AWE Awards 2019 Wrap-Up

If you were at our AWE Awards reception on May 14th, 2019, you’ll know it was an evening full of good food, great conversations, and celebration of some of Alberta’s finest entrepreneurs. For those of you who weren’t able to join us, we’d like to relive some of the magic with you.

AWE was lucky to have Quinn Ohler from Global News Edmonton as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. She was an excellent host and made sure to keep everyone in the crowd entertained! There were also some inspiring speeches delivered by Marcela Mandeville (CEO of AWE) and Teresa Clouston (Executive Vice President of ATB, Business and Agriculture). Teresa Clouston remarked that “If you’re looking for a role model, look no further than this room, as it’s here in spades”.

Now, for the part that everyone has been waiting for: the awards! We’d like to recognize all of the finalists for this year’s awards and congratulate the 2019 winners.

Emerging Entrepreneur Award: Staci Millard, S. Millard Chartered Professional Accountant

Staci is an outstanding business woman who owns and operates her own accounting firm in Fort McMurray. She is the current treasurer for the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce and won the female entrepreneur of the year for the Chamber Awards in 2018. When accepting her award, Staci commented that “As women, we’ve come to believe that being in business has to be a struggle. And at one point, it was. But, being a woman business owner was one of the best things I’ve ever done. We are in the most abundant position as ever to be women in business”. Congratulations Staci!

Emerging Innovator Award: Myrna Bittner, RUNWITHIT Synthetics

Myrna has been involved in the tech industry for many years now, and is currently the CEO and co-founder of her third tech company - RUNWITHIT Synthetics. She has a tremendous reach and has even worked on projects with NASA and US West. She is a proud promoter of equality, diversity and representation. Although she wasn’t able to attend the event personally, in her acceptance video she gave some wise words on how “The best things aren’t easy, they are just profoundly worthwhile.” Congratulations Myrna!

Upsurge Entrepreneur Award: Allison Grafton, Rockwood Custom Homes

Allison is a hardworking and driven woman who is always looking to grow her business. She has won the RBC Women of Influence Momentum Award and has also been inducted to the WXN Hall of Fame. She is currently in the process of scaling her business and has just recently opened up a division of her business in the Okanagan area. In a field that is often dominated by men, Allison commented that “Out of all companies in Canada, there are only 2 woman-led construction companies. Any woman that comes into an industry looks at it differently, and that’s where our success comes from. As females, we always go above and beyond”. AWE is proud to recognize Allison for her achievements.

Celebration of Achievement Award: Karina Birch, Rocky Mountain Soap Co.

Karina has always been an advocate of the principle that “what goes on the body, goes in the body” and used this value to build her company, Rocky Mountain Soap Co. The company has grown tremendously and has been included in the Profit 100. Karina is committed to using natural products and ensuring that her business is sustainable and socially responsible. When speaking about the entrepreneurial spirit, Karina stated that “I started my business at 24 when I was naive but uber-confident! This is the entrepreneurial spirit”. Karina is an inspiration to so many women and AWE is incredibly proud to recognize Karina and the strides she has made in the world of business.

While the awards ceremony is over for this year, women will never stop changing business. As CEO of AWE, Marcela Mandeville, stated, “When women succeed, everyone succeeds”. We are proud of all the incredible women entrepreneurs out there, and if you know someone who should be recognized, nominate her today for the 2020 AWE Awards!

Special thanks to our 2019 AWE Awards Reception Sponsor ATB!

Special thanks to our 2019 AWE Awards Reception Sponsor ATB!

Let's Spark Solutions Together!

Are you facing a challenge in your business? If you are an entrepreneur, then chances are the answer is yes!

Business owners face difficult problems and hard decisions every day while starting, growing, and leading their companies. On May 14th, AWE is bringing together women entrepreneurs, subject-matter experts, and leaders in the business community to work through common challenges together and create solutions for success.

Learning Day: Sparking Solutions is a full-day event focused on bringing together entrepreneurial thinkers. Tap into the collective brain and experiences of the entrepreneurs around you as we spark solutions together!

Whether you’re struggling to hire the right people, find low-cost marketing options, manage cash flow, or access capital, you’ll have an opportunity to explore a challenge that’s relevant to you and walk away from the event with tangible solutions.

Learning Day will begin with an opportunity to select one challenge that you are facing in your business. In small groups, you will work with your peers and a facilitator to work through your chosen challenge and brainstorm innovative solutions.

Possible challenges include:

  • How do I plan and implement low-cost marketing beyond using social media?

  • How do I decide whether or not to accept potential investment if the investors have a very different vision from me?

  • How do I find valuable leads and make effective sales connections?

  • How do I hire the right people? Should I hire contractors or permanent employees?

  • How do I set pricing when my competitors are cutting costs?

  • How do I manage my professional and personal life when my business partner is a family member?

  • How do I stay profitable during an economic downturn?

  • How do I manage cash flow in an industry where 30-90 pay periods are the norm?

  • How do I address and implement strategies to support mental health in my team?

  • How do I know when to bring in outside money and how much capital is needed to grow from one stage to the next? 

We’re stronger together. Let’s tap into the collective brain and experiences of those around us and spark solutions!

AWE Announces the 2019 AWE Awards Finalists

Edmonton, AB, Canada – A total of 180 entrepreneurs were nominated from across the province for the 2019 AWE Awards. There are three categories celebrating the outstanding contributions of women entrepreneurs, with multiple finalists named in each, as well as one Celebration of Achievement Award recipient who is recognized for being an inspirational leader and role model for women in business.

This year the AWE Celebration of Achievement Award will honour Karina Birch, CEO, Rocky Mountain Soap Co., as an exceptional woman entrepreneur who has built a business in Alberta with significant impact on the economy and the community.

At the AWE Awards Reception on May 14th, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs will celebrate Karina Birch, as well as announce the recipients of three other award categories including the Upsurge, Emerging Entrepreneur, and Emerging Innovator Awards.

“We believe that our economies and communities are stronger when women are full participants in entrepreneurship," said Marcela Mandeville, CEO of AWE. "Our award nominees demonstrate the power of entrepreneurship and the leadership, commitment, talent, and innovation that fuels small and medium-sized business success. We are proud to recognize the contributions made by our nominees, finalists, and this year’s recipient of the Celebration of Achievement Award, Karina Birch, to Alberta, Canada, and the world.”

The AWE Upsurge Award is presented to an entrepreneur who has built a solid foundation for her business and is now experiencing rapid growth and significant expansion opportunity. The 2019 finalists for this category are:

·         Jodi Sommer, From Play To Words

·         Kristi Hines, Hines Health Services

·         Allison Grafton, Rockwood Custom Homes

The AWE Emerging Entrepreneur Award is presented to an entrepreneur who has built a strong, scalable business foundation and has achieved early success with strong market potential. The 2019 finalists are:

·         Michelle Bishop, Elle’s Closet Boutique

·         Ashleigh Hole, Octopus Creative

·         Staci Millard, S. Millard Professional Corporation

The AWE Emerging Innovator Award is presented to an entrepreneur who has built an innovation or technology-based business with early stage success. The 2019 finalists are:

·         Tracey Wood, Agents of Change

·         Myrna Bittner, RUNWITHIT Synthetics

"ATB understands that women entrepreneurs face unique challenges when it comes to making their businesses a success," said Teresa Clouston, ATB Financial's Executive Vice-President of Business and Agriculture. "ATB is focused on understanding these challenges so we can help overcome them. We're thrilled to support these incredible dreamers, doers and risk takers, because we know that when these women are successful, Alberta is successful."   

Anyone wishing to celebrate the outstanding women entrepreneurs in our province is invited to attend the AWE Awards Reception. Tickets for the event can be reserved here.

About Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enabling women to build successful businesses. AWE provides unique programs and services to women at all stages of business through advising, financing, mentoring, and skills and network development. 

Sponsored by:


Media contact

Devonne Kendrick

Marketing Coordinator

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)


Client Feature: Esther Jacobs

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Esther Jacobs is the Co-owner and Operator of Jacobs Weaselhead Corporation. The company has several different streams of business, including catering, equipment rentals, and training. Esther participated in the NextStep to Success Business Planning Series in Tsuut’ina Nation.

Esther Jacobs is no amateur when it comes to her craft. She has been working in catering for over 30 years, a skill she learned hands-on at a young age.

“We learned a lot of our hands-on skills from our own mothers, aunts, cousins. You learn a lot of the basics you need to know from community connections.”

She also grew up in an entrepreneurial family, with her father being a business owner for over 25 years. Her whole family worked in that business, and she credits her dad for teaching her many of the business skills she has today.

Like most entrepreneurs, she often wears many hats in the company, doing the marketing, promotions, negotiations, and payroll, in addition to cooking.

“There’s not a start and end date when you’re an entrepreneur. It’s all day, every day, it’s always on your mind what to do next. Getting out a quote, or an estimate, or submitting a bid.”

Esther and her husband incorporated their business, Jacobs Weaselhead Corporation, in 2017. With her catering expertise, and his background in the construction industry, their combined skillsets are perfect for the variety of services their business offers.

Partaking in the NextStep to Success Business Planning Series was a good complement to other training Esther has done to build her business. The sessions allowed her to look at the big picture for her business. What she found particularly valuable and empowering were the discussions with other women, and the supportive learning environment.

“I find that when you’re with a group of women, it’s different. The learning is different, the teaching is different, and what you get out of it is different. There’s more camaraderie.” 

2019 Nominees Announced

Each year, AWE celebrates and honours female entrepreneurs from across Alberta. Nominated by their peers, these inspirational women are achieving growth and success in business, and making an impact on the economy and their community.

This year, we are pleased to share that we had a record number of 180 women nominated for our AWE Awards! Over 100 of these entrepreneurs submitted nominations packages to be considered for the 2019 Awards. Collectively they represent over 282 million dollars in revenue, and over 2100 employees.

On May 14, 2019 we will announce the recipients for this year's AWE Upsurge, Emerging, Emerging Innovator and Celebration of Achievement Awards. Finalists will be revealed in April.

  • Cindy  Gray, 5 Quarters Investor Relations, Inc.

  • Lisa Makin, A Fairytale Beginning Preschool/The Treehouse Daycare & OSC/Happy Day Out of School Care

  • Tatyana Plaksina, Aegis PetroSolutions Ltd.

  • Tracey Wood, Agents of Change Partners Inc.

  • Brandi  Heather, AMPED2PLAY Inc.

  • Laura  Asham, Asham Creations

  • Kristen Dyck, AVRO Creative

  • Jennifer Carlson, Baby Gourmet Foods Inc.

  • Chandra Devam, Baris Corp (Operating as Aris MD)

  • Candice Boyce, Baseline Village Dental Hygiene

  • Louella Klyne, Be Well for Life

  • Adrienne Paul, Blackwatch Transport Ltd.

  • Jaclyn  Reid, C.S.S. Office Furniture Systems Service Inc.

  • Charlotte von der Ahe, Calgary Dog Life Publications

  • Candace Wolfe, Candace Wolfe Design Inc.

  • Chandra Lizanne Flett, Chandra L. Flett Professional Corporation

  • Chelsea Joe,  CJ's Hair / Tikko J Scrunchies

  • Caitlin  Zietz, Complete Health

  • Sylvia  Johnston, Cornerstone Music Cafe Ltd.

  • Christy Prichard, Cupping Canada Inc

  • Dani Moore, Dani Moore Consulting

  • Yvonne Irnich, DaVinci Gelato

  • Linda  Blanchett, Diva Communications Inc.

  • Aja Horsley, Drizzle Products and Consulting Inc. (Drizzle Honey)

  • Michelle Bishop, Elle’s Closet Boutique

  • Carrie Brosbol, Embellished Painting Inc.

  • Kari Fulmek, Equine Connection - The Academy of Equine Assisted Learning Inc

  • Linda Miller, EWI Works International Inc.

  • Martha Miao,  Eyes High Education Ltd.

  • Jill Chambers, Financial Concierge Inc.

  • Rachelle Willows, Flowers by Willows

  • Kimberly Carson-Richards, Forward Momentum Coaching Solutions

  • Jodi Sommer, From Play To Words

  • Katie Robertson, Grapevine Communications Inc.

  • Shawna Curry, Health Redesigned

  • Dalene Heck, Hecktic Media Inc.

  • Aga Wajda, Plytta Herbologie

  • Kristi Hines, Hines Health Services

  • Ann Zee, Holistic Institute of Health & Fertility

  • Lisa Nicholson, Hope 4 MVC Kids Society

  • Danika French, Hourglass Bridal Boutique

  • Brandi Ryan, Human Kanvas Inc.

  • Lesley Burton, Idyllic Resources Ltd.

  • Elaine  Kupser, Impact Productions Inc./IMPACT Magazine

  • Sheila  Willis, Impact Tourism a Division of 578443 Alberta Ltd (History Check Mobile App

  • Jessica Baudin-Griffin, Intellidance Inc.

  • Justine Gamez Huckabay, Intercommunicate Ltd.

  • Jess Black, Jess Black Inc.

  • Michele Gilbert, Johnsons M & M Carpet Cleaning Services Inc.

  • Amy Yu, Kickbyte Digital Solutions

  • Kim Orlesky, KO Advantage Group

  • Kristina Szabados, Kyauszab Holdings Ltd

  • Marcia Sequeira, Lakehouse Naturals Soap Company Ltd.

  • Lori Pecorilli, Latium Fleet Management

  • Justine Martinson, Lipstick Empire Ltd.

  • Joy Johanneson, Living Joy Wellness Therapies & Retreats

  • Elizabeth MacRae, MacRae Integrated Consulting Inc.

  • Jennifer Massig, Magna Engineering Services Inc.

  • Marley Baird, Marley Baird Media

  • Marjorie Newman, MCN Canada Immigration Consulting Inc.

  • Susan  Binnie, Million Dollar Sisterhood Inc.

  • Kat Haluska, Million Dollar Sisterhood Inc.

  • Brandi Morin, Mixed Blood Apparel

  • Jesse Szymanski, Modern Muse Media Ltd.

  • Monica Patt, Monica Patt Acupuncture

  • Ashley Prince, More Fun! Gourmet Sweets

  • Lorna  Mutegyeki, Msichana Inc.

  • Colleen DeSantis, Natura Soylights

  • Sangeeta Sharma, NIWE ACADEMY Inc.

  • Aleksa Mrdjenovich, Nova Hotels Inc.

  • Ashleigh Hole, Octopus Creative

  • Myrna  Saramago, Oh My Dog Spa and Grooming Corp

  • Julie Quantz-Kovac, Oil City Signs & Promotions Ltd.

  • Monica Tawfik, Performance Auto Calgary Inc.

  • Amy Laing, Ponytails + Horseshoes Ltd.

  • Emma  Wood, Pretty as a Picture Photography

  • Anchal Verma, Rasa Entertainment

  • Tegan Martin-Drysdale, RedBrick Real Estate Services

  • Ildi Arlette, Results Contiunuum Inc.

  • Nicole Matos, Rivet Management Ltd

  • Allison Grafton, Rockwood Custom Homes

  • Karina Birch, Rocky Mountain Soap

  • Andrea Beaubrun and Christine Schubert, Rumina Naturals Inc.

  • Myrna Bittner, RUNWITHIT Synthetics

  • Staci Millard, S. Millard Professional Corporation

  • Katherine Lesperance, Sensible Marketer Inc

  • Tessa  Martin, Serenity Now Wellness Centre Inc.

  • Terry Caron, Spring Lake Naturals Inc.

  • Neeru Schippel, SSC Family Restaurants Ltd.

  • Kristi Cawthorn, Startec Compression & Process

  • Shannon Neighbour, Svensen Neighbour Recruiting Inc.

  • Jenni Hartt, Talk Dirt to Me

  • Ashley Rice, Techni-Craft Equipment Services

  • Sandra Weber, The Dress Lounge

  • Jessi  Toms, The Edmonton Muse

  • Ashley Mielke, The Grief and Trauma Healing Centre Inc.

  • Kelly Doody, The Social School Inc.

  • Rena  Tabata, Think Tank Innovations Ltd. (ShareSmart)

  • Kori Hart, Torch & Teal

  • Erica Thomas, Transitional Solutions Inc.

  • Dr. Sharmin Habib,  Umay Care Holdings Inc.

  • Melanie d'Haene, UNDO Divorce Inc.

  • Heather Davis, Uplift Adventures Inc.

  • Valerie Loseth, Valerie Loseth

  • Matricia Bauer-Brown, Warrior Women

Special thanks to our sponsor ATB!


Opportunity to Expand Internationally – Save the Date for WBENC 2019!

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs is pleased to share an opportunity to help you enter and expand into international markets.

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business Fair is being held in Baltimore, MD on in June 25 – 27, 2019. If you’re looking to grow your revenue through international markets, then we invite you to join the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) delegation.

What is the WBENC National Conference and Business Fair?

This event is the largest conference of its kind in North America with corporate and government buyers connecting with women business leaders from over 18 countries. Attendees will enjoy tailored Canadian programming and three days of speakers, executive workshops, matchmaking and networking opportunities, including the WBENC Business Fair– the largest of its kind with more than 300 exhibitors and procurement specialists.

This program is ideal if you:   

  • want to grow your business via export

  • have interest in or already have experience selling business to business

  • have the capacity to manufacture or deliver products or services in larger volumes

How much does it cost?

The Early Bird rates for the full conference for a small business owner (not WBENC-certified) is $799.

There are grant opportunities to help cover travel and conference fees. Please connect with AWE before registering to learn more.

Why should I go with AWE and Business Women in International Trade (BWIT)?

You could attend the conference on your own, but when you attend with AWE and the Canadian delegation, you’ll receive additional support and guidance.

By joining our delegation you can:

  • Tap into AWE’s knowledge and expertise of international markets

  • Identify the right opportunities for you and your business

  • Access personalized advice and support

When you are in unfamiliar territory, sometimes you need a tour guide. Our team has a wealth of experience and information on how to build strong connections and how to do business in the U.S. supplier diversity market.

We’ll start with a pre-conference meeting to get clear on your goals. Then at the event we’ll assist you to determine where to spend your time, and which activities are the most valuable.

Going alone to this massive conference can be very overwhelming, but we’ll be there every step of the way to make sure it’s productive and a valuable investment of your time.

Please let us know if you’re interested in learning more about the opportunity!

Client Feature: Claire Theaker-Brown


Claire Theaker-Brown is Owner and Founder of Unbelts, the progressively-made pant perfector. The company has recently undergone a rebrand and expanded into new markets.

Claire Theaker-Brown has had the entrepreneurial bug since she was a child. Always art focused, Claire started setting up tables and selling her drawings, even offering bulk discounts to her customers. While in university, Claire studied industrial design and Mandarin. Her business began in 2011 while she was living in Shanghai.

“My business started out of total desperation. I have always had a shape that meant jeans don't fit me properly. Belts were too bulky!”

The company’s original name, Flatter:Me Belts was changed in 2017. As Claire describes her choice to re-brand, “Flatter:Me Belts was a name from when I was thinking small. When I first started, I couldn't imagine that we would be selling beyond the Canadian market.

Our initial value offering was a flat belt. It became clear that the selling proposition was comfort and flexibility. Our company is totally non-judgemental about size and we're uniquely comfortable. I realized that we needed a name that would highlight the unbelts-ness of our products.”

As the company embraced its new name, they also began to embrace new markets.

“Right now we are expanding in a few different ways; geographically is one way. We had never really pursued wholesale outside of Canada because I knew Flatter:Me was trademarked in the United States. However, now that we are Unbelts, we are starting to partner with US-based retailers. The second way we are expanding is with our target customers. We have realized that our belts are perfect for those who play sports and require a belt.”

As an entrepreneur, building supportive community around you is essential.

I belong to a mastermind group and have belonged to a few peer mentorship groups, including PeerSpark™. In the beginning, I found business owners I really clicked with in Shanghai and we met every single week for a brain slam. It was hard to lose that community when I moved to Edmonton. My first Canadian phone call was to AWE.

Between friends that own other businesses, the Venture Mentoring Service at U of A and AWE, I have built a great network of support. I really try to be brave about asking for help, but also offering it when it's asked of me.”

Learn more about Unbelts and their story at

Contest: Share Your Business Challenge!

Are you facing a difficult challenge in your business? Share it with us! We’re looking for challenges to include in our Business Challenge round table sessions during Learning Day 2019. Chosen challenges will be worked on in small groups to come up with innovative solutions.

If your challenge is chosen, you will win a free ticket to Learning Day on May 14, 2019 (and you might just walk away with the answers you’ve been looking for!). You’ll also have the chance to be introduced at the event (optional).

Contest closed on March 1, 2019.

Client Feature: Crystal Janvier

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Crystal Janvier is the CEO and Owner of Sun Dance Enterprises Ltd., a facility integrity and quality assurance consulting business operating primarily in the oil and gas sector. Crystal participated in the NextStep to Success Business Planning Series in Edmonton.

Crystal Janvier did not always have aspirations of being an entrepreneur, but her determination to achieve her goals is nothing new. Starting university when her son was just 10 days old, Crystal was focused on her education, completing a Bachelor of Arts Honors degree, and following it up with her Masters of Science in Public Health.

Her interest in owning her own business came later, after a career in consulting and working with Indigenous youth to help them get into trades careers.

In the early days of her career, Crystal admits that she did face some of the stereotypes that come along with being a young woman in business. “They called me the kid, because I was the youngest field director at that time. I had to prove myself.”

Crystal began her own oil and gas consulting business in 2009, and then launched Sun Dance Enterprises Ltd. with her husband in 2013.

Prior to joining the NextStep to Success program, Crystal had started writing a business plan but was looking for additional knowledge and resources to finish it. Crystal says she would definitely recommend the series to others.

“Before you invest time and especially before you invest finances towards something you’re not 100% certain about, it will help you determine how feasible it’s going to be. It gives you an ability to analyze your risk.”

In the future, Crystal is planning to expand her business and hire additional contractors. For now, Crystal is happy doing what she loves.

“Success to me means feeling fulfilled and happy with where you are in your life. I don’t really separate work and home life too much. To me, if you are doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work.”

How to Stand Out From the Crowd with Branded Design

by Rivet Management

If you’re a business owner, you know how important the word differentiation is. You likely started your business after experiencing some gap in your market and thought, “we could do this better.”

While your business model may be different from your competitors, we see many entrepreneurs take a like-minded approach when it comes to the design and overall look and feel of their commercial spaces. Why is that? Well, for starters, it’s easy.

Many businesses reach out to the same commercial designers to support their renovations, which is why you see so many dental and medical offices that look the same. To truly live your brand, you need a space that reflects who you are, what you stand for and why your customers should choose you over the competition.

Here are three ways to help you stand out from the crowd with branded design.

1. Know Your Target Market

Your target market isn’t anyone and everyone. Be specific when it comes to your target market and give them a brand persona. Ask yourself the following questions:

●     What does my ideal client need from my company?

●     What frustrations does my client deal with?

●     What challenges does my client deal with?

●     Does my space align with my client’s expectations?

For example, your target audience could be women from 35-45 years of age from Sherwood Park who are mothers. Are 35 year old mothers and 45 year old mothers the same? No. Do they have different frustrations and expectations? Maybe. Think specifically of Martha who is 37 with three kids in full time school and a part-time job.

This is also important to your space. A 35 year old mother may have younger kids with different needs than the 45 year old mom with teens needing charging stations and free wifi in your waiting room. What does Martha, your ideal client, need from you to make her experience memorable?

2. Create Conversation Pieces

Let’s be honest, a TV cannot be your focal point of conversation in your waiting room. It may seem like the easiest option, but it’s by far the most generic piece of technology we see in every other office space. Find a way to stand-out and create something that keeps your clients talking, even after they’ve left the building.

Conversation pieces could include:

●     Artwork;

●     Selfie wall or photobooth;

●     Fish tanks;

●     Charging stations;

●     Mirrors; or

●     Treadmill desks.

3. Keep Your Brand Experience Consistent

Lack of consistency is what can kill your brand. If you’re walking into a fast food restaurant that charges $15.00 for a burger versus $3.00 for a burger, you probably have a different level of expectation when it comes to how the restaurant looks and feels. Think back to your ideal client, what do they expect when they visit your space? If you’re charging a premium price, your client likely expects a premium experience. How can you add value to their time at your place of business?

Branding your space is more than just plastering your logo on everything. It’s incorporating design elements that speak to your ideal customer while ensuring your brand’s values are properly reflected.

Join Alberta Women Entrepreneurs and Rivet Management for two workshops in early 2019 as we cover:

●      How you can maximize your dollars

●      How you can create a space that both you and your customers love

●      How to increase your overall revenue while providing an awesome experience

Register for Edmonton’s session on January 24, 2019.

Register for Calgary’s session on February 21, 2019.

About the Author

Rivet Management is an Edmonton and area based firm focused on creating unique and branded spaces. We specialize in commercial spaces including dental/medical clinics, restaurants and more! Learn more about us at

Holiday Greetings from Marcela Mandeville, CEO

In an earlier message, I asked “what is holding you back?” Now I wonder, “how are you feeling about your progress?” Moving through change is a challenge, but as I have been reminded, especially this year, bringing in support, being open, and listening offers great opportunity. As we bring 2018 to a close, I look back on this year as an incredible journey with an amazing team of Board members, staff, and partners, all of whom are committed to supporting women entrepreneurs.

This year, in addition to offering our Let’s Build Your Business Plan Series and Performance Learning Series, we launched a new program called Digitally Solid, which focuses on building digital marketing strategy and tactics in a world of rapidly changing technology. We also continued to expand existing programming such as our NextStep to Success program for Indigenous women and our PeerSpark program for women with emerging growth ventures.

Late in November members of our team traveled to AWE’s PeerSpark retreat, which brought together both the new PeerSpark cohort as well as PeerSpark Alumni. The retreat was a chance to reflect and refresh. The conversations and connections made over the weekend showed that great things can be achieved when you bring together entrepreneurs who are eager to learn and share their knowledge.

As I wrote about earlier this year, having a mindset of abundance and understanding that opportunities are not finite is important. At AWE, our experiences throughout the year have shown that by sharing opportunities we create more pathways to success and create better connections. As we move into 2019, we are looking forward to continuing to help women entrepreneurs seize opportunities and move toward achieving their aspirations.

On behalf of our team, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for being a part of our community.

Always with gratitude,


Client Feature: Deidra Helmig


Deidra Helmig is the Founder and Senior Consultant with Boreal Services Group, a safety and construction engineering company. Recently, Deidra has embraced change on her entrepreneurial journey, and started a brand new venture: Trivas International.

Deidra Helmig always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. After working in her family business, she ventured out on her own in 2013 and founded Boreal Services Group, which she is still at the helm of today.

While working in the occupational health and safety space, she saw a new opportunity that could not only transform her business, but also create a new scalable company. In 2018, the idea for Trivas International became a reality. Trivas provides an online program that allows organizations within any industry, of any size, to develop and implement customized psychological health and safety programs.

“With so many abuse stories and movements, including #MeToo, I realized that there are no programs to support employees and their psychological health in the workplace. I feel like Trivas is not just my business it is my rallying call. If people went into work every day and believed in what they were doing and felt respected in their company, the world could be a better place and businesses and individuals would be more successful.”

Deidra has been involved with AWE since 2015, participating in PeerSpark™ and the loan program. Most recently, she attended AWE’s trade mission to the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Conference in Detroit, MI.

It was there she discovered that if she wanted to expand internationally, she would need to make some changes to her business model. While Boreal’s work is often defined by health and safety legislation, Trivas has the ability to have an international reach.

“Psychological health and safety is a global problem, but it’s not insurmountable. While I’m still exploring which international markets I will target, I have been very connected to WEConnect International and I am now a certified women-owned business. This network has allowed me to connect with thousands of people all over the world.”

When asked about what is next, Deidra says it comes down to launching Trivas International, which heads into BETA testing this year.

“Trivas has made me realize how important it is to follow your passion, and that passions can change. AWE has been so supportive and valuable to me in re-defining my business path with their advising and support.”

To learn more about Deidra, visit or

'Tis the Season to Go Shopping

The lights are twinkling, the music is playing, and the stores are packed. Love it or hate it, we are in the midst of the holiday shopping season. It’s a busy time for many Canadians, but especially so for many small-business owners.

There’s no doubt that in a world of rapidly changing technology, increasing consumer comfort with online shopping, and the influence of American shopping habits (looking at you Black Friday), the way Canadians shop has changed dramatically in the past decade. However, sometimes the things that stay the same can come as a bit of surprise!

We’ve rounded up a few facts on holiday shopping to keep mind this season:

  1. Online isn’t everything

    With the constant talk about growing e-commerce businesses, it is easy to assume that most consumers are migrating online for their gift purchases. While it is true that online shopping has become mainstream in Canada, most shoppers still plan to visit brick-and-mortar stores in 2018. In fact, according to a PwC Canada survey, 63% of Canadian consumers consider brick-and-mortar retail to be their primary holiday shopping channel, and 98% of shoppers expect to visit more than one store this season.

    However, more than half of Canadian consumers like to do their research online to get ideas for gifts and to check prices. Retailers who have both a strong digital presence and offer a great in-store experience have an advantage when appealing to these omni-channel consumers.

  2. Millennials enjoy tangible items

    The flexibility and convenience of gift cards have made them popular in recent years, but most millennials actually prefer to receive physical gifts. Only 21% of Canadian millennials plan to buy a gift cards for others (compared to 38% overall), and only 30% would like to receive them as a gift (compared to 43% overall).

    If you expect to be a gift-destination this holiday season, make sure your staff are well-versed in the products or services you offer and that they feel comfortable making recommendations if shoppers need some guidance. As well, a digital gift guide with some options for different price ranges can be a great addition to your email marketing.

  3. Holiday spending is not limited to just gifts for family and friends

    Gifts for our furry friends are big business too! The average Canadian pet-owner will spend $65 on gifts for their animals.

    Additionally, holiday spending goes beyond gift-giving. Travel makes up a big part of holiday spending, as well as food and entertainment.

  4. Shopping happens throughout the year

    This may come as a surprise to all the procrastinators out there, but a 2017 study by Accenture revealed that 24% of consumers randomly purchase holiday gifts throughout the year. There are still plenty of last-minute purchases though, with 28% of consumers shopping right up until Christmas.

  5. Big sales are not for everyone

    Boxing Day sales are a well-established shopping tradition, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday have crept into Canadian shopping culture as well in recent years. While a lot of spending does happen on these big discount days, not everybody partakes. According to the 2017 Accenture study, there is a growing trend of Canadians being less likely to shop during Boxing Day and Black Friday than previous years.

    What does this mean for retailers and service providers? You should carefully consider who your customer base is, and whether or not it is worthwhile to offer big deals during Boxing Day and Black Friday. Depending on your customers’ price sensitivity, as well as your profit margins – you might be better off skipping it and instead focus on conveying your value proposition.

    If you are going to offer big deals during Black Friday or Boxing Day, think twice before announcing it ahead of time. Shoppers who were planning on paying full-price might delay their purchases if they know a big discount is coming.

The holiday shopping rush can be overwhelming for small business owners, but it can also be lucrative if you play your cards right! Remember to always consider who your target market is when planning your holiday promotions. Do they need a sale to motivate them? Or are they willing to pay full-price for excellent value and great customer service? Are they going to purchase a gift card or are they going to be looking for gift recommendations at various price points? It’s also key to consider customer experience during the shopping frenzy – both online and in-store (if applicable). Being thoughtful about your commercial space, making staff training and knowledge a priority, and ensuring your website is up-to-date and optimized for success is a great place to start.

If you’re looking for help with things such as market research, digital marketing, or creating revenue from your commercial space – AWE can help! Check out our calendar of upcoming workshops and training.

Happy shopping season and more importantly, Happy Holidays!  


2018 Canadian holiday outlook

A very Canadian omnichannel Christmas 2018 holiday insights report

Study predicts online shift for 2017 winter holidays in Canada

6 Things to Ask When Getting a Loan

You’ve written your business plan, you’ve done your research, and you’ve decided that your business is ready for financing. You are on your way to starting or expanding your business! This is an exciting time, but it is important to do your due diligence when deciding what type of lender is the best fit for you.

There are a numerous options out there when it comes to financing your business, and it is important to ask the right questions before you get too far along in the process. We have compiled a list of six key questions that you should ask when inquiring about a business loan.

1. Am I eligible?

Before you can decide if a lender is right for you, you first find out if you meet their basic requirements for eligibility. At AWE we have the following basic requirements for our loan program:

  • At least 51% of the business must be owned and operated by a  woman (or women)

  • You reside in the province of Alberta

  • Minimum credit score of 650

  • You contribute a minimum or have contributed a minimum of 25% owner equity on total project costs

  • You contribute a minimum of 30% security on the loan. This amount differs depending on the size, risk, and purpose of the loan. The loan may require up to 100% security.

Every lender is different, so be sure to ask them what their minimum criteria is. Just because you meet the basic criteria, does not necessarily mean you will get the loan (at AWE our lending decisions are strongly tied to our assessment of the viability of the business), but it will give you an idea as to whether or not you should invest your time in the application process.

2. What is the interest rate?

Not only do interest rates vary depending on the lending institution, but they can also differ based on the type of business (e.g. a start-up vs. business expansion). At AWE, our interest rate is the same for all our loan clients. Our interest rate is Prime +3%, and that rate stays constant throughout your repayment term. This means that even if the Prime rate changes during your loan term, you’ll continue to pay the same interest rate as initially agreed upon for the term.

3. What are the repayment options?

How long are the loan terms? Can you pay out at any time? At AWE our loan terms are up to 5 years, and we offer flexible repayment options. There is no penalty fee if you decide to pay out your loan early. This is not the case with every lender, so it’s important to ask about the repayment options before you go ahead with an application.

4. What fees are involved?

Nothing is worse than being surprised by fees you were not expecting. Ask about application fees, as well as loan administration fees, annual fees, or any other fees that could be associated with your loan.

For AWE’s loan program, there is a $100 loan application fee. There is also a loan administration fee of 1% of the amount loaned (up to a maximum of $500).

5. What limitations are there on how I use the money?

There will almost always be restrictions on what expenses can financed. AWE cannot finance:

  • Owner’s salary

  • Re-financing existing debt

  • Commission-based businesses, independent agents, or commissioned salespersons

  • Pyramid-based businesses including network or multi-level marketing programs

  • Franchise fees

  • Speculative ventures (i.e. Purchase of land for resale, unpublished books, etc.)

  • Business purchases that are solely share purchases

  • Intangible goodwill (i.e. business name or reputation)

  • Research and development

  • Purchase of stocks, shares, or other non-productive investment

Once again, restrictions will vary based on the lender so ask up-front what they can and cannot finance.

6. What other support do you provide for entrepreneurs beyond financing?

Depending on the lending institution, they may or may not offer additional supports for entrepreneurs. AWE has many programs and services to help business owners, including free business advising and various training opportunities. We are happy to say that many of our loan clients have had a long-term relationship with AWE – whether it be through advising, peer mentorship, or participating in training seminars.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will likely have many questions during the loan process (and the lender will have questions about you).

Connect with an AWE Business Advisor to learn more about our loan program requirements and discuss if it is the right financing option for you. 

4 Reasons You Need to Have a Digital Marketing Plan

Blogging, SEO, social media, email marketing, Google Ads – the world of digital marketing is full of possibilities. It can be overwhelming even for a seasoned marketing professional, even more so if you are an entrepreneur wearing multiple hats on a daily basis!

The good news is that many digital marketing tools are easy to use and relatively low-cost. The hard part is using them effectively. Too often entrepreneurs dive right in to using the latest platforms and technology, but haven’t aligned their marketing tactics with their business goals, or an overall digital marketing strategy. It can be hard for small business owners to find the time to work on the business and not just in the business, but it is incredibly important to have a plan before you start executing marketing tactics.

We’ve identified four key reasons to have a digital marketing plan.

  1. It helps you look at the big picture

    Two common mistakes we see with entrepreneurs’ digital marketing efforts are: they either try to do everything all at once, or they put all their eggs in one basket and over-rely on a particular channel or tactic. Before you can decide what marketing tactics to use you need to think carefully about who your customers are (age, gender, profession, etc.), where they are online (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) and what your marketing objectives are (brand awareness, engagement, or purchases). Knowing these key things, and writing them down in a marketing plan, will help you determine what social media platforms you should be on, if it makes sense for your business to have a blog, and where you should spend any digital advertising dollars.

    Looking at the big picture will also help you identify potential gaps in your marketing. Relying exclusively on a third-party platform for your digital marketing is risky for your business. Third-party platforms such as Instagram, Google, or Amazon can change their rules and their algorithm at any time. As Avery Swartz notes in the Globe and Mail, platforms come and go, but “the tried-and-true method of building your own digital presence, that you can control, always wins in the end.” Having a clear digital brand with a multi-faceted strategy, will help ensure that your digital presence can prevail, even if platforms make changes.

  2. You will be able to use your time (and dollars!) more effectively

    Haphazardly posting to social media when you have a spare moment might seem like a fast and easy solution in the short-term, but it is not an effective strategy in the long-term. It is important not to waste time on marketing activities that don’t help you achieve your marketing goals in some way. The first step to doing that is determining what those goals are.

    Additionally, planning ahead can actually reduce the amount of time you spend on digital marketing. There are many tools out there that allow you to schedule content in advance, so instead of having to post every day, you can sit down once a week, decide on what content to share, and then automate! Just remember to still check on your social media platforms and website regularly in case there are customer comments.   

  3. It provides you with greater accountability

    Consistency is so key with digital marketing. If you have not posted to social media in over a month, or you have outdated information on your website, your customers might think you have gone out of business! Having a plan allows you to be accountable for executing the things you say you are going to do – whether that means sending out an e-newsletter every month, or posting to Facebook every day. It also makes it easier for a business partner or employee to assist you if things are written down. A publishing/editorial calendar can really help with this.

  4. Evaluating your results will be easier

    John Wanamaker once said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” A lot has changed in the hundred years since he said that, and we now have the ability to measure marketing ROI better than ever before. Instead of trying to guess how many of your customers saw your ad in a flyer, you can now see how many people clicked on your ad and went to your website, and even how many of them saw your ad and then made a purchase.

    The relatively low cost of digital marketing allows for lower barriers to entry for advertising, and allows you to experiment with different channels and ad copy, with fairly low stakes. However, you can’t effectively measure your results, if you don’t set objectives first.  Once you set your goals, then you can work on executing them, and decide on the best tools for analyzing the results.

Taking the time to develop your digital marketing strategy now, will have benefits for you and your business in the future. If you are not sure where to start, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs can help! Our Digitally Solid program is designed for entrepreneurs who want a more strategic approach with their digital marketing but haven’t taken the time to plan. You will also learn how to use technology to execute your strategy, and walk away with optimized digital platforms, content ideas, a publishing calendar, and much more!




Client Feature: Laura Asham

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Laura Asham is the Founder behind Asham Creations, an award-winning company that sells puppets for educational purposes. After getting her entrepreneurial start creating beadwork projects, Laura saw a market opportunity for educational puppets and embraced the potential for a new business concept .

Laura Asham has been beadworking since she was seven years old. After learning the art from her mother and sister, Laura found a love for the craft. In 2008, she began designing various beadwork projects as a part-time business while she finished her education in social work.

“Beading was a hobby, but something I am very passionate about. I love making things that people enjoy. I have sent beadwork as far as New Zealand, and created medallions for three Ministers of Canada.”

In 2010, Laura’s daughter was entering a princess pageant at her school and needed a talent to compete. “I suggested that she use a puppet to showcase Blackfoot words. Me being the person I am had to go above and beyond. It took me two days and 11 hours to create one puppet. I ended up having extra material left over, so I decided to create a native set for the elementary school on my nation.”

Her newfound hobby quickly shifted into her greatest business opportunity. She started selling puppet sets to schools across a variety of First Nation communities in Alberta. Since then she has had requests from schools as far as Peguis First Nation in Manitoba where they had a school-wide naming ceremony for the characters.

“It has been so good to see that the puppets are not only bringing joy to people, but they are teaching children how to speak Blackfoot. Many schools on the Siksika Nation are now teaching full immersion programs.”

Laura participated in AWE’s NextStep to Success Program for Indigenous Women this past year. She said it was great to have the assistance she needed to create her business plan.

“As I plan to expand my business and build-out a commercial space, I knew that I needed to get my business plan together. The NextStep program was very helpful to me.”

Laura is in the process of finishing her business plan and securing funding to open her first commercial space.

“Right now I have been so focused on my local market and keeping up with that. I hope that in 10 years time we have covered Canada and moved into international markets.”

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New Women Entrepreneurship Fund Announced

Exciting news for women entrepreneurs in Canada!

Last week, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion announced that the Government of Canada will provide direct funding to women-owned and women-led businesses through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. The fund will invest $20 million over two years, and will provide up to $100,000 in non-repayable funding that women can use to grow their businesses. The fund is part of the larger Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, which also includes an ecosystem fund created to strengthen capacity within the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

In order to be eligible the business must be:

  • Women-led and women-owned

  • A for profit organization

  • Up to 499 employees

  • In business a minimum of two years

Priority will be given to entrepreneurs in one of these applicant groups:

  • Diverse women entrepreneurs (such as women with disabilities, Indigenous women, women in rural or remote regions, recent immigrants, visible minority women, women from Official Language Minority Communities)

  • Businesses with products or services related to one of the Economic Strategy Tables sectors

  • Projects seeking to pursue market opportunities abroad

The funding can be used for a variety of things, but you should note that it cannot be used to refinance debt, purchase assets above fair market value, land acquisition, the cost of amortization, or goodwill.

Applications are being accepted online and the deadline to submit is November 15 at 11:59pm PST. The detailed criteria and information on how to apply can be found on the Government of Canada website.

Client Feature: Nicole Matos

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After years of working in the construction space as a project manager, Nicole Matos made a major change in her professional life. She branched out on her own and became CEO and Founder of Rivet Management, a firm that creates unique and branded spaces for commercial and residential clients.

While many businesses saw economic challenges in 2009, Nicole Matos saw opportunity.

“I focused on project managing tenant improvements at a local construction company, but in 2008, we really started to feel the economic slowdown. I knew this was the perfect time to start working on building my own business.”

When Nicole was laid off from her job, it could have been devastating, but she embraced the change head-on. Nicole launched Rivet Management, and never looked back. What started as a one woman show has turned into a team of four full-time employees, and many subcontracted trades, with the intention to hire an additional two to three staff this year alone.

While her business has significantly grown, Nicole still has the same values as those early days.

“I am not a believer that business is just business. People are behind the business and I do business with those people, not just those businesses. I still use the same electrician from back in the day at my first company. I know his entire family now. The same goes for my employees. I value them and ensure they feel respected.”

Nicole admits that the male-dominated construction industry can be slightly old-fashioned at times. “I’ve been to meetings where people assume that I am the Interior Designer and my husband is the Owner of the company. People are surprised when they learn that I managed all our construction for 8 years before my husband joined and although I do the design, I actually have more education and experience on the construction side of our business.”

With eight years under their belt, Rivet Management is preparing for rapid growth in 2018. A new commercial space is in the works, and Nicole hopes to become part of a community.

Working with AWE’s Business Advisors regularly, Nicole has been able to define her marketing strategy, gain valuable advice and find a support network. “As we started to grow, I realized I wanted to align myself with other women entrepreneurs. As a Métis woman, I wanted to ensure that we started building relationships with the right types of groups, including AWE. AWE has been such an amazing resource for me and my company.”

To learn more about Nicole and Rivet Management, visit

Building Export Markets in Europe and the U.K.

by Nancy Brommell, Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

What: An exciting trade mission!

Who: Canadian women business owners who want to expand their business via export

Where: Germany and England

When: November 4-10, 2018

How: email the BWIT team to sign up

Business Women in International Trade  (BWIT) is part of the federal government Trade Commissioner Service (TCS). The team is made up of federal government trade commissioners who specialize in helping Canadian women entrepreneurs internationalize. Trade commissioner Lynne Thomson (third from right), attended SHEday 2018 in Winnipeg and connected with export-oriented women business owners Cindy Boissonneault (second from the left), owner of Poco Inspired and Pina Romolo (third from the left), owner of Piccola Cucina.

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One of the primary ways that BWIT helps business women expand internationally is by organizing informative trade missions, like this upcoming one to Europe. With stops in Hamburg and Stuttgart, Germany and London, England, this trip will feature a series of events designed to open new markets in Europe for Canadian women business owners.

Why Europe?

With the renegotiation of NAFTA currently in process, we hear a lot these days about international trade agreements. In recent months, Canada signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe.

In general, it is an advantage to you as an export-oriented business when Canada has a trade agreement with the country to which you want to export. As explained on the Government of Canada Export Market Research web page, “trade agreements help to eliminate or reduce tariffs on Canadian exports, which can increase your competitiveness in foreign markets.”

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A trade agreement does not create excitement about export opportunities, but trade missions do! If you choose to invest and participate in this upcoming BWIT trade mission to Germany and England, you will benefit from on-the-ground market research, making business connections, learning the nuances of the market place, and having a better understanding of how your business could penetrate that market.

For more information on this exciting trade mission to Europe, email or visit the BWIT website.

The four women’s enterprise organizations, Women’s Enterprise Centre in BC (WEC-BC), Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) and the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba (WECM) work collaboratively with each other and with BWIT to support women business owners who are interested in exporting. All organizations are members of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC).

About the Author

Nancy Brommell is a Business Advisor with the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba. Blog post originally published September 2018 at

Fall Message from Marcela Mandeville

“A rising tide lifts all boats”, is an expression I have heard and said a lot lately. It applies to so many things, to business, to entrepreneurship, to inclusivity, and in the case of the words used by the Hon. François-Philippe Champagne while on a recent trade mission to Detroit, international trade.

Anyone who knows me knows I love international business. Over the course of my professional career, I have worked to build relationships and business success across borders. AWE’s participation in trade missions has fuelled this passion and showcased the exceptional ideas and talent that can be shared to build innovative, viable solutions to challenges around the world. This year’s Business Women in International Trade mission to the WBENC Conference and Business Fair brought me back to Detroit, which holds a special place in my heart after living there for too short of a time. “Lifting all boats” was especially meaningful when I looked across the Detroit river at our Canadian flag in Windsor and thought about all the trade that moves across the busy border between our two countries.

People often ask me what I love about the Motor City. It really is simple, I loved the people I called friends and the determination, scrappiness and resiliency of a city that continues to fight to rise from the ashes of very difficult economic times and reinvent itself. As someone who has experienced dark times in Alberta during busts in our economic cycle, I can appreciate the importance and difficulty of facing this challenge. The Detroit I admire is a proud, resourceful city full of a beautiful mix of diverse, hard-working, and innovative people who work hard to improve their community because they love where they live, similar in many ways to Alberta, the place we call home.

Working together to achieve goals is something we live everyday at AWE; whether it is through our relationships with entrepreneurs, partners, volunteers, funders, or amongst our team. There is such value in building meaningful connections to achieve success. For example, on the trade mission I witnessed and participated in an incredible amount of inspiring and informative conversations from which you could feel the energy created, and see relationships and opportunities being formed.

It is impressive to see how a community gathers to support each other, to learn, to make new connections, and to embrace change and opportunities. I hope you’ll join me in continuing to work together to lift all boats, especially those with women entrepreneurs at the helm, to build success for Alberta businesses and our community.

Always with gratitude