MINDEMOYA – Northern Ontario Women (NOW) held its first event at the Mindemoya community hall on March 10 and it was outstanding. From the elegant set-up of the hall to the guest speakers and the networking, this function ticked all the boxes for the almost 80 women who attended.
The NOW program is administered by LAMBAC and, as guest speaker Susan Whynott explained, this is only one of 25 such businesses assistance corporations located throughout Northern Ontario, each with its catchment area and each funded by FedNor.
Ms. Whynott began her talk by welcoming the participants and saying, “I would like to give thanks and acknowledge this meeting space as being on the traditional lands of the Ojibwe, the Odawa and the Potawatomi.” She then said a big chi-miigwetch to Janice Abbott of Mindemoya who owns Eagle Owl Party Rentals and who did a superb job of decorating the hall.
Ms. Whynott went on to explain that the NOW program is two-fold with this initiative designed to assist female entrepreneurs who are starting or who have an existing business with accessing grant money and also to provide financial support to each of the 25 programs mentioned so that they can organize and implement events to promote women in business in their catchment area.
Ms. Whynott then told her audience that this brand-new program was initiated by Carolyn Campbell, the loans and business development officer at LAMBAC. “Ms. Campbell,” she said, “wrote a proposal to FedNor under the Women Entrepreneur Strategy (WES) to develop and implement a new program called the Northern Ontario Women (NOW) program for the entire Northern Ontario region which geographically is humongous. We’re talking from Moosonee, Red Lake, Atikokan areas, right down to and including the Muskoka, Parry Sound area. Carolyn’s vision of the NOW program was to assist Northern Ontario female entrepreneurs with costs, that often due to geography, are pretty hefty and her proposal asked FedNor to allow the NOW program to run for four years. Throughout these four years, there are seven intakes. Intakes are dates by which applications must be submitted in order to give equal consideration with all other applications for that particular period.”
Mr. Whynott explained that the first intake in November saw 72 applications from all over the Northern region with 53 being successful in obtaining a grant, of which the majority was for $5,000. Some of the grants were for legal costs obtaining a patent or incorporating, legal costs of having customer contracts and employee non-compete contracts created and costs associated with website development and an e-commerce platform. Other grants covered the costs associated with marketing strategy development, cost with setting up mentoring relationships and business coaching costs and accounting costs such as having a professional look over your current system and streamline it so that it is more efficient.
Some of the projects or costs that are not eligible under the NOW program include capital costs of any kind such as business cards, laptops and furniture, educational courses, trade show and travel costs, wages and ongoing professional fees such as an accountant to do books every month or year-end.
Ms. Whynott asked that interested business entrepreneurs to reach out to Ms. Campbell or herself by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in submitting a grant application can download the forms at the LAMBAC website.
The second guest speaker was Leslie McDermid, owner of The Social Launch, which helps entrepreneurs improve their online presence with social media, marketing and training. Ms. McDermid’s topic was ‘how to network’ and she began her talk by speaking of the way social media is changing the way we can connect to others. “Use social media to grow your network and connect with potential customers,” she said. Ms. McDermid had six topics on how to do this, beginning with doing research. “Determine what platform your audience is on. When are they online? What types of posts do they like?” This was followed by ask simple questions which are a great way to connect with one’s audience, gain valuable feedback and show that you are interested in them.
The third rule for social media networking had Ms. McDermid saying, “Ditch the pitch. Forget the sales pitch, stay informal and focus on building relationships. People are more likely to do business or give referrals to people they enjoy and respect, not a salesperson.” She also emphasized for rule four that appearances matter. “Your overall branding,” she emphasized, “how it looks, if it is consistent, your posts, et cetera, all matter. You consider what you wear to a networking event. Shouldn’t you make sure your social media appearance looks great too?”
Rule number five is share the wealth. Ms. McDermid shows how important it is to give away your knowledge, share tips and industry updates. “Connecting people to other businesses they need,” she pointed out, “or referring someone who may help that customer better is not just being a good person, it’s good for business, as you become more valuable and a connector.”
The final rule is the follow up where Ms. McDermid reminds people to not forget this step and to use social media messaging to follow up with good connections from social media.
Ms. McDermid also had nine rules of a social media conversationalist, starting with being genuinely interested in your audience. “Strive to learn more about them,” she spelled out.
The second rule is to focus on the positives and opt for positive, meaningful topics while number three asks that you be true to yourself and number four talks of 50-50 sharing. “Share, but ask questions and pay attention to their answers. And converse, don’t debate,” she says for rule five. Rule six for having a social media conversation asks that one respects other’s space and the right to their views while for rule seven, Ms. McDermid says, “Ask purposeful questions. Meaningful questions elicit meaningful answers and connections.”
Ms. McDermid also encourages those having a conversation on social media to embrace differences while building on commonalities and to remember that the focus is your audience, not you.
The NOW event was the perfect place for networking and The Expositor was fortunate to sit down with four enterprising women. Lanelle Pheasant is an outgoing young woman from Wiikwemkoong who was bubbling with excitement about her start-up business to be launched any day. Named Little Snack Shoppe, her enterprise is a pop-up venture that sells miniature snacks such as chocolate bars, cookies and chips as well as pop and water. She explained that it will be a mobile shop popping up in different spots. Ms. Pheasant also is just about ready to build, along with her husband, a tiny house.
Ginger Cranston moved to Manitoulin a few years ago and she and her husband are off the grid. Ms. Cranston raises hens and quail and sells the eggs and has Nigerian dwarf goats. She is looking for something else to do and explained, “We have 150 acres of wood. We could use dead wood and utilize that. There is a definite need for this on the Island.”
Nicole Murphy is a registered massage therapist and noted that there are only five such qualified people on Manitoulin. She set up practice in the previous credit union space in Mindemoya and will be moving May 15 to the Mutchmor Gallery in Providence Bay for the summer. Ms. Murphy does massage by appointment only and she also does women’s groups if four or five women want to get together. She can be reached at the email@example.com or call 519-722-4768
Julie Morris is a yoga teacher, both at the recreation centre in Little Current and in private homes. She is currently taking a yoga therapy course and upon finishing with be able to teach yoga to people with disabilities. Ms. Morris has been practising for seven years. She also shared her experiences with the workaway program that has cultural exchanges, working holidays and volunteering in 170 countries and how grateful she was to find it. Not only did Ms. Morris get her garden finished, but she also learned the easiest way to give a cat a pill.
The NOW event is the first of many to be held throughout Northern Ontario and the female entrepreneurs enjoyed a great occasion that came complete with a delicious meal prepared by The Island Jar.