Bad Ass Women – Paulina Cameron
Paulina Cameron is the CEO of The Forum, a Canadian-based charity that has supported over 10,000 self-identified women entrepreneurs since 2002. The Forum provides educational programs, mentorship, as well as connections to a wildly successful, supportive and energetic community. Paulina is also the author of Canada 150 Women: Conversations with Leaders, Champions and Luminaries, a mother of two, and a total badass.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I spend my days supporting women entrepreneurs and raising my two little kiddos. I’m also an author and a self-designated foodie. I care a lot about gender equity and the world being better for the next generation.
CEO of the Forum, how did you get involved?
I learned a hack in university that volunteering will get you into events you can’t afford as a student, and by volunteering, you can start learning and building a community. So, I volunteered at The Forum’s Gala for several years. I knew the chair because she had been a chair at an organization that I had started many years before called Young Women in Business. When I got the phone call to join The Forum, I was five months pregnant with my second baby, but I was excited to step into the role and support the growth of this organization. My daughter Gracie came to her first keynote when she was two weeks old, and it’s been a fast and fun journey since then.
What do you love most about empowering and educating women entrepreneurs?
That’s an interesting question. I have a visceral reaction when I hear the word ’empowering’ someone. The entrepreneurs that we work with are incredible. They don’t need anyone else to empower them. What we do, and I love this, is connect a community of entrepreneurs with other entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. It’s a platform that provides education and resources that busy entrepreneurs don’t have the time to tap into.
How are women entrepreneurs different?
Women entrepreneurs do business differently. They think about integrating social impact. How to run a business that has a positive impact on their communities. They think more about how they treat their teams and what purpose they want to serve. Being in that space is where I think businesses should be going. I’m glad we can be a part of trying to shift that narrative.
How would you like to see the role of women change?
Women are able to lead and thrive. To lead and thrive in ways that deeply honour the values that they bring and in ways that work for them. All of these old narratives and stereotypes around women’s entrepreneurship and running a business. I want all of those to be thrown out the window. Instead, let’s make a world where women can thrive and create systems that actually support them and aren’t stacked against them.
You’re a mom of two, a CEO, and an influencer to all of these women. How do you keep balance in your life?
It’s definitely not a day-to-day thing. I try to look at it from a macro view and ask myself how am I with my time and energy honouring what is important, and how am I showing up for that? I go through periods where absolutely one of those balls fully gets dropped, whether it be friendships or showing up in community or family. It’s never an equal scale. The day-to-day balance piece doesn’t resonate with me, but I do deeply resonate with showing up for meaningful interactions no matter how long or short.
What do you do to nourish yourself in life and nutritionally?
That’s a good question, because post two children, I eat a lot of leftover sandwich bits here and there! I think for me, nourishment is about getting back to basics. I think about what I can add that is effortless and has a high ROI (return on investment). An example of that is being in nature. Swimming in nature, or getting in the forest, help me go from zero to a hundred. It’s totally transformative. I also try to integrate as much nutrition as I can into what I eat, even if that’s just tossing in some greens. I’m a big smoothie person. I just chug them down and then get to tick that box.
What do you look for in a snack?
Deliciousness! One of the things I love about Chiwis is they’ve got crunch, and they make my mouth salivate which is satisfying. They’re not something I’m inhaling because I feel like I actually have to interact with them. I love the interaction with food that engages your senses versus some foods or snacks like those puffy Cheetos, which are delicious but are the equivalent of slightly flavoured air. So I look for satisfaction, which for me is engaging of the senses.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
For a period of six months, I ran a business with my husband that was a local food distribution business and we delivered curated baskets from the farmer’s market. We were volunteering at a local farmer’s market for four years with an amazing local farm run by the Forstbauer family. We had so many friends that said they really wanted to come to farmer’s markets but they didn’t have the time and they wished they delivered. We thought that since we’re here every weekend and we know the vendors well, so we did that for a six-month period. At one point we realized we either needed to scale and get into trucks and distribution or not. At that moment in our lives, we didn’t feel that it was the right step. Since then there have been so many food delivery companies that have come forward so we’ve often had this moment of thought that maybe we should have stuck with it, but I do believe that at the moment you have to listen to your gut, and if it was going to be we would have felt a visceral reaction. I am a very intuitive and gut-driven person even though I have a financial background and crunch numbers, but I really try to listen to what my intuition is telling me and I’m glad we did that.
What callout can we put out to our community to support you or the entrepreneurs you are working with at The Forum?
Shop local. Go buy from your local entrepreneurs. If you don’t know any women-owned entrepreneurs, follow The Forum so you can find out more about them. We’re always looking for mentors for our entrepreneurs, so we’re growing our mentorship quite significantly. If anyone is reading this who is an entrepreneur and would like to support an entrepreneur, we have avenues to do that.
My callout is simply that all of us can support our local entrepreneurs and can choose to vote with our dollars and how we contribute and do that! Be conscious, know where you’re buying from, who’s making your products and your services and support local because it’s all of our shared community together!