This is my inspiring women series, and today I would like you to meet Carolyn.

Since the beginning, I have named my designs after women who have touched my heart. Women I admire and respect. It’s an honour to know them and call them my friends. They are my inspiration and my why for doing what I do. In this case, there is some nepotism at play because Carolyn is my niece. So, I know her well, since the day she was born. And now she is 38 years old!

My latest design is the Carolyn reversible sundress. I named it in her honour for two reasons. The first being I admire her tenacity, courage, integrity, dedication, and love of animals. She gets things done without compromising her ethics. And secondly, but far less important, she was the last person to try on my new dress before the Coronavirus quarantine!

As far back as I can remember, Carolyn has been a hard worker whether it was doing homework, delivering newspapers, or volunteering at the humane society. She has always had a love of animals. Her dream was to become a veterinarian. She studied hard to pursue that goal. But, alas, it was not in the cards. Getting into vet school is extremely competitive. She had good grades and lots of relevant work experience but with only 3 veterinary schools across the whole county, well… It’s one of those frustrating situations where those with the highest marks get in but they don’t necessarily make the best vets.

From there, Carolyn pursued a Masters in Conservation and Biodiversity, a field she is passionate about especially when it comes to protecting endangered species. However, this is a field where there are limited career opportunities and they are mostly within the federal and provincial governments. Once again, it’s highly competitive to get in and once people are in, they tend to stay there until retirement. It doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for new graduates.

With her usual determination, Carolyn took on many short-term and seasonal contract positions to gain relevant work experience. From 2011 to 2017, this took her to Falmouth, England; Tortuguero in Costa Rica; Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia; Owen Sound and Sauble Beach; Midhurst and Barrie; and Aurora. For most of that time, she was living apart from her husband who remained in Ottawa for his work. They had bought a house together which she rarely got to live in. As you can imagine, it was a long, difficult, and often discouraging journey. She loved her work but missed being home.

Today, Carolyn is back in Ottawa and a Management Biologist with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. She reviews projects to ensure there are no impacts to species at risk or their habitat and insures proponents (builders) comply with the Ontario Endangered Species Act. As you can imagine, the stakeholders have very different goals and are often at odds with one another. Carolyn takes her role protecting the endangered species to heart and practises the utmost integrity when doing her job. She makes difficult decisions which often puts her in the middle of lash backs from angry proponents and harsh criticisms from other departments and superiors trying to smooth things over.

Inspiring Women Series: Meet Carolyn by Colleen Kanna

Carolyn, the triathlete

To keep herself in shape and reduce her stress level, Carolyn decided to take up triathlons last year. Most of us just go the gym! With her usual dedication, she trained and participated in 4 triathlons between March and September of 2019. Her best race was The Canadian where she placed 2nd in her age group, 12th amongst the female competitors, and 42nd overall out of 129 racers. Not bad for a newbie!

This year she signed up for the Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. The race involves a 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike, and 21.1 km run. Ha, is that it?? I’m exhausted just typing it out. This sold out race was scheduled for July 12th and not surprisingly has just been cancelled. Carolyn has been training everyday, and knowing her, she will keep training even though there is no set goal ahead of her now.

Inspiring Women Series: Meet Carolyn by Colleen Kanna

Crossing the finish line

Carolyn and her hubby had been on the market for a new home for the last 6 months or so. They found the perfect spot just outside of Ottawa with 3 acres of property. The deal was signed with no conditions attached just before the pandemic shutdown. Their current home went on the market and they had an offer but the deal fell through because the buyers could no longer secure financing as they were not deemed essential workers. As you can imagine, it has been an uncertain and trying time for them.

Then last week, their house sold with no conditions. Phew, what a relief! There will be a big celebration at their new place once this is all over. And as it turns out, I just happen to know their Mortgage Broker, Leo Maiorino. We are in the same Stittsville Business Networking group together. We made the connection yesterday on our group’s bi-weekly zoom meeting. There’s that 6 degrees of separation happening again which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

I’ll leave you with Carolyn’s favourite quote: “Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” ~ Christopher Robin to Pooh. How appropriate that it involves a much loved bear.

Inspiring Women Series: Meet Carolyn by Colleen Kanna

Carolyn in the Carolyn Reversible Sundress

Check out Carolyn in the Carolyn Sundress at COKANNA. Pre-order and you’ll receive 10% off. Use coupon code: Summertime.

Until next week,

~ Colleen

Colleen Kanna

In my day-to-night-time pajamas!



Colleen Kanna is a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer.
She is the creator of COKANNA Canadian made bamboo clothing for women that’s all about comfort and style.
Colleen supports Rethink Breast Cancer’s metastatic breast cancer support, education, and advocacy work.