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WOMEN of Manitoulin Entrepreneur Network

Original story published on Manitoulin.ca https://www.manitoulin.ca/new-island-womens-business-network-firing-on-all-cylinders/

When serial entrepreneur Barb Baker of Little Current moved to the Island from Ottawa a few years ago, one of the first things on her to-do list was to connect with the local businesswomen’s networks. When she discovered that there was no such thing on Manitoulin, she added another item to that list. Earlier this month the first event of a new women’s networking group got underway and, despite some serious competition from a series of other major events taking place that day (think Health Expo and, in the same building, a women’s curling bonspiel), the turnout was outstanding.

“We had more than 50 people registered for the event,” confirmed Ms. Baker.

Ms. Baker said that she has been very successful in her business outings and that she has always sought out women in business and services. “I still have a group of women I go to for services in Ottawa,” she said. “But I am looking for local women in business here to connect with for those services.” That would extend to women lawyers, financial support and complimentary business services to support her current teaching business.

“When I started this out, even finding a list of women to send invitations to presented a challenge,” she said. But with a lot of hard work and determination the initial call went out.

Those women attending were divided into groups of five at each table and were asked to come up with five topics that present challenges to developing and growing their businesses. Of those, the top 10 most common cited were collated and will form the focus of a series of monthly meetings going forward.

“I asked two questions in the breakout sessions,” said Ms. Baker. “What are the roadblocks and issues you have in your business now; or what is keeping you from starting with your business idea—and what resources, funding, knowledge and experts are needed to help grow the business of the women entrepreneurs on Manitoulin Island.”

Among the key topics identified are “branding” and “learning to work co-operatively while remaining competitive.”

The women’s network is going to be just that, a women’s network (sorry guys, that means closed to men) and will take place on the first Wednesday of every month, from 11:30 am to 1 pm.

“We plan to hold them at different women-owned eating establishments across Manitoulin,” said Ms. Baker. “That way we will not only support businesses across the Island, we will give people an opportunity to explore what is out there in each community.”

As for the menfolk, don’t despair. “I had a number of men asking to attend,” she said. In response, a second networking and support meeting will take place, perhaps on Thursdays, which will be open to all. “That way there will be something for every business and, if women are not able to attend the Wednesday session for some reason, there will still be the Thursday event.”

The women’s network currently sits at about 85 members, noted Ms. Baker, but she is certain that there will be plenty more who will find it a useful resource going forward. Ms. Baker intends to bring in experts on dealing with the concerns that women face in business, and the mutually supportive concept of sharing best practices that will assist in climbing the hills on the path to building a successful business.

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