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.”

Pina Romolo Piccola Cucina WBENC 2018 (2).jpg

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

Client Feature: Ellen Christopherson

Ellen Christopherson is the CEO of clearGRID. clearGRID is focused on data collection and analysis to solve business problems for utility companies. By using technology to replace manual activities with automation, Ellen is paving the way for significant change in the utility industry, one meter at a time.

Ellen Christopherson is proof that age is just a number. At 31 years old she has started two successful companies, earned her private pilots license, and completed her Master’s Degree in Sustainable Energy Technology in Holland.

“After graduating from my Master’s program, I decided to stay in Holland and work in the utilities industry. My job was focused on data and custom software solutions and from there I was able to really understand how the utilities industry works.”

After some convincing from her dad, Ellen decided to move back home to Canada where she started Elevated Robotics, a company that provides UAVs (drones) for surveying, mapping and inspections. The use of these aerial images and video found Ellen back to her utility roots, and she quickly realized that she had a new business solution on her hands.

In 2015, Ellen launched clearGRID. Rather than using drones, clearGRID uses their fleet of aircraft and pilots to fly at 4,500 feet above ground to read utility meters.

Financing from friends and family helped clearGRID get off the ground, however, in 2017 they realized they would need more capital in order to reach new heights.

“It has been hard to find financing for the business if you don’t want to give up everything right away. With most private equity companies and angel investors, you quickly find that everything is owned by someone else. I was strict that I wanted to stay in control of clearGRID. That’s when I came to AWE."

Since receiving a loan from AWE, clearGrid has continued to grow, and has secured a contract with their biggest client, ATCO. They are now working with them to read over one million utility meters per month across the province.

With international expansion on the horizon, clearGRID is showing no signs of slowing down. They now have a team of 20 people, and Ellen plans to expand extensively across North America in the next three to five years.

“My advice to anyone just starting out, especially in the innovation space is that sometimes it takes 100 no’s to get a yes. Keep trying and re-invent your business model with feedback. Everything you do in business is an experiment, not a failure."

To learn more about Ellen and clearGRID, visit

Why You Should Take Branding Seriously

by Jocelyn Davis, The Virtual Effect

It took courage didn’t it? You needed to be courageous enough to believe in your business idea and maybe even more challenging was to find the courage to believe in yourself. To believe that you are more than capable of making this happen. To believe that you are enough to make your dream a reality. It isn’t always going to be pretty and glamorous like many social media feeds lead us to believe it is, but when you are doing what lights you up it will absolutely be worth it.

Now that you have made the decision to go for it your to do list grows exponentially and the overwhelm sets in. With all that you need to do why is branding so important and why does it deserve your resources?

You know who you are, you know what your business is about, what you stand for, and the impact you want to make on your clients, but the question is, do you know how to effectively and consistently communicate this? You may fear choosing the path and focus that is authentically you as it might drive people away and you’re right, it will. But this is nothing to fear, this is what you need to embrace as it will draw in the right clients and elevate the overall experience.

Branding is the foundation from which this authentic communication of what you do, who you are, and what you stand for is built. Branding is far more than just a logo, it includes other elements such as:

 Logo
 Fonts
 Colours
 Graphic elements
 Brand Believer (my coined term for
your ideal client)
 Brand voice
 Social media handles
 Website address
 Email address
 Customer experience map
 Imagery style guide
 Vision statement
 Mission statement

Some of the above are considered tangible branding elements, some are intangible. The biggest intangible, and the indication of branding success, is how a client’s interaction with you made them feel. You want their experience with you to elicit all of the words you associate with your brand and in order to achieve this you need to do all of the above and more on brand. When you are consistent it builds trust and people will begin to believe what you say and feel like they are getting to know you. And we all know that people do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Here is a quick checklist you can use to assess where you are at in your branding
journey and what might need your attention:

Answer Yes or No to the Following Questions

Do you have a vision and mission statement?
Have you detailed out your ideal client?
Do you have brand colours you consistently use?
Have you identified your brand voice?

If you have answered yes to the above take it to the next level and evaluate your website and social media with the above details in mind. Be objective and don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinion.

If you answered no to most of the above set aside some time to go through the branding process, either on your own or with a professional. By establishing this foundation your communication and decisions become a lot easier.

Happy branding!

About the Author
Jocelyn Davison is the founder of The Virtual Effect. The Virtual Effect provides event
planning and branding services to startups, small, and medium sized businesses.
Impact and experience is at her core as she makes the connection between vision and
image for business owners.

Client Feature: Perla Pereira & Myrna Saramago


We sat down with AWE Loan clients, Perla Pereira and Myrna Saramago to learn more about their new business, Oh My Dog Spa located in Edmonton, AB.

Myrna and Perla were both born and raised in Brazil, however, in 2013, the two met for the first time in Edmonton. 

Perla was temporarily living in the city, while Myrna had re-located to Edmonton full-time with her family. Myrna, a Business graduate and Perla, an Engineer had no idea five years later, they would be opening their own dog grooming salon in Edmonton.

"My family and I moved to the Windermere area and realized very quickly that there were no grooming solutions similar to Brazil. In Brazil, the pet industry is second in the world. Every week you take your dog for a grooming. Here in Canada, it's every four to six weeks. After testing out a number of groomers, we realized what we had in Brazil would be amazing to bring to Edmonton."

While Myrna conducted her market research, Perla worked on obtaining her visa. They found their location and knew that this was going to be the spot for them.

"The builder only had two spots left in this development. He asked if we had a business plan for us to hold the space. I said yes, but I didn't even have it completed yet (laughs). After we had the space I worked non-stop to secure the financing and obtain all the required licenses and certifications. We opened our doors in April 2018."

Securing financing as a new business can be challenging for many entrepreneurs. The two found out about AWE through their personal banker and were able to secure financing with both AWE and ATB to open their business.

"The AWE loan has provided us with the working capital we need to grow the business and maintain our operations. Our Business Advisor has been great to work with and very supportive."

When asked what advice the partners would share to anyone looking to open their own business, both unanimously said: "do what you like and what you're passionate about. If you're doing something just for the money, the chances of it lasting long-term is slim." The two also added that being prepared to work long days in the beginning is essential as is completing market research prior to opening.

"The demand needs to be there. Do your market research and see who and where your competitors are. Location is key, especially as a retail business."

The goals for Oh My Dog Spa in the coming year is to keep operations running smoothly while hiring new employees and grooming 420 dogs per month.

To learn more about Oh My Dog Spa, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

To learn more about the AWE Loan Program, visit our financing page and our requirements.

Making the Most of the Summer Slow-Down

For many entrepreneurs, business slows down in the summertime. Now that you finally have time to breath, how can you take advantage of the extra time on your hands? Here are five things you can do to ensure your summer is both productive and enjoyable:

1. Get planning
Entrepreneurs are often so busy working in the business that they don’t have time to work on the business. If your day-to-day workload is slower in the summer, this is the perfect time to work on business planning. If you haven’t reviewed your business plan recently, you should do so. As your environment and your goals change, your business plan should be updated to reflect this. Summertime is also a good opportunity to focus on strategic planning, reviewing and setting targets for the upcoming year, and make a marketing plan if you don’t already have one.

2. Expand your knowledge
Regardless of how many years you’ve been in business, there is always opportunity for further learning and professional development. AWE is hosting some great summer workshops on topics such as marketing, market research, and accounting. You can check out our upcoming training events here.

3. Catch up with your contacts
Do you ever say “we should have coffee sometime” to a business contact and then never actually meet up because you’re both too busy? If things are less chaotic for you in the summer, this is an excellent time to call or email your connections and build relationships.

4. Support local businesses and the community
Alberta only gets a few months of hot weather so take advantage of it. Visit your local farmers’ market and check out the unique products that are being made close to home. Eat at a food truck for lunch – you’ll be supporting local entrepreneurs and the food is delicious! 

5. Take a break
Entrepreneurs often remark that for them there’s no such thing as work/life balance, so when you have time to relax, take it! There will always be items on your to-do list, but taking a break to re-energize can actually make you more productive. You can’t be your best self if you’re perpetually exhausted. Take a vacation, or even a staycation. Try unplugging for a weekend (or maybe just an evening) and stepping away from those non-urgent emails.

How do you spend your time during the summer slow-down? Let us know in the comment section below!

5 Things to Consider Before Applying for Business Financing

As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably considered financing at some point for your business. Whether it’s money to help start your business or grow your business, working capital is essential for business owners. At Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) we provide loans from $30,000 to $150,000 to help entrepreneurs start, build and grow their businesses. While many entrepreneurs are eager to apply for financing, many do not qualify. What is the reason for this?

Many entrepreneurs apply for financing, yet only a small percentage of them are actually ready for financing. How do you know that you are ready to apply for financing for your business? We’ve highlighted five important things to consider before applying for your business loan.

1. Business Plan

A business plan is essential to your loan application, regardless of if you are just starting or looking for money to expand. A business plan shows lenders that you have truly thought this through and have a clear, actionable strategy for growth. A good business plan should include:

  • An executive summary;
  • Extensive market research proving the rationale behind your company;
  • Marketing plan displaying how you plan to gain traction and earn sales;
  • Operations plan showcasing the management team, your administrative practices and more; and
  • Financial summaries, including projected cashflow for the next two years.

Writing a business plan can be an extensive task. AWE offers regular business plan workshops in addition, we highly recommend utilizing Futurpreneur’s Business Plan Writer. This templated system allows you to fill in the blanks for your own business plan.

A good business plan should be 20-100 pages. The more detailed you are in your plan, the more clearly a lender can evaluate the business and it’s projected success.

2. Security

All lenders require some form of security for loans. At AWE we require a minimum of 30% security on our loans. Sometimes, we may ask for up to 100% security. This means that we ask applicants to pledge some form of assets as collateral for the loan, whether it is your property, vehicle or other form of asset.

We work closely with our loan clients to ensure the health and viability of the business. In the case that you cannot make your loan payments, we do have the right to take possession of the asset used as collateral to regain some, or all, of the amount originally loaned.

3. Owner Equity

Almost all business lenders require some form of owner equity for their loans. With the AWE loan program, we require that applicants have contributed a minimum of 25% owner equity on the total project costs. Here’s what we mean:

If you are asking for a loan for $100,000, we require that you, the business owner show that you will be putting in $25,000 or have already put money into your business worth this amount. Why? By contributing the 25% you are showing your lender that you are willing to invest and take on some of the risk as well. 

4. Credit Score

Your credit score is a record of your past ability to make your payments as required and manage your credit. Each lender has a different score they look for when it comes to loans. At AWE, our business owners must have a minimum credit score of 650.

We recommend requesting your credit score via Equifax prior to applying for lending in any form.

5. Business Activities That Cannot Be Financed

While each lender is different, there are a few commonalities on what banks will and will not finance when it comes to business loans. A few items that AWE will not finance include:

  • Owners salary;
  • Re-financing existing debt;
  • Commission-based businesses, independent agents or commissioned salespersons;
  • Pyramid-based businesses, including multi-level marketing programs;
  • Franchise Fees;
  • Speculative ventures; 
  • Intangible goodwill (i.e. business name or reputation);
  • Research and development; and
  • Purchase of stocks, shares and other non-productive investments.

If you have questions about financing for your business, we would highly encourage you to connect with an AWE Business Advisor or your financial institution to learn more about the requirements and how to ensure your loan application is successful. 

Accessing Federal Grants for Exporting

Changes to CanExport?
Did you know there have been changes to the CanExport grant?  If you were previously ineligible because you already had sales in the US or another market, we have good news! The government has modified the rules; small and medium-sized companies are now eligible for the CanExport grant even if they have had sales in the target market (aka country). 

Thus, you can be eligible for CanExport as long as you have had less than $20K sales per annum in the target market in the last 24 months, or if the target market represents less than 10% of your international sales.

What is CanExport?
CanExport is a federal government grant for small/medium size businesses, with annual revenues within the $200K-$50M range, who are interested in developing new export markets.

The grant can cover up to 50% of your market development expenses for new market development.  Expenses such as business travel, trade fairs, market research and adaptation of your marketing materials for new markets are eligible.  Note that there are ineligible expenses.

This is a 50/50 matching grant to a maximum of $100K. For example, if you spend $200K in market development activities, you may be eligible to receive up to $100K from the CanExport grant.  

CanExport is definitely a good opportunity for small businesses interested in exporting and there is a lot more to know about it. For more information, check out the CanExport program here.

What is the AgriMarketing program?  
Note: If your products or services are related to agriculture, you may not be eligible for the CanExport grant. However, you should check out a similar grant through Agriculture and Agrifood Canada’s AgriMarketing program

About the Author

Kath Britton, MBA, CPA CMA, is the Director, Business Development for Women’s Enterprise Centre. Women’s Enterprise Centre is the leading business resource centre for women entrepreneurs in BC, providing business loans, skills training, mentoring, advice and resources from its three offices in Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria.

WBENC 2018 in Detroit, Michigan is the place to be!

You will want to attend this year’s annual WBENC Conference and Business Fair if you are a woman business owner and you have:

  1. Visions of growing your business via export;
  2. Interest in or already had experience selling B2B and/or;
  3. Capacity to manufacture in larger volumes. 

The WBENC Conference and Business Fair is the perfect opportunity for women business owners in all industries to connect and talk with buyers and supplier diversity specialists of Fortune 500 companies about how your business could become one of their suppliers. Many U.S. corporations are interested in buying from women-owned companies. This year’s WBENC is being held in Detroit, Michigan. To take in all of the events, you will want to arrive in Detroit by late afternoon on Sunday June 17 and head out on Thursday June 21. The Business Fair is on Wednesday June 20th.  

To register for WBENC 2018, it’s as easy as 1…2…3. 

  1. Get on with booking your hotel room and paying your WBENC registration. Hotel rooms book up fast and registration is limited so do it sooner rather than later. Here’s the link.
  2. Also sooner rather later, connect with BWIT. BWIT is the federal government’s Business Women in International Trade program. Let them know you will be attending WBENC 2018. For the 10th year in a row, BWIT and the provincial women’s enterprise centres (WEC-BC, AWE, WESK and WECM) are working collaboratively to provide you with opportunities to find potential export markets. The sooner they know you’re attending WBENC, the more connections they may be able to find for your business. 
  3. Let your provincial women’s enterprise initiative (WEI) staff know you’re attending. If you’re in:

WEC - Women’s Enterprise Centre in British Columbia  

AWE - Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

WESK - Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan

WECM – Women’s Enterprise Centre Manitoba

You do not need to have supplier diversity certification to attend the WBENC Conference and Business Fair. However, it can be helpful to know what supplier diversity certification is before you go to this event as you will hear the term mentioned many times and you will probably be asked if you are a certified diverse supplier. Don’t know what that means, talk to your WEI staff; they will explain this “strange but true” opportunity.  

Finally, if you’re interested in growing your business via export but this whole blog post is super-confusing to you, start with point #3. Contact your provincial women’s enterprise centre; they will answer all your questions and help you decide what’s best for you and your business. 

This blog post was written by Nancy Brommell, Business Advisor with the Women’s Enterprise Centre Manitoba. The western Canadian women’s enterprise initiative (WEI), funded by the federal government’s Western Diversification program, works collaboratively each other and the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) to support women business owners interested in growing their businesses via export. 

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs Announces 2018 Award Recipients

Edmonton, AB – Yesterday evening Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) announced the recipients of the 2018 Celebration of Achievement and Entrepreneur Awards at a reception in Edmonton. The annual AWE Awards recognize women who have made a significant contribution to the business community in Alberta.

Since it began in 2012, the program has expanded to honour one Celebration of Achievement recipient as well as female business leaders in three other categories: Emerging Entrepreneur, Emerging Innovator and Upsurge Entrepreneur. AWE is pleased to announce the recipients of the

2018 Awards:

Celebration of Achievement Award Recipient: Eveline Charles, CEO, Eveline Charles Hair Salons and Day Spas

This award pays tribute to an exceptional woman entrepreneur who has built a business in Alberta with a significant impact on the economy and the community. This entrepreneur is an inspirational leader and a role model for women in business.

With six successful salons and spas across Alberta and almost 200 employees, Eveline Charles has dominated the beauty industry for over 40 years. Eveline's determination to become the market leader led to the expansion of her business in 2005 to include the EvelineCharles Academy - a state-of- the-art facility where future beauty industry leaders could harness and perfect their trade. The next venture for Eveline was expanding into custom product manufacturing with EC Labs. Founded in 2016, EC Labs is Canada’s newest beauty, health, and wellness product manufacturer. In addition, EvelineCharles Salons | Spas | Beauty MD has now begun franchising locations as a future expansion strategy.

AWE Upsurge Award Recipient: Amanda Hamilton, Founder and Creative Director, Amanda Hamilton Design

This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has a strong vision and passion for growth. The recipient has built a solid foundation for her business, has experienced growth, and has significant expansion opportunities.

Celebrated for her tenacious and vibrant persona, Amanda Hamilton’s bold and unconventional approach to design and business has made her one of the most sought after interior designers in Western Canada. With over a decade of experience, Amanda Hamilton Interior Design has earned a diverse and extensive portfolio including custom residential homes, multi-family developments, restaurant, office and retail design.

AWE Emerging Award Recipient: Sylvia Cheverie, Owner, Chartier

This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has built a strong, scalable business foundation, has achieved early success and market traction.

As an homage to her culture, Sylvia wanted to introduce French cuisine to her hometown of Beaumont, Alberta. She completed a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise a portion of the capital required to open the French-Canadian restaurant named “Chartier,” which to-date is the most successful restaurant kickstarter in Canada. She acts as a mentor and advocate for other entrepreneurs and local businesses in the area.

AWE Emerging Innovator Award Recipient: Dr. Gina Cherkowski, Founder and CEO, STEM Learning Lab

This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has built an innovation-based business and who has achieved early success with strong market potential.

Dr. Gina Cherkowski is an educational game changer on a mission to ensure all students have access to high quality STEM learning experiences, so they are aptly prepared for our technology-rich world. Dr. Cherkowski believes that all kids can and should be proficient in math as well as the other STEM fields and fights to make this a reality through her work at STEM Learning Lab and Million Women Mentors.

Quote from Alberta Women Entrepreneurs:
“We believe outstanding women deserve to be celebrated. The recipients of this year’s awards have made impactful contributions to their communities and Alberta's economy, and we are proud to recognize them as business role models and inspiring members of our community.”
- Marcela Mandeville, CEO, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Quote from Presenting Sponsor, ATB Business:
“Congratulations to all of the incredible entrepreneurs who were named recipients of the AWE Celebration of Achievement and Entrepreneur Awards this year. Small and medium sized businesses are essential to driving our economy forward and the diversity of this year’s finalists showcases what a world class entrepreneurial centre Alberta has become. This year’s winners are each helping to grow our province in their own unique way and ATB is proud to support them and other female entrepreneurs in partnership with AWE.”
- Teresa Clouston, Executive Vice President, ATB Business & Agriculture



Client Feature: Sonia Egey-Samu


We sat down with Sonia Egey-Samu, Partner of Clarity Wealth Counsel Inc, to learn more about her business, the journey as an entrepreneur and mother, and her experience with AWE and the PeerSpark program.

Sonia, tell us how your journey into entrepreneurship began.
Well, I worked at several of the big financial institutions in my 10 year corporate career and saw every aspect of what financial advice looked like. I learned all the cookie cutter tools and products being used. But all the while there was an internal conflict since I could never develop to the "mold" and constantly needed to learn more to do more for my clients whose financial lives depended on me. At the height of my corporate career my husband and I were flown to Denver to EACH be awarded as one of the top 30 advisors in Canada within the firm we worked at. It was a really cool moment, and we looked at each other and were so proud in sharing that achievement.

Then from there we went on to start our own retirement planning firm and it definitely wasn't an easy decision! Now we look back just a few years later and absolutely cannot believe the tremendous growth that we've had as a company, as individuals, as a married couple, and as parents.

What is the service you provide?
Our specialization is Tax Efficient Retirement Planning. So when somebody comes to see us, they're finished dabbling, and kind of guessing and hoping, and are now serious about not only completing a detailed retirement plan, but also ensuring that they achieve that plan. And the way we approach planning is extremely comprehensive so "no rocks are left unturned". Clients generally leave our office feeling that "weight" or "worry" being lifted about their financial future. It's what we've been doing for a long time, and we absolutely love what we do!

What would you say is the best part of having your own business?
The shaping of our business is the best part by far. I'm so deeply driven to consistently review how we provide value, and then 10x that. But sometimes as business owners we lose sight of what value really is. And it's so easy to lose sight because there's what you think your client values, and then there's taking the time to habitually ask clients what THEY value and so we've been doing this since day one and shaping our business based on their feedback and their needs.

What have you learned from working with others in the PeerSpark program?
It's definitely been one of the best experiences of my life meeting like minded women and sharing our deepest challenges to be able to work through them quickly. My growth today wouldn't be where it is had I not participated in PeerSpark, I'm very grateful to continue to be a part of it.

What are you most proud of in your business?
It was a tear jerker moment for me when we recently had a few of our long time clients volunteer to do a video testimonial. Listening to their words and what they'd experience has been made me the most proud. I had a good cry (laughing)

Would you recommend entrepreneurship to a friend?
I don't recommend entrepreneurship, just like I don’t recommend how to parent, or how to eat. These decisions should all be based on personal values in my mind. If a friend wanted to talk through the idea of it, I'm there!

How do you manage being a mom and business owner?
First things First by Stephen Covey, it's a good read! I schedule each week based on my core values. I get total fulfillment from being a Mama, a business owner, and all the other hats I wear.

Define your work life balance
Hmm, I'd probably say to maintain a level of homeostasis. To keep contributing to my family and my business, I need to make sure I keep my cup full so that I can perform at a high level, be present, feel healthy and organized in my life.

Would you recommend PeerSpark to other entrepreneurs?
I cannot speak highly enough about PeerSpark and the positive impact it has made on my life. If someone out there is thinking about it and needs to chat before making the leap I'm more than happy to share my experience.

To learn more about Sonia and Clarity Wealth Counsel Inc, visit their website at

If you have questions regarding AWE or our PeerSpark™ program, visit our PeerSpark™ page to learn more. 


2018 Celebration of Achievement Award Winner Announced

Beauty tycoon, Eveline Charles, named 2018 Celebration of Achievement Award Winner

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is pleased to announce Eveline Charles 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.

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The Alberta-based Founder and CEO of EvelineCharles Salons | Spas | Beauty MD will be recognized at the 2018 Celebration of Achievement award reception on April 25th at the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton, sponsored by ATB Financial.

“We are honoured to recognize such a deserving person with this year’s Celebration of Achievement award. Eveline is a true business leader and inspiration; she aims high and remains focused on achieving her vision,” explains Marcela Mandeville, CEO of AWE.

With six successful salons and spas across Alberta and almost 200 employees, Eveline Charles has dominated the beauty industry for over 40 years. Eveline's determination to become the market leader led to the expansion of her business in 2005 to include the EvelineCharles Academy - a state-of- the-art facility where future beauty industry leaders could harness and perfect their trade.

The next venture for Eveline was expanding into custom product manufacturing with EC Labs. Founded in 2016, EC Labs is Canada’s newest beauty, health, and wellness product manufacturer. In addition, EvelineCharles Salons | Spas | Beauty MD has now begun franchising locations as a future expansion strategy.

“I am very grateful to receive this prestigious award. It is really humbling to be a recipient of this award in the presence of so many female entrepreneurs and leaders. This honour means so much to me, as entrepreneurship runs through my veins. I am so passionate about driving, growing, and reinventing my business every day to be a leader in our industry,” Charles said of her win.

"Growing a business into a successful and sustainable enterprise requires passion, perseverance and a plan. Eveline is a trailblazing entrepreneur, whose vision and leadership has enabled her to grow her business in a lasting and meaningful way. She's an inspiration so many women, and entrepreneurs across this province and country," says Teresa Clouston, Executive Vice-President of ATB Business & Agriculture. "On behalf of the ATB team, I am pleased to congratulate Eveline and all the awards winners."

At the reception on April 25, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs will honour Charles and her role as a leader in female entrepreneurship, as well as announce the recipients of three other award categories including Emerging Innovator Award, Emerging Award and Upsurge Award.

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

2018 Alberta Women Entrepreneurs’ Award Finalists Announced!

Edmonton, AB - Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is pleased to announce the finalists for their annual AWE Awards which recognize women who have made a significant contribution to the business community in Alberta. There are three categories 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. 

The recipients of the awards will be announced and celebrated at the annual AWE Award Reception in Edmonton on April 25, 2018 at the Sutton Place hotel. 

Listed below are the award categories and finalists who have each demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit through perseverance, the courage to take risks and the ability to seize opportunity.

Awards & Finalists

AWE Upsurge Award

This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has a strong vision and passion for growth. The recipient has built a solid foundation for her business, has experienced growth, and has significant expansion opportunities.


AWE Emerging Award

This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has built a strong, scalable business foundation, has achieved early success and market traction.


AWE Emerging Innovator Award 

This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has built an innovation-based business and who has achieved early success with strong market potential.


Celebration of Achievement

Since 2012, the annual AWE Celebration of Achievement award has paid tribute to an exceptional woman entrepreneur who has built a business in Alberta with a significant impact on the economy and the community. This entrepreneur is an inspirational leader and a role model for women in business.

2018 Recipient: Eveline Charles

“This is our sixth year hosting the AWE Awards and the resilience and enthusiasm of our nominees continues to amaze me. We are excited to recognize outstanding women who have made significant contributions to our community and economy.” 

- Marcela Mandeville, CEO, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Presenting Sponsor


Media Contact

Stephanie Woods
Marketing Manager
Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) 


Women Entrepreneurs Paving the Way

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On March 8, 2018 we celebrated International Women's Day. Now, more than ever, there's a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. There's a strong call to #PressforProgress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

In a recent report on women entrepreneurs and innovation completed by the Beacon Agency, Government of Canada, Carleton University and BMO Financial Group, key facts and trends were identified on how important women entrepreneurs are to our economy and communities.

For example, did you know that women-led businesses today represent 50% of all new businesses? (BDC, 2017). In addition, among all small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), 47% are entirely or partly owned by women (Statistics Canada, 2012). 

In celebration of International Women's Day, we are very excited to announce our new partnership with BDC as a member of Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) to better support women entrepreneurs. 

The agreement adds on to BDC’s commitments to support women entrepreneurs, namely new targets of $1.4 billion in lending to women-led businesses by 2021 and $200 million in investments in women-led technology firms.

Read the full release here.

Client Feature: Wendy Kerkhoff

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We sat down with Wendy Kerkhoff, President and CEO of Intellidig to learn more about her business, her methodology and her experience with AWE and the PeerSpark program.

Q: Wendy, tell us, how did you end up becoming an entrepreneur?

There’s a part of me that just always knew that I would start my own business. While I was working the recruiting industry, I honestly felt there was a lot of dissatisfaction about how the service was being traditionally provided. I knew there had to be a better way, so I went out and started working to fine-tune my efforts.

I knew that eventually, companies would reach a point where they would recognize that all of their prospective talent came from the same data and talent pool. It was becoming a race to see who could get to that person and people became tired of it. 

That’s where research came into play. I knew that we had to find the people who weren’t looking and that the internet was an amazing place to find everything about people. This targeted approach about identifying candidates is what makes us different and is also why we have been in business for 15 years.

Q: Wow, 15 years! That is incredible. How many people do you have working with you now at Intellidig? 

It ranges depending on the size and scope of project we are working on. On some projects, I’ve had as many as 20 contractors. My core team is made up of five to seven people.

Q: What are you most proud of in your business?

There’s a lot of things that I look back on and am proud of, but I have to say surviving in business is something to be very proud of in itself. Many businesses don’t make it past the five year mark, it’s a milestone.

I’m really proud of what I have developed in the business and the high-profile organizations we have served. I’ve built a company that’s both functional and operational while surviving the odds.

Q: Would you recommend entrepreneurship to a friend?

It’s definitely not for everyone, but for me it’s the right thing. It’s something I was always trying to work towards and identify the right time to do it. Eventually, I just took the leap of faith and decided I was going to do my own work.

I would recommend it to people who feel they can think outside the box and wear many hats. I love the freedom and flexibility it provides.There’s really no constraints of job or position. It really is what you make of it!

Q: What would you say you have learned from other entrepreneurs?

Definitely how lonely it can be. You don’t have the same support that you get internally in a corporate job when you’re an entrepreneur. Being involved in entrepreneur organizations, like AWE, really surrounds you with other like-minded people. There is so much value in that. You begin to recognize that everyone has challenges and that regardless of industry, my challenges are not much different than other entrepreneurs.

Q: How did you find out about AWE?

I’ve known about AWE for many years, but became more involved a few years ago. When I found out about the programs for established businesses, like PeerSpark™, I joined right away.

Q: What do you want Intellidig to be know for?

I want us to be known as a trailblazer. We really started with the concept of providing something different, a different model to a traditional industry. The most consistent challenge has been trying to break the mold and let people know that there are alternatives to recruitment. It’s been a challenge, but I’ve stuck with it and paved the way!

To learn more about Intellidig and the work they are providing, visit their new website at or visit them on Facebook.

If you have questions regarding AWE or our PeerSpark™ program, visit our PeerSpark™ page to learn more. 

NextStep to Success: Business Plan Learning Series for Indigenous Women

With the New Year of 2018,  we look back with great admiration for the Indigenous Women who have participated in the NextStep to Success Business Plan Learning Series, which was launched in September 2017. We want to share some of the comments from the Siksika Nation participants.

“AWE is a great organization, which is truly focused on building Indigenous Women’s skills. Thank you so much for the opportunity.”

“Bev, our facilitator ensured a great environment
for learning. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the sessions
& hope nothing but the best for all of my colleagues”

“To succeed in operating your own business you
must take risks. And that is to think outside the box,


“With this training, one can plan for a successful
business. The course renewed the dream of owning
your own business. Stay positive, be confident and
be proud of your vision”

Kathleen McHugh.

“Informative, Informative, Informative!”
T Yellowfly

“Definitely going to utilize the knowledge that was
planted in my mind and reap what I can from the
soil. Wonderful and inspiring experience working
with these ladies. Nothing but encouragement for
each other, loved it.”
Erin B

In March 2018, AWE will be opening sessions for registration for new and ready to start Indigenous entrepreneurs in Calgary and Edmonton. Please contact Bev Latter, Special Projects at 403-862-3490 or to register.

2018 Award Nominees Announced

AWE is honouring female entrepreneurs from across the province. Nominated by their peers, these inspirational women are achieving growth and success in business. This year, we had over 75 applicants for our 2018 Awards!

Finalists will be announced at our upcoming nominee receptions happening in March.

On April 25, 2018 we will announce the recipients for this year's AWE Upsurge, Emerging, Emerging Innovator and Celebration of Achievement Awards.

The nominees for 2018 are:

  • Alyssa Lau

  • Amanda Hamilton

  • Angela May

  • Anita Dyrbye

  • Carina Ludgate

  • Carmela Gennaro

  • Charity Callahan

  • Cheryl Taylor

  • Christina Forth

  • Colleen Rice

  • Colleen Heidecker

  • Connie Stacey

  • Deborah Barrett

  • Diana Frost

  • Donna McTaggart

  • Glori Meldrum

  • Jessica Maurice

  • Jill Boychuk

  • Julie Boake

  • Kathryn Kolaczek

  • Kathy Leskow

  • Kelly Smart

  • Kimberly Orlesky

  • Kirei Yasunori

  • Kristina Vanderwater

  • Laurie Wright

  • Lorena Prakash

  • Louise Vernal

  • Lucy Dunne

  • Maureen Newton

  • Merena Johnson

  • Nicola Kozmyk Jones

  • Sangeeta Sharma

  • Shannon Lenstra

  • Sheena Johnson

  • Tracey Einarson

  • Tricia Arsenault

  • Vanessa Hernandez

  • Voula Martin

  • Nan Thiessen

  • Shanna Mawer

  • Vicki Zhou

  • Teresa Kiyawasew

  • Kim Titchener

  • Akosua Nyarko

  • Kimberly Carson Richards

  • Karen Murdock

  • Stacy Maurier

  • Florence Murota

  • Corinna Clark

  • Rosanna Fischer

  • Debra DeBernardo

  • Victoria Armstrong

  • Julie Flint

  • Crystal Brown

  • Pauline Robinson

  • Kemi Ogundipe

  • Dr. Jacqueline Shan

  • Erika Serbu

  • Annalee Butterwick

  • Kathryn Valentine & Leanna Mohan

  • Jesse Szymanski

  • Emma Demaer

  • Yvonne Irnich

  • Shawna Miller

  • Shani Gwin

  • Lianne Ensminger

  • Chelsea Barlow

  • Sara Tharakan

  • Dannah Davies 

2018 Reboot

I’m a big believer in the saying, “when one door closes, another opens,” but I will admit that sometimes it is the latter half of Alexander Graham Bell’s quote that rings true: “…but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

For me, and maybe you too, 2017 was a challenging year. In addition to the loss of incredible people and other heartbreaks, I felt uncertainty swirl all around us as change happened rapidly and we were surrounded by an overwhelming amount of information. Personally, the year ended with events that forced me to slow down, reflect, regroup and refocus my priorities and my attitude.

Fittingly, the theme of this year’s AWE Learning Day is Enhancing Opportunities. To my earlier point, identifying and tapping into those opportunities can be easier said than done. Many of us tend to have #FOMOOO (fear of missing out on opportunities) without really evaluating whether the opportunity should be a priority to pursue and what is the actual cost of letting it go.

In my first year as CEO of AWE I felt as though I needed to stretch myself much too thin based on FOMOO. What if I am missing something really important? What if I let someone down? I used to be guilty of these thoughts until I shifted my mindset from scarcity to abundance.

I realized that there are not a finite number of opportunities available so if one thing does not happen as planned, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it could be a good thing since you now have the space to open yourself up to something that is a better fit.

I have learned a great way to avoid the #FOMOOO is to ask for help by calling on your team or network to take on opportunities that do not best fit your priorities instead of taking everything on yourself. In the end, you have embraced the opportunities that are a priority to you and created new opportunities for others.

We can’t always be prepared for the challenges life throws at us, but we can choose how to we respond and manage through them. The power of positive thinking is a great place to make decisions. In my opinion, leading with optimism over fear and having the mindset of abundance is the best way to enhance opportunities.

What fear is holding you back? How will you enhance and embrace opportunities this year? I hope you will join the conversation at our Learning Day event on February 20 in Edmonton.

Always with gratitude,