Business Name: Company of Women, a globally connected network of entrepreneurial women
Type of Business: Social Enterprise
Business Location: Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Reason for starting
I was working as a consultant at home and while business was good, I found it isolating and thought other women likely felt the same way. So I put an ad in the paper, got a speaker, booked space and 165 women turned up, so I knew I was on to something. For two years, I kept my consulting practice going and ran Company of Women on the side, but I was passionate about seeing women succeed, and so I packed up my consulting practice and focused my energies on Company of Women. Fast forward 10 years, and we’re in nine cities, have close to 300 members, host 80 events a year, run mastermind and newbie support groups, have an annual conference, have published three books and for four years had our own magazine. I am always saying that you don’t have to be alone when you own. Men may have the old boys network – but we have Company of Women:)
How do you define success?
Over the years we have helped thousands of women gain the confidence and skill set to start, grow and build a successful business. So success to me is when I see a woman take the kernel of an idea, and turn it into a viable business. Success to me is when I link two women and the synergy created helps them both move forward. Success to me is when women attend our conference and leave feeling inspired, motivated and ready to continue on their journey to whatever success means to them. Success to me is not about the amount of money you make, it is about happiness, about being fulfilled and about making a difference.
It is hard to narrow it down to one thing. On the personal front, I am proud of my two daughters who have become caring, kind young women who both have their own businesses. I am proud of being married to the same man for 40+ years. Giving back has always been important to me and a few years ago I got involved with Opportunity International, a charity that provides microfinance loans to women in developing countries. Company of Women got behind the charity and we had a Give Change to Make Change campaign through which we would collect change after a meeting, and we raised $4,000 + that way. I also helped write a book for them, Faces of Opportunity, sharing the stories of some of the women who’d received loans and it raised over $20,000 for the charity, and that is probably one of my biggest successes. Through that book we were able to help so many women as the loans can be as little as $60.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My top challenge has been personal – my health. I have had breast cancer twice. The first time was when my daughters were little and then 15 years later in my second year of running Company of Women, and I decided then to have a double mastectomy. Cancer makes you focus on what is important to you, and I decided Company of Women was, and that was when I chose to close down my consulting business. While it was way more lucrative, Company of Women was much more fun, much more rewarding and I felt in a way that it was my destiny, my legacy moving forward. I have written and spoken about having breast cancer because I want to make sure other women go for their mammograms, check themselves and to show that cancer is not a death sentence, you can not only survive, but thrive. Your attitude makes a difference and having a sense of humour takes you a long, long way.
Who is your most important role model?
My father. He came from humble beginnings, did not finish high school as he had to to support his mother but he went on to become a successful businessman. He never forgot his early struggles, and would talk about having a sense of balance by which he meant that it was important to make things equal in life, and if you had more, you gave back so the other person could be lifted up and had a chance to succeed. He believed in people and had a big heart.