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Headshots of Bay Street Bull's Women of the Year 2021: Michele Romanow, Amber Mac, and Erin Bury

November 17, 2021 by Speakers' Spotlight

Meet Bay Street Bull’s Women of the Year 2021

From Olympians to founders, social impact champions to changemakers, Bay Street Bull’s inaugural 2021 “Women of the Year” guide celebrates 31 impressive leaders making a difference, including our very own Michele Romanow, Amber Mac, and Erin Bury.

Bay Street Bull profiled each of these incredible entrepreneurs in a series of one-on-one interviews to learn more about their values, missions, and lessons learned from their rise to the top.

Michele Romanow

As the co-founder and president of Clearco, Bay Street Bull says Michele Romanow “is creating the new entrepreneurial playbook.” Clearco has invested more than $2B into 4,600 companies making them the biggest e-commerce investor in the world. The company has now raised US $100 million at nearly a US $2 billion valuation, bringing Clearco up to Unicorn status.

Michele is also a “Dragon” on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. She joined the show in 2015, becoming the youngest judge in its history. From Bay Street Bull:

What is your elevator pitch to the world?

Michele Romanow: I want to build and invest in a million founders through Clearco

What excites you most about the work that you are doing?

MR: At Clearco, we are held together by a collective vision that we could build something better for founders. Defend the little guy. The world up until recently has been built for people who had the right parents, went to the right schools, or know the right people. There is a huge group of founders who are overlooked by VC’s but they have incredible businesses that need and deserve access to capital.

Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?

MR: We have backed over 6,000 founders all over the world, backed eight times more women than traditional VCs, we’ve funded founders in every province across Canada and 13 percent of our founders are BIPOC versus the VC average of 2.6 percent. We have changed the face of VC.

Why is your work important?

MR: Entrepreneurs are our best problem solvers and we want to enable all of them. Compare governments around the world spending trillions of dollars on mitigating and solving climate change versus a couple of entrepreneurs who invented electric cars that people love to drive. They are now introducing electric trucks, which will probably make one of the biggest impacts on climate change.

What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?

MR: Are you ready? This journey is going to take double the amount of time, money, and patience. You have to be on a mission you really love to make it.

How do you define success? What does it mean to you?

MR: Success isn’t linear for me. There are so many metrics to define success but for me the one word that stands out the most is growth. If I had a life motto it would be to never be comfortable. Growth often means that what you are doing is on the right trajectory. So for me, success is helping more founders, deploying more capital, and growing our business.

What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away with from your work?

MR: Just start, because the perfect moment doesn’t exist when starting a business.

Read more.

Amber Mac

As the founder of AmberMac Media Inc., Bay Street Bull says Amber Mac “is helping Canada’s entrepreneurs innovate.” She is considered by many to be the go-to expert on anything to do with technology and is often featured as a regular business host and expert for Fast Company, Newsweek, CNN, Bloomberg, CBS, BNN, CTV, The Marilyn Denis Show, and SiriusXM.

From Bay Street Bull:

What is your elevator pitch to the world?

Amber Mac: My goal is to demystify technology so that it’s accessible to anyone who wants to grow their business, build a brand, or change the world — hopefully, all three!

What excites you most about the work that you are doing?

AM: The most exciting part of building a company and working in the emerging technology space is that we get an opportunity, on a daily basis, to learn about what’s next and simplify what we’ve discovered to audiences on every platform.

How do you define innovation?

AM: While innovation is most often defined as embracing something new, in all of my keynote speeches and webinars I stress the importance of relentless adaptation. In other words, you might not always be innovating but you are always adapting and moving forward.

Where do you think you have made the most impact in your community?

AM: Ever since I started using the Internet, I saw the potential of this technology to change and improve lives. Whether it’s in my newsletter every Tuesday, on one of our many podcasts, or during a virtual event, I hope that I’ve been able to inspire people to be less fearful of technology and more excited about the opportunities it can bring our way.

What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?

AM: I think the most important question a person who wants to start a company should ask themselves is: Why? I have interviewed too many founders over the years who are obsessed with raising capital and exiting their businesses. Too often, their “Why” is purely financial. On the flip side, the most successful business leaders I know today have figured out their “Why” and it is usually less about their success and more about their community’s success.

Read more.

 

Erin Bury

As the co-founder and CEO of Willful, Bay Street Bull says Erin Bury “is demystifying death.” Named one of Marketing Magazine‘s “Top 30 Under 30”, Erin is an entrepreneur, marketer, former technology journalist, and startup advisor. Prior to co-founding Willful, Erin spent six years as managing director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency, and was the managing editor at startup publication BetaKit.

At Willful, Erin drives the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. From Bay Street Bull:

What is your elevator pitch to the world?

Erin Bury: My elevator pitch is to help destigmatize conversations about death, and encourage Canadians to get a will in place.

What excites you most about the work that you are doing?

EB: I know what you’re thinking, what’s exciting about estate planning? I’m extremely passionate about the space because I saw firsthand what happened when one of our family members passed away without having the important conversations (like burial or cremation? What type of ceremony?) Our family struggled with these decisions and it highlighted the fact that we do pretty much anything to avoid thinking about our own mortality. What excites me the most is that through education, I can influence people to have important conversations and to create important legal documents like a will, which are incredibly helpful to family members when someone passes away.

Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?

EB: At Willful one of our core values has always been [about] purpose, and I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve influenced over 7,000 gifts to charity in wills, with over $30 million in cash gifts alone committed in Willful wills. I’m also very proud of the fact that we gave out over 5,000 free wills to frontline healthcare workers during COVID-19.

Within the company, I think I’ve made an impact on our company culture. I’ve set a tone of empathetic leadership and of accountability through clear goal-setting. There’s no yelling or screaming at Willful, the archetype of the white male bro founder with a temper isn’t welcome in our culture. I think I’ve proven that you can get results while being a kind person.

Why is your work important?

EB: Every day, Canadians pass away without a plan, and their family is left scrambling while trying to grieve. I hear stories from customers about how it impacted their lives when a relative passed and left a mess to clean up. Every customer who completes their will on Willful has reduced the burden on their family when they pass.

My work is also important because as entrepreneurs, my husband and I have created over a dozen meaningful jobs and we’ve built a tech company that has attracted media coverage and investment at home and in countries like the US. I’ve worked in Toronto’s startup space since 2008, and I can’t imagine myself ever going back to working for someone else. I’m passionate about inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs — including my daughter.

What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?

EB: This is a great question because I fundamentally believe that not everyone should be an entrepreneur. It’s a tough life: you’re always on, it’s a constant rollercoaster of ups and downs, and there’s no vacation from the business. It can also be very lonely, especially if you’re a solo founder. I would start by asking how passionate you are about the idea. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe this problem (and your solution) for the next decade, so are you ready to commit to it fully? Then I would ask about what type of business you want to build. Do you want to bootstrap the business and have complete autonomy, or do you want to raise funding and be able to grow faster but with external stakeholder pressure? And finally, who do you want to build the business with? Whether it’s a co-founder or early team member, no company can flourish without a great team so being intentional about the team culture and the type of folks you want to work alongside you is crucial.

How do you define success? What does it mean to you?

EB: I always remember a quote from Oprah about true happiness coming from wanting what you already have, instead of always pining for more. I’m an extremely ambitious, goal-oriented person and I have a lot I want to achieve in my life but ultimately I define success as being happy in the now versus always trying to get to the next milestone to feel fulfilled.

Read more.

Interested in learning more about our inspiring female entrepreneurs and what they can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].