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The Power of Female Empowerment: Dessert by Deb's Tiny Seed

The Power of Female Empowerment: Dessert by Deb's Tiny Seed

Happy International Women's Day 2020!  I think women's issues, female empowerment, and feminism are everyday conversations, but because March 8th of every year is a dedicated day on a global scale, I want to write this blog post in honour of it.  This blog post is the story of how a tiny seed was planted in 1993 and how that seed created roots that ultimately led me to create Dessert by Deb, to live the life I'm living, and to dream all dreams I'm working to bring to life right now.

One of the many questions that business owners and entrepreneurs are often asked is, "how did you start?  When did you start?  What inspired you to create your business?"  (Okay, so that was kind of 3 questions, but they're all intertwined and related to each other!).  And typically when I talk about Dessert by Deb's creation and beginnings, I talk about particular milestones: my entrepreneurial start in 2016, my depression in 2014 and 2015, and my first foray into social media and blogging in 2010.  But when I dig deep and really trace where I'm at today to a pinnacle moment in my history when a seed was first planted, that moment is undeniable: a moment in my grandmother's apartment in 1993.

Going to my grandparents' during the day on a weekday was always a treat.  It meant I was on vacation from school, whether it was summer vacation, March break, or during the holiday season.  I'd bring crayons and a colouring book, and maybe a doll or two, and watch daytime tv.  Sitting in front of my grandparents' tv watching The Price is Right and eating snacks felt luxurious to my child self.  On one of these days, I happened to look over at my grandparents' coffee table and I noticed a stack of little magazines.  Being a curious, ferocious bookworm, I asked my grandma what those magazines were and if I could look through them and read them.  She chuckled and replied, in Chinese, "oh honey, of course you can!  I can't read them anyway, they're in English.  They get delivered in our mail every month." (I later discovered that my grandparents' apartment building received them free of charge.  Maybe the superintendent or apartment board had some sort of subscription arrangement.  Who knows?!).

These "little" magazines turned out to be Homemakers magazine, a Canadian publication that focused on women's issues and lifestyles.  I picked up the little stack and began poring through the issues, completely and utterly transfixed by the glossy pages, vibrant pictures, and bold words, even though most of what I was reading was waaay over my head and outside of my current understanding of the world.  I flipped through fashion spreads, sniffed the little perfume ads, pondered over news articles, and salivated over the very plump Recipes Only section.  Ohhh the recipes and food section!  I was fascinated.  And I. WAS. HOOKED.

Each and every single visit to my grandparents' from that moment onward was filled with even more excitement and anticipation as I knew I'd have a new magazine issue to look forward to.  I'd bring them home with me, tear out some pages and snip out some pictures to collage with (oh yes, I was making vision boards waaay before it was considered cool and mainstream.  Childhood me FTW!), and daydream about what my future could look like.  Could I be like the women on the cover?  Could I work in food?  Could I write stories?  Could I go to college and get a diploma (whatever that meant, it just seemed cool and badass to my child mind at the time) and have a career?  Could I be INSPIRING TO OTHER PEOPLE?!  I didn't even know what it meant to be a trailblazer, or a woman of influence, or what feminism was, or what female empowerment was.  It would still be several years before the Spice Girls would blow up internationally, proclaiming "girl power!" and flashing the peace sign at every photoshoot, media event, and concert.  All I knew was that this platform of female empowerment with its loud and proud female voices and stories empowered ME.

I was 8 years old.

And here I am at 34, an entrepreneur working in food (creating my own tea recipes no less!), running a business, learning the ropes, sharing my stories, growing into the woman I want to be, and hopefully, inspiring others to live a more meaningful, joyful life through their work, dreams, and of course, tea!  I was heartbroken when the magazine ceased publication in 2011; it had been a part of my life for so long.  But I hold onto the issues that I kept as one of my most cherished possessions, not only as an eternal connection to my grandma, who's still alive and well today, but as symbol of how far I've come.

That seed that was planted in my grandparents' apartment would, over the years, grow roots and slowly and gently bloom into a flower.  Harsh winds and rain storms that felt never ending at times would come and go, testing the strength and resilience of this little bloom, but new petals and buds would grow in to replace the old ones that died.  The roots would always remain though, growing deeper into the ground, marking its place in the world, and anchoring what the flower knew to be its purpose in the world: to be a symbol of positivity, to uplift others, to bring beauty to the world, and to embody strength, tenacity, and resilience.

Today, on International Women's Day, and every day hereafter, I hope everyone remembers and knows that each and every single one of us is a beautiful flower with its own roots, gifts, and story in this world.  May you never forget of your capacity to dream, create change, and uplift others.  

Debra Wong

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