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By Gail McNaughton, April 14, 2013

When gathering information for this Success Overview I noticed that my own files go back to 2006 so I’ve been through a lot of “Remember When’s” which we continue to make every day.  I know that Susan has retained over 5,000 EBWN e-mails on her system.  All I can say is wow!  We must all have a significant amount of communication regarding the EBWN.

The opportunity to help fellow women began in 1997 with fewer than 10 members and as of today, there are 84 members.  Last April at this time we had 75 members.  The momentum to join our network has been tremendous.  Each company is allowed to have two members join for the price of one (with some restrictions) and many have taken advantage of this (Lyle Cook, Century 21 Network Realty Ltd., The Arts & Cookery Bank, Lavender Lane Farm, and the Elgin Business Resource Centre).

We have a wide variety of businesses in our network: Beginning with the Farmers, Upholstery Business, and including, Store Owners, Magazine Producer, Artists, Professional Services i.e. Architect, Engineer, Planner, Professor, Paralegal, Bookkeeper, Spa Owner, On-Line Marketing, Healing Energy, Accounting/Financial, Yoga, Freelance Writers, Travel Agents, Crafts, Resource Centre, Rehabilitation Therapy, Photographer, Chiropractor, Fitness, Signs, Distributors, Life Coaches, Cleaner, Retail Display, Hairdressing, Golf Club Owner, Restaurateur, Retailers, Authors and other Holistic Health Practitioners.

Some of our members have come through the Elgin Business Resource Centre and to mention a few are Mary Pfeffer, Heather Baker, and Kim Davis.  Some are using the ICE Facility at the same location like Gail Dennis.  Did I forget to mention anybody else?

We can “shop till we drop” within our own network community but we come to meetings monthly to network, socialize, learn new things and support one another.  I’ve noticed the camaraderie and the partnerships that have developed over the years.  It takes time to get to know one another but it pays off as somewhere along the way “a light blub switches on” and you see opportunity.  It is a win/win situation.

We have a great EBWN Admin.Team who supports the network and I’ll talk about them throughout and at the end.  Right now I want to give you a trip down memory lane and review some “Remember When’s” over the course of the period from roughly May, 2012 until now.

We were at Dutton Meadows Golf Club last April 15th and Pamela Anderson and Yvonne Brooks conducted a “Flower Power” meeting.  We had lots of play things on our tables to keep us amused.

Speaking of those who help with our meetings, Pamela  and Jean Cluness are volunteers.  Pamela acts as a Greeter and Jean Cluness assists the Meeting Facilitator when an extra pair of hands are needed.  Things are not complete without April LaRoche’s photography either.  Ann-Marie Cheung set up Flickr, an online photo management and sharing application to store EBWN photos.  The members in the West which I call the “West-End Gals” have helped out at meetings especially when we are meeting out their way.  You have to give these ladies credit for coming to almost every meeting even in inclement weather and travelling to St. Thomas.

Poor Ann-Marie, every time she turned around we were asking her to do more things for our website which she was the Website Administrator of.  Her “to-do list” was always there but in turn she was marvellous in completing tasks.  A lot of the work she did on behalf of all of us was as a volunteer.

In 2013 we awarded Ann-Marie with the third Diva award which is an award given to EBWN members on an adhoc basis for exceptional contribution to the EBWN.  Other recipients are Melissa Bishop and Yvonne Brooks.  Yvonne Brooks acts as our West Elgin EBWN Representative and Lori Wall does the same in the East.

On March 21st, Dr. Allison Konrad, a Professor from the Richard Ivey School of Business made a presentation to the EBWN which focussed on Women’s status in Canadian business and changing attitudes to women in leadership roles but recognizing that women remain disadvantaged in the Canadian workplace.  She had taken sick the year before and we had to reschedule her.

Susan and Linda manned our booth at the Home Based Business Show at the Timken Centre on May 5th and Susan even took photos which is a rarity.

Last year our Success Meeting was on May 16th and Cheryl Lester led us as we talked about what we loved most about what we do.  The year before that, the Admin.Team wrote and sang a song and we called ourselves The Lime Green Beans.  Did you know that professional women can be silly and let their hair down?  Not news to us is it?

We had a potluck social event at Silverthorn Landscape Supplies in the summer on June 20th.  It was called The EBWN Diamond Jubilee.  Pauline Wimbush played The Queen and gave a speech and her assistant, Sharon Brassard was her Lady In Waiting.  We all dressed up but it was the hottest day of the season and we roasted and toasted in the sun.  Hetty sweated in her fur stole.  We all fanned ourselves but we had little shade and I for one got burned at the stake.  Sharon’s pickles on ice were fantastic as she served them on long sticks.  Kathy Kewley always brings us cup cakes and they began to droop.

We advertised in the YWCA Women’s Directory in both 2012 and 2013 and many of our members attended their annual women’s day event.  Thanks to Susan for orchestrating this as she is a big supporter of the women’s day event along with Susanne Mauer.  Susanne appeared in the St. Thomas Times Journal being made up in the “Strutting Your Stuff” workshop and Susan was quoted in the paper.  “It’s educational, it’s enlightening, it’s enriching; I think it’s just something women need” she noted in her concluding remarks when asked about the YWCA event.

We continue to be members of both the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and the Dutton Chamber as well.  Yvonne Brooks is on the Dutton Board and Linda Crawford works for the St. Thomas Chamber so we get up to date information.  I put the Weekly Newsletter for the St. Thomas Chamber on our blog each week.  It comes out on Tuesdays.  Membership is a real benefit as we can attend the monthly Business After 5 networking events.

Jennifer Mott, one of our members died on April 16th, 2012 in a motor vehicle accident at the age of 47.  Thanks to those who notified the Admin. Committee.  This was a sad loss for all of us.  Grace McGartland also lost her soul mate, Duncan. On a happier note, Grace has won several awards including a Silver Jubilee Award and County Ambassador of the year.  Grace is the Chairwoman for the Arts & Cookery Bank where we held one of our functions and she spoke to us on the benefits of volunteerism and used her own volunteer staff to make the points of her talk.  The EBWN has placed two stones in the walkway at the Arts & Cookery Bank which read, (“Honouring Elgin Women & Rural Economic Development 1997” and the other is, “Celebrating Elgin Business Women’s Network Since 1999”).  As you know, our roots started out in the west part of Elgin County so this is very fitting.

Gail Dennis prepared our audit for 2012 as a donation to the EBWN.  We are pleased that she was able to assist us and is a fellow member of our group.

Mary Pfeffer our past Treasurer, resigned her position in early 2012 as she had served on the Admin. Committee for 7 years.  A thank-you luncheon was held for her during one of our Admin. Committee Meetings.

Lori Wall also resigned from our Committee in 2012 and now is taking a Sabbatical from FreshStart.  Lori represented both her own agency and ours on the Women’s Economic Strategy through the YWCA St. Thomas – Elgin which was an initiative with the support of The Status of Women.  As long as Lori was on the Admin. Committee we met in her office and now we’ve moved to Bob and my home.  Lori lent us her karaoke machine every time we asked as many members advised us that they couldn’t hear efficiently at some of our meetings.

We posted the positions and then made some Admin. Committee decisions and Susan took on both Treasurer’s and Membership roles and Andrea Ruth came forward as our Secretary, a new person to our network.  Unfortunately Andrea just resigned from our team this week as she is overwhelmed with bookkeeping business.  Andrea was to take over as our Treasurer so Susan will maintain this function for now.  Susan also keeps us abreast of changes to our membership list and you are sent this on a monthly basis via e-mail.  A new face to our team is Sarah Martin, an Investment Specialist with Libro Financial who will assume Andrea’s role.  Change just is a big “beach ball” or “snowball” depending on the season but we appreciate the time and effort members can give no matter how long or short.

You can see that we’ve fed our Admin. Committee with new members who are willing to serve and bring new and fresh ideas to the table.  I am very proud that these women have come forward and this will add to the character of their lives as we all value volunteerism.

Our position descriptions have been updated and we continue to refine them.  It is important to have these to keep us on track and for anybody wanting to take on an Admin. Committee team role.

Anne Kenny, continues to facilitate some of the meetings and keeps us up to date with a Meeting/Facilities List which Susan constructed so we know in advance when, where, how and why our monthly meetings are taking place.  Anne and I also put a document together for anyone stepping into a facilitation role.  Anne was also the recipient of a 2013 Ontario Volunteer Service Award as well as an award from the Rotary Club.  Anne will always be a hard act to follow!!  Susan continues to update a list of guests attending each meeting since our new Membership Policy allows guests to attend twice before joining the EBWN.  Without payment of a membership, guests will be charged an attendance fee of $10.00 after two visits.

The Membership Policy has been bounced around the Admin. Committee for some time now.  Susan was instrumental in taking the lead to prepare it that you all received and she also prepared the questions for our 2nd survey.  Susan conducted our first, more lengthy survey, in 2007 and it was time for another one.  She received over 50 member responses and let us all know the results this year.  The skills most often mentioned that would be useful to learn more about are: marketing, networking, social media, advertising, public speaking, finance and sales.

She and I represented the EBWN on an International Women’s Day Committee with the Elgin Business Resource Centre.  We attended meetings, gave ideas and suggested “Mentors”.  This was a “Speed Mentoring Workshop” ½ day event with our Mayor, Heather Jackson, as the key note speaker.  Cheryl Lester, Grace McGartland and Carol Groves from our network were three of the eight mentors.  The project was managed by Tara McCaulley, also one of our members from the Elgin Business Resource Centre and Linda Crawford participated on our team from the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.  Next year two other members of our EBWN network can join in on the planning committee.

Ann-Marie brought a new software solution to the Admin. Committee and suggested we purchase software called Wild Apricot as this was to be a very efficient, user-friendly system that would cut down on administration, receipts, etc.  It was also time for Ann-Marie to leave and Kim Davis, as well a new member to our group took over.  It took until February 2013 for our system to be migrated over and usable but we’ve never looked back.  The EBWN Admin. Team has now completed a survey on Wild Apricot given to us by the owner of the company and we have lots of breathing room to learn new things with an on-line support system.  Ann-Marie is going to do an overview for the Admin. Committee in May.

In order to grow our own Admin. Team, Lori and Linda took a role in facilitation.  We are mentoring one another from within and this is important for people to aspire to their full potential.  We also decided to spread ourselves around at monthly meetings and sit at different tables to promote conversations.  We’ve been using a deck of cards to mix up the seating which works well to meet new people and sometimes we do ice-breaker exercises that Anne Kenny is the guru at.

Some of us got in the newspaper a few times.  Yvonne Brooks was quoted in the St. Thomas Times Journal regarding Random Acts of Kindness as she experienced the thrill of providing free service to clients, just asking them to pay the service forward.

I was quoted in the same paper after making an appeal to City Council to make changes to Jumbo Hill and plant trees and flowers.  I have been encouraged as the Canadian Cancer Society may be interested in helping get a program of daffodils planted on the hill but got what appeared to be negative press from the TJ.  Oh well, it got noticed that Jumbo Hill is an eyesore.

Our own members have given various presentations – Sharon Lechner of Reach For The Stars Empowerment provided a motivational talk on “How to Create Your Extraordinary Life” and gave her Top 6 Tips for 2013.  Last month, Kim Davis & Andrea Ruth spoke on Networking, Andrea highlighted “Best Networking Strategies” and Kim focused on Facebook for Daily Networking.

Other presentations were made by…

Gail Dennis on small business finances/tax tips. Delia Reiche and Brenda Smallman from ICE and the Elgin Business Resource Centre, and upcoming you will hear from Anne Kenny on Marketing.  Vicki Luke, from Agra & Rural Economic Development and one of the founding members of the EBWN came and spoke to us about why the EBWN was set up originally and about her role in OMAFRA and how she could help small business as she is our Rep in this area.  Our EBWN history is on our EBWN website.

Linda Crawford has been managing our PR/Marketing and Social Media.  She begs her way into networking opportunities for us and gets coverage on facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, MyFM, The Weekly News, in other newspapers and in Community Events, etc.  Linda has also initiated our participation in Elgin This Month on a special assignment of Women in Business whereby our members have an opportunity to advertise around a larger article about our EBWN.

To facilitate our own social media, Ann-Marie had also put HootSuite on our system to manage our EBWN social media profiles, twitter, facebook, LinkedIn all in one interface to simply things.  I hope you are getting a taste of what goes on behind the scenes that the average person wouldn’t be aware of.

We participated at the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce’s Business Sample Show once again last year and will do the same this year.  We’ve been doing this for a number of years.  Aurora Rodrigues and I set up the booth and it was Aurora’s creative ideas that set the tone for future booths.  It was A+ Displays like her company.  Karen Moffatt took our membership contributed gifts and made up two gigantic gift baskets that were professionally done as that is Karen’s Better Than Flowers business.  Thanks to Linda Stevenson, Sharon Lechner and Valerie Marchand for manning the booth.

We had our Christmas party at the CASO station for the second year in a row and were given the prestigious , large and spacious, Anderson Hall at no extra charge.  Jean Cluness was the MC.  We had entertainment by Liz Underhill who added humour and singing to our evening and our young friend, Austin Gagnier, an up and coming singer sang Christmas carols.  Once again I danced and this time with Jean.  Last time it was with Delia Reiche who tapped me on the back to dance.  Our Glitz and Glitter evening was planned and organized by Aurora Rodrigues, Pauline Wimbush, Jean Cluness and myself.  Susan, myself, Jean and Joy are setting it up for 2013 again back at the CASO Station.  As Linda Crawford is on the CASO Station Board she may have some pull to get us back in Anderson Hall.

April brought us a new idea which we’ve implemented and it is the Networking Basket.  If you want to participate you pick out a business card and you meet with that person over the course of the month and get to know their business better and tell them about yours.  Thanks to April for this idea that she picked up from another networking group she belongs to.  The Admin. team are always open to your suggestions.

Thursday night is also a big night for some of us to be models in the Downtown Fashion Show that Aurora Rodrigues is organizing and has sponsors with the likes of the Elgin Business Resource Centre.  If you want to have fun watching fellow EBWN members come on out and see Gail Dennis, Susan & her daughter Gabi, myself, Kim and other community supporters.  This event is in aid of Violence Against Women.

Well I’ve come to almost the end of my Success Story.  I want to thank the Admin. Team for helping to edit this Success Story as many eyes helps make things more complete.

The theme this year for the EBWN Admin. Team was “Be Light”.  Being light means compassion, empathy and caring for others.  It was suggested by Susan, I believe, “that a light hearted woman is less stressed and better equipped to deal with her business or profession”.

I also wrote in January, 2012 that “I think that we have been a successful team because we trust one another with professionalism, judgment and integrity” and I feel the same way in 2013.  Recently I wrote, “I think the membership respects us as a team and I know that I respect and honour each one of you as valuable volunteers and sincere business women”.

I want to focus on what I call:

The Lighten Up Team

and will they come before you and stand with me up at the front –

Susan, Kim, Sarah, Linda, and Yvonne will you come forward.  As well would Mary and Lori come up as well.  Anne, Andrea and Ann-Marie are unable to be with us this evening  These are the women who have represented you over 2012 and 2013 some leaving and some coming.

What does it mean to lighten up?  It means to have fun while you are doing your volunteer role and interacting with one another and the rest of the membership.  Being women we can get so serious and take everything on our shoulders.  As volunteers we also have many other responsibilities.  To Lighten Up means it brings a sense of balance to our lives and helps us remain light, but at the same time carry out our individual responsibilities with professionalism and as a team to ensure the stability to keep our EBWN working to the best of our abilities.  The Wild Apricots software system came into our lives and it too speaks of a lighter side of life for it is such a fun name.  As members of the EBWN we are all Wild Apricots and this name has been fun to refer to the Admin. Committee as.  These are wild team mates with individuality, spunk, creativity, expertise, knowledge and a pledge of allegiance to service. 

To celebrate the Admin. Team I’ve made a doodle art for them.  My teenage girlfriend Abby Jewel helped me put the sparkles on for hair as Aniko thought you all looked bald!  She also helped me put the signage on our Success Board.  At times we are 7 of us and at the present time we are 8 strong.  Thanks to all of these Wild Apricots for their volunteerism, for attending the monthly Admin. Committee Meeting, coming to facilitate, register and help at our EBWN dinner meetings, working with one another and for their on-going suggestions on behalf of the membership. 

Thanks to true women leaders.




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