A Little Fear is OK

The Toronto Star H4 - October 14, 2004

Awarding-winning businesswomen, from left, Rosana Di Zio Magnotta, Soma Ray-Ellis, Stella (Solbyung) Yoon, Freda Iordanous

Women superstars saluted

Award-winners share their secrets of success

'Perseverance... one of the most important things'

Do your homework. Work hard. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And be passionate.

Those words of wisdom come from five of Canada's top businesswomen who were honoured this year by the Women Entrepreneurs of Canada (WEC).

Rosanna Di Zio Magnotta, president of Magnotta Winery Corporation, was given the WEC Cosmopolitan Award for export achievement; Freda Iordanous, head designer and vice-president of Freda's Originals, received the WEC Phoenix Award for business recovery; Soma Ray-Ellis, partner and head of employment and labour group for Paterson, MacDougall LLP, received the WEC Champion Award for business leadership; Stella (Solbyung) Yoon, president of cStar Technologies Inc., won the WEC Chivalry Award for innovation; and Martha Von Heczey, president and owner of The Coffee Mill, was honoured with the WEC Triumph Award for lifetime business achievement.

As well as selling across Canada, Magnotta exports to 28 U.S. states, Belgium, the U.K., Asia and has just begun exporting to the Caribbean.

"You have to have very thorough knowledge of everything that's relevant to what you're trying to do," she says. "If you don't - make sure you find out. Always be informed before you make any move."

And, Magnotta says, "a little fear is OK - it's a great motivator."

Human rights activist Soma Ray-Ellis has been recognized by the Ontario government for her work with women and visible minorities. Ray-Ellis also is known for her efforts in promoting justice and expanding business opportunities in the community.

"Access to justice is increasingly becoming a difficult for people who can't find lawyers they can afford," she says. "One of our goals is to provide access to affordable, excellent legal services: expert, but affordable.

"The other aspect to access to justice is information," Ray-Ellis says. "If people don't know their rights, it doesn't matter if there are a million lawyers out there, they won't be able to act on their issues."

Ray-Ellis came to Canada from India at age 10 and encountered racism for the first time.
"I remember thinking as a child, 'I'm not a second-class citizen.' It really had an impact on the rest of my life and it certainly was a motivating factor in my study of law."

"As a woman in law and as a visible minority woman, you have to have an attitude where you say, 'I'm never going to give up.' I think perseverance is one of the most important things in life."

Passion and compassion are the key words to her success in life, says Stella Yoon, who began her career working for Daewoo in South Korea.

"A lot of people are brilliant," says Yoon. "But what really counts is how we behave toward one another."

Yoon's company develops, manufactures and markets two-way wireless data communication products. One of cStar's most promising developments is technology that can collect, disseminate and transfer data to be used in containment of infectious diseases and patient care, Yoon says.

With a retail and manufacturing facility in Toronto and major fashion kudos at home and abroad, Freda Iordanous credits hard work and a positive attitude for her success.

Iordanous's clothing line, Pavla, is sold across Canada and her factory employs more than 60 people. Her store also carries imported designs.

"Keep an open mind," she says. "And keep up, or you'll fall behind. Be progressive."

Martha Von Heczey's pioneer cafe attracts more than 100,000 customers a year and when it opened 41 years ago, was one of the first European-style coffee houses in Toronto.

A Yorkville institution, many of Von Heczey's original customers still drop by and her newest employee has been with her for 17 years.


Thursday, October 14, 2004