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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

Success and hope amid the turbulence

Updated: Jan 29

In reflecting on the year, I think of our clients who have achieved so much despite everything that was thrown their way.

One in particular that I’d like to spotlight here is Lily Lynch and her crew at Sankara | Online Multicultural Marketplace who, for me, represent hope amid the challenges of a turbulent year.

Lily, one of the co-founders of Sankara, was recently honoured to be chosen among nearly 1,000 female business owners across Canada to receive one of 18 BMO Celebrating Women Grant awards. The award celebrates her contributions to social, environmental and/or economic sustainability outcomes through business policies, practices or products.

Sankara is a virtual marketplace that allows people to order and enjoy cultural food and products directly from vetted cultural vendors like chefs and artisans.

Coaching through the challenges

The social enterprise is entirely owned and run by a diverse team – Lily herself identifies strongly with her multiracial background of white and Afro-Mi’kmaw. Her co-founder is a Nigerian-Canadian and their young, internal team has hailed from every continent. The majority of Sankara’s vendors are women of colour; Lily is under 30.

I first met Lily when she and her co-founder Chinweotito (Otito) Atansi were guests on The Boiling Point Podcast. I was inspired by their vision for an inclusive and culturally diverse world.

Lily ended up coming to us to explore whether leadership coaching could help her deal with some of the challenges the business was confronting after COVID hit. At that time, Sankara, like the rest of the hospitality sector, was set back on its heels.

“I think with any business, there comes a time when you are faced with relevance issues,” Lily says. “Are we meeting our customers’ needs?”

Working with Vision Coaching’s Marilyn Orr, she began to face the challenges she feared and discovered ways to address them.

Admired her courage

“I had never been coached before in any capacity. It’s been a really great journey,” says Lily, who appreciated how the leadership coach provided an objective perspective and was able to guide her to resolutions.

“The coaching with Marilyn provided me the space I needed to freely convey some of the challenges. She helped me create a blueprint for how I could come up with the solutions,” she says.

Lily shared how Marilyn’s coaching allowed her to take a new perspective on the obstacles she faced.

“She helped me come up with changes while maintaining the integrity of our company’s mission, and she helped us not get lost in short-term thinking during the challenges we were facing earlier in the pandemic.”

I admired her courage, not only in launching such a unique business but in confronting her challenges head on. I know, at times, that she questioned whether as a young woman she really fit into the business world. I also know that there have been more challenges for her in advocating for more cultural diversity.

But Lily has persevered, come out stronger and with more confidence. And for her to be selected nationally for how she and Sankara contribute to the society around them is a stellar achievement, indeed.

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