Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is day of celebrating and empowering women across the globe. As such, we want to honour today with a post dedicated to the inspiring entrepreneurs and businesswomen who have contributed to their respective tourism industries.

As Canadians look to international and U.S. travel in the future, it is important to highlight the accomplishments of the women behind some of these destinations’ most memorable and interesting experiences – from a Canadian family shrimp farm turned agri-tourism adventure mecca in Belize to a Montreal-native making her chocolatier dreams come true in Barbados!

Read on for some of the stories of the women making waves in the tourism markets of Barbados, Belize, and Northern Virginia.


Julia-Ann Holder, Owner of Hummingbird Soap Studio:

Julia-Ann took a passion and favourite pastime and turned it into a local favourite business. The Hummingbird Soap Studio was born in 2012, officially entering the local market in 2017. Julia-Ann started exploring soap making with her daughter, as their favourite afterschool and work activity, always eager to learn new and exciting methods and recipes. Having now built her beloved hobby into a thriving business, Julia-Ann participates in local events, like the Holetown Festival, to share her passion with her community. She aspires to break out into the international market to extend her passion globally.


Nadja Soodeen, Owner of Banz Barbados:

The Caribbean-devoted jewellery line was inspired by Nadja’s desire for a Barbadian momento. Nadja wanted to create a piece of Barbados that she could hold onto and offer visitors and locals alike to cherish the tropical paradise. Nearly three years ago, Nadja created Banz, which includes necklaces and bracelets with the signature Bim maps, motifs and Barbados coordinates. Nadja acknowledges the challenges of being a small business owner in Barbados, like limits to resources, but loves what she has built and every lesson that she takes as an opportunity to grow and establish her business further.


Wendy Abed, Founder of The Green MonkeyChocolatier:

During her years in the accounting industry, Montreal-native Wendy Abed felt a void that could only be filled with artistic expression… and chocolate! Wendy saw an opportunity to fuse her French cuisine background with Caribbean flair, finding creative inspiration in the beauty of the Barbados sea and landscape, she starter her shop, The Green Monkey Chocolatier. When it comes to future aspirations, Wendy is in no rush to expand, and in fact intends to maintain the company’s handmade, high-quality by taking baby steps towards expansion.



Michelle and Martha Williams, Owners and Operators of Harbour View Cottages:

Owned and operated by a mother-daughter duo, Michelle and Martha have grown Harbour View slowly overtime to be not only a place for guests to rests their heads, but now a place for spiritual, mental and physical transformation through the Om Shanti Belize onsite yoga studio and most recently through Martha’s Café. During the hotel’s downtime in 2020, Michelle was furthering her yoga expertise in India to bring back to Om Shanti Belize yoga studio, and Martha started an on-site garden given her passion for the plant-based lifestyle. Martha’s garden became so abundant that it now supplies her namesake restaurant, offering a sincere farm-to-table experience and holistic healing from the inside-out. The onsite yoga studio is situated within Belize’s green oasis and boasts views of both the Belize Harbour and Caribbean Sea, and until Canadians can experience this retreat in-person, they offer daily online yoga, meditation and Kriya classes to bring Belizean tranquility into the homes of Canadians. The online class schedule, rates and registration can be found here.


Heather McIntosh, Owner and Operator of Caribbean Shrimp Company Ltd:

The Caribbean Shrimp Company Ltd has been family owned and operated since 1986 and is the oldest continuously operating shrimp farm in Belize. Heather is the proud Belizean-Canadian who has taken her father’s shrimp farm and turned it into eco-agri-tourism attraction mecca! The company now offers organic shrimp farm tours and tastings, mangrove maiden boat tour (the only solar powered boat in Belize), crocodile sanctuary tour, Captain Hook’s Shrimp restaurant and bar, Lighthouse Bay Saltwater pool, nature trails, Mayan artifact walks, and adventure zone paintball. Visitors can also climb Hook’s Tower for a five-story view of the 260-acre farm, and the farm is considered on the top-ranking bird watching sites for unique shore birds. Heather has worked to evolve her father’s company into a tourist must-visit attraction, catering to virtually every type of traveller’s needs. Heather has also led her company to earn the Belize Tourism Gold Standard Certification and boasts accolades including The Trip Advisor Travelers Choice Award 2020, Trip Advisor Award of Excellence in 2019 and placement in the top 10% of restaurants worldwide!




Grace Abi-Najm Shea, Executive Vice President of Lebanese Taverna Group:

Grace and her family started Lebanese Taverna after purchasing a neighbourhood pizza shop in Arlington in the late 70s. Now a local chain of restaurants and a family market, Grace and her siblings are the second generation to run Lebanese Taverna and are very active in the local community. Following the explosion in Beirut, Grace and her family were quick to act and started a GoFundMe page for the Lebanese Red Cross (raising more than $80K) and teamed up with World Central Kitchen to help prepare food for those in need.


Jenni McCloud, Owner of Chrysalis Vineyards:

Proud Loudoun local, Jenni left a high-flying tech career in 1998 to open Chrysalis Vineyards, on prime land outside Middleburg. She is the world’s leading grower of the distinctive Norton grape, and founder of the Ag District agricultural conservation zone between Aldie and Middleburg. Her empire includes not just a vineyard but a creamery, with milk coming from the cows on site, and a chef who creates artisanal pizzas and breads from a 600-degree brick oven. This is one vineyard that is worth adding to your Northern Virginia bucket list!


Nicole McGrew, Owner of Threadleaf:

The former Obama administration attorney with a design background started the women’s lifestyle boutique when she struggled to find stylish, functional, thoughtfully-made apparel. The fashion-forward clothing and accessories of Threadleaf are made responsibly and the store’s tagline—”Good. Clean. Fashion”—reflects this desire to create an inviting space for considerate shopping that doesn’t compromise on style or craftsmanship. The boutique features independent brands that are both stylish and functional, with an emphasis on apparel from the U.S., Japan, Europe and Canada. Add this shop to your list of stores to visit for your next visit!


Patricia Depew Wirth, Executive Director at Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association:

A champion of the women’s rights movement, Pat Wirth is devoted to making sure that people learn and understand the history of women’s suffrage and has been instrumental in the development of the first national in scope memorial being built for this cause. The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial is currently being constructed on the grounds of Occoquan Regional Park in southern Fairfax County, Virginia. The 1.6-acre memorial will feature replica White House gates, 19 informational stops, and a beautifully landscaped meditation garden.


Sheila Johnson, Co-Founder of BET and CEO of Salamander Resort & Spa:

Sheila opened Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg in 2013. The Forbes 5-star resort is modeled after her home and embraces the region’s rich equestrian history. Johnson has risen among the ranks of the nation’s largest Black-owned businesses through the execution of her multipronged strategic approach leading Salamander Hotels & Resorts to be named the 2018 BE 100s Company of the Year.