Everything You Wanted to Know about Co-Working!

You may have heard about co-working spaces lately. But what are they?

Co-working spaces are places that for a monthly membership fees, members can
drop-in and work. For some, it’s an affordable alternative to renting office space to work, meet clients and have meetings. For others, it’s a social space, to meet entrepreneurs like them, learn, network, gain clients or suppliers, and brainstorm ideas. This can make it a great option for entrepreneurs who are currently working out of their home.

Some co-working spaces (like NABI Commons in St. Albert) bring in business experts (such as AWE) to help their members grow their business. Often, they have business amenities, like phone line and access to office equipment. They are frequently modelled in a modern open working environment.

Interested? Try out NABI for a $10 drop in fee or a $125 membership fee per month. Or check out the other co-working spaces in Edmonton!

Co-Working Organizations in Edmonton

Co-Working Organizations in Calgary

Fall Greetings from Marcela Mandeville: Back to Reality, Back to Business.

For most, Labour Day - the unofficial end of summer – is bitter sweet. It is the last big hoorah of summer, but it also represents “back to reality and back to business.” I personally am excited about what is to come for the rest of 2017. These past few months I have noticed an energy picking up – business in Alberta is buzzing and there is great opportunity for growth. For AWE and our clients, now is the time to seize those opportunities and focus on building for the future, which is why we are launching a new cohort for our PeerSpark™ program in early October.

AWE’s PeerSpark™ program is a peer-focused support system for female business owners who are ready to scale their business. Our interactive program provides the knowledge, skills and tools you need to build and implement business growth strategies and tactics, with the support of like-minded entrepreneurs. We partner with some of Alberta’s top business industry experts including Grant Thornton, BDC and Dentons to provide resources on topics ranging from financing to buy or grow a business, legal considerations, contract development, and tax and audit services, to name a few.

My favourite part of the program, though, is the peer connections. I know how lonely it can be to run a business so having a group of people who understand and support you on both a personal and professional level is invaluable. I have seen over the years how these relationships grow and extend beyond the program. They provide an elevated level of confidence as leaders and an upsurge in drive when it comes to pursuing new ideas and opportunities.

None of us know what the future holds, but I am certain if we work on building it together, great things will be achieved! If you are ready to grow your business and your network, get in touch to see if the PeerSpark™ program is right for you.

How to Master the Art of Follow-Up

Post-Trade Mission Follow-Up
An effective follow-up procedure should be planned in advance before you attend a
trade mission. Follow-up should be frequent, consistent and should focus on building a
business relationship.

(Business Women in International Trade, The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service)

Best Practices for Follow-Up Success:


1. Make Time for Follow-Up

  • Don’t procrastinate! Set aside time in your schedule before the trade mission to organize your follow-up plan and put it into action when you return.

2. Organize your contacts

  • Intentionally organize your contacts in a way that will fit into your systems and align with your goals.
  • Ask the following questions to prioritize your contacts: Is this connection useful? How is this connection useful? Will they help you expand your network? Is this connection a possible sales lead?

3. Establish a follow-up procedure

  • Make an effort. Reach out to the connections you felt were the most valuable. Do research to figure out the best method to connect with your contact.
  • Be specific. Remind the person you are contacting about when you met and what the outcome of your conversation was. Try to use the same language from your initial conversation during the trade mission for your follow-up.
  • Ask for permission. Ask your contact when the best time is for you to contact them and how much of their time you can take. Ask if they require any further documentation for your follow-up, such as your capability statement.
  • Be persistent. Create a calendar system that will remind you to follow up with your contact and follow-up! Be sure to meet timeline expectations as promised.
  • Ask for a connection. If this isn’t the right contact for you, don’t be afraid to ask for the right person.

4. Set Goals

  • Be sure to set both short term and long term goals that you hope to achieve by working with your contact.
  • Review your goals. Have you met your goals or are there some goals you would like to reset for the future?

Dr. Linda Miller – Gaining Access to New Markets

Linda established EWI Works in 1991, a company that provides innovative ergonomic services and solutions to businesses locally, nationally, and internationally. She was a finalist for the 2016 AWE Upsurge Award.

In 1991, Linda established EWI Works, a company that provides ergonomic services and solutions to businesses. After 25 years in business, the team had become experts in their field, but Linda realized that gaining access to markets beyond Alberta’s borders would require new approaches through technology to extend the company’s reach. The decision to invest in innovation created a big shift in the business. Linda notes, “we really know our service business and yet, we’re like a start-up in the software realm.”

In 2015, Linda took part in AWE’s PeerSpark™ program. “We were now with a group that could support us in a logical pathway to make these decisions to change a business stream,” she said. “It felt like, to be absolutely honest, a safe place. We were able to actually talk about some of the concerns we had without feeling like somebody was going to judge us.” With AWE’s support, Linda and her team will be able to expand her business into the United States and beyond. To support this expansion, Linda secured a loan through AWE, which helped her business growth immensely. “I didn’t realize all the available financing options,” she said. “I think it’s quite common for female entrepreneurs to self-fund. I would do lots and lots of jobs, save up the money, and then self-fund the next step.” In addition to AWE financing, AWE’s team introduced Linda to other financial resources to support her efforts to build a market for the company’s new technology.

Continuous learning and adapting to new challenges are not new to Linda. She began the business with an Occupational Therapy degree and in order to better understand how products were developed she completed her Master’s in Environmental Design followed by a Ph.D. in Occupational Therapy from Boston University. Her curiosity and adaptability are two of her biggest strengths as a leader.

Her visionary approach to growing her business was captured in her selection as a finalist for the 2016 AWE Upsurge Award. “If there’s a new technology or a new way of doing something, I’m not scared to go out and try it.” Linda said. An example of this is seen in Linda’s interest in expanding EWI Works into the United States after twenty-five years inside Alberta’s borders.

“I went on a trade mission with AWE last year to understand the market and how people do business in the U.S.,” she said. “We’re going to want to penetrate into Europe and Australia down the road as well.” The team at AWE has the utmost confidence that Linda and her team at EWI Works will quickly become experts in their new field. 

We're hiring a Business Advisor!

AWE is looking for a Business Advisor with a strong business background, sense of understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities that business owners face, a desire to assist women entrepreneurs, and a passion for building community to join our Edmonton team.

The Role

  • Helping clients achieve their dreams by providing advice and solutions
  • Following up and responding to inquiries
  • Planning and facilitating quality learning/training sessions for groups of entrepreneurs
  • Promoting AWE programs and services
  • Staying informed of relevant programs, services, information, and resources
  • Maintaining open lines of communication and collaborating with team members and community partners
  • Keeping client information up to date in our CRM
  • Completing reporting requirements well and on time

Desired Skills, Experience and Attributes

  • Degree in business or related field or equivalent combination of diploma in business with 2 years of experience
  • Strong business acumen and understanding of small business and entrepreneurship
  • Flexible in the hours you work to meet client needs and willingness to travel
  • Continuous learner
  • Relationship builder and connector
  • Excellent communicator (French language skills are an asset)

A combination of education and experience will be considered.

How to Apply
Send your cover letter and resume to human.resources@awebusiness.com with subject line Advisor by September 12, 2017. Resumes will be reviewed as they are submitted. Only suitable candidates will be contacted.

About Us
Alberta Women Entrepreneurs is an organization dedicated to enabling women to build successful businesses. We provide unique programs and services to women in business through mentoring, advising, financing and skills and network development.
 

You Don't Have to Go It Alone: 5 Reasons Joining a Peer Group Can Be Beneficial for Entrepreneurs

Who do you go to for advice and support? Who do you bounce business ideas off of? Who pushes you to think bigger?

If you don’t have an answer to these questions, maybe it’s time to consider peer mentorship.

Peer mentorship is a way for entrepreneurs to discuss their goals and challenges, and learn from each other. Unlike a traditional relationship between an experienced mentor and a more junior mentee, peer mentorship takes place between people who have similar levels of expertise and similar concerns. Having a peer group of like-minded people provides emotional support and encouragement, while providing access to a variety of ideas and perspectives.

Without a strong network, entrepreneurship can be isolating, and at times lonely. Being surrounded by your peers in a safe and supportive environment can be really valuable to both you and your business.

Here are five benefits to joining a peer mentorship group:

  1. You might find out flaws in your strategy. Even if you have a business partner or employees that you can brainstorm with, there is a benefit to gaining an outside opinion. Peer mentors provide a fresh perspective and this allows you to realize potential problems with your strategy and make changes. “Other entrepreneurs have a special insight and mindset that is hard to find. They willtell you what may not work and provide unbiased feedback. They are not your customers and they are not your competitors.  The entrepreneurial group allows you collaborate on ideas,” says Shannon Lenstra, President of Kon-strux Developments Inc., and an alumni of AWE’s peer mentorship program.
  2. Create more holistic long-term plans. With a peer mentorship group you receive a higher level of feedback on your business planning, and you get to hear a variety of perspectives. With more people to bounce ideas off of, you are less likely to have gaps in your decision making.
  3. They can provide you with the confidence to push forward, and to fail. No entrepreneurial journey is without mistakes. Being surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs can boost your confidence and encourage you to seize opportunities, without being held back by the fear of failure.
  4. Build long-term relationships. Unlike a contracted business advisor or consultant, peer groups build community. Many entrepreneurs maintain relationships with those in their peer mentorship group long after the formal program has ended.
  5. They don’t just care about your business, they care about you. Running a business can be stressful at times, and other entrepreneurs understand that! A peer group can provide that emotional support and allows you to talk openly with people you can trust.

How do you find the right group for you?

Talk to other entrepreneurs in your network, and ask them if they’re in any groups and what their experience has been like. Inquire with various entrepreneurial service providers in your community and see if they offer a group of their own, or if they can recommend any for your stage of business.

Finding a good fit might take some time and you might have to try a couple groups out before you commit to something. If you’re interested in a peer mentorship program aimed at women entrepreneurs with a strong desire to grow their businesses, be sure to check out our program. Applications for fall intake are currently being accepted.

Already have peer mentors? Share your best tips on finding mentors in the comments!

Client Feature: Tessa Martin

We sat down with Tessa Martin, Owner and Registered Psychologist at Serenity Now Wellness Center in Calgary to learn more about her new location, how she juggles her business and raising a family, and her experience with the PeerSpark™ program. 

Q: Tessa, tell us how you started Serenity Now Wellness Center

In school, I always knew I wanted to have my own private practice. It's a goal for many other Registered Psychologists. When I was finishing my residency, I decided to skip getting a job (since I was used to making no money!) and jump into my own practice as a solo practioner. This was in 2008 right before the downturn of the oil and gas industry. While many businesses were failing, I got busy- really fast! We are the opposite of most markets. When there's a downturn in the economy, there is an increase in the number of people seeking mental health services. 

In 2010 I decided to expand to a new location and bring on other practioners into my business. I knew by expanding I would have more leverage and not have to solely rely on my own income as I continued to grow the business.

In April 2017, we opened our newest location that offers both mind and body wellness and I am very excited about it! We now currently have 14 contractors working for the company.

Q: What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur?

A: It is definitely managing and motivating people. This is a completely different skill set! I would have thought as a psychologist that this would have been a natural skill but it is very different doing it as a psychologist and doing it as an employer. I am constantly re-inventing the wheel and finding ways to motivate those within my company to work harder and more effectively.

             The new Serenity Now Wellness Center is located at 1934 9 Ave SE in Calgary, AB.

             The new Serenity Now Wellness Center is located at 1934 9 Ave SE in Calgary, AB.

Q: What's the best part of being an entrepreneur?

A: (laughs) Being an entrepreneur is crazy at times, but one of the best parts is not having a limited income. I feel like if I was in a job, I would feel stuck and not as free. With having my own business I can always take on more clients, innovate and find new streams of income to add to my business.

Q: How do you juggle being a Mom of young children and a business owner?

A: I am always mindful. I make sure that my kids aren't getting the short end of the stick. It's so important to be present as much as possible, however it doesn't always happen. I've been really good at setting clear boundaries for my work and my home life. I make sure that weekends don't include meetings or clients and that I am checking my phone minimally. 

Q: How did you hear about AWE?

A: My Mom and Sister were building a business at the same time I was. They were looking for different resources to help them succeed and that's how I found out about AWE. In the beginning, I started out with $5,000 loan and since then have used every service possible. 

The ladies in PeerSpark™ are my life line. When I need encouragement the most, I reach out to them for words of wisdom.

Q: What have been some key takeaways from the PeerSpark™ program?

I joined the program in 2016. I've learned so much from it, but most of all it comes down to being really clear on the business side of things. This includes being more strategic in determining my growth plan. In my education, there wasn't a business component. I would read a book here, and take a webinar there to help learn as much as I could about running a business. PeerSpark brought the business knowledge together in a more coherent way. 

Another amazing part about the program is the other women entrepreneurs. The ladies are my lifeline. When I was transitioning into the new space, I was feeling overwhelmed. I sent out an email to the group for words of encouragement and had an influx of emails back. Those positive words kept me going. It's nice to be surrounded by women that actually know what it's like. We are all working towards growing our businesses, not just stay complacent.

Be sure to follow Serenity Now Wellness on Facebook and check out their website www.serenitynowwellness.ca. If you're in the Calgary area, stop by their new space and check it out.

Interested in learning more about the PeerSpark™ program and how it can help your business? Get in touch with us today! 

Mission Accomplished!

Last month, AWE accompanied four Alberta-based, women-led businesses to the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Las Vegas. They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but I am too proud of our delegates and what they accomplished not to share!

The BWIT trade mission to Las Vegas offered the chance for women business owners from across Canada, including our Alberta delegation, to explore the opportunities of expanding their businesses into the international supply chains with supplier diversity programs.

To prepare for the conference, we helped our delegates prepare a strong, impactful business pitch and capability statement to connect effectively into this network. On the ground, they had the opportunity to get to know Fortune 500 companies, other Canadian businesses, as well as businesses from China, India, Mexico, and the UK.

Our delegates made the most of this opportunity and initiated new business relationships or learned quickly that their targeted connection was in fact not the right fit for their business and they could pivot their focus elsewhere. Some of the best connections were made through informal conversations with new contacts and resulted in the potential for both sides to expand their business through strategic collaboration.

I was so impressed with this group of business owners who had really done their homework and were laser focused on identifying the right opportunities for them to grow their business. We will continue to work with each of these women to conduct follow up with their targets. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish!

If you’re interested in exploring a new market opportunity in a supported and organized environment, join us on our next Trade Mission, Go for the Greens, in September in Florida.

Happy sunny summer everyone!

Marcela

How to Know When to Fire a Customer

The customer is always right. We hear this business cliché time and time again, but do we ever stop to think if it’s actually true? We’re here to tell you that it’s not! The customer is most definitely not always right, and it’s important to be able to fire a customer in the same way that you would fire an employee who is causing the company grief.

Some customers are simply not profitable, or cause more of a headache than they’re worth. You shouldn’t be trying to please everyone because this is ultimately a waste of time, energy, and resources. You’re better off understanding who your profitable customers are, and how to attract more of them. When you are attracting the right customers who are in line with your brand and what it stands for, you will be providing better service and fostering loyalty with these customers. The more loyal your customers are, the more frequently they will come back, and the more positive word-of-mouth they will spread.

So how do you know when to fire a customer?

  1. The customer abuses company policies and drains resources. Every business has experienced the customer who takes advantages of warranties, return policies, or sampling. These policies have been put in place to ensure great service for customers who will in turn be loyal and come back. If a customer is continually taking from a business and it is apparent that they will not be converted into a satisfied customer, they need to be politely turned away.
  2. The customer delivers a much lower return on income than others. This situation is more difficult to spot because the customer is not intentionally causing any issues. However, in the long-run your employees are utilizing more resources to serve this customer than the customer is contributing back in return. They can usually be phased out by reducing the amount of effort employees invest into them over time, which will guide the customer out the door without any hurt feelings.
  3. The customer abuses employees. Some customers can be real jerks, and it doesn’t matter how much they are spending with your business if they are draining employee morale while doing so. The toll this takes on employees will decrease productivity and leave them wanting to quit. You may suffer a short-term loss in revenue but in the long-run you will have created a more sustainable, profit-generating environment.

Now you’ve decided to fire, but how?

First and foremost you want to ensure you aren’t going to generate negative word-of-mouth by firing a customer unfairly or unprofessionally. Follow the next three steps to settle things amicably with the ex-customer.

  1. Try to clarify disagreements. Take the customer aside and communicate to understand both sides of the story. The customer may be acting out because they feel they have been wronged by the company. Don’t mistakenly fire a customer because they are upset with your service, and if there was a service mistake on your end, it’s important to rectify it. If you were not in the wrong and they are still upset, empathize with them, but explain rationally why you cannot help them.
  2. Be professional. Use a polite tone of voice and calmly explain why the business will not be a good fit for them in the future.
  3. Suggest alternatives. Guide them to a business who may be a better fit for them so they leave feeling like they have another option.

Most importantly, learn from the experience and define why the customer was a bad fit so that you can avoid getting into similar relationships in the future.

Client Feature: Alex Favret

Alex Favret LowRes.jpg

We sat down with Alex Favret, Founder of Powerhouse Print and former PeerSpark™ participant to learn more about her business, her adventure in growing a business and raising a family, and her experience with AWE.

Q: Tell us how you got started with your business?

A: I’m a serial entrepreneur! I started out in the event industry back in 2001 and those connections eventually led me into opportunities in the print world. I’m now also expanding my reach with my latest venture, Powerhouse CMO.

Q: What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?

A: The people and the flexibility. Each day I get to interact with interesting and inspiring people who I challenge me and help me grow. I also love the flexibility of my schedule which allows me to be nimble for my clients, while also not missing out on important moments in my children’s lives.

Q: Speaking of families, tell us how you balance raising a family and running a business?

A: The most important thing for me is staying diligent. Even though I often work from my home office, I am conscious of setting regular work hours and limiting distractions. My kids are officially on summer holidays now, but that doesn’t mean that I get to hang at the pool with them every day...at least not all day!

Q: How did you get involved with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)?

A: My relationship with AWE started back in 2007 when they purchased a conference for women that I produced (which is now their Learning Day). From there, I have continued to work with AWE on their printing needs and I also became a member of PeerSpark™ in 2013. I am currently in the PeerSpark™ alumni program. AWE has also hired our Powerhouse CMO team to be their outsourced marketing department.

Q: What would you say was the most valuable takeaway from the PeerSpark Program for you?

A: Most definitely the insights from other entrepreneurs within the program. Everyone has taken a different path and is able to offer sage advice for situations you might currently be facing. I also loved the facilitated discussions, particularly the Colours Workshop from Juna Consulting. That session gave me great insights on working as a leader and collaborating with others.

Be sure to follow Powerhouse Print on Facebook and Twitter and check out their website www.powerhouseprint.ca

Interested in learning more about the PeerSpark™ program and how it can help your business? Get in touch with us today! 

 

 

Client Feature: Tracy Fortin

We sat down with Tracy Fortin, Founder of Flawless Interiors and current PeerSpark™ participant to learn more about her business, what she has gained from the program and what it takes to work with your spouse every day.

tracy fortin.jpg

Q: Tracy, tell us more about your business.

A: I once heard my job described as a conductor of a highly aesthetic orchestra.  I love that – and it’s so true.  Really what we do, is take people’s needs and wants as they relate to their home or office spaces and turn them into plans that can be implemented.  Our clients are super busy and don’t have time to be running around from supplier to supplier to determine what will function and look the best in their space.  So whether they are renovating an entire home, building a brand new home or remodeling an office – we take that stress off of them right from the start all the way to the finish.  From permit ready architectural drawings to the last placed accessory – we make sure their design projects are done right.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced as you started to grow?

A: By far, knowing when the right time to hire has been the biggest challenge, and still is.  Getting comfortable with making mistakes helps.

Q: What advice do you have for those looking to run a business with their spouse?  

A: Get really clear on each of your roles right from the start.  Define expectations and be sure to hold to each other accountable.

Q: How did you find out about AWE? 

I attended a Learning Day event and met an AWE staff person who was promoting the PeerSpark™ program.  I knew it was exactly what I needed at that time for my businesss.

Q: What is your biggest take away from PeerSpark

A: Being the architect of your own life takes fearlessness and a vision for your life plan.  You have to believe you can achieve and on the days that you don’t, have people in your corner who can believe for you.  That’s what PeerSpark™ is.  We were all in similar places emotional even though our businesses varied so greatly.  We are constantly lifted each other up and motivating each other to keep going.

Q: Who do you go to for advice? 

A: Well aside from my PeerSpark™ ladies, I read a lot.  There are so many inspiring books that have kept me excited about both running a business and the design industry.  My most recent favorite book is called “In the Company of Women” by Grace BonneyIt’s filled with inspirational advice from  female entrepreneurs around the globe.  I also have other friends who run their own businesses – so it’s a hazard of being an entrepreneur that we are constantly taking to each other about ways to do business better.

Be sure to follow Flawless Interiors on Facebook and check out their website www.flawlessinteriors.ca

Interested in learning more about the PeerSpark™ program and how it can help your business? Get in touch with us today! 

Celebration of Achievement Reception Re-Cap

We were thrilled to celebrate with some amazing women entrepreneurs, community partners, sponsors, friends and family on May 18, 2017 at our Celebration of Achievement Reception. 

This year we hosted the event at the beautiful Oasis Centre in Edmonton. The room was filled with joy, excitement and buzz. With over 200 people in the room, we were honoured to receive greetings from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, The Honuorable Navdeep Bains and hear MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark Jon Carson share his welcome from the Government of Alberta.

The event was dedicated to not only celebrating our 2017 Celebration of Achievement recipient, Jeanette DeBruin, but also announcing the recipients of our Emerging Entrepreneur Award, Emerging Innovator Award and Upsurge Award.

The anticipation built as a video of the finalists in each category appeared on the screen (to view these videos, please click here). We also had a surge of social media which had #AWECelebrates trending on Twitter. Check out our favourite tweets here.

We were thrilled to announce the following as our 2017 Award Recipients:

Jeanette DeBruin, AltaPro Electric, 2017 Celebration of Achievement Award Recipient

Kristi Stuart and Jill Belland, Barre Belle YYC, 2017 AWE Emerging Entrepreneur Award Recipient

Lane Edwards, Pura Botanicals, 2017 AWE Emerging Innovator Award Recipient

Nancy Klensch, Summit Kids, 2017 AWE Upsurge Award Recipient

From Left to Right: Jeannette DeBruin, Lane Edwards, Nancy Klensch, Kristi Stuart

From Left to Right: Jeannette DeBruin, Lane Edwards, Nancy Klensch, Kristi Stuart

We were very excited to celebrate with these amazing women. We would also like to extend a huge congratulations to all of our nominees and finalists. You are all doing amazing things for our communities and local economies.

A special thanks goes out to our presenting sponsor, ATB Business. We could not do this event without you! Thank you for recognizing the importance of entrepreneurship and making it a focus for your business. We would also like to thank Grant Thornton for your help with our nominee selection process. Thank you to Hillberg and Berk for the beautiful gifts for our recipients and generous gifts for all attendees of the awards program. And last, but certainly not least we would like to thank Quinn Ohler from Global Edmonton for volunteering her time to emcee this year's program.

Our awards program will open again in 2018. If you know someone who would be deserving of one of our four awards, let us know! We can't wait to celebrate with you all next year.

 

 

2017 Celebration of Achievement Recipient Announced

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is pleased to announce Jeanette DeBruin as the recipient of this year’s Celebration of Achievement Award, which recognizes an exceptional woman entrepreneur who has built a business in Alberta with a significant impact on the economy and the community.

The Edmonton-based co-founder of AltaPro Electric will be recognized at the 2017 Celebration of Achievement award reception on May 18th at the Oasis Centre in Edmonton.

Read the full release here.
 

We're Hiring!

Are you interested in joining a dynamic team passionate about helping growing businesses that are shaping Alberta? Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), an organization dedicated to enabling women to build successful businesses, is searching for a Program Coordinator to join our team. We provide unique programs and services to women in business through mentoring, advising, financing and skills and network development. Our ideal candidate is a is an organizer extraordinaire who loves to create great client experiences by implementing excellent programs.

Interested in learning more? Click here.

 

Client Feature: Deidra Helmig

We sat down with Deidra Helmig, Founder and Senior Consultant of Boreal Services Group and current PeerSpark™ participant to learn more about her business and the advice she has gained since joining the program.

Q: Deidra, can you tell us more about your business and how it all got started?

A: It all started when I was working for my family business. They needed help writing a safety program for the business. I knew nothing about safety. They ended up putting me through the courses that started from very basic to advanced. From there I ended up working as a Safety Officer within my family's company. 

During that time, I was picking up my daughter from school one day and was chatting with another Dad about what I did for work. I told him I was a Safety Officer and as it turns out, he said he was looking for someone to help build a safety program for his company.

I ended up taking the contract and continued to work a combination of freelance and full-time in my role for my family's business. Eventually referrals continued to come in and four years ago I decided to leave the family business and run Boreal Services Group full-time.

Q: What would you say were some of the key challenges when starting your business?

A: There are always challenges I am facing as a business owner! There is always so much more work to do on-top of the work you are getting paid for. It's okay to learn and make mistakes- I still make mistakes some days.

Marketing was a large challenge for me when I first started. I have always been shy about talking about myself and selling what I do. At first I relied solely on word of mouth, which is great but not always sustainable if you are not getting out there and marketing yourself.

Another challenge has been cash flow. At times clients will take 30 to 60 days to pay, but the bills keep on coming and they need to be paid right away. I have spent a significant amount of time figuring out how to manage money, especially with the nature of the industrial construction industry!

Q: How did you first find out about AWE?

A: My first experience with AWE was at the 2015 Learning Day. I attended with a friend and fellow entrepreneur. At Learning Day I found out about PeerSpark™. I realized then that this program was going to be a great opportunity to help connect me with other women entrepreneurs and gain formal training from a business standpoint. 

Q: In the PeerSpark™ program there are a variety of workshops to help you as a business owner. Which one would you say has stuck with you the most?

A: I would say the Leadership and Human Resource sessions. In the last year we made our first hires. We hired three people! I don't think I would have had any idea of how to do that if it hadn't have been for the HR session. 

The Leadership session was more about me. To be a leader, you have to have people to lead. It was a good eye opener about how I work, what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and if I want to get better at them or accept that they are my weaknesses and hire help where I need it. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is looking at expanding their own entrepreneurial journey?

I would highly encourage others to get involved with some sort of a group. Whether it’s formal like PeerSpark or whether you can gather your own group in more of an informal setting. Running a business can be lonely and frustrating. It's good to have a network to lean on who really understands. Sometimes friends and family members don't always get it because they don't have their own businesses.

AWE has provided me with so much information, resources and guidance. I am currently considering expanding globally and would have never thought I could really do it if it wasn't for my network in AWE and seeing other women take the leap and do it! Everyone has been so generous with knowledge and experiences.

Another important piece of advice I would give is to take care of yourself! I dedicate time every day to go outside, walk and spend time with nature. When I find myself getting too busy to do that, everything seems to fall apart. Self-care is critical.

I also encourage entrepreneurs to read everything! Even if it's not business related. Once again, you may say, "I'm too busy!", but I definitely recommend it. Right now I am reading Chris Hadfield's book and have been able to take away so many lessons about life, leadership and more.

Be sure to follow Boreal Services Group on Facebook and check out their website www.borealservicesgroup.com 

Interested in learning more about the PeerSpark™ program and how it can help your business? Get in touch with us today! 

What You Need to Know About E-Commerce

We sat down with Ashley Janssen, CEO of Code and Effect and Former PeerSpark member to ask her about everything e-commerce and what you need to know as a business owner.

Ashley is facilitating Building Your E-Commerce Business on August 30 in Calgary. You can register here.

Q: What does a successful e-commerce website need to include?

That is a really big question with a number of different answers. The short answer is that you need to actually set up and be a business, you need a strategic plan including financial management, you need to pick the appropriate platform for selling your products, and then implement a detailed marketing plan. (Whew!)

The long answer is that, as you will see in my workshop, there are many strategic planning and business administration steps that need to happen behind the scenes before an e-commerce platform is selected and items are sold. These steps are the building blocks to setting up a successful e-commerce website. They include building a cashflow spreadsheet to make sure the numbers work, setting up the business properly through incorporating and getting everything all your business numbers, GST, licences, etc.

Then you can confidently go through the process of selecting the right e-commerce platform, payment platform, and template for your business.

Once your e-commerce platform is setup, you can’t just hope people with come to it. It is at least as much work as a traditional brick and mortar business. You need to have a marketing plan, social media and social validation, email newsletter marketing, Adwords and online marketing with landing pages, blogs for organic search results….I could go on.

Q: How do Google Analytics and Keywords impact your website overall?

Google analytics and keywords are vital to the success of an e-commerce website. Your analytics, if properly set-up, are an important decision making tool that you should be checking regularly. Your analytics are what tell you what parts of your website and marketing campaigns are effective and when you need to make changes/updates to your website.

Adwords with effective landing pages can be instrumental in educating and raising awareness to potential customers and, in turn, driving sales.

Q: What systems (tools) do you recommend to someone just starting out with their website?

This is also a hard question to answer because there are so many variables. You needs tools/systems for: productivity, email, accounting, e-commerce platform, payment platform, newsletter management, analytics, landing pages, social media management, etc. The answer to which one in each category, is, “it depends”. In my workshop I will go into more detail about some of these and give more clarity on how to make educated decisions about which tools are right for you.

Q: How has your website evolved since you first started your business?

Well, it has been a decade so that is a long answer. The short version is that we have redone our website 4 times, recently rebranded from AgileStyle to Code and Effect, and each time we get a bit better at communicating who we are and what we do.

We started out mostly building brochure type websites and evolved to custom development and web applications.

Q: Tell us more about Code and Effect.

Our tagline is: “Need software but don’t know where to start? Let us help”.

We do custom software development. Customers come to us when they can’t find an off-the-shelf solution for a business problem. We work with them to find their pain points and develop software that solves that pain.

Rather than specializing in particular industries, we serve any small or medium-sized business that has unique processes requiring unique software. Some examples would be custom e-commerce, membership portals or customer management systems.

Q: Any other advice you would like to share with a website newbie?

A website is just a small part of your overall business strategy, even when you are an online business. It is a just one of many tools at your disposal. Your website is not your business but rather a platform for serving your customers. Just building a website is not enough, there are many other things, as I will go over in the workshop, that must be done in order to make your website effective.

Join Ashley and AWE for Building Your E-Commerce Business on August 30, 2017 in Calgary.

Spring Greetings from Marcela Mandeville

Marcela and her beloved companion, Callie.

Marcela and her beloved companion, Callie.

Spring has officially sprung and it’s such an exciting time of year! I love those first few warm days when the sun is shining and people start to emerge from their winter hibernation. Patios start to fill up, the dog parks are abuzz (my personal happy place) and the anticipation for fun days ahead is almost palpable.

For me, spring represents a time of hope – hope for the opportunities the future holds. This spring our team is working with some incredible entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses to turn opportunities into growth. Here in Alberta, our PeerSpark accelerator program spring cohort is kicking off soon (space is limited!) and will provide support and resources for women who are ready to take their business to the next level.

But, we’re also on the move! Our team is hitting The Strip in June for a Canadian Trade Mission at The 2017 WBENC National Conference and Business Fair with Business Women in International Trade and an enthusiastic group of women who are looking to expand into new markets. Though the saying is, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” we’ll make an exception for all of you and will be sharing success stories and learnings from both of these programs over the next few months.

As much as there is to look forward to, we can’t forget to reflect on how far we’ve come, which is why we’re celebrating some exceptional female business owners who have made significant achievements in the last year. We hope to see you all at this year’s AWE Awards on May 18th where we’ll recognize four outstanding women for their contributions to the business community.

So, as we help women entrepreneurs in Alberta “spring ahead” – so to speak – we want to thank our funders, sponsors and partners for your support and look forward to seeing you at all the Awards ceremony next month!

Client Feature: Stacy Nehring

We sat down with Stacy Nehring, Operations Manager of UTV Canada and current PeerSpark™  participant to ask her more about her business and the value she has seen from mentorship.

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Q: How did you get involved in UTV Canada?

A: My Dad started UTV Canada 10 years ago. I joined him as a part-time employee seven years ago, which quickly turned into a full-time role after only a year as we reached new levels of growth! My job included everything from sales calls to shipping to sweeping the floor. I am now the Operations Manager.

Q: If you could give advice to anyone coming into a family business, what would it be?

A: My advice would be to keep the business in the business! It's not easy to work with family at all times. At the end of the day, you want to be able to have family dinners together. Put your family first, business second.

Q: When you started out at UTV Canada, did you see a gap in the mentorship you had from a business standpoint?

A: Absolutely. None of us within the family have any business background whatsoever. My Dad had other businesses he operated but none were like UTV Canada. To make the company what we wanted it to be, we definitely needed some formal mentorship to help it grow.

Q: Where did you look for business mentorship when you were first starting out?

A: The only help we had in the beginning was a family-friend who has a similar business in the RV industry, so we spoke with him a few times.  That's really the only mentorship we had except from people like our accountant or lawyer. In terms of business strategy and mentorship related to that, I didn't find that until I joined PeerSpark™ .

Q: How did you find out about the PeerSpark™  program?

A: Through an event with the Leduc Chamber of Commerce. A representative from AWE was there and my sister and I were able to learn more about the program. It wasn't until an in-depth conversations afterwards that I realized that this was the program I needed!

Q: What would you say is the biggest takeaway you have had from the program?

A: My biggest takeaway is the network of women I am now apart of. Even though we are all in totally different industries, we share the same struggles and are able to help each other through it and provide feedback and advice.

Q: What PeerSpark™  session would you say has been the most valuable to your business?

A: Definitely the Strategic Planning for Growth session. Our business was affected by the downturn and this session and mentorship helped me realize how we can move forward. We are adding a new retail line to our business this year and we are so excited!

Q: Would you recommend the PeerSpark™  program to others?

A: Absolutely. I talk about it to every woman business owner I know! The program provides great value and has helped our business tremendously. 

Be sure to follow UTV Canada on Facebook and check out their website www.utvcanada.com 

Interested in learning more about the PeerSpark™ program and how it can help your business? Get in touch with us today! 

Guest Blog: How Can Being a "Jill of All Trades” Relate to Financing?

Do you know that women account for 40% of all tool sales? Well, a good number of us get tired of waiting for someone else to do the work for us, according to Ann-Marie Campbell, a Home Depot Executive. "As women become more empowered," she said, "they come into Home Depot and say, Hey, I can do this. I don't need my husband or partner to do it for me…"

While moderating the lunchtime panel at the AWE Learning Day on February 22nd, I brought my home toolkit onto the stage to impress upon the 150+ business owners in attendance that just like the toolkit a contractor brings to your home to do their job, a financial toolkit is similarly required when it’s time to scale up your business.

Just like the multi-head screwdriver, measuring tape, hammer, nails and cordless electric drill that you keep in your basement or garage, what are the most-often requested components of a financial toolkit?

The application is the starting point and creates an overview of your business. At this stage funders want to know what product or service you provide, who owns the business, who you bank with, current financing in place, the amount you are requesting to finance and why.

Next, depending on whether you are seeking funds from a traditional source such as the bank, or from alternatives including angel investors, venture capital groups, grant providers or asset based lending/factoring organizations; the required document list will vary. Financial Statements are key and provide a picture of past performance; some financiers will request a business plan, cash flow projections and maybe your bank statements for the last 4 months.

Your accounts receivable aging, list of customers, inventory and equipment summary, as well as GST and payroll deductions status are possible ‘asks’. Market size, competitors, exit strategy, management team resumes, website address, social media accounts and a personal financial statement round out the list of possible requirements.

Phew! Are you exhausted just reading the list?!

Applying for financing may seem daunting and never-ending but in most cases it’s not. If your documents are up to date and you supply everything requested at the time you complete the application, most financiers will provide you with an answer quickly – e.g. equipment lease financing may take as little as 24 hours, factoring line 3-5 days, simple bank loan 5-10 days …

Financing involving grants, more complex debt and equity partners will take longer – be sure to ask how long the process is expected to take so that you don’t panic. Also, begin the process sooner rather than later and lastly, ask for help!

You know, I was thrilled with the number of women who raised their hands to let me know that ‘YES’ they own power tools! Ladies, it’s not that big of a stretch from power tools to financials – follow the instructions and you’ll be well on your way!

About the Author

 

Judy Perdomo President, Liquid Capital Rockyview Inc.

Judy Perdomo
President, Liquid Capital Rockyview Inc.

New Support for Alberta’s Women Entrepreneurs

The Alberta government is helping Alberta’s women entrepreneurs expand and grow their businesses through the Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) program.

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) will receive $101,863 in funding through the CARES program for PeerSpark – a program that brings together like-minded women entrepreneurs to explore opportunities for accelerated business growth in a peer group setting. With programs starting in April and November of this year, PeerSpark will encourage leadership and business skill development while introducing participants to key resources, networks, grant programs and trade experts.

AWE’s PeerSpark program has shown tremendous potential for business and community success with graduates reporting average year-over-year revenue growth of approximately 20 per cent and an average of one to two new jobs created, with some businesses doubling in size within two years.

Read the full press release here.