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In the last two decades, the number of women-owned businesses has jumped an astonishing 114%. As part of Socioh's Women’s Day celebrations for the month of March, we are sharing inspiring stories of women entrepreneurs who’ve fought the odds, smashed the glass ceiling and been everyday superheroes in their own rights.
Shopify entrepreneur Judith Treanor of Temples and Markets thought she had it all figured out. But a chance trip to Cambodia changed not just her life, but the lives of hundreds of artisans who got to showcase their handicrafts through her enterprise.
I've been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. It's just part of my make up to want to control my own destiny. I'm too passionate, too creative and too stubborn to not be my own boss and I couldn't tolerate having the limitations of others imposed on me.
Prior to launching Temples and Markets I had an interior design and renovation company. But 3 years ago I knew that my calling was elsewhere. I had been conceptualizing the idea of making available the unique products that I'd found when traveling in S.E Asia, to a market outside of the region.
A trip to Siem Reap in January 2015 and a meeting with a Cambodian jewelry designer, with an inspiring story of resilience and creativity, became the catalyst for that concept to become a reality.
I knew it was time to launch an online store where every product has a story. I also wanted to affect positive change in the world and by creating a store that supports social enterprises in S.E Asia, (the region that had stolen my heart when I'd first visited 20 years ago) I am able to do so.
It would be much harder for me not to be a boss babe. I don't think I'd ever feel as fulfilled as I do now if I didn't run my own business.
It is hard to switch off though, and some of my best work is done at odd times of the night. However, I love that flexibility. I also love that the business's successes are my successes.
And I love that I can share those successes with the strong and resilient women in S.E Asia who handcraft the products I sell in store.
I had breast cancer when I was 36; life or business couldn't possibly throw me a tougher hurdle to get past. Getting through that with a small child at the time, and staying healthy for the 12 years after by following a natural health regime, is the biggest achievement of my life.
In terms of business, getting to the point where artisan groups and social enterprises in Cambodia and Vietnam started to approach me to be part of Temples and Markets is my proudest achievement. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that I was making a difference and becoming known for doing so.
I continue to create an ever increasing circle of women internationally who are affecting each others' lives through trade. In other words when one woman in Australia buys a beautiful handmade necklace from my store, she can feel good about herself knowing that she's made a tangible difference to the life of the artisan who made that necklace.
This is an absolute win-win for the customer, the artisan, as well as, myself. As the business grows that circle will increase and more women's lives will improve.
I also want to expand the worldwide reach of the store, my international customer base is growing so I'm working on more growth in that aspect of the business.
If you love what you do, then motivation is not a problem. However, there are always aspects of any job, perhaps the more mundane tasks, that can be hard to get motivated by.
Consequently, I have to have a routine at the start of each day. The day starts with coffee, walking the dog and a yoga session. I force myself to have breaks throughout the day.
The beautiful thing is that as a business owner, if I want to go for a swim or even head to the beach during the day I can do this and catch up with work in the evenings.
The biggest motivator is success though. Success is measured in so many different ways and not, by any means, purely in financial terms.
However, it is true that after every notification of a customer order, a small business owner does a happy dance (not literally of course!). Those orders encourage me. And positive customer feedback, not to mention supplier feedback, certainly motivates me to work harder.
I am inspired by women who rise up and prosper despite, or often because, they have experienced hardship. All of the women who come from marginalized communities in S.E Asia and work hard so their families, and in turn their communities, can have a prosperous future never fail to amaze me.
One young woman, Thong, I met in Hoi An, Vietnam, runs Friendly Shoe Shop, where they sell handmade shoes, and is surrounded by competitor shops doing the same but is by far the most successful. I remember talking to her about this and she told me how hard she works and isn't interested in settling down yet because she wants to be as successful as she can be.
I've never forgotten that conversation. There are women like Thong all over Vietnam, running businesses and making their mark.
Loung Ung, the woman whose autobiography First They Killed My Father was recently made into a film by Angelina Jolie inspires me more than I can express. Loung was born in the same year I was and yet our childhoods couldn't have been more contrasting.
Loung was 5 and living in Phnom Penh when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge stormed into her city. Loung experienced horrors and losses during the Cambodian genocide that nobody should have to experience. She was able to flee to America with her brother after the Khmer Rouge and today is a human rights activist, writer and lecturer.
To my 14 year old self: Don't answer the question 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' It is an utterly pointless question. How would I have ever have predicted that I'd be doing what I'm doing now when I was 14?
If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. You gave it your best shot!
I'm a member of several female business groups online and locally, and these are generally very supportive. They are great platforms for women entrepreneurs to ask for guidance, reassurance, business advice or to know that we're not alone and that we all make errors along the way in our businesses.
Also, I'm a big believer in collaborating with my fellow female business owners on opportunities where we can all benefit.
Looking at the bigger picture of how women can support women, it comes back to my increasing circle of women affecting each other's lives through trade.
In the developing world there has to be a continued increase in the number of women who are being empowered into a better future through training and fair work opportunities.
In the First World, we can support these women by ensuring we only shop from businesses that support ethical work practices, not just for women, but everyone who makes the products we consume.
Kundalini Yoga, Travel, Food, Dog Lover
Current TV show you’re crushing on
Just finished The Crown Season 2 and can't wait for Season 3
Your dream vacation
I've been very lucky to have travelled to some amazing locations but I've yet to stay in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives. My dream is to be able to snorkel just outside my own villa.
Comfort food when you’re stressed with work
Gummy Bears and Chips n Dips
Favorite marketing strategy
Retargeting through Facebook and Google.
Favorite social channel for business
Instagram for Exposure but right now Facebook for engagement, only because I'm very active in Facebook Groups.
24 hour workday kinda gal or work hard play hard?
Work hard play hard.
If not an entrepreneur then what would you have been?
Thank you Judith for sharing your inspiring story with us. We wish you the very best for all your future endeavors!