MORRISBURG - Attention all women: If you are an entrepreneur or are thinking of becoming one, grab your business cards and get ready to network.
Women and Rural Economic Development (WRED), a charitable organization dedicated to building partnership alliances and enhancing the rural economy, is hosting seven province-wide conferences, three of which are in eastern Ontario.
Connections 99 is coming to the Morrisburg Meeting Centre in Morrisburg on October 23 and to the Harbourfront in Kingston on November 10. A French version of the conference will take place over two days in Casselman on October 15 and 16 at the Club de golf.
The conferences, sponsored by the Human Resources Development Commission, will feature workshops, guest speakers, a trade show, and especially, an opportunity to network and learn from other entrepreneurs in the area, says Rosanne Nieuwkuyk, a desktop publishing specialist for WRED.
"The whole idea is to network. To talk with other women and find out what obstacles they've come across and how they got around them and what they've done to make their business successful. It's a chance for small business owners to learn from each other and to share their experiences, and to use each other to expand and grow their own business."
This is the second year for the conference. Last year, it was held as one, large event in Stratford, Nieuwkuyk says.
"It was very successful last year. We had about 300 participants and we conducted surveys in each of the areas where the conferences are taking place to find out what business owners are looking for. The conferences are tailored to meet those needs."
Next year's conference will again be held as one main event possibly in Stratford, she said.
More and more women are entering the entrepreneurial scene, and most of them are successful, says Tine Buechler, who is coordinating the seven conferences.
"They are becoming self-employed because of changes in the employment market and also to accomplish all their goals on a personal level. They want to accomplish goals as a mother, a wife and a professional, and being self-employed allows them to set their own times."
She added she feels there will "most definitely" be even more women starting their own businesses in the future.
While the needs in each area differ, there are a few consistent training workshops and seminars women are looking for, Buechler says, including applying new technology to small businesses, marketing toward certain clients or customers, and empowering yourself.
A few of the guest speakers will attend several conferences, though each one will be unique, she says.
"I have found this to be a wonderful experience in meeting all these successful business owners and finding out what they've done. By listening and gathering ideas and information, we have been able to pull these conferences together and each one is different but has underlying training and learning opportunities."
And the conferences will be events no small business owners will want to miss, she says.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to meet and connect with other successful women and to gain training. I went to the conference last year and the cost of attending was more than paid back by the things I learned and the contacts I made."
The keynote speaker at the Morrisburg conference will be Rhonda Finnis, an international speaker who will talk about On the Right Track Training and Consulting.' She strives to make companies more profitable, people more successful and life more enjoyable.
Participants can learn the difference between personal and business banking with the Women and the Three Bs - Business Banking Basics' workshop with speaker Marg Hogan, Account Manager for Business Banking with the Royal Bank.
Valerie La Traverse, a coordinator for Information Highway Programs with Industry Canada, will speak about the Federal Government's Connecting Canadians initiative and about electronic commerce. Participants will learn about the latest trends in e-commerce, how to get started and where to find help.
Other guest speakers include Susanne Tarle, who will be speaking about overcoming obstacles and balancing personal and business life; Valerie Kines, owner and operator of the Second Cup, who will speak about the power of women in an ever-changing business environment; Lori Warren, owner and principal of Trillium Hall Private School and the Learning Connection, who will speak about the roller coaster ride of starting a business; and Sandra Lawn, who will provide insight on how to deal with rapid growth and managing change in an ever growing community environment.
Speaking at the dinners for all the English-speaking conferences will be Donna Messer, an international trade specialist and owner of ConnectUs, one of Canada's most effective training companies. She will talk about how building relationships builds business.
Women interested in attending can enjoy either the conference or a dinner or both. At the Morrisburg and Kingston conferences, admission is $50 for WRED members and $80 for non-members for the conference, and $25 per person for the dinner.
In Casselman, members pay $50 for the conference, $80 for the conference and dinner, or $40 for just the dinner. Non-members will be charged $60 for the conference, $100 for the conference and dinner, or $60 for just the dinner.
A membership to WRED costs $30 for non-voting members and $35 for voting members and entitles the member to an annual subscription to the WREDletter, a listing in the next WRED business directory and access to the Library Resources Centre, the Rural Enterprise Loan Fund and to WRED events and services.
For more information about WRED membership or the conferences, call 1-800-790-9949.