The focus on women in business and their financial contribution to the Canadian economy is ever increasing. The federal government’s recognition of this was made evident with their creation of the Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs and the resultant Network for Women Entrepreneurs in Ontario. FedNor’s recognition was made evident with its April announcement of a $500,000 funding contribution to PARO, a centre for women enterpreneurs based in Thunder Bay. As well, it was in part through FedNor’s funding of the initial Women’s Networking Event in Parry Sound that the Georgian Bay Women’s Network came to fruition.

Subsequent to the initial women’s networking event, a roster of women in business was compiled and a survey was forwarded electronically (or by post) to all. The survey was to garner information on how the network needed to continue in order to meet the needs of women in business in the Parry Sound Area. In their replies, the women advised that they wished to continue to meet monthly, continue networking and required assistance with a number of topical business issues. When asked to provide topics they need assistance with, the list they supplied was varied and extensive. That list has been collated to reflect the majority and is as follows:

E-Commerce was a top priority. Given the distance to other major centers from Parry Sound, the most economical and efficient way to conduct business is electronically. The Georgian Bay Women’s Network (GBWN) want to learn more about internet marketing, the online opportunities for home based businesses, web search optimization and website development.

Work / Life Balance was a top priority as well. The GBWN wants to learn how to juggle the family, business and health issues faced by all entrepreneurial women. They requested assistance with issues such as organizational and time management skills, conflict resolution, staying positive and how to deal with difficult people.

Accounting and legal issues came to the forefront. The GBWN members want information on employee laws, tax and accounting tips, banking issues and strategies for debit / credit cards.

Funding and support was another criteria. The GBWM members requested assistance regarding funding opportunities, government programs and services offered specifically to women entrepreneurs. Some are looking for mentoring.

Networking, as always, was a leading priority. Many women entrepreneurs are ‘home-based’ industries with little external exposure and few opportunities to interact with contemporaries and possible markets. They want to master these skills; as one put it ‘how to work the golf circuit’. The members have expressed a wish to expand networking beyond the local area.

Leadership was also a popular request. The GBWN members want information on community issues, women in government and leadership positions. They want skills to assist with future growth within the Parry Sound Area; what are the trends, how can they assist in endorsing the area and how can they give back to their community?

Marketing received tremendous attention. Women entrepreneurs requested information on ethics in a competitive marketplace, promotion and ‘branding’, psychographic marketing, good customer service, tips on preparing a press release, the best ads to grab the market’s attention and way to achieve free advertising. They also asked for pointers on joint marketing to find new business opportunities.

There were various Miscellaneous topics as well. These included dealing with seasonal difficulties, which is always an issue in an area mostly dependent upon the tourism industry. There were questions about educational opportunities for the area’s young people and other community concerns. The GBWN members also provided the names of several speakers whose presentations would benefit women entrepreneurs; some local, some not...
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