need, to be everything that my realtors need in their boss.

Image of Maggie from Ambitious Realty - International Women's Day
Image of the Ambitious Realty office

At Ambitious, we make a charitable donation monthly, January was Barton 541, February was Sacha and March will be the YWCA in honour of their Woman of Distinction Awards, I am very proud to have been a winner in 2014 in their “Turning Point” category. We are looking forward to resuming our public fundraising events “The Ambitious Happy Hour” which supports organizations like the Wellwood Cancer Support Centre.

Off hours, I love taking my Ambitious Family out for team building events, last year we paddled the Grand River, cycled around to the wineries of Niagara on the Lake, learned how to make cocktails thanks to The Mule, wandered around the RBG’s After Dark Halloween event. We are a work family who loves being together whether it’s in our office downtown or out making team memories together and I have the best job ever!

What I love about working in the International Village BIA is the strong sense of community amongst the shop owners. The energy in the air of being downtown. Being able to take a quick walk to delicious food and coffee and the many interesting shops.

Follow Ambitious Realty Advisors on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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