How Veuve’s Madame Clicquot inspired generations of female entrepreneurship

By Holly Walker

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Behind the revered Veuve Clicquot brand is an exceptional visionary who, in an era of male-dominance, carved a path of female ingenuity. Enter Madame Clicquot.

Written by Holly Walker

A Woman Before Her Time
Born Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1777, Madame Clicquot was a French businesswoman who married François Clicquot, owner of Maison Clicquot, a company involved in banking, wool trading, and champagne production. At the age of 27, she became une veuve, ‘a widow’ in French, and took control of the business, becoming one of the first women to lead a company of men during that time. Under her ownership, Maison Clicquot became Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and the company made innovative strides, focusing solely on champagne production. She developed the first vintage wine of the Champagne region, produced the first rosé blend in Champagne, and invented a technique called ‘riddling’ that clarifies champagne, giving it the translucent bubbly appearance it’s known for — a method still used today. Known as the “Grande Dame of Champagne,” Madame Clicquot is associated with a brand of excellence and level of entrepreneurial determination that has inspired generations to follow.

A Tribute to Trailblazers
Known as the ‘Oscar’ for female entrepreneurs and business leaders, the annual Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards (BWA) celebrates women from around the world. Created in 1972 in honor of Madame Clicquot, the annual BWA is awarded in 27 countries and celebrates the success of business women globally who share the same business sense and entrepreneurial spirit as Madame Clicquot.

To help inspire collaboration and acknowledge the entrepreneurial journey of young women, Veuve created the New Generation award in 2014. In tribute to Madame Clicquot’s daughter, Clementine, the award recognizes the next wave of female entrepreneurs. It champions females between the ages of 25 to 35 years old for their investment in the future and unwavering innovation. 

From left to right: Kiely Maclean (2018 Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award Winner). Claudia Sjoberg (2018 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award Winner)

The Spirit of Madame Clicquot
This year, Claudia Sjoberg, founder and president of Pedalheads has been named the Business Woman of the Year. In 1986, Sjoberg created the Atlantis Program swim schools which taught swim lessons to children. Her one-woman business grew into Pedalheads Group, a multi-sport enterprise with more than 1,400 employees, providing children with instructional sports and recreation programs and camps across Canada. 

New Generation award recipient Kiely Maclean left an attractive position with another company to start MacLean Tank Services, a tank cleaning and remediation service, in 2012. Her fearlessness paid off when it led to managerial opportunities with RJ Oil in 2014, a company focused on oil recovery from waste streams in the oil and gas industry.

By 2015, RJ Oil and Maclean Tank Services had merged to become RJ Maclean, a leading initiative in automated tank cleaning and oil and water recovery. The company values environmentally conscious practices with a focus on government innovation projects, research and development. As a female in a male dominated space, Maclean has made her mark as co-founder and president of RJ Maclean, and has been named this year’s New Generation award recipient.

Both Sjoberg and Maclean embody the same tenacious spirit of Madame Clicquot. They carve their own path in their respective fields, and open the door for the generations to come. 

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