(Photos courtesy of snapd Dartmouth)
By Susan Eldridge
It began over a latte in May 2012. The discussion was about the isolation sometimes felt during the work day by women who work on their own, in their homes or on the road, as well as the challenges that women face as business owners which can be different from those faced by men. I had been organizing networking events for my previous employer which gave me ample exposure to other business women (and men), their ideas, tips and humour. Now I was working on my own and the people I worked with were spread across Atlantic Canada making for days filled with email and phone calls with little face-to-face contact. I missed the inspiration, energy and bonding that comes over a cup of coffee or tea with other business women.
At the time, my business partner, Melita Scott, had just opened Café Brea, and felt the same way as a new business owner. She heard the same laments from her clientele, especially women who came in for coffee during their business day. We decided to invite other business women to join us for an evening of networking over coffee, and to invite a woman business owner or leader from our community to share her story. Our first event was in June 2012. The event was a success, so we have continued to host similar events. The focus is about business women supporting and sharing with other business women and we’ve stayed true to that message. We knew that we had to come up with a name, so after countless cups of coffee, we both agreed that Business Women Connect (BWC) suited us best, since our goal is to empower women to connect, collaborate and succeed in business!
The events have continued to catch on and we were thrilled when they started to sell out! Our speakers have shared their stories with grace, laughter, and heartfelt integrity. They have answered questions from participants and been open and honest about both their challenges and successes. We try to ensure that everyone feels welcome, that nobody stands in the corner alone, and that everyone has a chance to meet others and share their unique message.
At most of our events, each woman is invited to stand and introduce herself – to give her 30-second elevator pitch. We use a timer and let everyone know beforehand that we will “buzz” them at 30 seconds! It really is a great learning experience for all participants. It is a safe, friendly environment in which to practice this and numerous women have begun with “Ok, this is a new pitch I’ve been working on so let me know what you think!” Others have been so nervous that they’ve forgotten to say their name. That’s where we come in! We are there to ask questions when needed to make sure everyone is equally featured and to make sure that everyone gets the most out of the experience.
BWC has put the in-person touch back into my work life again and I look forward to every one of our events and meeting each of our participants! We have an amazingly diverse world of female enterprises in Halifax (and across Nova Scotia) and it is wonderful to get to know so many of these women and their businesses! As we often hear: people buy from those they know, like and trust.
Our next event is a little different than usual – on December 3rd we’re pleased to say that we will be hosted at Mills Brothers on Spring Garden Road by the four women who recently purchased this iconic Halifax business. The event will take place in the evening from 6:30 – 9:00 and will include a chance to explore and shop at this lovely new store after the networking event.
We’re looking forward to hearing the story of what drove these women to make their decision to partner, purchase, and move the store to its current location; to network with other business women; and while networking discover who we can work with, buy from, or support in our business community.
It is so important that women businesses support, promote, recommend, or buy from each other. BWC allows one more opportunity in Halifax to connect, collaborate and succeed. We look forward to continuing to get to know these wonderful businesses.
All women are welcome to attend – for more information or to purchase a ticket, please click here.
Susan Eldridge is currently the co-owner of Business Women Connect and the Executive Director for the Atlantic ÉCONOMUSE® Network. She has owned and operated her own business, worked in the field of business development and training with immigrant entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, artisanal businesses, and other small businesses over the past 13 years in Halifax. She sits on the CEED Loan Review Committee and the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network (EDN) Board of Directors and is always looking for new ways to get involved in the HRM business community.