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Expanding globally can kill businesses, so founders should make sure they have the systems, capital and people in place to support those movements.Getty Images

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Ask Women and Work

Question: I am a female founder who has been building a consumer goods business for the last three years. In addition to online sales, I have been able to get my products in more than a dozen stores in my home province, and now I am very interested in exporting abroad, specifically the U.S. What are the best steps I can take to make this happen?

We asked Connie Lo and Laura Burget, co-founders of Three Ships Beauty, to tackle this one. Three Ships Beauty was selected as one of Report on Business magazine’s Fastest Growing Companies of 2023:

Laura Burget: First, I would pose some questions: Why do you want to export in the first place? Why do you think this is the right business move? It is a big undertaking to expand to a different market and you need to make sure that you have the systems, the capital and the people in place to support those movements. Sometimes expanding globally can kill businesses, so you have to make sure that you’re ready for it.

You mentioned that you’re in stores in your province, but what about other provinces in Canada? You should always look to expand within your local market first; it’s so much easier from a logistics and regulatory standpoint. For example, with Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax, that’s a huge part of the Canadian population. You can build a business that’s quite sizable within just those five cities.

If you decide you are ready and have the supports to enter the U.S. market, the first thing you should look into is the legal requirements when entering into that market. Within the beauty space, for example, the FDA regulates cosmetics and the requirements for packaging within that space. You don’t need to hire an expensive lawyer or consultant right out of the gate. Do your own Google searches, get an initial understanding of how complex it is and what you need to take on.

The next thing, of course, is trademarks. You want to make sure that you register with a trademark within that local market. Then, logistics. How are you going to physically get your product across the border? In order to set this up, you need to consider the cost of shipping from Canada into the U.S., which can be extremely expensive.

Connie Lo: You’ll need to think about your strategy in terms of what type of retailer your products fit best in, and research where to find those buyers. So for example, with Three Ships, our distribution strategy is really partnering with prestige and ‘masstige’ retailers – more upmarket retailers [where we are their] more accessible entry level option. We went to trade shows to find upmarket beauty-specific retailers and met amazing buyers there such as Whole Foods and The Detox Market. If you have a booth set up with all your products, brochures and samples displayed, it can really draw in buyers.

If you’re not looking to expand quite yet into large retailers, you can still access independent retailers, such as boutiques, salons, spas and small grocery stores through B2B platforms. To do that, I recommend one called Faire and another one called Bulletin. It’s really good for cash flow and for those training wheels.

Laura Burget: The U.S. is a massive market. It’s ten times the size of Canada, so don’t try to take on the whole market at once. Start with one market or region at a time, so you can focus your marketing efforts, digital ads, any in-market events and influencer partnerships in that region specifically. Using the example of Whole Foods, the reason we were able to successfully expand within that retailer is that they started us in just one market, the Northern California region.

Connie Lo: Two years later, we’re a full North America-distributed brand at Whole Foods in over 500 stores.

The last thing I’ll say is I think a lot of people assume that getting on the shelf is the hard part, but getting off the shelf is the really difficult part. If or when you land your first U.S. distributor partner, you have to make sure that you’re supporting them with sell-through. This could look like marketing support, training, samples and things like that to make sure you’re keeping the lines of communication really open.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

Microaggressions at work take a heavy toll: Exhaustion, humiliation, burnout

“It hurts.”

That’s what Amanda Uchendu says about being the target of microaggressions at work. As a Black woman working in Winnipeg, Ms. Uchendu says, “It’s hard being myself in the workplace without being judged or perceived as something I’m not. I simply would be myself, and people assumed I was mad about something.”

Despite repeatedly asking for learning and advancement opportunities within her organization, Ms. Uchendu says she’s been dismissed and ignored.

“My colleagues and friends have seen how I am being treated – they are telling me they want to train me and see me do well in this organization and to keep trying, but I’m tired. You can only beg so much to be given a chance, a fair chance.”

When people think about racism and homophobia in the workplace, they likely think about overt violence or slurs. But microaggressions – subtle comments and actions that demean or dismiss someone based on their gender, race or other aspects of their identity – can be just as harmful for racialized and other marginalized women at work.

Read about the cost of microaggressions and what employers can do to create safer workplaces.

Legal eagle: Meet the woman leading one of Canada’s top national law firms

It took just 20 years for Jennifer Teskey to rise from junior lawyer to managing partner at one of the top corporate law firms in the country. That’d be an impressive rise for anybody. But for a woman to grab the top spot at the second-biggest firm of its kind, in a country where women are under-represented at the partner level, is remarkable.

On Jan. 1, she’ll take over a firm of roughly 700 lawyers whose clients have recently included RBC, Pfizer, TransAlta Corp. and CN Rail. The Canadian branch of a huge global entity, Norton Rose Fulbright is not only the top firm in Canada representing the company side in activist shareholder campaigns; it’s near the top for the activist side, as well. That’s pretty unusual, and it shows what a complex organism Teskey will lead, at a time when demand for corporate legal services is growing. We met in NRF’s Bay Street offices.

Read Ms. Teskey’s thoughts on AI, cybersecurity and diversity on Bay Street.

How a dopamine fast and avoiding multitasking can leave you feeling calmer

We all learn from our experiences. But learning from somebody else’s experiences can also be beneficial. So see what you can garner from journalist Stephanie Vozza’s attempt to avoid multitasking for a week and consultant Connor Swenson’s five-day dopamine fast.

Ms. Vozza had already taken steps toward providing focus in her life, such as enabling the setting on her phone and laptop that prevents texts or notifications from interrupting Zoom meetings and calls. But she was surprised at how much multitasking she was still doing. “For example, I quickly check social media if I’m struggling to write a story. I fold the laundry while watching television. I eat dinner while reading or watching a YouTube video. And I listen to podcasts while going for walks. These things seem harmless, right? But are they?” she writes in Fast Company.

Read about the benefits of kicking the multitasking habit – could you do it?

In case you missed it

Ask Women and Work: I want a promotion, but I feel like I’m being pushed to retire. How do I change the narrative?

We asked Toronto-based executive coach Kadine Cooper for tips on how to get that promotion, or look for a new employer that appreciates experience and leadership.

“If this is an organization that you are still invested in, a good place to start is with your manager. Have a one-on-one meeting with them and be clear about what you want. Tell them about your interest in advancement and ask, ‘Do you foresee that as a possibility for me here?’ If the message you are getting is that they aren’t aligned with your career goals and your trajectory, you’re wasting your time there.

“It may be hard to hear, but consider this opportunity a bit of a gift. If this organization no longer sees your value, is it really a place that you want to continue investing your time and your energy?”

Read the full article.

From the archives

Workplace clashes: How to deal when you can’t stand a colleague

Andrea Anders’s public relations career was soaring when she took her next step on the corporate ladder: a senior leadership role for a multinational public relations firm. She was thrilled about the new gig, but one issue tarnished the experience. She was having recurring clashes with one of her team members.

The conflict surfaced in team meetings, one-on-one conversations and e-mail, says Ms. Anders. The team member was “combative, loud, aggressive, impatient with junior staff, dominating and uncensored,” she says.

Looking back at the situation now, Ms. Anders recognizes her own role in the clashes. She says she was put off by the way her team member communicated and didn’t try to understand her different working style.

“My inability to manage her effectively led her to quit,” says Ms. Anders, who now runs her own PR firm. “She tearfully told me that on her last day.”

Read the full article.

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