Small Town Success: How Nanaimo’s Ivy Richardson is impacting youth across B.C. and beyond

Red Girl Rising founder Ivy Richardson's love for boxing slowly transformed into a larger love for movement

Ivy Richardson is on a mission to cultivate safe, empowered communities. The vehicle: movement. At 23, despite worrying that she was “too old,” she decided to try boxing. Three months later, she set foot in the ring for her first match. “It became an obsession,” she says.

Richardson paused her bachelor of arts degree at Vancouver Island University so that she could give boxing “everything she had.” Within two years, she made Team BC; then, in 2017, she fought at nationals—which was the last time she competed. “I didn’t perform well; I was super burnt out,” she explains.

Her coach suggested she take some time off to recover and, in the meantime, start coaching.

In 2019, she created a youth boxing team called Team 700 (at the time, 700 represented the number of youth who were aging out of care each year in B.C.). “Unfortunately, that number is closer to 1,000 now,” says Richardson.

According to Richardson, all of the youth on the team shared the lived experience of care; the Team 700 name held real meaning to them. Soon, she began receiving more and more community requests to facilitate movement programs. Within a couple of months of forming Team 700, She decided to launch her own nonprofit—Red Girl Rising—in order to facilitate boxing, strength and conditioning and yoga programs for mainly Indigenous youth.

In 2023, Red Girl Rising hosted 289 movement opportunities, with over 1,000 people participating; that same year, she travelled to communities such as Ahousat, Kingcome, Vancouver, Victoria, Campbell River, Courtenay and even into Saskatchewan and the Yukon to facilitate programs. That summer, she also took over ownership of the Nanaimo Boxing Club.

Throughout her work, Richardson is putting into practice her intent to live every day like a ceremony. For her, that daily ceremony looks like moving her body. “Movement teaches me strength, resilience and humbleness,” she says.

So far, the biggest milestone of her entrepreneurial journey has been the impact she’s had on the communities she serves—mainly, the transformation she sees among youth. “Confidence is a hard thing to measure, but I often see youth come in on the first day with their shoulders hunched and their head down,” she says. “Six months later, they’ll be talking my ear off non-stop. That’s something I’m really proud of.”

This year, Richardson started Wina Wellness, a recurring movement program designed like Team 700. Wina (pronounced wheat-nah) translates to warrior in Kwak’wala, which is the Indigenous language of her mother. Designed specifically for Indigenous women and girls, Wina Wellness started in early 2024 as a six-week pilot program funded by Lululemon—a brand for which Richardson works as an ambassador.

Within an hour of registration opening, Wina Wellness was full with a waitlist. “We have a crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in this country,” says Richardson. “This program gives women a space to share, feel empowered and build community with other women—which in itself creates safety.”

Her advice for other Indigenous entrepreneurs is the same advice given to her by her first coach: find your passion and then create a job around it.  “I believe that we all have gifts, which is another Indigenous teaching,” she says. “Find out what your gift is and lean into it. Pour yourself into your  community; it’s all about  reciprocity.”