Toronto is a city filled with vibrant businesses — stylish shops, cool concept stores, unique food delivery services and so much more. But it’s also worth noting that more than a few of the city’s most innovative companies are headed by mothers and daughters. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, what better time to highlight some of the best local businesses run by mother-daughter teams and the many advantages that come from working as a family.
Self-love and empowerment
Girl Gang Strong is a subscription box created by Toronto-based event planner Kennishia Duffus and her tween daughter, Kyree. Each box contains five to eight specially curated products to help young girls love themselves, empower each other and embrace their differences.
For Kyree, working with her mom has not only been fun, but also inspiring.
“When I see my mom working hard, it makes me feel like she loves what we’re doing and it makes me want to do more.”
Despite the stress of starting a business during a pandemic, the pair is committed to their cause.
“Sometimes I feel like giving up, but then I remember how the work we do puts smiles on so many girls’ faces,” says Kyree.
It was also important for Kennishia to show her daughter that she believes in Kyree’s dreams, supports her goals and that despite any challenges that arise they can still push through.
“We overcame by believing in ourselves, having faith and knowing that we are Girl Gang Strong,” says Kennishia.
Working together has also shown her just how creative and hard-working Kyree is.
“We laugh together, celebrate together, pack boxes together and cry together. It’s an amazing experience that we will always cherish,” says Kennishia.
Started as a side hustle
The mother-daughter duo behind Royal Wonton, Susan Woo and Tiffany Leung, specialize in making handmade wontons from fresh, high-quality ingredients, a business born of the need for a side hustle when the pandemic hit.
“COVID has caused some financial difficulties, so starting a side hustle seemed like a no-brainer. To be able to do it with my mom has just been a great experience despite the challenges this year has brought us,” explains Leung, adding that the process of starting this business together has brought them closer. “We spend so much time making wontons together for our customers, and I love being able to share this experience with her.”
At first Leung wasn’t sure if she could sell any wontons online, but her mother encouraged her to do so.
“Although we bump heads sometimes, solving problems together has just made our relationship stronger,” Leung notes. “I love how we are able to collaborate regarding business decisions. We have learned a lot from each other.”
A stylish one-stop shop
Clementine’s in Rosedale is a one-stop shop for expertly curated luxury items ranging from home decor and art to high fashion, including pieces from the in-house private label. The stylish concept store also happens to be headed up by mother-daughter duo Christina and Kelly McDowell.
“We feel very fortunate to be able to work together as a mother-daughter team,” says Christina. “We work well together because we have distinct roles in the business, and we come together for general decisions.”
Though the two have different personalities and styles, Christina notes they inspire each other in both regards.
“We find that it’s a positive for our relationship and the business that we are able to see things from our different perspectives yet agree on so much,” she says. “For us, the best part of working together is that we have created something we love and are proud of it together.”
A pandemic career pivot
Launched during the earlier part of the pandemic, Pivot Skincare was created by Cindy Berg and her three daughters Emily, Sophie and Emma.
Cindy had developed Pivot’s plant-based nourishing facial oil while working in a dermatologist’s office as a skin care consultant, but the thought of creating a full-fledged business still felt intimidating.
“I knew we had an amazing product that my clients, friends and family members were already using and loved, but it still felt scary to start a mostly digital business, at 60 years old, during a pandemic,” she says.
Doing it with her daughters, however, has made the process easier.
“I knew my kids were very capable and driven, but it’s been really amazing seeing how each of their different skill sets have contributed to the success and growth of the company.”
For Sophie and her sisters, seeing their mother pivot her career at 60 to something she is truly passionate about has taught them it’s always a good time to be doing something you love.
“She won’t stop until she has perfected the thing she is working on, so working with her pushes us all to do the same,” Sophie says. “It’s no wonder that she created a product that our customers are completely obsessed with!”
Ai (meaning “children/daughters” in Korean) Toronto Seoul is a Toronto-based, sustainable fashion brand run by Hun Young Lee and her three daughters, Hannah, Joanna and Rebekah. They carefully curate and produce PETA-approved vegan handbags and accessories made in small batches in Seoul, South Korea.
Hannah Kim and her sisters are not only inspired by their mother but also continue to learn from her.
“We adore having the opportunity to work with our mom, and we’re constantly inspired by her creativity and work ethic,” Kim says “Our mom continues to teach us to be strong and have faith, especially in tough times. She is one of the most robust people we know and we strive to be as strong as she is.”
Working together also showed the family just how much they all think alike.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that we often don’t have to think twice or question anything we put into motion — there’s an incredible amount of trust between the four of us, and so we’re able to make decisions quickly knowing that there aren’t any personal agendas,” Kim explains. “We definitely attribute that to the trust between us as a close-knit family.”