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Student gets a leg up on business, thanks to federal program

Young Women in Leadership provides mentorship, the chance to gain skills, knowledge

Hillary Moscoso had a lot of nerves before heading to She’s Got Leggz Wednesday morning.

The youngster was participating in the Young Women in Leadership (YWL) program, which offers mentees in Halton the opportunity to try out potential career interests. Both mentors and mentees learn from each other, make new contacts and kick start career and educational paths.

The Burlington business, located on the North Service Road and owned by Donna Pinsonneault, is a success story of its own, and Pinsonneault was happy to share what she has learned over the past several years. 

An accountant, Pinsonneault is a fan of wearing leggings. When she found the most comfortable pair around, she investigated further and eventually bought the business. And while the pandemic posed challenges for most new ventures, it was a positive period for the company.

 “COVID was kind to this business, since everyone was working from home and wearing leggings,” said Pinsonneault.

The company, which this week won a Burlington Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, has since branched out to include tops and dresses, scarves, exercise clothing and kids' clothing, and will soon offer dressier blouses as well. That meant it was fashion show time for Moscoso, who had a lot of fun creating some TikTok videos and other social media to show off some of the new clothing lines and accessories.

The Grade 10 Bishop Reding Secondary School student from Milton said she learned a lot and she could definitely see herself in the fashion business some day. Or maybe law, investigative journalism, music, forensics or singing.

Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff announced the fourth YWL on International Women’s Day in early March; it had been on  hiatus since the pandemic. The program, which runs from May 23-26, offers young women and gender non-conforming youth ages 15-25 the opportunity to job shadow in a local business, agency, organization or government. By investing in young Canadians, Damoff said, they are helping them build a stronger future and obtain the skills and experience they need to contribute to Canada’s economic growth.

And nobody enjoyed getting to show Moscoso the ropes more than Pinsonneault. She explained that she grew the company from a love of stylish leggings and became CEO of her own business, powered by a force of women and servicing a kaleidoscope of others across the country.

She's Got Leggz went from a small office that soon outgrew its 1,500 sq.ft. space and moved into its new headquarters, boasting 5,000 sq.ft. two years ago. Pinsonneault noted her leggings inventory at home also grew; she said she has 150 pairs now.

Damoff took pleasure in meeting Moscoso and said she enjoys getting to know the youth who take part in the event. The goals of the YWIL program are to allow mentees to: develop an understanding of different occupations to make informed career choices; increase knowledge of specific occupational skills and workplace settings; gain career readiness skills, including the “soft skills” that employers look for in entry level workers and build confidence in professional environments.

The latter was key for Moscoso, who said she was a shy Grade 9 student last year in Milton, and felt anxious about coming to spend the day at She’s Got Leggz. She quickly got over that and said the employees were all great at making her feel comfortable. She was even able to take part in the shipping aspect of the business, getting orders prepared and ready to be sent out.

An owner of only one pair of leggings, she added “I’d like to go out of here with more leggings.”

In addition, she said, “I would want to work here.”

The need for a career shadow initiative for young women came out of a roundtable session on women’s empowerment hosted by Damoff on International Women’s Day in 2016.  A conversation about the challenges of young women meeting other women professionals in all types of careers to see, speak to, and learn from, developed into the program that matches both for a job shadow day. 

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Julie Slack

About the Author: Julie Slack

Julie Slack is a Halton resident who has been working as a community journalist for more than 25 years
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