Run the World

Writer Emily McCabe | July 4, 2018

Women-led businesses pave the way for others to join a collective of creative change-makers inspiring reform. With current political ideologies in question and social movements addressing balance and equality, it is timely. These are businesses created by women for women, with gusto, moxie and determination. When it comes to starting your own business, you either have an instinct for it or you don’t, and we fortuitously benefit from their achievements.

In the spirit of empowerment and in spite of the roles women have traditionally played, today’s vision for women involves coming together and encouraging one another in business and friendship. There is something special about travelling to far-flung destinations in search of challenge, self-exploration and connection with a group of like-minded women. With more female leadership in the travel space, these female-run adventure travel companies offer a new way to unite.

Dame disruptor and founder of AdventureWomen, Susan Eckert explains, “The idea was to create a space for women to challenge themselves. There’s a sense of freedom that comes from taking a women-only trip. Nearly everyone who joins us have life-changing journeys, and despite preconceptions, women really do want to meet.” The trips range in activity level, and all destinations have specific experiences.

This year for example, AdventureWomen explored Colombia. Eckert says, “It is a hidden gem, packed with off-the-beaten-path activities, and in places tourists rarely visit. We start in a cosmopolitan city then go on to explore colonial towns with stunning well-preserved architecture. The trip continues onto beautiful coastal towns surrounded by beaches, ending in a walled-in city founded in 1533.”

Sharing common goals, Danielle Thornton and Allison Fleece founded WHOA Travel after tackling one of the world’s toughest summits, Mount Kilimanjaro, in 2013. Before the climb, they were given the advice to dedicate it to something larger than themselves. Fleece explains, “When we finally reached the summit of the tallest mountain in Africa, we were in awe. It was the hardest thing we’d ever done, it made us feel accomplished and alive, unlike any emotion we had felt before. In that moment we believed we could do whatever we put our minds to. Upon reaching the summit, we found out we had reached a US$5,000 fundraising goal. We wanted to fund a school at the base of the mountain so that day we accomplished two parallel peaks together, and in the company of other amazing women.”

It was this perfect combination of fun, friendship and solidarity in taking on a challenge that left the women keen to recreate the experience. Fleece says, “We decided to resurrect the concept by starting a company, a meeting place for other women searching for inspiring, life-changing experiences, encouraging them to step away from their comfort zone and work towards a shared goal, connecting and giving back.”

Jennifer Haddow, owner of Wild Women Expeditions, also had a transformative experience. Of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while working in Toronto, she says, “I was terribly sick and attribute part of that illness to the lack of activity and nature in my day-to-day lifestyle, which was unsustainable.” A friend suggested she join a hiking trip to Mount Everest base camp in Nepal. “Obviously I was on medication, but this became an inspirational driving force for me to take control of my illness. If I could do it, then I felt I would be ok, and several months later I did!”

The accomplishment urged Haddow to buy Wild Women Expeditions in 1991, fuelled by her passion for the value adventure experiences have, particularly for women, and how it can make people feel alive. She says, “One of my favourites was our Iceland trip, where we spent days exploring by foot, horse and kayak – an adventurous way to see its rugged, wild beauty. Trekking through geothermal landscapes and lava fields, hiking glaciers and riding along the slopes of Reykjafjall Mountain, makes you feel like you are at the edge of the world.”