Mother and daughter business partners, Jan and Erin Johnson are fulfilling their life-long dream of creating a quarterly publication featuring rural Canadian women entrepreneurs, with the second issue of Trailblaz-her Magazine.
Trailblaz-her features six to eight features, seasonal recipes, fashion, lifestyle, unique places to stay, and the women in Canada who tend to their families, livestock, and their businesses.
“We call it a coffee table publication because the paper is high quality, it’s not a rag mag at all. It’s full of professional photos from across Canada and it showcases the lifestyle, and the expertise on enterprising rural women across the country,” Erin said.
“It’s really hit a nerve and acknowledged these women who haven’t been acknowledged in this way before and it’s taking off like wildfire,” she said.
To be featured in Trailblaz∙her, women must be living in Canada, they have to be enterprising, by owning at least 50 per cent of a company, and they have to live in a community with a population of about 5,000 or less, or in the countryside.
Although the project has taken off, finding women to feature has been a significant challenge Jan and Erin have had to overcome to ensure the success of Trailblaz∙her.
“There is no cross Canada directory of all these amazing entrepreneurial women, we have to dig. In Alberta it’s been easy because we have a community through social media,” Jan said.
Prior to launching the magazine, Jan and Erin launched the Rural Collective, a directory that showcases the businesses of rural women across Canada.
“Its so rural women can support other rural women, but most importantly, connect urban to rural,” Erin said.
“The magazine came right off the heels of this directory of having a hard time finding and being able to support the businesses of these rural women. It was the perfect marriage of two businesses,” she said.
“It snowballed from there, we created a membership, and the magazine was the next natural step,” she added. “A magazine has always been a dream of ours to have a magazine that’s as beautiful as this one that is a collector’s item.”
Getting to make connections with other women and showcase their stories has made all of the challenges and zoom calls with poor internet connections worth it.
“We’ve had great connections through zoom, and we feel like we really know these women, they share a lot of what makes them tick, what brings them purpose, and what they are striving for. We’re still finding a way to make it work,” Jan said.
“We get messages every day from rural women saying thank you for acknowledging and celebrating us. They mean this rural community because so often rural women are overlooked, they are the glue holding their families and communities together, they are the heart of what’s making the whole business or family life run so smoothly,” Erin said.
For Jan and Erin, it was extremely important to feature women’s stories from across Canada, because women want to feel connected to other women.
“There’s nothing that has isolated us more than COVID-19 and everything that’s come with it. Women in the city are feeling connected to the wholesome lifestyle that comes with living rurally, and it’s helping them see that no matter what industry you’re in if you’re in the city or the country, a woman’s story is a woman’s story, and every woman has a story that’s worth telling, whether it’s challenges, family life, business life, or personal journeys, it’s about that relatability,” Erin said.
Not only is Trailblaz∙her telling women’s stories, but Jan and Erin are also passionate about changing the misconception that rural means livestock and grain.
“When people think of rural, they think of just agriculture, there are makers and coaches, the diversity in what rural women is doing is incredible. We’re hearing people had no idea that rural women did all these things, it’s not just cattle, livestock, and grain, it’s that and more, it can be painting, it can be forging and making soaps, there is just so much,” Erin said.
“With COVID-19 there’s a trend that’s building now where people want to be more connected to buying local, the food chain is being disrupted in some ways, these women and their families have a lot to offer,” Jan said.
“We are blown away by the talent and perseverance of women in rural communities and we recognize they have a certain pioneering spirit that continues to grow stronger as the economy becomes more challenging,” she said.
Adding, “What we have to offer is needed now more than ever. We want to help rural women ensure their income streams and we need these stories to be shared. There is no single way to be an entrepreneur, and Canadian women are a prime example of that.”
Jan and Erin are now preparing to launch the summer issue on June 1.
“We launched Trailblaz∙her during a pandemic, it was quite a risky move. We didn’t know what to expect, we’re shocked and pleasantly surprised by the support. We’re hearing the magazine is an immersive experience,” Erin said.
Without the support of readers, contributors, and photographers across Canada, Trailblaz∙her wouldn’t be possible.
“We have first-rate photographers right across Canada who have said yes to us and donated their services. One of the things that makes our magazine spectacular is the first-rate professional photography in it,” Jan said.
“Everywhere we turn, people are asking how they can help, and how can they be supportive,” she said.
Jan and Erin are now planning for the next two issues of the publication, and are always looking for submissions of unique stories, angles, and perspectives of rural women across Canada.
For more information, visit https://trailblazhermagazine.com/.