Opinion: 7 female B.C. business leaders to follow on International Women’s Day

Credit: Courtesy of Oakwyn Realty

Morgan Browne, co-founder and president of Oakwyn Realty

From a food entrepreneur to a hospital foundation CEO, these women are helping raise the bar

On March 8, we mark International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the immeasurable achievements and contributions of women. This day isn’t reserved for any particular country, industry or organization, but for each and every woman out there. Whether they’re an established CEO, a new mother or a girl on her first day of high school, the women in our lives support and inspire us in countless ways.

In honour of International Women’s Day, I decided to highlight a handful of the many incredible female business leaders in our great province.

1. Morgan Browne, co-founder and president, Oakwyn Realty

Browne is one of the forces behind fast-growing Vancouver real estate brand Oakwyn Realty. Ingrained with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, she has found success and solidified her position in the business community. Browne’s vision is an integral part of her work ethic. Her mantra—“If you love what you do, the path to success is simple”—reflects her passionate approach to her career and to guiding her team at Oakwyn. Over the past six years, the company has grown from 30 to 430 agents and from one to seven offices, proving that by putting people first and staying true to your core values, you can achieve great things. 

2. Jane Adams, president and CEO, Surrey Hospital Foundation

Adams has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 25 years, leaving her mark in communities across Canada through her efforts in health care, education and social services. Thanks to her effective communication style and admirable work ethic, under her leadership the Surrey Hospital Foundation has grown into one of Canada’s most efficient such organizations. Since day one, Adams has dedicated herself to making the foundation an inclusive and diverse reflection of the city it supports. She is never one to shy away from a challenge if it means benefiting the community and the foundation.

3. Jen Murtagh, consultant

With an extensive career in sports marketing, Murtagh left it all behind in 2011 to pursue community building and nonprofit work. Now an executive consultant, she’s a leader in the nonprofit community and a board member of Little Flower Academy and the WNorth Conference. Murtagh is known for supporting women and elevating the visibility, influence, and contributions of others. In 2012, she co-founded the Steveston Moms Network and the Women Leaders in Non-Profit peer mentorship group. She has also won several honours, including the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Women of Promise award.

4. Kendall Ansell, owner, Belle Construction and Kendall Ansell Interiors 

An award-winning design expert with a handful of wins under her belt, Ansell is now focusing her career on Belle Construction. She has collaborated with brands such as Urban Barn, the Vancouver Home + Design Show and the BC Home + Garden Show, and her projects can be seen in Western Living, BCLiving, and the Vancouver Sun. As the founder of Vancouver’s first female-led construction company, Kendall continues to develop her business—creating dream spaces for her clients—and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. 

5. Brenda Knights, CEO, Seyem’

Previously operations manager of the Community Shuttle service at Coast Mountain Bus Co. (a subsidiary of TransLink), Knights is now CEO of the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group. There she is responsible for three nonprofit organizations and nine companies owned by the Kwantlen First Nation. As the face of Seyem’, Knights represents her community and business at conferences and government meetings. When it comes to decision making, she approaches obstacles with the same integrity as her ancestors—seeking input from the Kwantlen First Nation community. It’s no surprise that the core values of Seyem’ include family and unity.

6. Aly Armstrong, owner and principal planner, Aly Armstrong Events

Armstrong has spent more than a decade working in the wedding and event industry, creating and executing gatherings all over North America. Founder of Aly Armstrong Event Planning & Design, she is known for her stunning designs, signature looks and Fleur, a luxury wedding show. Fleur, now an annual attraction in the wedding industry, has gained the attention of elite industry professionals and celebrity influencers. Having recently launched her own podcast, Aly is sharing her knowledge and experience through episodes and workshops. Outside of her business, she is executive director of Entrepreneurs Organization, a peer-to-peer network.

7. Jill Van Gyn, CEO,  Fatso

Van Gyn’s company makes a nutrient-dense peanut butter enriched with plant-based super fats. Fatso transformed from side hustle to a full-fledged business in a matter of months, and its future looks bright. Since appearing on CBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2017, Van Gyn has quickly spread her product across Canada, with a U.S. expansion planned for 2021. Starting out in the kitchen of a Victoria restaurant, she has shown that through hard work and persistence, you can grow a small idea into a national company.

Darian Kovacs is founding partner of Jelly Marketing, where he works with local, national and global brands to build and execute their digital and PR strategies.