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Womanition Biz Brigade 2016: Over 220 businesswomen in one room

The energy when you walked through the doors at the Chateau Louis at the Biz Brigade, in Edmonton, was buzzing with passion. You couldn’t help feel the warmth and welcoming spirit of those around you and there was a definite electric energy in the room. There is something about women who want to make other women successful!

Dorothy Briggs’ Womanition is a highlight in the Edmonton business scene. This was my first year attending. My colleague, and friend, Cara Bedford was speaking on one of the panels, but a little more on that below.

The day started with Dorothy addressing the crowd talking about the Power of Mentorship, and asking questions to her panel made up of Katie Mundorf (www.mundorfisfit.com) and Sue Kamal (www.igetmortgage.com). Dorothy mentioned the book 25 women wrote on mentorship and revealed that it would include a 90 minute mentoring session. I was sold and excitedly bought it at the first break! I can’t wait to read more about it (mentorship is a personal passion of mine). I loved the message that the mentor generally got more out of the mentoring relationship than the protégé. We all have something to learn!

Katie and Sue had just completed a mentorship program with Womanition and shared some of their key takeaways:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — this is very important (Kamal)
  2. It’s harder to give in to self-doubt & sabotage yourself when have a mentor to support you (Mundorf)
  3. Listening is the most important thing do (Kamal)

The next panel, “Grow Yourself,” started with Dr. Sylvie Renoir as a keynote speaker. She really resonated with me. As a mom working in a male-dominated field, Dr. Renoir had some very interesting stories to tell. I could definitely relate, also being a mom working in the very male-dominated technology sector. Her keynote was genuine and heartfelt, and was one of my favourites of the day.

She talked about “mother guilt.” We should not be afraid to leave early for a sick child, yet we are. As a female dentist, she wasn’t going to fit into the “old boys club” and instead she surrounds herself with her “elite” team of people. She asked, “ Why do we qualify gender?” A male would never say I am a male dentist. He is just a dentist, but for her, she finds herself continuously having to explain her gender to her profession, as well as her desire to work part-time. I have a lot to reflect on (which will likely end in a whole other blog post later).

A couple of things that I took away from her personally were that I needed to stop being everything to everyone. This idea has to be let go of, because it is utterly exhausting. As business professionals we also need to acknowledge when we need our support team. It is okay to be supported.

The panel then continued with Cheryl Johner, Joanne VanBeek (Rise up Rwanda – www.gofundme.com/2b2xke3g), Joan Small and Stacey Berger (www.staceyberger.ca).

Here Joanne reminded us of Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” While some may take that to mean giving monetarily, I think giving time though volunteering is just as important. She talked about starting a movement called “Giftivism” which means to radically give generously. She believes that we are generous and love-based at our core which was great to hear as sometimes business can be more cut-throat.

Stacey let us know that it was our job to step inside our own greatness, to serve the people around us better. She talked about the societal belief that it is selfish to want more and countered that by saying it was actually a natural part of being.

“Growing Your Business” was next on the agenda with Lorie Saito (www.thedojo.ca), Jodi Fulford (www.ispcomputers.ca), Patti Lou Cumby (http://www.pattilou.ca), Barbara Steckly and Donna Worthington.

Lorie presented a great keynote, taking us down her wisdom of web design with the grace and humility that she is known for. She talked about finding your voice, which I know I’ve certainly struggled with, so I appreciated her emphasizing the importance of this.

Jodi gave us the low down when buying computers. She says “don’t be brand blind” and instead really focus on what your business needs are and try to match them. She emphasized the importance of a good advisor to ensure you are truly buying what you need, instead of making what you buy simply work.

Donna had us all in tears with a customer satisfaction story about her grandmother’s brooch, and how it was fixed for her without her having to pay a cent. She emphasized how customer appreciation is essential, but often not done well.

Lunch was great, however I would have liked to have eaten a little bit sooner. I was quite hungry when it was finally time to go and eat.

The final panel was “Plan Your Business” with Rita Anne Fuss moderating. Rita Anne talked about three elements to your plan.

  1. Focus (set goals). She told us to write down 6-8 things you were going to accomplish the next day and then check them off when you did them (she got me with that part – I love checking off my to do list)
  2. Attitude (no one wants to work with a grumpy person). She instructed us to smile as it would come through our attitude, even when we were avoiding tasks.
  3. Commitment (choose to do something now). She challenged us to make a choice to do one thing different in our business tomorrow!

My colleague Cara Bedford used humour and had us in stitches. She said we needed to find our inner reason for doing something (she related it to a story about a friend’s cat who was sick). She talked about making our website work for us and to ensure it was optimized for keywords; I love that she related it to shoes (she was searching online for shoes one day and then for the next month she had ads about shoes). She emphasized how important your website is and likened it to having your toilet running with water (essential!).

A few small things I would have liked to see. On the agenda cards it would have been great to have the twitter handles or social media profiles for the people talking to tag them live.

I would have loved to see more use of technology. Maybe a screen with a live social media feed, or some visual accents for the keynote speakers.

It also would have been nice to have a list of vendor tables to make sure I went to the ones I wanted to. It was a zoo around them during the breaks and hard to make sure I visited them all.

Another critique I do have is that a few speakers sold themselves from the stage. This is so evident when they say find me at my booth or come talk to me later. As an attendee I want advice and tips. I am there for educational purposes, not to be sold products or services I may not want. I will say 90% of the speakers did not sell, and they were wonderful, but those few who did really stand out and push the event down a peg when they do so.

All in all, I did have a wonderful time. Ladies, let us be proud to have the Biz Brigade for our businesses, our community of women and our inspirations. It was so great to meet those of you I had the pleasure to chat with, and for those whom I missed – see you next time.

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