• Entrepreneurship

Pride in Business: Celebrating Successful Entrepreneurs from the 2SLGTBQIA+ Community

Futurpreneur | June 9, 2023

We take great pride in being the only national non-profit organization in Canada that provides financing, mentorship, and resources to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39. What’s equally important to us is our commitment to supporting young entrepreneurs from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as they embark on their journey in the business world.

Our utmost priority is to create a safe and inclusive environment for all aspiring entrepreneurs. We want you to feel comfortable and free to express yourself as you launch or acquire your small business while working with us.

This commitment extends to our dedicated team. Currently, 6% of our entire staff and 13% of our senior leadership team identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. We believe in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within our organization and beyond.

We collaborate with regional and national partners such as Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce that provide additional support to the community.

In celebration of Pride Month, we sat down with Futurpreneur-supported 2SLGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs across Canada who shared their inspirations, challenges, and valuable insights from their remarkable journeys as business owners

What inspired you to start your business?? 

Steph McNair (Maneland Hair, Dartmouth, NS) 

I was inspired by my community – I was aware of the lack of representation in the beauty industry and was compelled to create a queer-owned safe space.

Steph McNair Photo credit: Ryan Tobin Photography

Alana Fiks (Black Market Provisions, Winnipeg, MB)

Black Market Provisions was inspired by our love for food. Ange (Farkas, co-owner) is a Red Seal Chef, and our relationship has always been rooted in food. We started Pop Cart in 2015 to dip our toes into the world of food entrepreneurship and chipped away at our ultimate dream of opening a shop. 

Angela Farkas (left) & Alana Fiks (right) Photo credit: 1812 Photography

Paulo Trindade (Paulo’s Cake Shop, Toronto, ON)  

The inspiration was and is always about people – bringing a unique cake experience to our customers, and bringing prosperity to the lives of the people involved in the business.

Paulo Trindade Photo Credit: Rebel Howl Studios

Shawn Raymond (Shawn R Training, Leduc, AB)  

I’m in love with what we, as humans, can do when we put our mind to being a better version of ourselves. I wanted to help make people feel more confident in finding their own balance — a consistent juggling act of mental, physical, nutritional, and spiritual/energetic well-being.

Shawn Raymond Photo Credit: Market House Ltd.

Olga Vernev (Great Canadian Dog Cakes, Vancouver, BC) 

When the pandemic struck, we realized that as newcomers, we were vulnerable and needed a strategy to protect our lives from being disrupted. Due to our dog’s health issues, we began feeding him exclusively homemade food, which also proved popular with other dogs in the neighborhood. With the support of Futurpreneur, this eventually blossomed into a thriving business. 

Natasha Vernev (left) & Olga Vernev (right) Photo Credit: Allister Foster

Who is your target audience?

Steph: Maneland is unique in that it is specifically geared towards the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The primary focus is creating a space where that community is listened to, valued, respected, and cared for.

Alana: Our clientele ranges through all ages, genders, and walks of life — the common thread being they all want quality food and fun, interesting gifts!

Shawn: My target audience is the individual who is trying to be just 1% better as a human in one of the main areas I work in as a certified CSEP-CPT: Mental, physical, and nutritional health and well-being. 

Olga: People who treat dogs as members of their family. Our own dog ran away from Russia with us, even though many people around us considered it reckless. We genuinely believe that dogs deserve the same pleasures as we do (with special considerations for their health). 

Paulo: Our audience is someone who is looking for a fresh unique cake or dessert and does not have time to pre order. We bring the freshness to their homes, and celebrations.

Photo Credit: Rebel Howl Studios

What are some challenges you faced while building your business? How have you overcome them?

Steph : There were challenges in finding product companies that would work with a non-binary [owned], queer business—but we found suppliers who are fantastic. 

Maneland also opened 6 months before the pandemic, which was extremely challenging. There was minimal support for a small business during COVID, but with the help of my loyal clientele and additional funding, I was able to keep Maneland going. 

Paulo: The top three concerns are probably managing my cash flow, taking care of my mental health, and being prepared for unexpected situations. I talk to other entrepreneurs and try to get advice from them — having that reference helps 

Olga: After our experience of running a business in our home country, we can compare and confidently say that there are actually no significant challenges for building a small business in Canada. For each step, there are simple and clear rules to follow, ensuring that everything goes smoothly and correctly. Therefore, we cannot claim to have faced any serious obstacles. 

Alana: We wanted to avoid getting burnt out and overwhelmed, so from day one we prioritized work-life balance: We keep the shop closed two days a week, add an extra day off to long weekends, close for a couple of weeks after Christmas, outsource what we can, and remind ourselves that personal lives are so much more important than anything that happens at our business. 

COVID was another big challenge. We spent two years adjusting the way we operated. We feel like we ultimately got “how to run a business” boot camp training, so it was kind of a benefit in its own way

Our current biggest challenge is fighting the rising cost of….everything! Basically, 75% of our goods have  become pricier over the past year, with no end in sight.  

Shawn: In the beginning, I’d catch myself spending way too much time trying to learn a new skill instead of just asking a friend, family member, fellow business owner, or bookkeeper. Sometimes you just have to own up to the fact that you’re not going to be a solopreneur forever—and that’s a good thing!

Being a trainer, I do feel a sense of leadership, like there’s an expectation that I am “totally healthy” and no “fun”. Finding my own balance over the years—being in a fulfilling relationship, running a business and taking care of myself—isn’t always easy, but I know and see firsthand the importance of being kind to ourselves


Photo credit: Ryan Tobin Photography

How did Futurpreneur support your startup?

Olga: Without the involvement of Futurpreneur, we would not exist. When you arrive in another country to start a life from scratch, you essentially have no resources for a startup. We registered on the Futurpreneur website during our search, and  the business development manager promptly contacted us and found us the perfect solution. We were able to launch our business shortly after with Futurpreneur’s quick turnaround and support.  

Paulo: Futurpreneur gave me not only the funds to start my business – the company showed me support, guidance and direction. Having a mentor and all the connections I’ve made so far is helping me build my business in a healthy and consistent way.

Steph: Futurpreneur set me up with a mentor, which was very helpful – as a new small business owner, it was comforting to have a mentor to be able to talk to and ask questions.

Alana: Futurpreneur’s funding was not only valuable in terms of us needing the dollars —it also wasn’t terrifying to new entrepreneurs! Working with lenders can be so intimidating, but Futurpreneur really wants you to succeed and thrive. 

Futurpreneur also supported us with guidance. When you’re pitching your idea to banks and lenders and landlords, etc, it can be really disheartening when they can’t see your vision. Futurpreneur worked with us to ensure our business plan was sound, provided guidance, and ultimately confirmed our belief that we were onto something with this idea.

Shawn : In the beginning, no bank would look at me. Futurpreneur went out of their way—even during COVID—to ensure that I was not only being supported but being educated. They helped me understand my health and wellness business from so many new perspectives.

Shawn Raymond
Photo Credit:
Market House Ltd.


What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Alana : Find a way to start your business smaller to see if it’s a viable idea, and start to build relationships with customers, suppliers, and fellow business owners
Second, prioritize yourself. Your health, personal life, and relationships are SO much more important than your professional life.

Third, do YOU! Don’t worry about anyone else. Be authentic in your idea, in yourself, and it will come through in your business and success. Ultimately, people are looking for authenticity.

Shawn: Take care of you, invest in you, find the people that support your vision. Let others have their perspective, but don’t let it shake the trust you have in yourself, in your own pursuit of happiness. 

Olga : Please do not be afraid to take a step forward, even if the circumstances around you may seem hopeless. Later, you will be surprised at how insignificant the things that once seemed insurmountable, actually turn out to be.   

Paulo : Take care of your mental health, work closely with your business mentor or coach, and do not give up.  

Steph : Start small, plant seeds and follow your dreams!

Ready to launch your own business? We’re here to help! Reach out and tell us more about your startup

Olga Vernev (left) & Natasha Vernev (right)
Photo Credit: Allister Foster

Note: this Q&A has been edited and condensed.