At a Glance: The Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance UnConference
It’s not your traditional conference. It’s an unconference.
At Community Innovation Lab (iLab), we foster an inclusive space where we believe that the greatest change-makers exist in our ecosystem of entrepreneurs. iLab supports the growth of entrepreneurship in the Durham Region by offering unique training programs for underrepresented entrepreneurs, including youth, women, seniors, and social entrepreneurs.
Our flagship accelerator, The Refinery, is a business growth program designed to take #femalefounders from startup to high-growth. The success of the women entrepreneurs who complete The Refinery program continues to inspire and motivate us to support the growth of women entrepreneurs across the Durham Region.
In September of 2018, iLab held it’s first Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Conference (WEFC) which featured a lineup of panels, breakout sessions and networking throughout the day. This highly successful event propelled us to plan an even bigger conference for 2020 that would offer participants access to more information and opportunities to grow.
On February 26th, 2020, iLab proudly presented the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance UnConference (WEFunC)- it’s not your traditional conference, it’s an unconference; a participant-driven event that puts the power in the hands of the attendees.
The WEFunC was an opportunity for #femalefounders to seek out what mattered most to their business growth, and encouraged them to take control of their learning by using the “two-feet rule”. At any point in the day, participants could attend or leave the sessions or panels that interested them with no consequence or shame! This meant that participants could access the information that mattered most to them, and take advantage of networking opportunities uninterrupted if they so choose.
The WEFunC was hosted at the W. Galen Weston Centre for Food at Durham College from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM and saw over 120 registered attendees! Following the WEFunC was a Reception that brought together women entrepreneurs, finance industry experts, thought-leaders, and dignitaries, for an evening of thoughtful discussion.
Highlights from the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance UnConference
Community Innovation Lab is proud to announce our new partnerships with Magnet Export Business Portal, FalconLam, and Alterna Savings. These partnerships, in the form of loans, online courses, and online information portals, will provide continued support and resources to female entrepreneurs and assist them in growing their businesses to the next level. We are also pleased to announce that with our ongoing partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the number of women entrepreneurs supported is expected to increase.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Wendy Cukier
Our first keynote speaker was the renowned Dr. Wendy Cukier, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy and Academic Director of the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. Dr. Cukier delivered a fact-filled talk on dismantling entrepreneurship barriers. She touched on the importance of women’s empowerment and building an inclusive ecosystem, as well as how to access financing opportunities. She also discussed how the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) enhances the landscape of female entrepreneurship.
Keynote Speaker: Brooke Gordon
Our second keynote speaker was Brooke Gordon, Senior Advisor of Women Entrepreneurs at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Brooke delivered an empowering talk to a room full of #femalefounders about scaling their business ambition and how to achieve fast growth in a sustainable way. With the willingness to grow as your foundation, surrounding yourself with the right people, creating a good action plan that targets people, money, and marketing, and investing in productivity and innovation, anyone can scale their ambition as a business owner!
Our well-rounded lineup of panel’s featured industry experts that spoke to a variety of topics surrounding women’s entrepreneurship and finance.
Inspirational Women’s Panel
This diverse panel of women shook the room with their riveting success journeys, failures, lessons, and cautions. Entrepreneurs were left hopeful for their own evolving career journeys—this was a session favourite! The Inspirational Women’s Panel featured Marlene Marco, Heather Gamble, Mary Morassutti, Jodi Glover, Uchechi Ezurike-Bosse, and was moderated by our event MC and Refinery Alumna, Tanika Riley.
Selling to Government & Corporations Panel
The Selling to Government & Corporations Panel was comprised of representatives from the federal government, corporations, and organizations that support women entrepreneurs. The panel explored how increasing sales could lead to working capital and high-growth. Featured on this panel was Delores Sui, Lisa Hausz, Stephanie Fontaine, Sanja Cancar-Todorovic, and was moderated by Jackie Porter.
Alternative Financing Panel
This panel confirmed the uprising of alternative financing today. Traditional banks are no longer the only option. Panelists sorted out the most popular alternative financing trends that are available for entrepreneurs and gave advice on the best choices for their business goals. The Alternative Finance Panel featured panelist’s Jess Joss, Jean Barrett, Kristen Marumoto, and was moderated by Jessica Glendinnning.
Traditional Financing Panel
The Traditional Financing Panel highlighted how banks are working harder and smarter to support entrepreneurs as they continue to dominate the economy. Panelists shared how the options for receiving loans have emerged over time, and how this process is becoming more convenient for entrepreneurs. This panel brought together financial professionals from various banks to discuss current finance opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Panelists included Kennisha Dyer, Charles Hamilton, Allyson Armstrong, Bhumika Patel, and was moderated by Nancy Shaw.
Our exciting lineup of sessions, masterclasses, and workshops explored topics surrounding finance, growth opportunities, professional development, and more. This lineup was part of our “attendee favourites” as they empowered our participant’s knowledge to help grow their businesses.
Women’s Financing & Financial Readiness Studio
The Women’s Financing & Financial Readiness Studio focused on getting participants and their businesses, ready for financing! Sponsored and presented by FalconLam’s Marlene Falcon and Thuy Lam, this interactive Masterclass empowered attendees to realize their potential when it comes to being financially ready to grow their business. This session was also a preview of the anticipated launch of the Women’s Financing & Financial Readiness Studio– an online readiness program designed to equip #femalefounders with the knowledge and skillset to grow their business.
Money Mindset Masterclass
In the Money Mindset Masterclass facilitated by Marguerite O’Neal, attendees learned how to break through their financial set point by understanding their personal stories of money and success. Through conversations and exercise, attendees felt empowered after leaving this high-energy masterclass with a financial mind shift.
In this Masterclass facilitated by Alterna Savings’ Susan Henry, attendees examined the meaning of micro-finance in a Canadian context, the impact it has on entrepreneurs and communities, as well as the important things one needs to know before applying for a micro-loan.
Five Golden Rules to Optimize Your Business Negotiations
It’s one thing to know how to negotiate with your friends and in other close associations, but how well do you know how to negotiate as a business owner? In this Masterclass presented by Launch Negotiation’s Donna Hughes, attendees learned the power of negotiation from an entrepreneurial perspective. This presentation was a source of empowerment for the women entrepreneurs in the room. Hughes identified the 5 Golden Rules to Optimize Business Negotiations. Attendees practiced their power poses, learned how to redefine negotiation, and left empowered and encouraged to put their negotiation skills to the test.
The Value of Community Connections Workshop
In this interactive workshop presented by 1COMMUNITY1’s Elsii Faria and Kevin Craddock, participants were guided to discover the importance of strengthening interaction and creating meaningful relationships between citizen, business and government on a local level, through on-line and real-world applications. By connecting with entrepreneurs and industry leaders in the room, participants shared their ideas and insights regarding community development from a business perspective.
The World Café, facilitated by Dr. Wendy Cukier, brought together some of the community’s most inquisitive and innovative thinkers. Entrepreneurs engaged in interactive roundtable discussions regarding important issues affecting entrepreneurs and brainstormed actionable next steps. Participants not only shared their ideas with the participants at their table, but also had the opportunity to discuss it with a room full of industry experts, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. Attendees left feeling empowered and hopeful that their contributions to the Café would result in lasting change for an underserved industry.
The Implementation of Self-Affirmations
Our Event MC and The Refinery Alumna, Tanika Riley, was a powerhouse as she guided event attendees through the day! Tanika had a great sense of the energy in the room and kept that energy high as she led attendees through self-affirmations to start off the day. Attendees were instructed to put their hands on their hearts and recite empowering truths to themselves, and each other. It was a nice, genuine touch to the morning of the UnConference.
The ‘Unconference’ Atmosphere
At an unconference, attendees are welcome to contribute to the content shared in workshops or discussions. They are free to share their thoughts, opinions, and reservations concerning the topics discussed, and are encouraged to use the “rule of two feet”—meaning, if they’re curious to explore an alternative session, they’re free to go—no feelings hurt. It was refreshing to see that attendees felt free to engage in discussion with panelists and speakers during the sessions.
During the lunch hour, the WEFunC hosted over 20 vendors at the Vendor Marketplace. Entrepreneurs from industries ranging from coaching to wellness, finance, beauty, and bookkeeping, filled the main gathering area with fabulous displays of their products and services. The Vendor Marketplace was proudly presented by our “Elevating Women” sponsor, McGovern Hurley LLP.
Reception & Dignitary Representation
To conclude an action-packed day of learning, networking, and inspiration, attendees were invited to an event reception sponsored by BDC. The event reception was an evening of brief addresses, networking, and refreshments. The first half of the reception began with official addresses from the Community Innovation Lab representatives, followed by remarks from BDC’s Account Manager, Charles Hamilton. Dignitaries in Durham Region later addressed attendees and gave a word of support to the community. Dignitaries present included Deputy Mayor Steve Yamada, Councilor Deidre Newman, Councilor Maleeha Shahid, Councilor Elizabeth Roy, and Councilor Shaheen Butt. In the second half of the reception, attendees connected over cocktails and hor d’oeuvres crafted by student chefs at the Durham College Centre for Food.
Thank You to Everyone who Made the WEFunC Possible!
The Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance UnConference 2020 was a thrilling ride! We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to all the speakers, facilitators, panelists, event MC, staff, volunteers, and partners for your generous contributions. This event would not have been possible without them. Thank you to our event sponsors, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), BDC, TD, McGovern Hurley LLP, and Alterna Savings for making this event possible.