By LeRae Haynes –

Improving and enriching the lives of women, their families, and their communities is at the heart of Worth Every Penny, a social enterprise created by Penny Hutchinson, the driving force and the caring heart behind this innovative, non-profit start-up organization. 

She describes herself as a lifetime social entrepreneur who has been helped and supported along the way and says that’s what she wants for others. “A social entrepreneur is someone with innovative solutions to society’ s most pressing social problems,” she explains. “It’ s someone who is ambitious and persistent in tackling societal issues and offering new ideas for change.

“I believe women are leaders in our world, and to me, being a social entrepreneur is all about having heart and soul in your business.”

Worth Every Penny president Penny Hutchinson (Left) and designer/merchandiser Maeghan Dufour (Right) demonstrate drumming techniques taught at one of the unique workshops put on at the Worth Every Penny Lakeside Gallery. Photo: Lisa Anderson

Worth Every Penny is under the umbrella of ESP Consulting Ltd, which has employment service offices in Williams Lake and Quesnel. Hutchinson is a certified coach and workshop facilitator, is expanding in First Nations development with an innovative group in Victoria as well as the Cariboo-Chilcotin, and is currently working on two books.

She is the CEO of ESP Consulting Ltd, and five years ago she started focusing on entrepreneurial women in business. That’ s where Worth Every Penny was born. She began putting together a collective of young women artisans and entrepreneurs from the Cariboo-Chilcotin and places around the world, creating opportunities for them to sell their art, opening a beautiful gallery in her home to showcase their treasures.

I do this because it fills me with gratitude to be able to support other women in realizing their dreams,”

All profit from Worth Every Penny Lakeside Gallery goes back into the business. Her Worth Every Penny team includes an in-house designer for their medicine bags, kimonos, cushions, purses, dream catchers, bracelets, and jewellery. “I supply the fabrics and supplies, buy the items direct from the local young women, and sell them,” she said.

“This group of women bring skill, talent and creativity to the team; they’re the ones who coordinate the gallery sales we have here.”

Worth Every Penny connects customers with the stories of the artisans and suppliers, adding value and meaning to their purchases. “All our unique or limited edition goods have certificates of provenance and an interpretation that tells the story of each item and producer. We explore the world and its treasures looking for enduring style over fashion; we import and shape new markets,” she says.

She currently buys in Canada, Australia, Mexico, India, Belize, and Africa, as well as throughout the Cariboo-Chilcotin. “We have women from all over the world with items in the gallery, including Chilcotin and Shuswap women,” she says. “We either sell their product on consignment or buy from them direct.”

At her home gallery there is furniture, and home décor including baskets, wall hangings, textiles, pottery, paintings, and sculpture. There are photographs, greeting cards, carvings, and drums.

I want this foundation to support women in learning and earning, continuing to support them as social entrepreneurs,” 

She says some of the women with Worth Every Penny are artists trying to make it in the world: some of them are single mothers; some of women have their own businesses, and need income to support them.

“I do this because it fills me with gratitude to be able to support other women in realizing their dreams,” she says. “My passion for the future is to continue to help other entrepreneurial women. I am living my dream every day—that makes me feel incredibly humbled. It’ s been a soulful journey and I’ve learned so much.”

Besides scheduled shopping events between June and October, her home gallery is also used for healing workshops including drumming, restorative exercise, and essential oils. “We offer courses on how to paint and refurbish furniture and we welcome guest workshop facilitators— this is a beautiful space for a workshop,” she explains. “I also hold ‘team days’ here for small groups. They’re healing and inspiring, and you can also shop in the gallery and enjoy the lending library.”

Another passion for Hutchinson is First Nations people and the sustainability of their communities. Her heritage on her father’ s side is Shuswap and her mother’ s is rooted in three generations in the Chilcotin at Riske Creek. She has been actively exploring her role in Truth and Reconciliation with people in both the Tsilhqot’in and Secwepemc Nations. “My long-term vision is of a thriving network of indigenous micro-businesses and co-operatives—investing skills in return for individual wealth generation and community economic growth,” she said.

Her business life is dedicated to providing support and guidance in business development, with a transition to support employment, arts and culture, as well as health and wellness programs.

“It matters to me about our social issues and our environment, about people and communities who live in poverty,” she says simply. She explains her goal is to leave behind a legacy in the form of the Cotton Foundation, named after her grandfather R.C. Cotton, who came from a noble family in England, arriving in Canada in 1887.

“I want this foundation to support women in learning and earning, continuing to support them as social entrepreneurs,” she says. “That’s what has filled my life and that’ s what I want to leave behind.”

Any entrepreneurial women in the Cariboo Region interested in gaining more experience in the social enterprise business Worth Every Penny please email or call (250) 392-0153.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, songwriter, community coordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.


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