Manitoulin women-owned businesses receive awards from The PARO Centre

MANITOULIN—The My Ol’ Blues store in Gore Bay, along with the group of businesses within the Island  Sisters Circle were both nominated for and received prestigious awards from The PARO Centre. The PARO Centre has been in existence for 27 years, in Ontario, and is a non-profit business organization for women exclusively. Its specialty is supporting women in business in small- and medium-sized businesses and social enterprises.

My Ol’ Blues in Gore Bay, owned by Kathy Antonio, received the PARO Centre Women’s Enterprise Unshakeable Business of the Year 2021 award, this past April, in a Zoom meeting, receiving the actual award last week. The Island Sisters Circle, which won the PARO Circle of the Year award, is made up of several businesses on the Island, and the award included Brianna Harris, Brianna Maybelle and Manitoulin Coffee Co., Sharon Alkenbrack of Manitoulin Teas and Psychic Medium, Christina Edwards of Green Bay Lodge, Barbara Baker, Sumthing and Women of Manitoulin Entrepreneur Network (Women), Sarah Quackenbush of Breakaway Sports, the late Susie Harrison of Bare Naked Beauty and Tammy Albers of E4M.

“The Zoom gala event took place in April 2021 where we were told we won an award, but the trophy arrived (last) week,” said Ms. Antonio of My Ol’ Blues. Her business won the Unshakable Business of the Year 2021 award. The award is presented to a previously established business. This award recognizes a woman’s business with a successful and notable track record for three years or more. A woman who has established a business, taken financial risks, managed the business successfully, and given back to the community.”

“The PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise assists women in starting and building their business and providing support and assistance to help a business,” said Ms. Antonio. 

“I guess I was nominated for the award, but I certainly can’t do this alone,” Ms. Antonio told The Expositor. “To me, being in the category of unshakeable business means that not only a lot of work, but communication and tremendous teamwork and decision making among all employees is required. Our employees are a very big part of this business. They are involved in all aspects of the business,” she said listing off the names of employees Kim Orford, Jen Mayer, Brenda Pakkala, Mari Ausmees and Bella Jefkins.”

The PARO Circle of the Year is an award that recognizes a Peer Lending Circle’s efforts to “give back” to each other, to PARO and to their community.

“The Island Sisters Circle is a non-profit group made up of business women across the Island,” said Barbara Baker. “We are part of PARO, which was formed a little over 25 years ago and is an  Ontario-based group which supports women entrepreneurs including the opportunity to create circles which include a minimum of four and maximum of seven women entrepreneurs. They don’t have to be from the same business line, but support each other and others through growth. Ms. Baker runs Manitoulin  Women Entrepreneur Network.

    Ms. Baker explained with the Circle, “we meet every second month. It is a group that is business women who help and support each other.”

 “When I started the Women’s Business Network in 2016, the idea was to support any business woman on Manitoulin Island,” said Ms. Baker. “I then found out about PARO at a trade show from a lady with Community Futures Development Corporation). Ms. Baker works as a contractor for PARO, having started last July (after the Island Sisters group were selected for an award).

“I work through a contract for PARO three days a month. I look after Manitoulin Island and if other local businesswomen want to get together I can help them do this,” explained Ms. Baker. “Everything we do is free of charge. The PARO supports women-owned businesses from the ground up.” PARO can support any and every woman to start a new business, turning their business ideas into reality through business development programs, advisory services and technical resources.

“As part of my Women of Manitoulin Entrepreneur Network, I will be nominating a Manitoulin entrepreneur in each of the award categories PARO provides,” said Ms. Baker. “We have hundreds of fabulous women entrepreneurs here on Manitoulin and it is growing every day. I was so pleased to see that one of my nominees from last year, Kathy Antonio, was a winner, fingers crossed someone I nominate for 2022 will be successful as well.”