Women of Influence
International Women's Day is celebrated on the 8th of March every year around the world. It is a focal point in the movement for women's rights. The GPRC is excited to host our second annual International Women's Day event. The Women of Influence Campaign is a promotional campaign by the GPRC to celebrate the Region's women who are the best in their fields.
The 2023 event will be hosted by Tammy Colbow of Royal LePage Noralta on Wednesday, March 8 at the Links in Spruce Grove. This year, 4 Women of Influence will be recognized.
The Greater Parkland Regional Chamber of Commerce recognizes that diversity is good for business, that organizations greatly benefit from having a diverse leadership team throughout the organizational structure, and that women in business play a critical role in breaking ground in the land of opportunities.
We are looking for a title sponsor for this event. If you or your business is interested in more information on sponsorship for Women of Influence events throughout the year, please contact our office at (780) 963-4545.
2023 Women of Influence
Alana Tollenaar, Backyard Birds Nature Shop
Alana Tollenaar is one of the Owners and Operators of Backyard Birds Nature Shop in Spruce Grove, Alberta. You can find her at the store almost every day managing their wonderful team of staff, working with talented local vendors, hosting events, and more!
Alana has a degree in Environmental & Conservation Science from the University of Alberta. Throughout her degree, she volunteered for a wide variety of organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nature Alberta, the Campus Food Bank, Edmonton and Area Land Trust, among many others. She paid for her entire post-secondary education through scholarships recognizing her community involvement.
Alana is actively involved outside the store, as a Board Member with the City Centre Business Association and as a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leaders Committee. She offers her time to a variety of organizations to teach them about birds, take them on nature walks, or provide educational activities. She has also been a leader with the Spruce Grove Girl Guides for the past 7 years.
Her passion for nature and birds was inspired by her dad, Jan, who was a Zookeeper at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. She vividly remembers him bringing home two baby snowy owls to hand-raise in their home. Those first-hand experiences with birds and other wildlife fostered an appreciation and love for nature that motivate her to this day.
Her passion for community was inspired by her mom, Rose, who taught her the value of volunteering and giving back from a young age. Her first memory of volunteering is at Stony Plain Farmers Days when she was 8. This strong desire to give back to the community has stayed with her to this day, with one of her proudest accomplishments to date being the Little Free Pantry project she started in Spruce Grove to provide food and hygiene products to those who need them, 24/7.
In terms of spare time, Alana used to be a competitive athlete in the sport of target archery, where she won numerous provincial and national titles, as well as attended two world championships. Her commitments have shifted a little, so now when she isn’t working, she loves birdwatching, playing board games, trying out new restaurants, and traveling with her husband, Jordan.
Jan Gillett, RavenWolf Brewing, Parkland Pregnancy Support Centre, Spruce Grove City Council
Jan Gillett along with Randal, her husband of 34 years, have lived in the Spruce Grove area for over 25 years. She has 3 grown daughters and 3 grandchildren with the 4th arriving any day.
Becoming aware of the lack of practical resources for single mothers and low-income families, in 2014, Jan founded and is the Director of Parkland Pregnancy Support Centre, a local non-profit that provides information and supports for families with babies/toddlers. In 2016, she was recognized as a “Pillar of the Community” for her work with the Centre in providing much needed help to families in the Tri-Region Area.
Jan’s desire to help the community did not stop here; seeing a need, and with a “spark” of an idea, she mobilized the community and implemented THE LATE-NIGHT CAFÉ IN 2019, an emergency Homeless Overnight Response. In the following year, she Chaired the Winter Emergency Response Committee, a collaborative community group, which then adopted the Late-Night Café model in the area, and it has been offered ever since. She is a past Board member of Homeless Link Alberta and Pay Forward Kindness Society.
Jan is a community advocate for affordable seniors housing and is involved with Meridian Housing Foundation.
I’d like to introduce our next 2022 Woman of Influence, co-owner of RavenWolf Brewing Co., Founder and Director of Parkland Pregnancy Support Centre, Jan Gillett!
Jan is a first term city councilor and is so passionate about her community, that she ran for office 3 times till she was successful! She is proud to be the first person of Colour EVER elected to the Spruce Grove City Council and is grateful to be a role model for young Black women.
Jan is heavily involved in the community and sits on many committees, including the Inter-City Forum Social Policy, advocating on a provincial level for services, funding, and social resources for our region, the Economic Development Advisory Committee, the City Centre Business Association, a Rotarian of Spruce Grove Rotary Club, and was previously a Spruce Grove Public Library Board Trustee.
Jan is an entrepreneur and co-owner of RavenWolf Brewing Co., a microbrewery and taproom that her and her husband opened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, they experienced a slow start, but the community really embraced them, which necessitated expanding within their first year for both equipment and staff.
Her development and knowledge as an entrepreneur has grown over the years with her Elected Officials Education Program, Culinary Arts, Wine Studies, and 15+ years’ experience in Retail, Business Management and HR. But her education has not yet stopped as Jan is currently completing her Community Economic Development Program through the University of Calgary.
Kayla Strom, Broadway & Grand and Parlour 1919
Kayla Strom is the co-owner of Broadway & Grand restaurant as well as Parlour 1919, Spruce Grove’s local Speakeasy. Growing up, she always loved baking & cooking, learning from the women in her life. In 2014 Kayla met Devin Stewart, who taught her more about the culinary world and helped her grow her skills further. In 2017 Devin & Kayla decided to make their love for culinary creations into a business and started on the entrepreneurship adventure together as Broadway & Grand. In 2020, they had to move to a new location due to outgrowing their original kitchen. With this move came the opening of Parlour 1919 in February 2021. Having a location to host live events and a place for guests to feel comfortable and welcome was a dream come true.
The business has had many difficult times to overcome, but Kayla & Devin persevered and pushed through. As many know, Devin tragically passed away on July 1, 2022. With the tremendous support of many family, friends, staff, and community, Kayla has continued to make the dream a reality.
Kayla has worked for Alberta Health Services for 9 years as an Administrative Support. When she is not working, she loves spending time with her family, friends, dogs & parrot. She is a creative individual that loves finding new hobbies, has a joy for learning, and has a passion for helping others.
Sarah Parry, Greater Parkland Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO
Sarah Parry was born and raised in the United Kingdom and is moving into the final year of her professional career. December 2023 will bring the next part of her journey as she enters retirement.
In 1990, Sarah was proud to be appointed as the youngest female leader in a male dominated environment for the telecommunication company, BT (British Telecom). Empowering women to become leaders in typically male heavy business environments was something that she cared passionately about and was proud to play a role in developing an environment to support career progression for women.
Sarah was applauded as a new kind of leader that chose to exhibit empathy, tolerance, and kindness. She has always led from a place of emotion, however, strong in decision-making and unwavering in making tough decisions.
Sarah’s leadership journey has lasted over 30 years and she has been honoured to have worked in Corporate, Government, Retail and not for profit environments. Relationship building has been at the heart of everything I do, and I am driven to get the best out of myself and my team.
As the youngest in the family, she was raised by parents that were only separated by the passing of her Dad in 2021; Sarah’s brother is 7 years older than her so she always felt that there were three adults in her family with her. Sarah’s Dad encouraged me to always ask questions, ask questions if she didn’t understand and ask questions to further her knowledge and education and to show vulnerability and treat everyone with respect and kindness. Sarah’s mum is a gracious, gentle and strong woman who taught Sarah to go after her dreams through confidence and determination. Sarah’s mum inspired her as the opportunities for a woman born in the 30’s was incredibly limited and women consistently missed out on careers ad opportunities compared to men. Sarah’s rebellious side is never far from the surface; she is a challenger and risk taker and at times can be pushy when others don’t appear to be as excited as she is with a new idea. In her late teens, Sarah protested with Green Peace, ‘Ban the Bomb’, became politically active and decided that a two-week holiday romance on the magical island of Ibiza was far more thrilling than work or education. Lasting six months, Sarah’s parents simply met her return with, ‘welcome home’.
Sarah appreciated very early on that Women have to stick together; being kind and understanding of each other is not a weakness. Women are strong and nurturing by nature and we have to embrace and celebrate each other.
Sarah is proud and honoured to be recognized and in the words of Emmeline Pankhurst, British Political Activist: “Women are very slow to rouse, but once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on Earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.”
Tracey Bartholomew, Village Fashions
In 1992, Tracey Bartholomew, owner of Village Fashions, had her adventure in ladies fashion began when she took over her mom’s business that she started in 1969.
Having your own business is truly an education and lesson in adaptability! There isn’t a school out there that teaches how to get through years of construction in front of your store and then COVID. Thinking “outside the box” and loyal clients helped Village Fashions weather the storm.
Being active in your community adds dimension and interest, not to mention meeting like-minded individuals. Tracey has loved her years with the Heart of Town, the Chamber, church council, as well as school and sports groups when my kids were involved.
Tracey and her husband have 3 adult children and call Stony Plain home.
2022 Women of Influence
Ashleigh Munro, Kiwi Nurseries
Ashleigh Munro grew up in the Kiwi Nurseries business but it wasn’t until twelve years ago that she took on a major role in her family’s operations. Her passion for the local community and her family’s business is represented through her numerous nominations this year. Earlier this year, Kiwi Nurseries won the Marketing Award of Distinction from the GPRC Business Awards of Distinction. Since then, Ashleigh has been nominated, and is a finalist, for the Marketer of the Year Award with the Alberta Chambers of Commerce. She has also been nominated for the Green Profit/Garden Centre Group Young Retailer Award which is an award that covers all of North America and currently, Ashleigh is one of three Canadian finalists nominated for this award. This nomination is highly coveted in the garden centre community throughout Canada and the United States. Ashleigh’s nominations speak to her commitment to Kiwi Nurseries’ growth and development. Earlier this year, Green Profit wrote a feature article on Ashleigh praising her management style which is based on building both team and individual skills... continue reading the article here.
Amanda Conklin Ward, whipLASH Aesthetics
Amanda Conklin-Ward is the owner, CEO, and Master Esthetician at WhipLASH Aesthetics in Stony Plain. Amanda started WhipLASH in 2016 and she has faced more than the typical ups and downs of a small business. The biggest obstacle, COVID-19. Amanda felt threatened by the virus and wondered if she had made the wrong choice in switching careers because her business was deemed “non-essential.” But to Amanda, her clientele comes first. Male or female, young or old, Amanda will take on any new client in hopes of meeting their skincare and aesthetics needs. She was driven to persevere throughout the pandemic by her love for the family of clientele she has created in her studio.
As the Master Esthetician, Amanda does just about everything at WhipLASH. Not only did she start the company a few years ago, but she also takes on clients every day. WhipLASH began as a studio that offered eyelash extensions. Over the past few years, as Amanda and her team furthered their skill, knowledge, and expertise in the industry, the studio offered more services... continue reading the article here.
Amanda Wilhauk, Wilhauk Beef Jerky
Amanda Wilhauk has lived in this community for her entire life…and she continues to be passionate about every aspect of it.
Her and her husband, Trevor Wilhauk, have raised their four children in Spruce Grove and they attend the same schools that Amanda did as a young child. Their children, Grayson, Olive, Hazen, and Scarlett have grown up surrounded by a family of entrepreneurs and they all understand the ins and outs of being self employed.
Bringing people together and providing other businesses to promote themselves within hers. This philosophy continued as the community watched her and Trevor open up an extension of their family business, Wilhauk Beef Jerky Ltd. Their storefront is full of other Alberta made products…giving a brick-and-motor storefront option to so many other small business that have not made the jump themselves. You can find chocolates, peanuts, pies, pirogies, bbq sauces and everything else on their shelves…just because she wants to help other businesses make it.
Amanda currently sits on the City Centre Business Association board and is looking forward to the revitalization of the downtown area of Spruce Grove.
Giving is a part of Amanda. A part of her actual soul.
We have all watched her Wilhauk Beef Jerky 12 Days of Giving campaigns over the years...and it stresses everyone around her right out (her parents, her staff, and her husband) with how much she gives away.
But you know what?
It’s about supporting the community that supports her. And it has had the most beautiful snowball affect on everyone around her.
Chantal McKenzie, That Yoga Place & Phoenix Physical Therapy
Chantal McKenzie is the proud co-owner of 3 local businesses: The Beer Shak, That Yoga Place Inc., and Phoenix Physical Therapy. All three are located in Spruce Grove. She is a hardworking business owner with a passion for community involvement and volunteerism. When it comes to Chantal there is not enough that can be said about community. To her, community is nothing without involvement and society is nothing without community. Interpersonal relationships cannot be fostered without connection and interaction such as in a community. Business is no different, relationships and communication with customers and colleagues are necessary for success.
Chantal made the decision to quit her job as a civil engineer and pursue an entrepreneurial venture. She chose to follow her heart to what she was truly passionate about: Local business in her community. She and her husband have owned the Beer Shak for the past 15 years and their two more recent businesses for the past five after she retired from being an engineer after 23 years... continue reading the article here.
Emily Ainsworth, CEO of Wags Cookies
To know Miss Emily Ainsworth, CEO of Wags Cookies Limited, is to be inspired by her ability to unify hearts and minds through her business in the spirit of inclusion and diversity, knowing first hand that disabilities are not a hindrance but rather powerful assets if given the right opportunities to succeed at home, at work and at play.
For 20 years she has braved a rare genetic disorder that has resulted in numerous brain and stomach surgeries, countless procedures, frequent hospitalizations, and uncertainty about her future. She continues to suffer with unpredictable, recurring episodes of dysautonomia and chronic pain to this day, but never gives up. Her resilience is her other super power.
In 2021 she took Inspiration from her late service dog named Levi, her love of baking, and the need to grow meaningful job opportunities for individuals excluded from the traditional job market due to their disabilities *right here in our own community, to create Wags Cookies, where she mixes in all of her experiences to deliver more than bags of delicious dog treats, but a recipe for awareness, compassion and inclusion for " Every-Body!"
We are honored to have her as a Women of Influence for 2022.
Lorraine Stewart, Chair for Parkland School Division
Lorraine Stewart is a Woman of Influence involved with numerous aspects of community. A Rotarian, school board Trustee, retired educator, board member for the Alberta College of Psychologists, and the list goes on. Lorraine is committed and passionate about improving her community in any way possible. Dedicated does not even begin to describe the care and attention Lorraine places on each of her roles, elected or volunteer. She gives each project, person, and task the attention it deserves and never does anything just halfway. Lorraine is an active volunteer to help those in her community, the province, the nation, and even across the globe.
Lorraine’s mission in education, and her life, is to promote inclusivity. For some, inclusivity means doing the bare minimum to tolerate others with different perspectives, experiences, and abilities while Lorraine regards inclusion as valuing one another for those same reasons.... continue reading the article here.
Rachelle Dubeau, Dani + Madi
Rachelle Dubeau is the owner of Dani + Madi in Spruce Grove. She started up her small business in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Also working as an accountant, Rachelle is always busy. Beginning a business in 2020 made everything difficult, but luckily Rachelle never faced shut-downs in her industry. Being open allowed Rachelle to continue to foster personal relationships with her customers and community.
“Honesty and Integrity” are the two words that Rachelle operates her business by and uses in her family-life. Honesty is always the best policy and Rachelle is a firm believer that being dishonest with a customer is the worst way to run a businesss... continue reading the article here.
2021 Women of Influence
Sarah Befus, Rescue Flats
Sarah started Rescue Flats in 2013 when she was on maternity leave with her 1-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter. She was inspired to start a company that celebrated women. Since that time, Rescue Flats has grown into one of the hottest brands in the wedding industry and has been seen in weddings and special events all over the world, including The Knot Gala at New York Bridal Fashion Week.
Rescue Flats is on a mission to make the world a better place for women, and we are just getting started.
Since 2013 over 600,000 women have worn Rescue Flats when their high heels started to hurt their feet. Rescue Flat’s part in changing the world may be small, but they believe that it's the little actions that build into big change. When one woman helps another, then she is inspired to help another, and another and so it goes.
Holly Carmichael, TruWood Artisans
Holly Carmichael ventured into the millwork and furniture industry over 22 years ago. Holly quickly realized she loved the never-ending learning curve that woodworking is and shelved her plans to become a social worker in favour of working in the furniture industry (although she would continue to volunteer with high risk youth for many years to come).
In 2004, she recognized a growing demand for artisan-quality custom furniture in Edmonton and rose to the challenges and opportunities of this expanding niche market by establishing her own company. One of her goals was to provide high quality pieces and customer service – building pieces that she and her customers could be proud of. Since 2004, the team has built hundreds of custom pieces of residential furniture for local furniture stores, architectural firms, design groups and its own clientele.
Discerning clients sought unique furniture designs that differed from traditional, plain-lined items. They wanted much larger pieces and fully built-in units featuring a darker, more modern colour palette. In response, Holly spent countless hours making jigs and patterns and experimenting with joinery techniques and wood finishing methods – proving and honing her skills while forging valuable industry contacts and friendships that continue to hold strong.
Holly Carmichael’s fine craftsmanship is vividly displayed in all of her work, and especially in her pinnacle vision of TruWood Artisans custom furniture.
Dr. Melanie Currie, Westgrove Clinic
Dr. Currie has been a family physician for over 20 years who enjoys a variety of opportunities in family medicine. She currently has a busy office practice in Spruce Grove doing cradle to grave care. She loves obstetrics and delivers babies at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. She has an active involvement in promoting Women’s Health in her community and in the past has led the Women’s Health programs in our Westview PCN. She participates in the Hospital Care Team at Westview Health Centre (WHC) in Stony Plain and manages palliative patients in the Westview Hospice as well has at home. She was the Medical Site Lead for Family Medicine at Westview Health Centre from 2005 to 2020 as well as being the Spruce Grove/Stony Plain representative for the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association. She is the Suburban Delegate for the Edmonton Zone for Alberta Medical Association Representative Forum 2012 to present. She was appointed to the Physician Compensation Advisory Committee for Alberta Health from June 2020 to present.
Her two children, Isaac and Julia, moved into Edmonton and thus Dr. Currie and her husband are now empty nesters. Luckily, they keep busy on their acreage with their horses, dogs, cats and koi! Dr. Currie’s life kind of sucks with how busy she get but my husband has always been an amazing support and was the best stay at home dad for them! She also has wonderfully supportive work colleagues who cover for her with all the extra things she has taken on over the years.
Kiely Maclean, RJ Maclean Tank Services
Kiely Maclean is the President and Co-Founder of RJ Maclean Tank Services, a leader in global tank cleaning with a focus on innovation, robotics and environmental disruption in the energy industry.
Kiely has been recognized as the New Generation Award Winner for Veuve Clicquot Women in Business Awards as well as the Winner of the Young Women in Energy Awards. Recognized as both Top 35 Under 35 and Class of Rising Stars 2019. Kiely was also a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, and the RBC Women of Influence Staples Star-Up Award. Featured as a speaker for SHEInnovates, a Telus Event sponsored by UN Women promoting female innovators as well as a panel on Environmental Disruptors sponsored by BDC, Scotiabank and Women of Influence. Kiely was also a panelist for Toronto’s Bay Street Bull 'Women in Leadership' Conference.
RJ Maclean has been recognized as Top 25 Innovators of the Year, with a focus on challenging the status quo through safety, efficiency and environmental energy processes.
Dr. Sarah Malenchak, Westhills Equine Veterinary Services
Sarah grew up on a beef and grain farm in Manitoba. She has always had a passion for horses which inspired her to pursue a career as an equine Veterinarian. Sarah graduated from Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan. After graduation she relocated to the Stony Plain area and started Westhills Equine Veterinary Services in 2011. Sarah’s goal has always been to provide quality equine veterinary care and she has a special interest in equine lameness and reproduction.