From biodynamic wine to Canada’s only women’s sneaker boutique and more, these female-led ventures doing buzzworthy things are all based in Toronto.
It is challenging to narrow down a list of all the incredible women-owned businesses in the city because the drive, creativity and work ethic of women-identifying folx is not only undeniable, but it’s also unstoppable.
Ranging from food and fashion to arts and culture, these businesses have generated cult-status followings among locals. Some of them may be more well-known than others, but all of them deserve your attention.
Shopping local continues to be so important, particularly with female-led initiatives. These businesses should be celebrated throughout the year — not just during timely occasions such as Women’s History Month.
So if you landed here to learn more about some amazing local, women-owned businesses — thank you for your support and enjoy!
In 2015, Nicole Campbell and Krysta Oben founded Grape Witches — a series of parties and educational events sharing rare and delicious organic, biodynamic and natural wine. In 2020, they opened up a space on Dundas West dedicated to their modern experiences. Supplying locals with selections not sold at LCBO, keep your eyes peeled for California’s Martha Stoumen and Austria’s Judith Beck, as well as beer and cider by Revel Cider.
If you haven’t — and even if you have — tried Ghanaian food, look no further than Mama Akua’s, created by mother-daughter duo Akua Fosua and Patricia Yeboahin as a way to support the local Black community while injecting dishes more often found in suburbs like Scarborough into the downtown core. It was supposed to be a one-time pop-up but the demand for its Jollof rice dish, Red Red fried plantain and other warm dishes has seen it return a number of times since.
Launched in 2017 by pastry chef Luanne Ronquillo, Ruru Baked is a specialty ice cream maker that turned an online pre-order business model into a full-fledged brick-and-mortar. Known for its unique custard-based flavours inspired by Luanne’s Asian roots, the recipes may be fun, but they’re also very clean with minimal use of preservatives. Think miso butterscotch, matcha shortbread, honeycomb cereal milk and deep + delish cake.
Food special mentions
ai Toronto seoul
Known for its small-batch handbags and chic masks, ai Toronto seoul has quickly become a go-to source for beautiful accessories to finish any look. A beautiful name for a stylish and sustainable boutique, ai (아이, pronounced ah-ee) means children/daughters in Korean.
It was launched by a “fashion-obsessed” mother, Hun Young Lee, with her three daughters, Hannah, Joanna and Rebekah, and boasts a luxury selection of PETA-approved vegan bags and accessories — curated and created by artisans in Seoul.
Abby Albino and Shelby Weaver made a powerhouse move by opening Canada's only women's sneaker boutique and community hub in 2020. A beautiful space found in Stackt Market, it signals a growing opportunity to represent women equally in the sneaker industry.
Not only does it carry some of the hottest releases each season, but Makeway highlights incredible local, BIPOC brands as well. It will also host community initiatives, workshops and meetings to further foster inclusivity, entrepreneurship and support amongst women.
Omi Woods is a stunning jewelry line that pays tribute to “all of our connections to Africa and her diaspora,” as phrased on its website. The name itself draws on the founder Ashley Alexis McFarlane's Jamaican-Ashanti-Maroon heritage: Omi means “water” in the Yoruba language while the word Jamaica derives from the Indigenous Taino word “Xaymaca,” meaning “land of wood and water.” The jewelry designs follow suit, made with fairtrade African gold and representative of the rich history that culture is celebrated for.
Although known for its signature coin pendants, you will find everything from earrings to anklets. The pieces can be worn every day, but are special enough to become heirlooms — passed down generation after generation.
Fashion special mentions
Cori Cannabis stands apart not only as a women-owned cannabis company but also as a Black-owned one. Founded by Lula Fukur, who grew up in Eritrea where she developed an intimate relationship with the earth and the knowledge that wellness sprouted from the natural plants and herbs handpicked from our soil, every product is plant-based and tested by her.
From wellness products to cannabis products, you’ll find staple Canadian brands such as Woodlot, The Honest Leaf, Ace Valley and more.
Downward Dog Yoga Centre
With a long history in the city, Downward Dog Yoga Centre was founded in 1997 by Ron Reid, one of Toronto’s pioneer yoga practitioners and is now led by Karen Parucha, who is overseeing a modernization of the studio through thoughtful restructuring to address the systemic oppression prevalent in the Western yoga industry.
Boasting many of Canada’s leading instructors, the new location is found in the Ossington area. In addition to yoga classes, people can practice meditation, pilates and even consider learning to teach themselves. Downward Dog now offers a teacher training scholarship to anyone who identifies as part of groups that have been historically oppressed.
Our mental health has never been more top of mind as it is today. Yet for Kate Scowen, it’s been a major focus most of her life, especially after she founded Hard Feelings in 2017. A social worker, counsellor and writer, she saw the gaps in getting help, specifically how long the waitlists for publicly funded therapy were, and decided to create a space that worked to fill it.
From low-cost counselling servicing many underrepresented communities to a storefront selling carefully curated books and resources to help build and sustain stronger mental health, this is a promising venture that puts people and the community first.
Wellness special mentions
Founded by Jennifer Harper in 2016, Cheekbone Beauty is an Indigenous brand that honours her Anishinaabe roots. Not only are the products cruelty-free, but proceeds also go towards making a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth by addressing the educational funding gap.
The beauty line itself, which consists of lipsticks, glosses and complexion products, is not only sustainably sourced but also made in Canada. Each shade of Cheekbone's liquid lipstick is named after an Indigenous woman working to better their community and the world.
Oreya Studio opened its doors in 2019 and has since grown not only into a hair salon hotspot, but also a brand — Jus by Oreya — redefining hair care. Founded by Alexa Brittany, the salon was opened with the intention of filling a gap when it came to the full experience. Whether you make an appointment at the salon for a hairstyle, face massage or brow lamination — just a glimpse at what they have to offer — OR you purchase a product that has already developed a local cult following, you will not be disappointed.
In Sanskrit, Sarisha translates to “charm and elegance,” two qualities the brand is brimming with. Founder Jacqueline Johal launched her mindfully created product line in 2018. She was inspired both by her Indian heritage and her time living in Paris. Natural and vegan, they take on a holistic approach that will speak to the conscious consumer.
Top picks are Green Goddess Glow Oil, Green Superfood Clay Mask, and Nourishing Hair and Scalp Oil. Affordable and travel-friendly, Sarisha will help anyone create their own intentional beauty rituals.
Beauty special mentions
Arts and Culture
Tacit (formerly Mrkt Gallery)
An online gallery dedicated to the works of female artists, Tacit was founded by Nuria Madrenas in 2019. An artist herself, Madrenas recognized a gap in the market for her and her fellow women-identifying artists to sell their work and to grow their discoverability. Featuring art from such local creatives as LeeAndra Cianci, Rachel Joanis, Danielle Horvath and beyond, 50% of the profits go directly back to each one.
A Different Booklist
Co-founded by Itah Sadu, A Different Booklist is a Black-owned bookstore committed to its community. Although it has been around since 1995, it evolved into a non-profit cultural centre in 2016, hosting author talks, lectures, children’s programs and visual art exhibitions free to the public.
Found on Bathurst near where Honest Ed’s once was, this space has endured in spite of all the drastic changes that have occurred in the neighbourhood. This has much to do with its purpose, which showcases the resiliency of Black people and the Black diaspora across Toronto.