Gould family donation to grow YMCA women in business program

The late Millie Gould is remembered as Hamilton’s first lady of fashion—a fierce, entrepreneurial powerhouse whose savvy business sense and keen eye for styles and trends gave life to what became a retail empire.

But beyond her legacy as a design icon, she was someone who gained a deep sense of “nachas”—the Yiddish word for unbridled pride or contentment—by seeing the successes of other women.

“My mother believed in philanthropy in general, but in women’s empowerment in particular,” says Ben Gould, Millie’s son. She got a lot of inspiration from seeing women succeed in business because she knew how hard it was and is. “He had gone through it himself.”

That’s a big reason why the Gould family made what Ben calls a “significant investment” this month to lead Millie’s Women’s Business Program at the Hamilton YWCA.

The Milli Gould Center for Entrepreneurship will serve as a training and education center for women-led businesses, offering a range of services from workshops and individual planning to financial literacy training and digital tools support.

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While entrepreneurship programs for women have long existed at the YWCA, Gould CEO Denise Christopherson said the Gould family’s “transformational” gift — to be spread over five years — will add capacity to the support it already provides. adds

“This investment goes a long way toward continuing our support of these much-needed services for women across southern Ontario,” Christopherson said in an interview. And just the fact that it’s now named after Millie… she remains an inspiration to many people because of the success she had in her business.

In fact, Millie, who died in 2019, embodied the very definition of self-made, building her clothing boutique in an era when women were not common in the business. And he did so after a tragedy, when his first wife and daughter died in a house fire when he was just 25 years old.

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“He overcame obstacles, that’s how he lived,” Ben said. Women starting out in the 1960s and 1970s, like my mother, faced higher barriers than today, but they still exist in different forms, and our family has always recognized that.

Ben mentioned how his mother’s empire began — a $5,000 family loan “She couldn’t have it without my dad’s (Alan Gould) name on it, because that’s how it was at the time.

It’s this idea of ​​helping and giving someone a chance against obstacles that Ben said inspires her family’s continued support of women in business programs at the YWCA. A 2008 Woman of Distinction Award winner, Millie made a posthumous commitment to her namesake program with a $50,000 donation through the Allen and Millie Gould Foundation.

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“When we learned more about the program and met some of the alumni who had stories like his, we felt it was a good fit,” Ben said of the latest gift, which he declined to disclose.

Ben said the gift was intended to “supercharge” the existing program and give it longevity.

“We see it as an investment, restocking the pond — not a grant,” he said, noting that more money may be committed in the future. We want to give all these women a chance to start their own business, even if it’s a small one, like my mother’s.

She is very happy to know that she is helping launch women in successful business endeavors.

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