Inspirational women are all around us, but these are the stories that hit closer to home.
There are a great many women achieving triumphs at the highest level, doing amazing things in the world, and paving the way for others to follow. But sometimes, the women who have the biggest impact on our lives are the ones closest to our hearts. Leading by example with courage, compassion and tenacity, the ladies we know and love offer powerful lessons about life. We asked entrepreneurs about the women who inspire them and these are the heart-warming stories they shared…
1. Mothers and grandmothers do it best
“My biggest inspiration is my matrilineal line. I witnessed my mother go through some of the deepest trenches – painful familial tensions, racial and class-based prejudice, financial woes, and beyond. But no matter what happens, she retains her joy. That taught me joy is a skill to be cultivated. It comes from a reservoir inside that no one can touch or reach.
She recognises and acknowledges her pain, but never lets it stop her from living the life she wants. I’ve never met my grandmother in person, yet I can feel her presence within me. From my mother’s stories, I see myself in her. My grandmother and I are both simple and low-key: often away from crowds or trends yet doing tedious work for community and culture building in quiet and powerful ways. I’m so grateful for the wisdom they’ve passed on.”
– Chloe Calderon Chotrani, somatic therapist at Body as Earth
2. Aunts who bring hope to any situation
“You know you’re in the company of a special person when every interaction is one you learn from. That’s how I feel after each conversation with Manju Melwani, a lady I’m blessed to call my aunt. She has a zest for life and enthusiasm in helping you find the silver lining in any situation. When I muddled my way through challenges, she immediately created time and space to help despite her hectic schedule. I know that’s something she’d do for anyone. Her gentle way of questioning guides you to think and uncover the best version you can be.”
– Puja Surtani, director of Eastern Scent
3. Grandmas who are legendary
“My grandma showed me how to be kind, generous, compassionate and loving. Her favourite trick for spreading love was through a warm, cosy hug. She’d always say that hugging it out could fix almost any relationship drama. When I was a sulky teen, my grandma taught my dad how to bribe me with hugs. If I wanted something, I had to earn it with a cuddle. It was a genius way to get us closer and still works like a charm with my own kids.
Sadly, she passed away on International Women’s Day a few years ago. Quite the grand exit, but her inspiring legacy lives on – reminding us to be kind and spread good vibes. Even the tiniest act of kindness can make a world of difference.”
– Anna Seefeldt, founder and brand strategist at Pink Pineapple
4. A coach who shapes lives
“The inspiring woman who instilled the confidence I have today is my varsity swim coach, Lisa File, who encouraged me to never give up. As a young person, I didn’t have much confidence, but with her support, I eventually started to believe in myself. I tried out for the team when I was 13. As years went by, she was the pillar of confidence in me even when I didn’t see it.
One life-changing moment was when she stood by me when my grades were dropping. She said it worked both ways and told me to study harder and stay on the team. When I graduated, I was captain of the swim team and swimming was my life. Even after 25 years, she knows how much she means to me and how she helped shaped who I am today.”
– Shireena Shroff Manchharam, founder and principal consultant at Sheens Image Consulting
5. A mother who teaches the most important lesson of all
“As a psychologist, I’m always there for others – showing the importance of self-care, practising the skills of assertiveness, and improving emotion regulation with clients. Caring, connecting, and communicating. But this all wouldn’t be possible without the most important lesson I was taught by my mother: give to yourself first before you give to the world.
Being there for others is often easier than consciously choosing to be there for ourselves. Make space for the emotions, know it’s essential to feel and heal, and be your own priority so you can continue to be and give to others.”
– Beata Justkowiak, psychologist
6. The strength of a mother
“My mum inspired me to start my online bakery in 2017. She had clogged arteries and went to the hospital for surgery. Seeing her in a fragile state caused me to switch to a healthier lifestyle overnight. We were huge dessert lovers, so it was tough to find desserts without butter, eggs and refined sugar for my mum. That’s how I started experimenting with whole foods by using beans as a butter substitute and healthier sugar replacements like dates in my first product: chocolate fudge cake.
I started baking for my family and friends, and opened my whole foods bakery with tasty and nutritious bakes. My mum’s strength in managing her disease encouraged me to use food as medicine through creative means and to be the strong woman I can be.”
– Andrea Lee, founder of The Clean Addicts Wholefoods Bakery
7. The unconditional love and support of a mother
“My mother-in-law Tina is an absolute inspiration! She fosters six children (aged one to 18) with several being with her for more than 10 years after they were rescued from poor or abusive family situations. Despite being 70, she fostered two children under one and a half when no other option existed. Both were mistreated by drug-addicted parents.
Despite these challenges, the love and support they received have seen them become compassionate individuals capable of so much more. She does this without any support and still manages a small farm, which gives the kids purpose. Her other passion is rescuing horses. This ability to transform summarises Tina’s heart and mind as she continues to inspire me to give back to the community.”
– Heike Cushway, health coach and co-founder of The Integrative Medical Centre
8. Saved by mum
“My mum not only inspires me, but she also always rescues me. Two years ago, I was detected with a hormonal disorder, Hashimoto’s disease, where my immune system produced antibodies that attacked my thyroid. It was scary. I was told that stress or even parabens, typically present in commercial personal care products, might have contributed to my condition.
This made me remember how my mum used native Peruvian plants and oils to create shampoos for us as kids. That brought me to study and work on creating my own recipes for handmade soaps and solid shampoos with ingredients that nurtured my body. My mum made it again!”
– Susan Calderon Urbina, founder of Sacha Botanicals
9. The fighting spirit of a mother
“I remember the day my good friend Steph and I decided to go into business together. She was heavily pregnant, and she told me about her idea to make a children’s toy. It excited me and we decided to go ahead. After she gave birth, we took a trip to a potential manufacturer with her two-week-old baby. She inspires me because she epitomises sheer grit for me.
We’ve gone through enormous difficulties launching this product. But Steph never fails to stop believing. She keeps going on even though sometimes the road ahead looks dark and murky. This is why women continue to inspire me. Despite all the difficulties they go through, they still get up and fight every day, no matter what.”
– John Lim, founder of Live Young and Well
10. A mum who finds joy in life’s simple pleasures
“Who inspires me? That’s easy. My mum, Weronika. She’s always been an inspiration. She’s a hard-working woman who has raised nine kids, worked on a farm and moved to another country to work in a factory just so she can create a better future for her family. Her dream? To have enough time to sit down and have tea with her friends. How simple is that? This is always a reminder for me to be grateful for the small and simple things in life – because it doesn’t get better than that. Thank you, mum, from the bottom of my heart!”
– Maggie Ruszczyk, health coach and functional nutritionist at Coach Maggie Kim
11. A mum’s love displayed in small daily acts
“Someone once told me they remember me as the girl who brought a lunchbox packed by mum to school daily. I was frustrated as a child because I wanted the freedom to buy my own meal like everyone else. But I didn’t realise a lunchbox would give me amazing perspective and knowledge for the storied food tours I love doing now.
How my mum inadvertently applied chemistry to decide which flavours worked best for a picky schoolgirl. And how physics kept the food warm when I ate it later. My mum’s history also influenced what she made for her family. The food was adapted due to geography yet remained true to our culture. She easily adjusted recipes with her natural instinct and little to no mathematics training, too. It was just a school lunchbox, but it continues to inspire me every day. Thanks, mum!”
– Eiktha Khemlani, founder and lead experience curator at VegThisCity
Want to connect with more inspiring women doing great things? Check out Launchpad, a networking platform that offers business support and community for entrepreneurs.