International Women’s Day Q&A: Victory Gardens
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, we sat down with Modo Business Member and women-led cooperative, Victory Gardens.
1. Tell us a bit about Victory Gardens – how did you start your co-op?
Victory Gardens is a Vancouver based worker cooperative that helps people grow food in their own space. They build edible gardens, teach people how to grow their own food and maintain gardens for clients who may not have the time, but are motivated to use their yard productively. They’ve been Modo business members in Vancouver since 2014.
2. What have been the biggest challenges in starting a women-led co-op?
One challenge we faced was figuring out how to form a co-op in general, and have the rules and memorandum tailored to how we wanted to structure our business. Vancity and Marty Frost were integral in helping us through the process of forming our worker-run co-op. The co-op community in Vancouver is incredibly supportive and tight-knit!
Another challenge we had was structuring our niche business model – how do we market ourselves? What services do we offer and how do we operate?
We had to do market research and figure out our operations by looking at components of other business types, and gather information we thought would be useful for marketing our unique set of services. At the time, in 2011/2012, a food growing business like ours was quite rare, so there was no standard to go off of. Thankfully, the 3 women that started the co-op – Lisa Giroday, Sam Philips, and Sandra Lopuch, had a variety of collective ideas and skill sets: Lisa in marketing, Sam in customer service, and Sandra an expert in operations.
3. What have been the most exciting milestones for you and your team operating Victory Gardens as female entrepreneurs?
To be able to create a work environment that is team oriented, democratic, caring, and beneficial to everyone while scaling the co-op has been an incredible milestone. Aside from growing food, one of our primary goals as a worker-run co-op is to provide meaningful employment. Our team is predominantly female.
4. How can women in the workplace support one another?
The women in our workplace wear many hats: we handle marketing, sales, HR, administration, garden installs/maintenance/coaching/landscaping, the list goes on! We recognize that we can’t all be experts at everything, so we lean on each other for shared knowledge and collaboration. Due to the fact that our business is a worker-run co-op, we are encouraged to lift each other up professionally, as success for one of us means success for all of us.
5. If you had one piece of advice for any woman out there reading this, what would it be?
Just like the old adage “united we stand, divided we fall”, so it goes for women in business. Competition in a job environment creates drama, whereas support fosters empowerment. Ask yourself how you can help other women reach their goals. Implementing a welcoming workspace means everyone has room to grow and reach their full potential!