The Collective: Leading the Next Generation of Women

At the heart of The Collective: Women’s Empowerment Summit is a fiery passion to inspire the next generation of women.
At The Collective: Women’s Empowerment Summit, women from various backgrounds, industries and life journeys unite, share and empower one another to help make change. Every woman’s experience of struggle, whether her challenge is personal, professional or spiritual, is unique and has something that can inspire and teach others. The Collective’s mission is to celebrate female solidarity and shine a light on women’s experiences through keynote speeches, panel sessions and fireside chats.

Karmen LaMer, co-founder of The Collective and founder of Tight Clinic Toronto, is also a courageous cancer survivor and entrepreneur who has devoted her life to making The Collective accessible to as many women as possible so they can learn that they can do what they never thought possible.

Sarah Vander Meer, president of Charlie & Sprocket Inc., is also a Collective co-founder. It was her experience as the co-producer of the NFL Women’s Summit many years ago that planted the seed by getting her wondering: why didn’t women-centred programming like this exist in Canada?

LaMer and Vander Meer sat down with City Life for an exclusive interview to share their extraordinary journey.

Q: What inspired the creation of this organization?
I’ve always been inspired by women or events in my life. Just watching my mother as a very strong working woman who raised three children — she is the perfect example of somebody who could have used a community around her to lift her, push her forward and give her more opportunities. But when I met Karmen at her clinic and listened to her talk about hearing stories from other women who are in need and how she would jump at the opportunity to reach out to them, the stars aligned themselves at that moment.
Karmen: I was hearing from so many amazing women, and just hearing these stories was inspirational. No one told me anything along my journey and I said, “Wouldn’t it be nice for people to have a little bit of a road map and to hear some of these things and what others are doing?” So, when Sarah and I started talking about this, she said, “Well, I produce events for a living,” so that’s how it organically grew from there.

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Q: Can you recall the impression you felt when you first met each other?
I had just had my second child and I wanted to do something for myself. So I went to Karmen’s clinic, and you think you’re coming in for treatment on the face, but the way she communicates with people, you can just tell she’s authentic and genuinely cares about helping others. Energy is projected, and I remember always leaving feeling so amazing.
Karmen: I remember Sarah being in my clinic and talking to this incredible woman. We had an hour together every week for six weeks, and just having that connection and those bonding moments still makes me smile every day.

Q: If you could send one message to every woman in the world, what would it be?
Embrace your power! Seek to uplift yourself and others through connection, education and action, creating a world where every woman and girl can flourish with authenticity and strength.
Karmen: No. 1, having a mid-life crisis at 35 years old, leaving a corporate career and starting my clinic — you can do whatever you want to do, you just need to commit to it. No. 2, life is very short and finite. I am a cancer survivor, and after going through chemo and surgeries a lot of people would have left that feeling like a victim, and I chose to leave that feeling inspired and wanting to inspire others.

Q: What makes you smile the most?
My kids – they are magic and light up my life!
Karmen: My team and my dog!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
There’s a solution to every problem.
Karmen: Don’t think there’s anything that you can’t do.

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Marc Castaldo

Marc Castaldo