Victoria Fenn Alvarado
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Shes4Sports hosted an inspirational panel discussion at Ryerson University Tuesday evening. A true representation of female empowerment, #OWNIT was led by founder Ainka Jess. The discussion panel was stacked with female entrepreneurs who spilt their hearts out to an attentive listening filled room.


Amongst the panel was Kat Stefankiewicz, the in-game host for the Toronto Raptors. She shared the journey of her career. Starting off as an actor with theatre and dance training, she took her talents to the Raptors Dance Pak. By getting her foot in the door with the MLSE, she was able to take her talents to another level. “I never had a backup plan”, Kat said with the utmost confidence. A true statement of a goal-driven, go-getter.


Caroline Wiley, co-founder of SeeWhatSheCanDo showed that she is a true team player. She began her journey by expressing her ideas to her hockey team. In which she was able to find a partner. She explained that they were able to combine both of their talents, to create a successful business.


Another panel member was Caleigh Rykiss, founder of BOLO Inc. Caleigh captivated the audience by spewing out her heart. With no previous business experience, she was able to create something, out of nothing. Caleigh had a goal in which was her “calling”, she spoke about going with her gut. She trusted her instants to create success. Caleigh spoke about being “unapologetic”, something females struggle with constantly. A truly motivational moment for women listening, learning from someone who has proven that by trusting and believing in yourself, you can accomplish anything.


Esther Wallace, former division 1 basketball player and founder of Playa Society joined the panel via Skype. Although she was not there physically, her words hit home. She explained the importance of woman power, and how we should all uplift each other. She created her own sports clothing brand with a powerful message. Her merchandise slogan “FEMALE ATHLETE” relays a simple, yet powerful message promoting female equality within the sports industry.


Nichelle Laus shared her path to success filled with sacrifices and dedication. With a huge resume from starting a magazine, to entering fitness competition, Nichelle is a five-tool player. The 15-year former police officer did a complete 180-degree career switch into the fitness world. A hard-working mother of four quit her childhood dream job, to help others in a different way: fitness. She shared her struggles in the process, which led to the success of her company, Optimum Training Centre.


3-star International Boxing Judge, referee, and owner of the Kingsway Boxing Club, Jennifer Huggins was another powerful individual on the panel. She expressed the importance of discipline, and taking action. Jennifer took her boxing talents and used that experience to create her own successful company. She too created something out of nothing, proving to men and women, that if you work hard enough, your dreams will become reality.

The whole panel, along side Ainka Jess created a safe, honest and open atmosphere. By sharing their success stories, they were sure to help motivate, inspire and spread female power. Shes4Sports truly did #OWNIT in an event of many more to come.