When a group of dynamic women entrepreneurs come together for a day of networking, learning and connections, wonderful things can happen.
On September 14-20, Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada helped to organize an incoming trade mission of about 20 women business owners from VdU, the association of German women entrepreneurs, to Edmonton and Vancouver.
To round out the end of their trip, Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), in collaboration with national and regional partners, Export Development Canada, the Trade Commissioner Service and the Vancouver Economic Commission, hosted the delegation for “Building Bridges,” a series of international networking and learning events.
As the WEC Export Advisor, I joined the WEC team in welcoming German and Canadian delegates who represented various business sectors including life sciences, digital technology, transformative learning, consulting services, recruiting services, food products, electrotechnical engineering and software services.
These meetings and events are so important to help women entrepreneurs make personal connections with their counterparts in other countries – both to make business connections and also to decrease the intimidation factor of trading internationally.
Here are my impressions of the events.
SETTING THE STAGE: AN INTIMATE GATHERING
On September 17, Canadian and German delegates met at the beautiful private residence of Lois Nahirney, CEO of dnaPower. It was a chance for the Canadian and German women entrepreneurs to connect over dinner and share their entrepreneurial experiences while admiring the view of Vancouver.
I could feel the excitement in the room as delegates were busy introducing themselves and learning about each other. It was a fun-filled, relaxed environment providing excellent opportunities for delegates of both countries to learn about their counterparts’ business cultures and make personal connections.
CREATING CONNECTIONS: A DAY OF NETWORKING+LEARNING
September 18 was a day of micro-meetings, connections, learning, and networking.
Nailing elevator pitches
Every participant was given an opportunity to pitch their business. People were making notes, and I could see its impact in the networking that followed later, as women entrepreneurs got busy connecting with those businesses that they found were good matches for their business growth.
Panel on empowering female investors & female investment
Next, we dove into an informative panel featuring Jill Earthy of Female Funders, Bonnie Foley-Wong of Pique Ventures, Gordana Apic of Cell networks GNBH and Claudia Grobe-Leege, VDU and German W20 representative.
In an interactive discussion, moderated by Lois Nahirney of dnaPower, the panellists spoke about barriers faced by women entrepreneurs and why it’s important to have a diversity of perspectives in investment.
Here are some of the takeaways:
There is a cultural style barrier that makes investors’ expectations unrealistic. Realistic projections by women are ignored by such investors.
- An internal barrier is the feeling of impostor syndrome. Many women feel that they do not belong and do not deserve to be successful.
- The systemic issues are enormous. Women get paid less and the work environment is not flexible. It’s not that women are not asking, but the system has not been adequately designed for them.
- Women are risk aware, more astute, and want to understand the investment lingo and the process so they can make sound decisions and see better returns.
- It’s important to de-mystify investment. There are different financing models, even for smaller investors. There are mechanisms in place now to make investing easier.
- We are gradually seeing a shift as there is more awareness about diversity in investing. Better decision-making happens and opportunities are created when there is a diversity of investors.
Meeting their match
The networking and B2B matchmaking sessions that followed the panel discussion were buzzing with impactful conversations.
I spoke with many delegates at the event. It was so great to know that while many Canadian delegates were actively pursuing expanding to the EU specifically Germany, German women entrepreneurs were keen to develop business connections in North America.
It was indeed a win-win situation as the networking and matchmaking opportunities made such business connections possible for women exporters in both countries.
It was an exciting day, but we weren’t done yet! The post-event dinner was a great way for everyone to unwind after the eventful day, and an opportunity to exchange last-minute contact information and stay connected.
The world needs more of Vancouver
We look forward to participating in such opportunities to support BC women entrepreneurs in international trade and promote BC as a place to do business.
As Catherine Warner, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission said in her welcome address “the world needs more of Vancouver… Vancouver is a city whose progressive values of sustainability, diversity, equality are the values that great businesses around the world aspire to.”
All-in-all, I’d say this was a very successful few days. Over half of the Canadian delegates have said they followed up with a German business owner since the event.
And one delegate shared “I really enjoyed the event and would recommend it to others. I would definitely consider participating in a Canadian Trade Mission to Germany in the future.”
If you would like to grow your business and participate in opportunities like these, please get in touch with me!