Women have business SEWN up on the Coast

Self-Employed Women’s Network

Just in time for Small Business Week in Canada, the Self-Employed Women’s Network (SEWN) held its third sold-out event at the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club on Oct. 8. Billed as an opportunity to socialize, the evening more than delivered on its mandate.

MC Christine Younghusband set the tone for the evening in her opening remarks: “We are formed by you. We are informed by you,” she said.

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The women covered every spectrum of the Coast business community. Some are running brand new businesses; others have been their own bosses for many years. And all of them wanted to connect with other women entrepreneurs. Owners such as Victoria Maxwell, who runs a successful comedy workshop based on her experiences with mental health, work primarily off Coast. Others, such as Ria Qureshi, who is a real estate agent, do the bulk of their business in our area.

Several of those in attendance were young women whose businesses offered a solution to the Coast’s chronic employment challenge – finding work that matched their education and passion.

For many businesswomen, the biggest challenge to their success is the isolation they feel in their day-to-day work. This was a key stressor identified by the three-year Progress Plan conducted on the Coast recently. SEWN morphed from that awareness. Now it’s possible for $25 to join the organization and network with other local women.

Last Thursday’s event was the third sponsored by the fledgling group. All have been sell-outs with opportunities to learn more about each others’ businesses as well as pick up tips on good business practices.

One of the newest businesses on the Coast, Share-There, an innovative way to share transportation, acknowledged and thanked the first women to use the new company. Michelle Morton and her husband Sean (the token male at the event) explained the concept of their business and the role it will take on the Coast in providing needed transportation. They plan a full-on launch of the business in November or January.

For many women, the idea of promoting their business and themselves is a daunting one. Guest speaker Paula Howley of Head Start Public Speaking for Kids demonstrated an easy way for those present to put together a 30-second “elevator” introduction. It’s important for owners to connect with the passion they feel for their businesses and convey it in their words. There was ample opportunity for the women to practise their spiels during the evening.

Zarah Gale, the administrative assistant from Community Futures of the Sunshine Coast, spoke to the audience about financing their businesses. She stressed the importance of matching their pitches to the listener. What would be sufficient for a casual introduction wouldn’t fly to a prospective investor in the business. She explained the information the would-be investor would require. Beginning with the most important item in the investor’s mind – collateral – Gale took the women through the process. In order to provide capital, the investor will want to know what assets the owner is providing. Financing involves shared risk; it’s up to the borrower to convince the lender that the business has merit.

What’s becoming the trend in today’s world, Gale said, is the triple bottom line: people, the planet and profit have equal importance. No longer is business just about money.

More events are planned between now and the first annual general meeting in April 2016. For more information, see www.SunshineSEWN.com and read Coast Reporter for more announcements.

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