Women in Business Fall 2018

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FALL 2018




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How three companies have reaped the rewards and navigated the challenges of running a family business
















Kirk LaPointe EDITOR: Meg Yamamoto DESIGN: Randy Pearsall PRODUCTION: Rob Benac CONTRIBUTORS: Michelle Hopkins, Baila Lazarus, Larkin MacKenzie-Ast, Lori Mathison, Cybele Negris, Holly Peck, Armita Seyedalikhani PROOFREADER: Christine Rowlands INTEGRATED SALES MANAGERS: Pia Huynh, Laura Torrance ADVERTISING SALES: Benita Bajwa, Dean Hargrave, Blair Johnston, Corinne Tkachuk, Chris Wilson NATIONAL SALES: Shirley Moody OPERATIONS MANAGER: Michelle Myers ADMINISTRATORS: Katherine Butler, Marie Pearsall RESEARCH: Anna Liczmanska, Carrie Schmidt

FEATURES Networking roundup Ready, set, network All in the family Social works Smart set


With women’s business groups in B.C. offering everything from tea socials to $150,000 financing, Old Boys networks are old news




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Women in Business Fall 2018 is published by BIV Magazines, a division of BIV Media Group, 303 Fifth Avenue West, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1J6, 604-688-2398, fax 604-688-1963, biv.com. Copyright 2018 Business in Vancouver Magazines. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system without permission of BIV Magazines. The publishers are not responsible in whole or in part for any errors or omissions in this publication. ISSN 1205-5662 Publications Mail Agreement No.: 40069240. Registration No.: 8876. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to Circulation Department: 303 Fifth Avenue West, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1J6 Email: subscribe@biv.com


Cover base illustration: Shutterstock

Three millennial women offer networking tips for the social media age


Proper etiquette for networking success starts long before a meeting and continues afterward

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Message from the editor

THE MAGIC OF MAKING CONNECTIONS Welcome to the latest issue of Women in Business magazine. This edition is all about making connections – connections that can help us grow as professionals and take our careers and businesses where we want them to go. As the professionals featured in these pages can tell you, we enrich ourselves in myriad ways when we connect with our peers, whether to receive or give support. Setting the stage, writer Baila Lazarus offers a comprehensive and highly useful roundup of women’s networking and support groups in B.C., as well as advice from the pros on how to prepare for events, get the most out of them and properly follow up afterwards – along with the biggest networking dos and don’ts. Michelle Hopkins gives us networking tips for the social media age from three millennial businesswomen and talks to entrepreneurs about the

importance of social media networks to startup success. She also explores the benefits and challenges of working with family members in an interesting story highlighting three female-driven family businesses. We are honoured by the contributions of five outstanding guest columnists – experts from a variety of backgrounds with much wisdom to impart. As executive director of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, Larkin MacKenzie-Ast knows a thing or two about networking; in an informative column, she encourages us to look at networking as a fun opportunity and to seize those “mentor moments.” Serial entrepreneur Cybele Negris offers networking tips and suggestions for introverts who need the help, as well as for extroverts who think they don’t. Lori Mathison, president and CEO of the Chartered Professional

Accountants of British Columbia, tackles the important subject of women’s leadership, discussing strides made – and progress still needed. Holly Peck, a research scientist at Sanctuary AI, tells the fascinating tale of how she came to found the Vancouver chapter of Women Who Code, a global community that supports and connects women in technology. Finally, Armita Seyedalikhani, director of communications and corporate affairs at BlueShore Financial, talks about the manifold rewards of networking through volunteerism. Our diverse B.C. community of women in business is an invaluable resource in itself; we hope this edition encourages and helps you to connect with it. Meg Yamamoto Editor, Women in Business myamamoto@biv.com

Inspiring Success Stories. At BLG, we are committed to empowering our clients, our professionals and our community through our value-added programming and community efforts. As a leading, national, full-service law firm, BLG are leaders in business law. Our goal is simple: to provide our clients with the best service, by the best professionals.

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Krista Johanson Partner

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NETWORKING ROUNDUP With women’s business groups in B.C. offering everything from tea socials to $150,000 financing, Old Boys networks are old news


W Lisa Niemetscheck, director of fundraising and corporate sponsorship, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs: “if you’re in business – whether Day 1 or Day 100 – you need a mentor” | BIV ARCHIVES/ ROB KRUYT

omen’s networking groups have been around for decades in B.C., but as the needs of members change, the content and direction of these groups have adapted.

There are still the larger organizations that draw luncheons or dinners of 100 attendees monthly. But within these associations, the trend now is in the formation of “masterminds” – smaller gatherings of a dozen or so networkers who spend time drilling down on individuals’ business challenges in what are known as hot seats or idea parties. Entrepreneurs take turns identifying a specific problem they are facing, and the group contributes ideas to its solution. There are also groups popping up whose goal is to steer away from the press-the-flesh-and-pass-the-card traditional practices and concentrate more on personal connections and building relationships over time. Not all networking groups are intended for business owners, either. There are groups that exist for professional women to address challenges that differ from those of their entrepreneur cousins, and places for university students or recent graduates to test the waters. Here is a cross-section of women’s networking and support groups in B.C. (For advice on how to choose a group that’s best for you, see “Ready, Set, Network” on page 10.)

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The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) is all about education and mentorship. It has joined the ranks of those running mastermind sessions, holding “AM” (Ask Me) sessions – morning gatherings, once or twice a month, for 10 to 14 entrepreneurs – that offer opportunities to network, as well as examine a troublesome business hurdle in detail. FWE, which was founded in 2002 and became a registered charity in 2016, is well known for its E-Series, an annual three-day-long comprehensive business builder program, followed by 12 months of support, that immerses participants in the world of business. More than 500 women have gone through the curriculum, which is open to businesswomen across Canada. Female business operators looking for cash are likely to be familiar with FWE’s Pitch for the Purse contest, which puts candidates in a Dragons’ Den-like experience to pitch their business idea in exchange for an investment. FWE also has a mentorship program, which has

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WOMEN’S ENTERPRISE CENTRE womensenterprise.ca

helped more than 1,600 participants. “The ideal entrepreneur [for FWE] is growth driven,” says Lisa Niemetscheck, director of fundraising and corporate sponsorship. “She realizes that she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know and she needs a support ecosystem. “If you’re in business – whether Day 1 or Day 100 – you need a mentor. You’re not talking business strategies with your salesperson. Your friends and family are supportive but not objective. A mentor gets you thinking about your company in a whole new way.”

The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs’ E-Series is an annual three-day comprehensive business builder program open to women in business anywhere in Canada | FORUM FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS


The first stop on a tour of women’s networking groups in B.C. has to be at the WEB Alliance. An umbrella organization representing 30 women’s groups, the WEB Alliance serves as a voice for its member organizations and other women’s networking and business support groups. It operates as a resource centre, facilitates collaboration and networking between the various member groups and acts as a government adviser and consultant at municipal, provincial and federal levels. Kerrilee Auger, co-chair of the WEB Alliance, sees a primary task of women’s business groups as getting support to the women when they need it. “We always say, don’t avoid asking for help,” says Auger. “But women may ask too late.” Previous WEB Alliance leadership helped create the Premier’s Women’s Economic Council under the administration of former premier Christy Clark, says Auger. Now the alliance participates in council conversations such as how the BC Jobs Plan affects women in business. “This is how women entrepreneurs through the province can speak directly to the government and provide recommendations … letting them know the challenges or barriers they’re facing,” says Auger.

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Lee-Ann Frances Bates, managing director, Vancouver Metro, eWomenNetwork: “people aren’t throwing their business cards at me; they seem genuinely interested in relationships” | SUBMITTED

Offering business planning services, skills-based webinars, business advising, networking opportunities, workshops and loans and peer mentoring, the Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC) covers a broad range of support services, particularly in the area of startups or those needing financing. Startups can attend peer-mentoring groups, where a successful female business owner volunteers her time to guide the small group. “They provide environments to network, speak openly with other women entrepreneurs and step out your comfort zones to meet new people,” says Katherine Britton, director of business development. In the area of financing, Britton adds that people often don’t know about access to loans of up to $150,000 through a joint program between WEC, Futurpreneur Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada. WEC also offers one-on-one complimentary business counselling, a library of resources and a list of women’s networking groups in B.C. EWOMENNETWORK ewomennetwork.com

The Dallas-based eWomenNetwork has chapters around the world, with a very active one in the Lower Mainland. Regular networking events include a monthly Accelerated Networking luncheon or dinner held at the Holiday Inn on Broadway and twice-a-month strategic business introductions (SBIs). The SBI is similar to the mastermind group where 12 business owners or professionals are given extended networking time and the chance to build their relationships. “It’s so much more than networking,” says Lee-Ann Frances Bates, managing director, Vancouver Metro. “It’s a built mastermind. So many people are spending so much money on masterminds, and this is free for members to come with guests. “Everyone’s getting to know you more intimately. I have seen more really cool collaborations come out of SBIs because one person will bring up their challenge and another member can see how they can help. “It’s like having your own team of advisers. You get 12 people more deeply interested than when you’re at a larger networking event and have only one minute to talk about it.” What sets eWomen apart from other networking groups is the extensive marketing platform. Members can set up their own podcasting channels through the system and have a ready-made audience of tens of thousands; business coaches can have a platform where their services are offered to every new member; and members with an area of expertise can offer to speak at different chapters or hold online webinars to educate viewers and promote their business. “What I love about eWomen is that there is a different energy and feel involved,” says Bates. “People aren’t throwing their business cards at me; they seem genuinely interested in relationships.”

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Networking roundup


On Vancouver Island, the Oceanside Women’s Business Network (OWBN) is one of four women’s business networking groups that share reciprocal services – Oceanside (Parksville area), West Shore (Victoria), Nanaimo and Comox Valley. “Our mandate is to provide networking opportunities for mutual support of women and their endeavours, attend meetings, promote business and learn from each other,” says newly elected OWBN president Debbie Wilder.

Debbie Wilder, president of the Oceanside Women’s Business

Members of Wilder’s group attend monthly and annual events that normally bring in guest speakers to train in the area of personal or business success. “Just the confidence that we gain in being in a group like that better prepares us for going into other groups and feeling good when standing in your own shoes,” says Wilder. As with other networking groups, OWBN welcomes professionals and retirees. “It’s not just about going and making money,” says Wilder. “It’s about diversity and finding out where other people are at, where they’ve been, how they got there.”

Network, credits networking with building confidence in women so they can present well at other business meetings | SUBMITTED


The Ladies Meeting, which meets monthly at the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver’s West End, welcomes a wide variety of women interested in networking, including university students and workat-home professionals | THE LADIES MEETING

Ladies Meeting founder Anyssa Carruthers wanted to create an atmosphere that was more

THE LADIES MEETING theladiesmeeting.com

Drop by the Sylvia Hotel on the last Tuesday of the month, and you’re likely to see a group of about 20 women chatting over lunch as though they were all lifelong friends. This was one of the dynamics Anyssa Carruthers set out to create when she was looking for a different style of networking after moving from Abbotsford to Vancouver. “I didn’t want to get pulled around by people who really just wanted to sign you up for their business.” Formalized in 2012, the Ladies Meeting is for female entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses, but not exclusively. “It’s not necessary to be in business,” says Carruthers. “We get university students or professional women who work at home but need to get out once a month.” The atmosphere is more relaxed, and conversations tend toward the personal rather than the business side of people’s lives. “We encourage people to drop the business card, look someone in the face and build a relationship,” says Carruthers.

Offering events ranging from small get-togethers to larger networking socials, the Self-Employed Women’s Network (SEWN) operates on the Sunshine Coast and, as with OWBN, is part of a trio of women’s groups with reciprocal services. One group serves the area around Sechelt, another exists near Pender Harbour and a third is in Gibsons. The association grew out of the Sunshine Coast Community Resource Centre Progress Plan that was funded by a three-year Status of Women grant to look at barriers to women living healthy and productive lives. “There are more than 1,000 self-employed women on the coast,” says SEWN director at large Christina Stewart. “SEWN allows you to discover and connect with other women who are going through the same things you are.” The three groups enable members to attend three different meetings a month, giving them practice in building relationships outside of their own community. Stewart says the interaction boosts women’s confidence, especially when attending events they’ve never been to. “The easiest way to walk into a room cold is to ask yourself, ‘How do I help this person?’” Stewart suggests. “I come from a place of curiosity to see who I can connect them with. That takes the pressure off me having to come up with an elevator pitch or be my best self. Sometimes it’s just about listening.”

relaxed, where conversations tend toward the personal rather than the business side of people’s lives | SUBMITTED

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Bridgitte Anderson, chair of the Women’s Leadership Circle advisory committee, underlines the importance of having men as part of women’s events to help “move the dial” in diversity | SUBMITTED

WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP CIRCLE, GREATER VANCOUVER BOARD OF TRADE boardoftrade.com/programs/women-s-leadership-circle

DYNAMIC WOMEN dynamicwomeninaction.com

Dynamic Women Global

When Diane Rolston went out looking for a networking group in 2013, she couldn’t find one that suited her. “I was going out networking looking for people who were real,” says Rolston. “I’d show up early and leave late, and it still wasn’t enough. I couldn’t find the time to schedule what I was learning. People were wondering, how do you make friends and branch out?” So Rolston started Dynamic Women in Action (now Dynamic Women) as a means to get more authentic relationships and engagement. “You show up as who you are rather than what you do; you get to show up as real,” says Rolston. “You get to know someone and you start to like them because you find similarities, and you trust each other because you share with one another.” Rolston hosts monthly events throughout the year for 20 to 30 women; she facilitates the events herself with a discussion topic related to business. Dynamic Women groups are now running in Vancouver, Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver. Rolston’s licensing model allows other coaches to run similar groups in their own communities. “I hate to think that women are sitting somewhere alone craving a deeper connection and wanting to grow themselves and help others,” she says.

community of women with

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Club is an international online events and multiple chapters. It offers personal and professional coaching and live networking events in the Tri-Cities, North Shore and Vancouver | DYNAMIC WOMEN

The Women’s Leadership Circle (WLC) is one of four signature programs under the auspices of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. The others are the Small Business Council, Leaders of Tomorrow and Company of Young Professionals. There is no separate membership – board of trade members as well as non-members can simply join the WLC’s events. The primary goal of the WLC is to promote diversity in business, which is done through networking, social events, advocacy and championing women in the workplace, according to Bridgitte Anderson, chair of the WLC advisory committee. “Networking happens broadly,” says Anderson. “And it can’t just be about women; we have to have men at the table. And we have men at the WLC who are active members. It really is a conversation with men and women that helps move the dial. “But to me it’s much more than networking; it also is a way for us to feel like we’re contributing to help move each other forward and provide opportunities for women to find leadership positions.” The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade is an organizing partner of the We for She event taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre in November (weforshe.ca). The gathering of advocates, change makers, business leaders and other stakeholders is intended to be one of the largest events in North America to tackle gender equity in leadership. É

Diane Rolston couldn’t find a networking event where she felt the members were real, so she created Dynamic Women: “you show up as who you are rather than what you do; you get to show up as real” | SUBMITTED

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NETWORK Proper etiquette for networking success starts long before a meeting and continues afterward


If part of your criteria for a good networking group is fun, building referral relationships and having several networking events to go to each month, eWomenNetwork would fit the bill | ANITA ALBERTO


or the novice, getting dressed in a business-casual outfit, grabbing a handful of business cards and showing up to an event is about the extent of what “networking” means. But those in the know familiarize themselves with proper etiquette around what to do before, during and after an event that will keep it from being a colossal waste of time. CHOOSING A MEETING Q Perhaps the most important part of successful networking is starting with the right choice. Give yourself time to look through all the options in your area (see “Networking Roundup” on page 6 for an overview of women’s networking groups in B.C.) and try out several before settling on one or two to join or visit. Monika Becker, founder of Clear Directions Coaching, has been networking for almost a decade and regularly attends five networking groups, including eWomenNetwork and the Professional Women’s Network. “I look for a genuine interest of participants to help one another, an education component, fun and the quality of exposure for me and my business,” says Becker. “The results I want are quality relationships and/or connections that lead to personal or professional growth and business opportunities.” Adding another perspective, Marilyn Anderson, a consultant in research and customer experience management, thinks from the point of view of her clients. “I look for events with new information from solid, verifiable sources, attended by people who could be

Biggest networking mistakes ■Handing out business cards without having a proper conversation

■Non-stop talking at the other person rather than having a two-way conversation

■Giving praise and positive testimonials out of obligation and not from a real experience

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■Not being prepared with a proper elevator pitch that is meant to inspire connection rather than to sell

■Not being present, not paying attention – no eye contact, looking around the room and being distracted

■Not having a clear purpose and goal for the meeting ■Not having enough business cards ■Not circulating, lurking in corners ■Hanging out with people you already know

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good connections for my clients, business colleagues and friends. My intention is to network with purpose – something to learn and someone to meet – and without expectation.” Sue Ferreira, founder of Wisdom to Wealth Mastery, cautions against joining groups that have become stale. “I look for a group that is alive and active,” she says. “Many groups settle into a routine and become social occasions, with little interest in business.” Christine Bennet-Clark, who trains entrepreneurs in using Facebook ads, created her own “mastermind” – a group of networkers who spend time working on individuals’ business problems – knowing women face different challenges and look for different kinds of support. “Look for opportunities where you can be with women and discuss challenges and successes at a much more personal level without feeling judged for talking about baby and family issues that so often are a part of business experience,” she says. “You can network profitably as well as be authentic.” L ee-A n n Fra nces Bates, ma nag i ng d i rector of eWomenNetwork Vancouver Metro, focuses on the importance of choosing a group that aligns with your values. “Build relationships from a place of serving and focus on creating a referral community,” she says. “Always set an intention for each meeting, and the fortune is in followup, so leave with clear actionable steps and follow through.” PRIOR TO GOING Q Once you’ve selected a meeting, the next step is preparation. “In advance of the event, I research the presenters, review their websites, blogs and social media accounts, connecting where possible,” says Anderson. “If the list of attendees is public, I will review it for people I know


Be a professional and treat them with the genuine interest, respect and curiosity everybody deserves. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s also very effective

ABOVE: Leadership and

business consultant Francesca Anastasi says networkers’ eagerness to sell or talk about themselves makes them look desperate | SUBMITTED

LEFT: Financial educator

Jocelyne Devisser follows the networker’s mantra: “people

and for people I know about, whom I haven’t met yet and with whom I would like to connect. “In my experience, the biggest mistake I see people make is to be unclear on their purpose. Knowing whom you are looking for (e.g., someone from a specific type of business, someone with a particular role or expertise, someone who would be a good prospect or a great prospective source of referrals) is a great advantage.” Laura Kassama, who runs a virtual administration agency, takes her pre-meeting preparation seriously. “Be prepared so you don’t make a bad first impression,” says the self-described shy extrovert. “Have your elevator pitch, know your ideal client and don’t be afraid to stick your hand out and say hello.” Lisa Niemetscheck agrees that having an elevator pitch ready is key, if only to be able to easily introduce yourself, especially if you struggle with confidence. “Go with a goal” to meet someone in a certain sector, says Niemetscheck, director of fundraising for the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. “Find the person you need to talk to; Google them so you can have an informed conversation. It shows you’ve done prep work and you respect that person’s time.” AT THE EVENT Q By far the biggest mistake people

make at a networking event, according to seasoned networkers, is having the wrong mindset – going around a room passing out business cards simply to sell. Exchanging business cards is still the norm, but emphasis is now placed on proper engagement. “People make the biggest mistake of going networking and trying to sell to people,” says Jocelyne Devisser, who teaches business owners basic financials. “People need to know, like and trust you before they will do business with you.” Do your best to make real connections with people, says Becker, who is a life and business coach. “Take your time to get to know them. Listen really well and genuinely seek to understand what the person you are talking to is offering, what she/he is looking for and who they are as a person/business owner. “Be a professional and treat them with the genuine interest, respect and curiosity everybody deserves. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s also very effective.” Francesca Anastasi is a leadership and business consultant, trainer and mentor. She organizes the Magnificent You conference in the Lower Mainland. A networker since 2002, she regularly attends eWomenNetwork and Valley Women’s Association events. Her experience is that many people at networking events appear desperate. “Don’t use cliché words and phrases when talking about your business,” says Anastasi. “Be more interested in connecting with people and how you can support each other rather than networking with the sole goal to pitch and land clients, as that approach drives people away and makes you look desperate and unprofessional.” Certified holistic wellness coach Debra Jang approaches networking events as opportunities to develop relationships, “not necessarily to get business from the

need to know, like and trust you before they will do business with you” | SUBMITTED

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Ready, set, network

LEFT: Attend networking events

with an open mindset to “learn from others and help others without expectations,” says certified holistic wellness coach Debra Jang | SUBMITTED

“After the meeting, send a quick email saying you are glad you met and look forward to seeing them at the next meeting,” says Peel. “Suggest they connect with you on social media and provide links to your profiles. Once connected on social media, engage with them by commenting on their posts. This will help you get noticed and show them that you are interested in getting to know them. “If you feel comfortable, ask if they want to connect over coffee. The whole purpose of networking is connecting with people, so offer different ways to stay connected with you. The best way to create connection is to keep going to the group, engage in conversation, ask questions and get to know each other.” É

ABOVE: Jennifer Henczel, founder

of Connect Now Business Network and promoter of more

event, although it would be nice if it happened on the spot,” she says. “During the event, have an open mindset to learn from others and help others without expectations. When the opportunity comes up, ask for referrals to people, gatekeepers or influencers who work with your ideal clients. Show up regularly. When you become known for your expertise, that’s when the magic happens.” Jennifer Henczel, founder of Connect Now Business Network, has promoted more than 400 networking events. She agrees that the first step is a positive mindset. “In the world of networking, if you look for obstacles, you’ll find them – but if you look for opportunities, you’ll also find an abundance of them,” says Henczel. “Choose to maintain a positive mindset in all your interactions. Networking works when you strive for meaningful connection, not a quick fix.” Henczel also addresses the challenge of running into other networkers who are selling the same product or service. “If you feel someone is a competitor, find a way to do a joint venture with them, rather than feeling threatened by them. You’ll be amazed at how it makes you feel, and at the results. When you are your authentic self, there is no competition. Each person brings unique and valuable gifts to the table.” AFTER THE MEETING Q Before you even leave an

than 400 networking events, coaches networkers on how to collaborate with competitors rather than feel threatened by them | SUBMITTED

RIGHT: Shannon Peel, a marketing

and business strategist, recommends a series of followup activities – including connecting on social media with other networkers you’ve met – intended to extend and deepen the relationship | SUBMITTED

LEFT: Technical writer Pam

Drucker notes that small, polite actions, such as thanking the host for the meeting, can go a long way in building relationships | SUBMITTED

event, there is proper etiquette to follow, according to technical writer Pam Drucker, who has been networking for 12 years. “Say a personal thank you to the host or sponsor for inviting the group into the space, to the speaker for their time and to your new connections – they will feel appreciated.” Drucker also suggests sharing photos, comments and followup information in the event’s public forum. “Understand that your small actions will ripple across your network,” she says. Marketing and technology strategist Shannon Peel has tried more than a dozen groups in the Lower Mainland and still belongs to two that she attends regularly.

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Sponsored Content

A Case for Networking Angela Austman, Partner, Lawson Lundell LLP hroughout my career as a lawyer, I have encountered colleagues whose attitudes towards networking run the entire gamut: some enjoy and excel at it, others dread it, and the most vocal once declared that “marketing is for losers”. I fall into the first category. In my view, networking is an essential part of growing your business and participating in the business community. In working with my clients, I seek to understand as much as I can about their challenges and opportunities, and networking and building relationships with members of the business community is integral to accomplishing this. For other people, networking might be a way to recruit new talent, to get elected, to raise money, or to accomplish a number of other objectives. In order to be as successful as possible in this, I have learned the following:


1. It’s never too early to start The earlier in your career you start thinking about and engaging in networking activities, the more fruit your efforts will bear in the long run. If you start building up your network when you are still in school, by the time you have established yourself in your career, you will have developed deeper relationships and a more diverse roster of contacts. Your objectives will change at different points in your career. When you start out, getting a job may be your first priority, whereas identifying sources of business may be your objective later on. But the principles will remain the same, with the main goal being cultivating rewarding connections.

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2. Understand that it’s a long-term investment Networking is a long-term play. It’s all about planting seeds and tending them over time. If you go into a one-off networking opportunity expecting to come away with new clients, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. As with most things, you need to prove yourself and earn trust before you succeed. I recently received a lucrative referral from a former colleague I met 15 years ago! 3. Networking is a personal, twoway street The most successful networkers I know are authentic and genuinely interested in getting to know and helping other people. They are curious and want to connect the people they meet to other people that might be able to help them with a challenge or situation they are facing. They are people of integrity who follow through with their commitments. Similarly, they also understand that having developed and made valuable contributions to their network, they aren’t afraid to ask that network to recommend them or make a helpful introduction. 4. Networking looks different for different people Attending industry events and conferences is just one of many ways to network. In order to be successful, you need to find the modes and environs with which you are most comfortable. If you are really passionate about politics or about making an impact in your community, volunteering for a political party or non-profit may be an effective way to build your network. An advantage of volunteering as a form of networking is that you will

be meeting regularly and working towards a shared goal with those you meet. While I prefer to do my networking in person, other people are more comfortable networking via social media platforms and they should use these channels to reinforce their relationships. 5. Be strategic and follow up No matter your style or the platform you select when it comes to networking, it takes time. You need to follow up and keep nurturing relationships in order for them to grow. That being said, we are all busy and need to prioritize our time. As a working mom, I have realized over the years that it’s impossible to say yes to everything, and that I need to be selective when engaging in networking. I look carefully at the events I attend to get a sense of who is in the room and whether or not I think the event will be productive. When I am at an event, I’m not shy about asking existing contacts to make introductions. In conclusion Ultimately, networking is a skill and, just like any other skill, you can learn how to be good at it. Find a method with which you’re comfortable, put in the time and effort, and be realistic with your expectations. Experiment with some trial and error and find out what works for you and what does not. And remember, people do business with people they like. Angela Austman is a Partner at Lawson Lundell LLP practising in the areas of Corporate Finance and Securities and Private Equity. She can be reached at aaustman@ lawsonlundell.com.

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MENTOR MOMENTS Mentorship opportunities can arise from unlikely and unexpected sources


W Too often we think we need to sanity-test our ideas with people from our own industry

hen I started my career, “networking” meant free wine (cheap quality, in limited quantities, but free!) and incredibly small chat. This is no ref lection on the events or the people with whom I chatted, but rather a reflection on my concept of networking. I’d never been disabused of the idea that networking was painful. No one had ever told me that it was an opportunity to connect with other interesting people. That would have blown my mind and saved me countless hours of angst. Should you suffer a natural aversion to networking, let me try to dispel the notion that it is a challenge and to help you see it as a fun opportunity. In my role as executive director of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE), I speak to groups of anywhere from 12 to 700 people, and at more than half of these occasions, we are inviting people to connect. We are always mindful of using the term “connect” rather than “network,” because it feels more meaningful and less stressful. Connecting sounds collaborative and soulful, and that is exactly what it should be. Fast-forward to today and my favourite part of these events is the chance to help people solve problems. I try to walk away from events with a longer to-do list, lengthened

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by the number of introductions I need to make because I know a woman who just went through the painstaking process of sourcing materials in China, and I just met someone who is overwhelmed by where he would even start the process. This means that I spend most of my time at events listening and understanding the people with whom I am speaking, and not scanning the room over their shoulder to see who else is there. I have also adopted the notion that a minute of awkwardness is better than half an hour wasted, so when a conversation has reached its natural end, I have forced myself to get comfortable with simply saying “It was nice to meet you” and continuing on my merry way. At the B.C. Tech Summit in May, keynote speaker Brent Bushnell listed some tips for being creative. One of these was to attend events that have nothing to do with your i ndustry. He encou raged us to “crash conferences” that are completely out of our comfort zone, helping us see challenges from a different angle. This is a cornerstone of the concept of “mentor moments” – the idea that you can receive amazing mentorship tidbits from unlikely and unexpected sources. At FWE, we host two speed-mentori ng events per year, and these are based on this concept. We pair women entrepreneurs with four different mentors for 12-minute intervals, and while we curate the first of these four, the remaining three are based on where they are seated. It is amazing to hear the women talk about the exceptional insights they gain from these 48 minutes of power mentoring. Too often we think we need to sanity-test our ideas with people from our own industry. Even though I now understand how meaningful these opportunities can be, and in spite of the frequent public speaking I do, I still

fight back a momentary feeling of dread when I get invited to a “mingler.” I’ve adopted some quirky little isms to make these less tricky. I have collected some favourite quotes that I keep on sticky notes on my laptop to remind me of the key messages: ■“Empowered women empower women.” This one is easy because it’s so straightforward in my case. It is a key part of my role, as executive director of a charitable organization that exists to educate and mentor women entrepreneurs, to help connect people and to find them the help they need. I actually do need to network like it’s my day job – because it is my day job! ■“Screw it, let’s do it.” Thank you, Sir Richard Branson, for saying this one, which always makes me picture Thelma and Louise, hands clasped, about to drive off the cliff. Why not bring a friend? I have a small posse of amazing women I call upon to attend events together. You get to catch up and double the number of people you meet. ■“Slay all day.” I know it’s a bit overused, but it always makes me feel hip and cool. I feel super boss whenever I take an opportunity to introduce myself to someone I admire. I dare myself to walk right up to people I recognize and quickly tell them that I admire them. I always keep it short and sweet. No need to drag it out. And when in doubt, though it may sound cheesy, a little Beyoncé goes a long way: “If there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.” É Larkin MacKenzie-Ast is the executive director of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. She sits on the boards of the HR MacMillan Space Centre and New Ventures BC and has also served on the BC Innovation Council board of directors.

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Network without expectations – go to an event to build relationships and be happy to grow your network without the intention to sell your wares

o much of success is still based on who you know – I didn’t truly grasp this until my 30s and avoided networking like the plague. In an article for Business in Vancouver last year, I confessed my “dirty little secret” that I was the “ultimate impostor.” Behind feeling that I was unworthy of being at the table, didn’t fit into male-dominated industries (construction and technology) and was undeserving of recognition for what I had achieved was a fundamental shyness and lack of confidence. I dropped out of the University of British Columbia’s commerce program to avoid public speaking and ended up with a psychology degree instead – a direction I figured might help me delve into the root of my own insecurities. When I became an entrepreneur and started my own companies, I was intensely afraid to take on speaking engagements and anxiety-ridden each time I had to attend a networking function, yet I knew as the public face of my company I had to do it. This is when I set out to overcome my fear

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Tips for both introverts and extroverts

of public speaking and networking. Now I speak on average at least once a week, in addition to attending multiple networking or business events. I call myself a functioning introvert (someone who re-energizes by being alone). Here are some of the insights and tips that helped me get to where I am today: ■Understand that many people are uncomfortable networking or public speaking (even those who seem like they are masters at it). Maybe you feel like you don’t belong, don’t fit in or won’t know anyone. Know that you are not alone in these fears – many people feel insecure. ■To understand your own feelings of impostor syndrome, read my article at impostorsyndrome.ca and Valerie Young’s book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women – also available on Audible if you like to listen to your books while stuck in traffic or as you commute. Recognizing these feelings is the first step to challenging and overcoming them. ■Start by attending friendly events l i ke a loca l Meetup w ith other professionals in your field or an event organized by the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE, fwe. ca) or Women’s Executive Network (WXN, wxnetwork.com), both of which are welcoming and inclusive. The Women’s Enterprise Centre (womensenterprise.ca) has a great series of Mindset Mastery events that help to build confidence. ■When you get to an event, scan the room for those on the sidelines. Find someone who looks approachable, then go and introduce yourself. A simple “Have you been to one of these events before?” will get the conversation rolling. You’ll both be relieved to break the ice and you might even gain a cohort for the remainder of the event. ■Fo cu s on t he ot her p erson – striking up a conversation can

feel uncomfortable, but for many women, so does ta l k i ng about themselves. Asking others questions is a good way to connect, warm up and build confidence. Ask questions about their business, why they are there and what they enjoy about the group. ■Reach out through technology first – look at the attendee list in advance, if it’s available, and connect with people a few days before the event via LinkedIn or Twitter. By exchanging a message beforehand, or simply following or liking their content, you can make that in-person conversation feel less intimidating. By the time you arrive at an event, you’ll feel like you already know some of the attendees – plus, you can break the ice by referencing something they have shared. ■Use a Dale Carnegie trick I learned when I took the Dale Carnegie program many years ago. When you first meet people, look them in the eye and shake their hand. Repeat their name after they say it. If it isn’t clear, ask them to spell it or repeat it. Make an effort to memorize it by associating their name with an image. I learned 50 people’s first and last names in one threehour session and never forgot their names over 10 weeks. Twenty-five years later, I still remember the full name of the partner I did the exercise with. ■A sk a mentor to ta ke you to a n event a nd i ntroduce you to people. If you don’t have a mentor, ask a more senior colleague or a well-connected friend. You will learn a lot and shed some anxiety simply by being the sidekick at a couple of low-pressure events. ■Become a mentor – acting as a mentor through FWE and WXN over the past seven years has taught me how to open up and share my experiences with younger entrepreneu rs a nd busi ness people. Now I’m much more comfortable

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at networking events when asked about myself. ■Feel the fear but do it anyway – often I dread going to an event but then end up having a good time. Remember that FEAR is False Expectations Appearing Real. The anticipation and fear are worse than reality. EXTROVERT EXTRAS Q If you’re an extrovert (someone who re-energizes by being around people) you may not think you need any help, but here are a few tips for your consideration also: ■Stop pitching – don’t go into an event pitching and trying to sell your products or services. But if asked, have a 30-second elevator pitch ready and rehearsed so it naturally rolls off your tongue. ■Avoid drinking if you can, or be mindful not to overdo it. Don’t forget to put down that drink during photo opportunities because you never know where those pictures

will get published and shared. ■Be genuinely interested – I highly suggest reading the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In the book there are numerous tips on how to better relate with people based on “human relations principles.” You can learn to be interested in the people you meet in a genuine way. Look people in the eyes when you talk. Actively listen rather than shaking hands mindlessly while you wait to say what you want. Be fully present and don’t continuously scope the room for the next person to speak with. ■Making conversation might be easy for some but can be a real struggle for others. When you get to an event, seek out the person on the sidelines who is not talking to anyone. Take a few minutes to help that person feel comfortable or to give them a warm start by introducing them to people you know. ■Network without expectations – go to an event to build relationships

and be happy to grow your network without the intention to sell your wares. People buy from those they know, like and trust. The sales will follow in due course. Networking is a powerful tool that can help advance your professional career and grow your business. With practice and perseverance, it will begin to feel more natural and even enjoyable. As you get the hang of things, remember that it’s OK to take a few minutes to regroup and re-energize if you need it, and to extend the same kindness to yourself that you would to others. You’ve got this! Happy networking. É Cybele Negris is a serial entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder of Webnames.ca (Canada’s original .ca registrar), director of the Royal Canadian Mint, speaker and mentor.

Applications are Now Open for the Michelle Pockey Leadership Award As a prominent lawyer and community activist, Michelle Pockey dedicated herself to making a positive difference in the world. A winner of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business Award in 2016, Michelle worked tirelessly for 20 years advancing women in business, law, First Nations and non-traditional sectors. She was an inspiration to others every day of her life until her passing from cancer in June 2016.

Michelle Pockey

To help support Michelle’s legacy and advance other women along their leadership journeys, Business in Vancouver and Minerva BC have partnered to recognize this exceptional female leader through the creation of the Michelle Pockey Leadership Award. This award will give first priority to an Indigenous woman and single parents, and second priority to women pursuing law, justice, Indigenous or environmental studies. An award and donation cheque will be presented at the Influential Women in Business Awards in March 2019.

Donate or apply at biv.com/leadership-award

In partnership with

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Generously supported by

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How three companies have reaped the rewards and navigated the challenges of running a family business



When we do have disagreements or make mistakes, we have learned to apologize, let go and move on


here was a time when independent bookstores were a mainstay across B.C. They started to vanish when national book chains arrived, cutting prices and offering more selection. Then came ebooks, and many bookstores disappeared. Yet Black Bond Books not only has survived, but thrives, with seven stores throughout the Lower Mainland. What makes this success story stand out is that the bookstore was started in 1963 by Madeline Neill and is still powered by women in the family. At the helm of Black Bond Books is Neill’s daughter, CEO Cathy Jesson. Jesson’s daughter, Caitlin Jesson, manages the new arm of the business, the Book Warehouse on Broadway. “When I first took over as CEO in 1998, my brother and sister were working for the company,” says the elder Jesson. “I found it especially difficult working with my siblings because we all had different management styles, which didn’t work well together.” Although there have been times when it has been tough to weather the storm of change, this CEO says they have done so by sticking to what they know best – understanding their customers. “One of Caitlin’s strengths is bringing fresh new ideas to the company and knowing what the younger generations want,” Cathy Jesson notes. According to PwC Canada’s 2016 Global Family Business Survey, approximately 80 per cent of all businesses in Canada are family-owned and are responsible for about 60 per cent of the country’s gross domestic

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product per year. Yet more than one family business has been brought down when control passed to children or grandchildren who lacked the smarts or instincts to run a big enterprise. Relationships between mothers and daughters can be complicated. But, somehow, both Jessons say working together is easy. “First off, I don’t work in the same location as my mom,” the younger Jesson quips. “Having said that, we communicate really well and bounce ideas off each other all the time.” “I mentored Caitlin, just like my mother mentored me,” says Cathy Jesson. “A big advantage to having a family member work for you is the trust factor.” FAMILY AFFAIR Q In addition to trust, a shared passion makes things easier. That is also the case for the mother-daughter duo at Nature’s Path Foods Inc. Long before “organic” and “sustainability” were buzzwords, Arran Stephens and his wife, Ratana Stephens, founded Nature’s Path in 1985. Headquartered in Richmond, the profitable manufacturer of organic breakfast foods has a team of more than 650 employees and operates four facilities. Named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers by the

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Canada’s Top 100 Employers project, Nature’s Path is a true family affair. Besides Arran Stephens and son Arjan Stephens, who is executive vice-president of sales and marketing, the company is driven by Ratana Stephens, co-CEO and chief operations officer, and daughter Jyoti Stephens, director of human resources and sustainability. “A family business often breeds a warm and welcoming culture that is less impersonal than other work environments,” Ratana Stephens explains. “Working with my family and watching them learn, succeed and even fail has been extremely rewarding. When we do have disagreements or make mistakes, we have learned to apologize, let go and move on.” Jyoti Stephens agrees. “How one creates an enriching work experience doesn’t really change, even [when] those on the team are also family members. We each have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and goals – and are held accountable for our performance in relation to these.” GROWING TOGETHER Q Tami Nasu, CEO and cofounder of WithinUs Natural Health, also stresses the importance of accountability. Her staff of 12 includes three nieces and others who are “like family.” “Three of my nieces on staff worked with me part time

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while they attended university, and I’ve mentored all of them, so trust was there,” Nasu says. “There is no ego or hierarchy at WithinUs, but there is accountability. Mistakes happen, but there’s no fear of losing their jobs because I know how much the company means to all of them.” Nasu began her Burnaby-based company in 2013 out of her small basement. By 2016, with boxes of products threatening to take over her home, this savvy businesswoman, whose company sells high-grade health products, had moved operations to a larger location. The popularity of the company’s product, WithinUs TruMarine Collagen – a favourite among celebrities such as actresses Kate Hudson and Debra Messing and Vancouver television personality Jillian Harris – boosted brand recognition across North America to the point that Nasu once again had to relocate. Family plays a key role in WithinUs’ success. “My youngest niece has taken over our social media, a key factor in our fast growth,” says Nasu. With generations working together, generational conflicts can change the dynamics of many family-run businesses. This can create conflicting work styles and expectations that can make or break a family business. However, Ratana Stephens sees her and her daughter’s

WithinUs Natural Health CEO and co-founder Tami Nasu (centre) has three nieces on staff along with others who are “like family”: from left, niece Jenna Laurita; Tracy Dillon; Emily Nakajima; Tagnéa Grant; Julia Shibazaki; and nieces Nicole Larsen and Chiara Guzzo. At front left, Tag the labradoodle keeps everyone in line | CHUNG CHOW

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All in the family

to become a problem. One of WithinUs’ strong points is that Nasu knew her nieces’ strengths and interests, so she was able to distribute job responsibilities accordingly. “My niece Jenna has been with me since I started in my basement,” Nasu says of WithinUs’ communications manager, Jenna Laurita. “She took communications at SFU [Simon Fraser University], so she is in charge of communications, marketing and public relations.” At Nature’s Path, Jyoti Stephens explains, whether it’s a family member or an employee, there are clearly defined expectations for all. “We have key behaviours we hire based on and that all employees demonstrate, including being performance-driven, always improving, team-focused, honourable and respectful and sustainably and socially conscious,” she says. “We encourage and motivate each other to live into our values and purpose while growing the business.”

ABOVE: Ratana Stephens

(left) and daughter Jyoti Stephens of Nature’s Path Foods | NOEL HENDRICKSON RIGHT: Black Bond Books’ Cathy

Jesson (right) and Caitlin Jesson represent the second and third of three generations of women to run the independent bookstore | SUBMITTED

differing styles as a positive component in the running of the company. “Jyoti has a special ability to bring people together by finding common ground and proposing mutually beneficial solutions,” the elder Stephens explains. “She is pragmatic and has developed a strong business acumen. This is very complementary to my style, which could be described as compassionate, intense and passionate.” Nasu says she hasn’t encountered any real challenges. “I really lucked out,” she says. “We have 100 per cent respect for each other and collaborate extremely well together.” ESTABLISHING EXPECTATIONS Q It’s no surprise that problems can arise when you’re working near people you love. It can be difficult to draw the line between professional and personal relationships, and that can affect your relationships with family members. Somehow, all three of these companies have found ways to make it work. Nasu believes that when family members each have their own niche, things are likely to function more smoothly. It’s when skill sets overlap that rivalry is likely

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BALANCING FAMILY AND WORKPLACE LIFE Q How do members of family-run businesses keep their sanity at cookouts and holiday parties when the big elephant in the room as far as conversation goes is always the business? Jyoti Stephens acknowledges that many family dinner conversations naturally revolve around Nature’s Path. “This has always been part of my life, as my parents started the business when I was a little girl,” she says. “Despite being children, we were asked to weigh in and provide opinions on various business matters. While there certainly were challenges, I do appreciate my upbringing, as it helped develop a native business fluency from a young age. “That said, I aim to be fully present during the quality time I have outside of work, whether with my daughter and husband or friends. This means disconnecting from technology and allowing myself to enjoy the moment.” For Nasu, it is important to try to separate the two, although this is often easier said than done. “Sometimes it is hard to separate the two, but early on we established boundaries,” says Nasu. “We still enjoy each other’s company and often go for dinner or to the spa. It’s more important for me to keep these personal relationships close.” Meanwhile, Caitlin Jesson says balance between work and family life is not an issue, as she and her mother both share a passion for the book industry. “Black Bond Books has never been a chore because we both love it so much,” she says. “I see my mother every weekend. The conversation always goes to the subject of books because it is an obsession of sorts for us.” In the end, all agree that hiring relatives isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Working with family members can blur the lines between personal time and work hours, and it can also make it harder to enforce a chain of authority. Nevertheless, given the right family dynamics, it offers numerous advantages: more trust and honesty, the dependability of someone who’s invested in his or her own success and yours, and a close bond that can survive the ups and downs often associated with running a business. “As family, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we genuinely do our best to set each other up for success and growth,” says Ratana Stephens. É

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MOVING THE DIAL ON WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP Despite progress toward gender parity, female leadership numbers are still lagging


C Providing choice, being open to innovative solutions and providing greater flexibility in the workplace will enable more women to embrace leadership roles

ompanies want and need more female leaders. Research has shown that organizations focused on diversity, and, in particular, gender diversity, perform better on almost every measure related to productivity and innovation. A frequently cited diversity study done by McKinsey & Co. found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 27 per cent more likely to outperform their industry benchmark in terms of profits. However, there are still hurdles to greater female engagement at the leadership level, and removing them could have a positive impact for all employees. According to Catalyst.org, in September 2017, only seven of the 249 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange were run by women. Catalyst also noted that more women are working than ever before. In 2017, Statistics Canada reported that in B.C. the labour force participation rate for women aged 25 and over was 60.8 per cent, compared to 69.7 per cent for men. Looking at my own industry, professional accounting, we have seen similar trends. Overall, the split between men and women is almost even in most age categories. The only exceptions, not surprisingly, are chartered professional accountants (CPAs) over 61, who are predominantly male, and CPAs under 27, who skew slightly more female. W hile we are attracting more women to the profession, this positive gender split is not reflected in leadership roles. Based on available employment data, female CPAs in industry make up only 12 per cent

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of senior leadership roles at the director level and up. And although public-practice accounting firms fare better, female CPAs still make up only 34 per cent of those at the partner level. While these numbers are cause for concern, we know that Canada is making progress. Both the B.C. and federal government cabinets achieved gender parity. At the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, where I am the board chair, the board has achieved gender parity as well. And at the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia, three-quarters of our senior management team are women. In the private sector, many companies – particularly in industries that were predominantly male-dominated, such as tech, the trades and resources – have also begun to actively recruit women. But if women are in demand for their skills and perspectives, why are the leadership numbers still lagging? What are the challenges and how do we move forward? The challenges haven’t really changed. It often comes down to family commitments. Women are still disproportionately doing the majority of unpaid work in the home, taking care of such things as household chores and child care. Women often require greater flexibility with their schedules and may be less available to take on additional responsibility at work. Statistics Canada found that, in British Columbia, women were spending 36 per cent more time on unpaid labour at home than men. Recognizing this, we can shift corporate culture and try to better understand the full impact of balancing a family and career. Doing so will create an improved work environment that provides tangible and necessary support for everyone – from those with small children at

home to individuals caring for elderly parents. L ook i ng at t hose compa n ies that have made progress, several key things stood out from the Globe and Mail’s 2018 list of the top family-friendly Canadian employers. First, all of the employers offered extended parental leave for new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, and many offered generous salary top-ups for those on leave. In addition, the majority of these employers also provided a flexible work environment, including flexible start and end times, telecommuting, shortened or compressed workweeks, earned days off and unpaid leave as required. Parents also had access to support and discussion groups – forums that highlighted work-life challenges and solutions for specific sectors. Some employers reduce work hours over the summer and provide on-site and emergency daycare. There is no turnkey solution that will work for every industry, but these types of initiatives go a long way toward making it easier for individuals to manage their careers and families. By providing choice, being open to innovative solutions and providing greater flexibility in the workplace, the realities that we all face in balancing our work and family lives can be accommodated and supported. This will enable more women to embrace leadership roles and, ultimately, create a better work environment that puts people first. É Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, is president and CEO of the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia.

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— THINK BIG AND YOU’LL GET THERE. BUSINESS AND MEDIA EDUCATION FOR A COMPLEX WORLD. BCIT Business students are taught by industry leaders and apply what they have learned though projects, research, and practicums. Sloan Vereecken, BCIT Business Tourism Marketing alumna, completed her practicum with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and has continued to build her career with the organization as the Director of Quality Assurance at Fairmont Pacific Rim. Learn more at bcit.ca/business


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—— BCIT Business alumnae, Sloan Vereecken and Allison Laing, work at Fairmont Pacific Rim.

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WORLDWIDE WEB Women Who Code members are part of a global community connecting 150,000 engineers across 20 countries HOLLY PECK |


Launching Women Who Code has irrevocably changed technology culture in Vancouver, making our community more sororal, colourful and diverse

’m not your average roboticist. With a background in anthropology, I wrote my thesis at Princeton University on Northwest Coast Indigenous art and its treatment in museum settings. Evenings were spent annotating Borges and Geertz, early mornings marvelling at the lyricism of Lorca. Emotion machines, robot brains and Women Who Code came much, much later. A particularly formative experience for me was participating in an archeological dig in France. Alongside researchers and professors, I spent one summer unearthing Neanderthal bones at the paleolithic site of Les Pradelles. Fleck by fleck, paint brush in palm, I excavated denticulate hand axes carved by entities on the fringes of humanness. In hindsight, this was my first exposure to the myriad ways technology mediates and embodies intelligence. Early tools carved by Neanderthals became metaphors for evolving hominid intelligence across our evolutionary story. F ive ye a rs l ater, I ’m a s k i n g “ W h at m a kes u s hu m a n?” i n a

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humanoid robotics lab. At Sanctuary AI, I develop artificial cognitive architectures – the software minds connecting silicon skin to actuated, hardware bodies – for Sanctuary’s in-house robots. We call these entities “synths,” short for synthetic humans. Only now, my background is oddly relevant. After college, I pivoted from anthropology to engineering because I knew the social scientist of the future had to perform an archeology on data to understand how culture functioned. I enrolled in a software boot camp in New York to formalize this thinking. It was there I discovered Women Who Code and the synchronistic power of networking. After wrestling with a particularly difficult problem set, I attended my first-ever Women Who Code meetup in New York. It was a lecture on natural language processing at Bloomberg HQ in Midtown. Arriving aggrieved – how do I implement that framework again? – I swallowed sour feelings and sunk freely into the natural flow of conversation. I met data scientists, artists, developers and innovators. One woman alleviated my agitation by celebrating my struggle as a natural part of the development process. “Keep going,” she said. “It will come. Oh, and us engineers are all masochistic.” I laughed. At Bloomberg, one brilliant librarian turned data scientist presented to a gregarious audience. She discussed a sentiment analysis workflow she developed to detect affect states of live-site articles. I was floored. Not because she was a brilliant woman, but because she was a brilliant scientist – who happened to be a woman. She was a rock sta r, a nd I wa nted to be her. With newfound fire, I took the J train home to Bushwick and finished the problem set. R e t u r n i n g t o Va n c o u v e r, I

encountered a different locally cultivated engineering scene: one that was homogeneous and predominantly white and male. I called bluff. In New York, learning to code gave me agency and taught me technology governed society. Meeting the male-dominated engineering scene in Vancouver convinced me women deserved participation in this government. That week, I recruited four female engineers to launch Vancouver’s first-ever Women Who Code network. S i n c e h o s t i n g o u r i n a u g u ral event at Microsoft in January 2017, Women Who Code Vancouver has ballooned to more than 1,750 technical individuals across B.C.’s Lower Mainland. Globally, we are the largest technical community for women, connecting 150,000 engineers across 20 countries. We are software builders, hardware engineers, data scientists and artists, and we represent the minority voice of folks in engineering. More often than not, we hail from non-engineering backgrounds. Our technical events are relaxed spaces for members to practise networking and public speaking, promoting the visibility of female builders. Our software workshops provide an avenue for non-engineers into technology, empowering non-technical women with skills in an environment where mentorship is valued. For technical women in industry, gaining visibility in the professional landscape is monumental. Launching Women Who Code has integrated our chapter into a global community of multivalent tech lords. Should our members move to Berlin or Ghana or Buenos Aires – hey, there’s a Women Who Code network there! – they’re embraced by a familiar community. Networking works because it exposes our members to unseen o p p o r t u n i t i e s a n d re s o u rc e s .

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Meandering conversations can yield fruitful outcomes. It was at one meetup where I met my future boss, Dr. Suzanne Gildert, who later hired me as an artificial intelligence engineer at Kindred AI, then at Sanctuary AI as employee No. 1. W hen I graduated from Princeton, I knew what kinds of problems I wanted to solve, but I never anticipated solving these problems in a robotics lab. Networking has enriched my story and the careers of our members in unimaginable ways, connecting us to new ventures and to formative people outside our local circles. Culture responds to the technology needs of its members, like early toolmaking or once-homogeneous meetup communities. Launching Women Who Code has irrevocably changed technology culture in Vancouver,

making our community more sororal, colourful and diverse. The most beautiful quality of a network is its ability to change, and I feel grateful I’m one connection of many, suspended in webs of significance that we, ourselves, have spun. É Holly Peck is an anthropologist turned roboticist living in Vancouver. She has a BA from Princeton University and is currently a research scientist at Sanctuary AI, where she develops cognitive architectures for humanoid robots. She is the founder of Women Who Code Vancouver, a 2018 BCBusiness 30 Under 30 winner and a 2018 Microsoft MVP in artificial intelligence. On weekends, she makes techno music. Follow her on Twitter at @hollympeck.


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Leveraging social media networks is essential to startup success



fter high school, Gaby Bayona applied to the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Although the 18-year-old didn’t get accepted, she displayed an innate head for business when she helped turn her mother Merly Bayona’s fledgling wedding dress design company into a profitable business.

Gaby Bayona built a successful bridal line with the help of social media; Truvelle boasts more than 48,000 Instagram followers | LAURIE K. JENSEN

“I began by starting a blog to document each part of the gown design process, and then at the end of the process, there would be a grand reveal,” she explains. Within two years, her mother went from eking out a living to a six-figure-plus income. Before long, Bayona was designing and sewing gowns

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herself from her small apartment. Once again tapping into the power of technology, she launched her own bridal line, Truvelle, on Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade items. “I was on Pinterest and I noticed all these links coming from Etsy. I decided it was the perfect fit for me,” Bayona says. Five years later, the designer’s bridal gowns are sold to more than 23 retailers in the United States and six in Canada, and are also sold in Europe, South Africa and Australia. In 2017, she followed up on her phenomenal success by launching another bridal line, Laudae, with her mother. “I spend a lot of time looking up my competitors’ followers. I often comment on those individuals’ personal Instagram pages to gain followers and new clients for my wedding gowns,” says the shrewd businesswoman. “Instagram … is an extremely powerful tool.” Truvelle boasts more than 48,000 Instagram followers. Bayona says Pinterest is another powerful tool to capture new customers and business. “Early on, Pinterest was especially crucial as it gave me a lot of traction when I went to approach retailers.” Today, Pinterest helps make the connection with brides extra special and very personal to them. “We see how much thought goes into women planning their weddings, from gathering inspiration from many sources or simply tearing pages out of magazines,” Bayona

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says. “Pinterest just makes it so easy to collect inspiration and ideas in one place. It’s also a really fun way to have a dialogue with the ladies.” To this day, Bayona says, brides-to-be tell her they go to retailers armed with their cellphones to show them the Truvelle wedding gown of their dreams on Pinterest. For savvy entrepreneurs like Bayona, free social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, are crucial to help build up a loyal following through marketing, publicity, customer relations and market research purposes. “I know first-hand that social media is imperative for any business to succeed and thrive in today’s world, and I think every business would be crazy not to embrace it,” Bayona says. ALL ABOUT INFLUENCERS Q When Devon Brooks

co-founded the first Blo Blow Dry Bar with her mother and mentor, Judy Brooks, back in 2007, social media was still in its infancy. “Twitter and Hootsuite were just starting, and social media was just entering the stratosphere,” says the 32-year-old. “We used the power of social media every time a woman would come into the Blo Bar. We would document their experience, then we would take photos of them and tag them on Twitter. I’d also talk about my clients’ successes and built on that.” Soon, Brooks noticed that bloggers were also influencing consumer choices. The savvy entrepreneur saw that influencer marketing was poised to become another key strategy for fostering her brand. “Bloggers were taking social media networks to new highs, extending into the online world and keeping conversations going,” Brooks says. “We made the most influential bloggers into ambassadors, or content producers, if you will, for our brand, inviting them in a fluid way. We built a lot of traction that way.” Enough toehold that Blo Blow Dry Bar now has more than 90 locations across four countries and boasts collaborations with celebrities and major brands alike. Today, Brooks’ newest venture, Sphere, a personal development app that connects people with life coaches who can help them access their full potential, is also using social media to build its trademark. “Sphere will launch this fall in Canada and the United States and will be 100 per cent driven by social media,” says Brooks. “I also use social media to canvass talent to hire the best people for Sphere. I discovered my cofounder of Sphere, Los Angeles’ Shona Mitchell Beats, on my personal Facebook page.” Regularly ranked on top-30-under-30 lists, Brooks says social networks are all about building and interacting with a community. So it’s no surprise that executives who are active on social media have an easier time recruiting new employees, engaging with potential investors or opening conversations with prospects – all leading to business growth. “Startups can be full of obstacles. If I must give one piece of advice, it is that no one starting a new venture should ever, ever underestimate the power of social media,” Brooks says. “It is important to know that different platforms serve different functions. For example, Instagram

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It’s not enough to just post a nice photo that feels esthetically good; the time of day you post and what you say to capture interest is especially important TOP RIGHT: Entrepreneur Devon

Brooks: “no one starting a new venture should ever, ever underestimate the power of social media” | SUBMITTED

is one of the best platforms for brands to partner with influencers to reach new audiences quickly.” STRATEGIC SOCIAL MEDIA Q Shelley McArthur, founder and principal of SMC Communications, is another successful businesswoman who uses social media to her advantage. The professional marketing communications strategist for hospitality, lifestyle and consumer brands increases brand awareness and creates social media opportunities to expand her Vancouver-based public relations consultancy business and, more importantly, her clients’ businesses. McArthur says the key to a successful social media strategy is to understand your audience and choose the platform that suits them best. Content is another crucial component of the equation. SMC’s social media manager works solely on content creation and updates. In addition, her team takes a good hard look at its clients’ performance stats, demographic information and referral traffic every day. “We can’t do what we do without social media.… It’s an integral part of our business,” McArthur explains. “We try to stay two steps ahead of technology, so we know how it can be used to better reach our clients’ target audiences.” When the numbers for the previous day’s posts come in, the team looks at what went well and why. Then, McArthur says, they adjust their strategy accordingly. “It’s not enough to just post a nice photo that feels esthetically good; the time of day you post and what you say to capture interest is especially important,” McArthur notes. “We have seen our clients’ social media networks double their followings by choosing peak engagement times.” The future of business is technology, agree all three of these dynamic entrepreneurs. No longer does business get conducted only within four walls. Creative social media marketing tactics can enable a startup to quickly grow its customer base. “Social media marketing done right helps businesses stay top of mind among their followers,” says McArthur. “Customers trust companies that connect with them in genuine, captivating ways – and they want to establish relationships with them.” É

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COMMUNITY CONNECTION The magic of making deep professional connections through volunteerism


T Volunteer boards represent superb leadership development opportunities

oday, before jobs are posted online, most are filled internally or through a referral from a trusted source. According to a 2016 Adler Group survey, 85 per cent of roles are filled through networking. Volunteerism can be a powerful way to network and opens paths that we may not have uncovered otherwise. Volunteerism has had a significant impact on my career. Whether it is serving on the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Alumni Association board as an elected director, or the KidSafe Project Society’s Circle of Friends, or going as far back as my teens organizing toy drives for local charities or fundraising door to door for the Canadian Cancer Society, volunteerism has been a culmination of enriching experiences. My volunteer experience with UNICEF nearly two decades ago set my career direction, but not in a way that I would h ave pred icted. I was of fered the opportunity to go to a d e v e l o p i n g country and live and work with a local community as a volunteer, but that’s where the na rrative ta kes a turn. I had completed my undergraduate degree at SFU and had moved to Toronto, where I was studying for grad school admission exams and applying to a few programs including law and journalism with the mission to be in a career where I could help others. On my first day as a UNICEF volunteer at a fundraiser, I met UNICEF’s communications director.

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This chance encounter led me to discover my passion for business strategy, building brands and finding unique ways to tell an organization’s story, while playing a role in corporate social responsibility. BUILDING DEEP CONNECTIONS Q While technology and

social media are amazing tools for networking, particularly for making initial introductions and staying connected with your existing network, volunteerism presents a natural way to make new contacts. It allows you to engage with those who have a common interest and a diverse range of professional and industry backgrounds. Because the interactions go beyond a oneoff formal networking event, you mutually experience one another’s work style and expertise and connect at a deeper level. As fellow board members or volunteers, you will work on initiatives together for an extended period of time and personally get to know each other. As such there’s more openness to brainstorming ideas for business issues and making referrals for other business opportunities. EXPANDING YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE Q People who volun-

teer and join boards are typically not ones to sit on the sidelines. They are inspired and passionate about making positive contributions. They are often change makers. These individuals also tend to be amazing mentors. Not only is being among these like-minded individuals energizing, but it is also very powerful and expands your ability to make things happen and make a difference. C O N N E C T I N G W I T H YO U R SELF Q Through volunteerism,

you will expand your network and get to know many other professionals; equally important is that you will also get to know yourself

better. This is critical to career development. As you engage in volunteer initiatives alongside talented professionals with various experience levels and roles, there’s an opportunity for self-reflection to gain insights into your strengths, values, interests and areas of development. Volunteer boards represent superb leadership development opportunities. FINDING TALENT FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION Q While volunteer-

ism can have many career benefits for you, as a business leader it also presents the opportunity to recruit highly talented and motivated individuals to join your organization. This can mean attracting a seasoned professional or spotting the next generation of up-and-comers for your company. Volunteerism and board involvement can be very fulfilling both personally and professionally. While you give back to an organization by providing advisory services based on your skills, whether it be creating financial efficiencies, developing a marketing strategy or raising funds, there are extensive career opportunities layered within your involvement. These can vary from rich learning and sharpening of your professional skills to exposure to new perspectives, practices and creativity. Among these, the most enriching are the deep connections and new contacts you will make with other professionals who have a common desire to make a positive contribution. É Armita Seyedalikhani is director of communications and corporate affairs at BlueShore Financial and has nearly 20 years of experience in the financial and technology industries.

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SMART SET Three millennial women offer networking tips for the social media age



very generation has its own distinguishing characteristics, and the way each interacts with digital media is also unique. For most baby boomers, networking typically starts with an email introduction from colleagues and friends, followed by a few emails back and forth before setting up a meeting a few days later.

Paulina Cameron, author of Canada 150 Women, regional director of Futurpreneur Canada and co-founder of the Raise Collective | JONATHAN CHIANG

For most millennials, gone are the days of the allimportant golf meeting and formal gatherings for drinks. This generation is doing it their way. As the generation that grew up on technology, most millennials prefer online communications, such as Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Snapchat and other apps, as well as email, as a more efficient way to network. As a relationship with a new contact develops, a millennial’s conversation platform might jump from email to LinkedIn, then onto Instagram. Some connections don’t ever have an opportunity to meet face to face simply because of geographical and time differences. Paulina Cameron believes building strong online relationships is one of the best ways for people to fasttrack their careers. The bestselling author of Canada 150 Women, regional director of Futurpreneur Canada and co-founder of the Raise Collective – a community of female founders and investors – says it’s not enough to simply think that getting someone’s contact information

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is an invitation; genuine connections, the ones that are most likely to produce positive results, need time to develop. “I think social media enables people to find others with similar interests, but more importantly it’s a great platform to engage others on a regular basis – those who might not share your interests but could be valuable to your career,” says Cameron. “However, I also think millennials have wider-ranging interests, as there is more overlap between their personal and professional lives. That means that they actually engage with a broader network, and their community is more far-reaching and spanning various topics than previous generations’.” Cameron encourages young people starting out in their careers to use social media to their full advantage. “Social media allows you direct access to people you might not as easily have connected to,” she says. “Social media takes away the hierarchy and is a great outlet to build and find a community of like-minded individuals.”

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Smart set

Top tips ■Face-to-face meetings never go out of style.

■Activate your network by bonding forces and your energy with people by doing things together, like a hike, walk or coffee.

■Demonstrate genuine interest in helping your connections reach their goals, and chances are they will be more than willing to assist you in meeting yours.

Leah Hopkins, marketing director, Gentle Fawn: “employers are taking a good, hard look at your social media posts and passing judgment on whether or not you are a good candidate for the job” | SUBMITTED

– Paulina Cameron

Katie Dunsworth-Reiach, Talk Shop Media co-founder and principal: “I do start on social media, but I like to push to take it offline because there’s a different level of connectivity that occurs when you meet in person” | BRITNEY GILL PHOTOGRAPHY


to a recent survey by Jobvite, 93 per cent of recruiters and human resource professionals are screening potential employees on multiple social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. “I get a much better sense about people on social media beyond their titles, and better understanding of who they are beyond their resumé,” Cameron says. Leah Hopkins, marketing director for the women’s clothing brand Gentle Fawn, couldn’t agree more. Your Instagram post might garner you friends, but it could cost you a job, she cautions. “With social media, we have access to so much information about people. We can see how people conduct themselves outside of their careers, and that can give us insight like ‘Will they be team players or not?’” says Hopkins. “You can also see red flags, such as really poor choices in photos and postings.” Savvy managers, work colleagues and hiring managers can view your most awkward photos and tweets, even if they aren’t following you. “Employers are taking a good, hard look at your social media posts and passing judgment on whether or not you are a good candidate for the job,” says Hopkins. “Social media are platforms for self-expression, but if you are looking to build your personal brand or image for your career, keep in mind that potential employers are checking you out. What do you want to be known for or not? It is important that you understand how you want people to perceive you.”

■Polish up your social media profiles – get rid of embarrassing photos or posts.

■Broaden your networking reach by getting involved in industry sector meetings and events.

■Mentoring is crucial. Find someone who can help you get where you want to go. A mentor is a great source for new ideas and support. – Katie Dunsworth-Reiach

■Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date.

■Take time to ask for recommendations. To a potential employer, LinkedIn recommendations count.

SMART NETWORKING GOES A LONG WAY Q You can be the smartest and best candidate ever on paper, but, as is the case for most people with interesting jobs, career paths are usually the result of good networking and a bit of good luck. That certainly was true for Katie Dunsworth-Reiach, co-founder and a principal of the public relations firm Talk Shop Media. Dunsworth-Reiach began her career in public relations at 1-800-Got-Junk. Then, in 2006, she co-founded the money-mentoring business Smart Cookies. That company landed her on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 at the ripe old age of 24. “I went on Oprah’s website, and on there I saw that they were looking for people to speak about smart money for an upcoming show,” says Dunsworth-Reiach. “So I applied online, which got me the phone call from Oprah’s team.” Social media and other types of online communities tear down geographical boundaries and enable all sorts of connections, but people should not forget the power of human connections, says Dunsworth-Reiach. “Social media is one of the best ways to foster connections. However, the more I’ve come to know myself, the more I’ve discovered one of my talents is human connections. I do start on social media, but I like to push to take it offline because there’s a different level of connectivity that occurs when you meet in person.” É

■Join groups that align with your business interests.

■LinkedIn offers excellent tutorials and courses on any subject, from strategic planning to business analysis, professional development options and more. – Leah Hopkins

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