Centre for Women in Business celebrates 30 year anniversary

Centre for Women in Business celebrates 30 year anniversary

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Contributors:

Emily Bednarz

Image credits: Michelle Doucette photography

For 30 years, the Centre for Women in Business has helped their women entrepreneurs launch, develop, and maintain thriving businesses. Tanya Priske, Executive Director at the Centre for Women in Business, joined the team 18 years ago with the goal of making an impact. “It was somewhere else that I could make a difference,” says Priske. “Working with women business owners in Nova Scotia and helping them start and grow their businesses — that was something I was passionate about, as an entrepreneur myself.”

With support from Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the centre first opened in 1992. “The need was something that Mount Saint Vincent saw at that time,” says Priske. “In order to grow our economy, we needed more entrepreneurs. So, how do we get more women starting businesses?” The university joined forces with ACOA to develop a series of business development centres, including the Centre for Women in Business.

While much has changed in the business landscape for women since the 90s, the centre’s mission remains as relevant as ever. “I think the premise is still the same,” says Priske. “We want to continue to help women along the full continuum of entrepreneurship: from idea generation straight through to succession planning. We want to make sure that they have the resources they need in order to succeed.”

Programs at the Centre work to support women entrepreneurs at every stage of their business development. “We recognize that there are many stages of entrepreneurship at the Centre,” says Priske. “The Blueprint for Success Program has helped women start a business and introduce or diversify their product lines, and the Advanced Management & Mentoring Program is for that next stage of growth. Say you’ve been in business for three years and you’re hovering at $250,000 in sales. How do you scale up your business to reach that $1 million mark?”

The Centre has also expanded its activities to work with women entrepreneurs when they reach revenues over $1 million. “Our Greater Heights of Growth program is something that we’re very proud of,” says Priske. “We just took that program national, so we're not just working with women here in Nova Scotia — we're working with women across the country.”

The Centre’s focus on export and procurement has made an impact on women-owned businesses. “We look at what skills can help women grow so that they can export, and we help develop export readiness by leading trade missions,” says Priske. “Introducing supplier diversity to the region, really engaging women in the supply chains of corporations and governments and working with our national certification bodies has really been a game changer for a lot of women.”

The RBC Alliance of Young Women Entrepreneurs Program is designed to get more young women interested in entrepreneurship. “We see 50 women a year who are starting side hustles as they're taking their degree,” says Priske. “And to us, that's exciting.”

The Centre saw its membership grow over the course of the pandemic, which has prompted a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion for the Centre team. “I think of the tens of thousands of women that we've worked with,” says Priske. “Looking at the diversity of not only our team but also of the women that we work with has been something we've focused on, especially during the pandemic. We know that women were adversely impacted, and so we are adding extra focus to the underrepresented or underutilized groups that may need more support.”

Since opening, the Centre has seen growth from just a handful of members to upwards of 500. “We recognized 30 years ago that there weren't a lot of women-owned businesses,” says Priske. “And we know there's a lot more women out there today that perhaps don't consider themselves entrepreneurs. Maybe they're doing a little bit of a side hustle, but they are still contributing to the economy.”

For those women who are just starting out, or who have an idea but aren’t sure where to start, Priske has some clear advice: “Call the centre and book a one-to-one business advisory,” she says. “It’s complimentary. We're here to listen and provide guidance. Don't do it alone. Most of us at the Centre — we’ve been there. We’ve all owned businesses, and we know it’s not easy. We're here to support you through all stages as you start and grow. Pick up the phone, go online, book an appointment, and have a chat, because it may change your life.”

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Every year, the Centre for Women in Business celebrates International Women’s Day with an event featuring inspiring women from our community. Since the onset of the pandemic, the event has been held virtually.

For 2022, the event will still be virtual, but with a twist. “We wanted to do things a little differently from last year,” says Jenn Robeson, Communications Coordinator at the Centre for Women in Business. “We spoke to people both internally and within our community, and we're all fatigued by the regular Zoom gathering. We wanted to think of something that would be a little bit more enlivening and encourage folks to participate.”

Sponsored by RBC, the “Women to Watch: Entrepreneurs Building Our Community” is a video contest open to all Nova Scotian women in business. Entrepreneurs submit a 60 second video that highlights their business, the value that they bring to the community, and what being a woman in business means to them personally in 2022. There are three grand prizes up for grabs in three categories: Most Creative Video, Most Passionate Video, and Most Community-Engaged Video.

Above all, the contest is about celebrating the stories of women in our business community. “For lots of folks, the pieces that impact you are the pieces that feel authentic and like someone is speaking from their experience,” says Robeson. “That's really what we wanted to be able to draw out and share. It’s a way we can get the community talking to each other, celebrating each other, and encouraging each other.”

The winner of each category will receive a professional video shoot, and their winning videos will be shared during the International Women’s Day virtual celebration on March 8.

For more details on the contest, event, and everything the Centre has to offer visit:

centreforwomeninbusiness.ca

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