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Women in Business: Diverse Paths to Success in Calgary 

The City of Calgary

Calgary is known for its entrepreneurial drive and strong community spirit. Our city has become a hub for innovative businesses, attracting professionals from various backgrounds. Among these are Holly, Joy, and Vered, three inspiring women who have carved their paths to success in this dynamic city by serving their community. Despite facing unique challenges, they have thrived in their respective roles. In this article, we delve into their experiences, shedding light on the triumphs and obstacles women encounter in Calgary's business landscape. 


Holly Smith of Speech Matters poses casually next to a red brick wall. She is smiling, and has brown hair.
Photo supplied by Holly Smith

Holly Smith: Empowering Underserved Youth & Adults Through Speech Matters SLP Services Inc. 


Holly Smith, a passionate advocate for accessible therapy services, is the founder of Speech Matters. After witnessing firsthand the lack of access to speech therapy in low-income and rural communities, Holly decided to take action and fill the need herself.  Her private clinic provides essential therapy and interventions for speech, language, literacy, communication delay & disorders for underserved children and adults in Alberta and BC. Holly's dedication to her cause has garnered recognition, with Speech Matters becoming a beacon of hope for families seeking quality speech therapy services. Her business in just a few short years has grown to include 12 therapists and she’s moved into her own business frontage. 


However, Holly's journey was not without its challenges. Stepping out of her comfort zone meant learning how to make sales pitches for new clients and schools. "There were moments of doubt, especially when making cold calls and emails," Holly recalls. "But I knew the impact Speech Matters could have, and that gave me confidence to keep going." 

Another hard lesson was the art of business forecasting. Experiencing that first summer where most children or clients are on holiday and business subsequently slows down dramatically, Holly had to quickly adjust her planning for the next year. She worked with accountants to address the gap to make the business sustainable for herself and her employees. She credits her mom with a lot of the business strategy that was required. "My mother is an entrepreneur, and she worked hard for over 25 years in business to support her family and see me through school. And now even in my own business, I rely on her advice and shared experience." 


When it comes to finding mentorship and role models, Holly is also able to draw on the experiences of her fellow school graduates and other private clinic owners. Being in a more female-dominated industry, she says, the supports were perhaps easier to find than in others. Indeed, she’s been able to build her business swiftly and successfully by drawing on the shared experiences and relationships with which she surrounds herself. 


Finding a balance in work and home life is sometimes still a struggle, and Holly admits to doing work on weekends and in the evenings after her children go to bed. But having her own business also allows her to make more time for her family. She volunteers at her children’s school and picks them up at the end of the day. Something she may not have been able to do if she didn’t have her own business. 


Holly is enormously proud of the team she has built, and the example she is setting for her own daughters, like her mother before her. Through perseverance and a strong belief in her mission, Holly has built an amazing business. Speech Matters now serves as a lifeline for many families, bridging the gap in access to vital healthcare services. Yet with all the success, she maintains humility and gives credit where she feels it is due. 


“I’m proud of the whole thing: the team we’ve built, and watching their clinical skills grow. I’m proud of the schools and staff, and all our children and families and the impact we’ve made. And I’m able on the home front to provide for my family and take care of my girls. I hope my mom sees that the sacrifices she’s made for me are so acknowledged, and that she knows I wouldn’t be where I am without her, either.” 

Headshot of Jo Bowen-Eyre. She has medium length strawberry blonde hair and is smiling.
Photo supplied by Joy Bowen-Eyre

Joy Bowen-Eyre: Leading with Compassion at The Alex 


Joy Bowen-Eyre, a dedicated community leader, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of The Alex, a nonprofit community health center in Calgary. The Alex is committed to providing comprehensive healthcare services to vulnerable populations, including homeless individuals and those living in poverty. But Joy isn’t just a CEO. She is an educator, teaching a leadership course in The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary. She is also mentor to people in their early twenties and thirties, meeting with her adult children’s friends as well as the children of her friends and colleagues. 


Joy's path to her dream job at The Alex began early in her life with a desire to make a tangible difference in her community. "When I was 15 years old, I realized that I wanted to help people,” Joy explains. Her family immigrated to Canada from the UK when she was twelve. The unexpected passing of her mother shortly afterwards meant a hard lesson for her family in learning how to ask for help. Those offerings of help are what inspired her to give back. 


Her journey saw her evolving from a career in social work to putting herself up (and subsequently winning) a position as a Calgary Public School Board Trustee. The latter being the most challenging lesson of her life. “The scariest thing I’ve ever done is put my name on a ballot. [But] If I had not put my name on that ballot, I wouldn’t have had the personal and professional growth I was afforded over those seven years. And I know in my heart of hearts, I certainly wouldn’t be in this job that I’m in today.” The demanding position as Trustee was one that taught her more about politics than she would ever have imagined. 


When it came time for a career shift, the decision was easy. "This is an organization that is innovative, they're responsive, they're community-minded, and they really have impact within the community. That was really important to me. I thought, there's a lot of organizations that help people, but The Alex has impact, and I want to be a part of that organization." 


As a busy CEO, finding a work-life balance is not always easy. But Joy has found several ways to cope with her demanding schedule. She has a mentor and mentors in her own right.  She goes to the gym three or four times a week, and curls with friends on Saturdays. She prioritizes date night with her husband and all family events. And she leaves the work phone on the kitchen counter when it’s time to rest. 


Joy embodies the spirit of compassion and resilience. Under her guidance, The Alex continues to be a growing cornerstone of Calgary's community health landscape, providing essential services to those who need them most. This year marks The Alex’s 50th anniversary, employing more than 400 professionals and caring staff.   As for when she is finally ready to retire? She won't. "I'll go back to volunteering." 

Headshot of Vered smiling in her home. She has shoulder length dark brown hair.
Photo supplied by Vered Levant

Vered Levant: Transforming Businesses with VIMY HR 


Vered Levant, a seasoned HR professional with a passion for business growth, is the founder of VIMY HR, an HR consulting company providing fractional HR support for small to medium-sized businesses in Calgary. Vered's vision for VIMY HR was born out of a desire to empower business leaders with strategic HR solutions. After leaving her corporate gig, she acutely missed helping leaders and businesses realize their full potential. She loves seeing the transformation tailored HR solutions have on leadership and business growth. 


VIMY HR offers a range of services, from recruitment and training to organizational development, helping people navigate complex HR challenges with ease. Vered's expertise and straightforward approach have earned VIMY HR a reputation for excellence in Calgary's business community. “One of the things we are most proud of is that we aren’t ‘yes men.’ The people we work with don’t have the time nor the resources to experiment with inflated strategies or products. We only give them what they need.” 


Launching VIMY HR came with its share of challenges. As a female entrepreneur, Vered had to remind herself not to undervalue her services in the market. Providing a cost-effective product was important, but she had to ensure it wasn’t underpriced. She found support and mentorship through AWE, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. “I highly recommend that program to any female starting their own business,” she says. “They were instrumental in providing resources and funding when I needed it the most.” 


Early on, Vered also had to prove the value of HR consulting, especially to businesses that may have viewed it as an unnecessary expense. "Educating clients about the strategic role of HR was crucial," Vered explains. "Once they saw the impact on their bottom line, they became strong advocates for our services. It’s actually easier now after Covid, as leaders now realize that taking care of their people should be the first pillar.” 


When it comes to work-family balance, like Holly, Vered makes times for her growing children. She picks them up from school and supports them in their extracurricular activities. She leads by example when it comes to her own health, making time for the gym every week and showing her kids the value of taking care of oneself.  She volunteers in her community and encourages her family and HR team do the same. 


Vered's dedication to her clients' success has also been unwavering. VIMY HR's client roster continues to grow, with businesses of all sizes benefiting from Vered's strategic insights and personalized approach. She has gone from solopreneur to a team of a dozen, including two out of province consultants. "The business landscape is evolving," Vered notes. "Business owners are realizing that investing in their people is key to sustainable growth." 


Comparing and Contrasting Experiences: 


Addressing Disparities 


Holly, Joy, and Vered are all passionate about addressing disparities in healthcare, education, and business leadership. Holly's Speech Matters provides crucial speech therapy services to the underserved, bridging a gap in access to healthcare. Joy's role at The Alex focuses on providing comprehensive healthcare services to vulnerable populations, ensuring they receive the care they deserve. Vered's VIMY HR supports business leaders in creating positive, sustainable work environments, ultimately contributing to the well-being of employees and the business itself. 


Overcoming Industry Challenges 


Each woman faces unique challenges in their industries. From gender bias in the perception of leadership, to the expectations of caregiving with their respective families. Finding work-life balance is not easy for anyone in a leadership position, but these leaders have risen against the odds. Systemic barriers including access to funding and finding networking and mentorship opportunities are challenges they have also faced and defeated. 


Holly navigates the healthcare sector's complexities, working to secure clients and establish credibility for Speech Matters. Joy tackles issues of limited resources and funding constraints in the nonprofit sector, leveraging partnerships to expand The Alex's reach. Vered confronts misconceptions about HR consulting, educating business leaders on the strategic value of HR and its impact on organizational success.  


Empowering Others 


Despite the challenges, Holly, Joy, and Vered have all become champions of empowerment in their respective fields. Holly's advocacy for healthcare equity for vulnerable individuals extends beyond local school systems. Joy's leadership at The Alex has transformed it into a beacon of hope for Calgary's vulnerable communities, empowering them to lead healthier lives. Vered's work with VIMY HR empowers business leaders to create positive work environments, fostering employee well-being and business growth. 


Final Thoughts 


The stories of these three women exemplify the diverse paths women take in Calgary's business world. From healthcare and education to HR consulting, their stories highlight the resilience, passion, and innovation of female entrepreneurs. Despite facing gender-related challenges and industry-specific hurdles, they have thrived, contributing to Calgary's vibrant business landscape. As the city continues to evolve, these women serve as role models, proving that determination and a commitment to social impact can drive meaningful change. Calgary’s future is indeed bright with the impact these women are making to create a more inclusive and diverse business community. 



For more information on Speech Matters, visit their website, here 

Head on over to The Alex for more information on their great work. 

Contact us at VIMY HR if you’d like to learn more about our services! 



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