Are you new to Peterborough and looking to make connections? Returning home and looking to reintegrate? Seeking networking opportunities? Business advice and professional development? A night out with women? Mother-daughter time?
The Women’s Business Network of Peterborough (WBN) can offer all this and more. And for proof you need look no further than the reasons current members have for joining.
Since 1961, WBN has been a positive, welcoming space for women entrepreneurs in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. With membership numbers at an all-time high, there’s no indication WBN will be slowing down anytime soon.
This year, 176 women entrepreneurs make up the long-standing business networking channel. This marks the first time in WBN history that membership has sold out before the early bird deadline.
This growth in membership can be attributed to a few key initiatives.
To start, WBN has prioritized recruiting and retaining younger members in their recent five-year strategic plan to ensure the continuing operation of WBN. As an example, last year marked the first time in WBN history where a mother and daughter (Diane Wolf and Christine Teixeira) both served on the organization’s board of directors.
The organization has accomplished a lot in the last 58 years and is striving to ensure that a new generation of women business leaders are able to lead to organization into the future.
Grace Reynolds, the 2019-20 WBN President, is also indicative of the trend of increasing numbers of younger women entrepreneurs joining the organization and taking on a more prominent role in the local business community. Grace attributes this season’s growth to WBN’s commitment to supporting an inclusive and diverse membership, which can be seen in the variety of women-run businesses that make up the network.
In addition, WBN has expanded its networking, leadership, and marketing opportunities for members and has focused on developing relevant and current programming.
“The board of directors is working extremely hard to provide an excellent program for the year and to bring high-profile and inspiring speakers to our membership,” says Grace. “I am excited to see what this new season brings.”
As varied as WBN members are, they all share similar reasons for joining this group of driven, hard-working entrepreneurs and business women.
Here are some of them.
Endless Opportunities for Business Networking
Perhaps the most obvious reason why women join WBN is for the opportunity to network with other women in business.
Hope Robbins is a healthy living coach, guide, and mentor at Inspired by Hope. Hope joined WBN last year because she wanted to meet other like-minded business women.
“I’ve met some amazing ladies and I’ve learned a lot from them,” says Hope of her first year as a WBN member. “I feel more connected and informed about what’s happening in the Peterborough area. Becoming a member helped me promote my business.”
For Merridyth Marshall, having just returned from maternity leave, WBN provided the perfect opportunity for her to get back into business networking. Merridyth is a Senior Marketing Manager at MasterBrand Cabinets, one of the largest manufacturers of cabinetry in North America.
“I joined because I’m looking to get more involved in the local business community,” says Merridyth. “I love meeting new people and sharing experiences. I’m also really looking forward to the amazing line-up of speakers this year.”
April Boyce has been a member of WBN since 2018, having joined after opening her own private practice coaching ADHD clients. Prior to launching Looking Glass Coaching, April was a teacher with KPRDSB in Port Hope for 12 years. She lost touch with the business community when she was working out of town, but knew she needed to develop business contacts when she started her private practice.
“I’ve always known about WBN,” says April. “I moved here in 1988 and I can’t remember a time when it didn’t exist. When I launched my private practice, I knew it was a great opportunity to get involved and network with other business women.”
As this year’s membership alone has shown, there is always someone new entering WBN — making for endless networking opportunities.
WBN events include guest speakers, trade shows, special events, and gala socials, which offer great opportunities to network and become well-integrated in Peterborough’s business community. They also offer the opportunity for education and professional development.
Each season, WBN hosts guest speakers covering a wide array of business-related topics. These guest speakers offer valuable, first-hand knowledge about what it takes to make it in business and the lessons they’ve learned throughout their careers in the industry.
“From my perspective, the cost of being a member is nominal for what you get,” says Barbara-Anne Elstone, a representative for ZYIA athletic clothing who has just officially joined WBN.
“There are so many educational opportunities and I was so impressed with the speaker on the night when I attended as a guest. She offered financial planning advice, something that I needed to learn about having just become a representative for ZYIA.”
A Positive Space for Women
Not only do women join WBN to network within the business community, they also join to become part of a community that supports, encourages, and uplifts other women.
“I knew WBN was a welcoming space to connect with great, strong, powerful women in the community,” says Carlotta James of Three Sisters Landscaping, who joined WBN a year ago. Upon becoming a member, Carlotta was excited to learn more about female entrepreneurship and to create long-lasting connections in the community.
Carlotta says she meets someone new at every meeting and benefits from the creative discussions that help her brainstorm new ideas for her landscaping business.
“I’m thankful that WBN women have been supportive of my business and my project ideas,” she says. “With women standing beside you, you feel like you can do anything.”
Likewise, April Boyce has only one word to describe the community environment at WBN: positive.
“I work with positive psychology in my private ADHD coaching practice,” says April. “It’s fundamental to what I do. Even without the language being used in their mission statement, a lot of what WBN is based on is positive psychology.”
“Women are encouraged to lift each other up and to find their strengths. That really resonates with me. I’ve not yet heard a negative comment at any of the events. It’s a positive space for women entrepreneurs.”
Fun Social Events
WBN events aren’t only an opportunity to network and integrate into the local community — they’re also an opportunity to let loose and have some fun.
This will be Dr. Ange Wellman’s first year as a WBN member. A local chiropractor, Ange began attending WBN monthly events as a guest in January 2019, a few months after she moved from British Columbia with her husband and two young daughters.
It was a big transition for her family, and Ange felt she needed to get out into the community to ensure her business took off in her new city — but also for her mental health.
“I’m a social person and I needed an outlet,” says Ange. “I was nervous for my first meeting, but I found the women to be fun and inclusive. Now that I’m an official member, I’d have to say I joined because the women are so fun to be around.”
For Ange, WBN is not only about business networking, but developing genuine friendships with other women in the community.
Many new members are nervous about attending their first WBN event. It might feel overwhelming to enter a room where everyone seems to already know each other, but WBN events are structured with new members in mind.
One of the ways WBN monthly events ensure women get to know each other is by including a facilitator at each of the dinner tables.
The facilitator, an established WBN member, is there to encourage conversation among the women seated at the table. New members will feel welcomed and quickly begin to make lasting friendships and business connections.
Barbara-Anne Elstone says the structure of the events makes it easy for first timers to meet people.
“The facilitators ask you to explain your business and you get to hear about the other women’s businesses,” she explains. “They ask a lot of really great questions to keep the conversation going. It helps you relax and enjoy yourself.”
Attend as a Guest Before You Join
Many of the current WBN members were introduced to this thriving network when they attended an event as a guest.
Ange Wellman, Merridyth Marshall, and Barbara-Anne Elstone all knew they wanted to become a WBN member after their first guest experience.
“I was so impressed by the discussion at our table, the genuine sense of community, and the guest speaker that night,” Ange recalls. “I went home after the meeting feeling inspired and excited for the year ahead.”
Attending as a guest requires little commitment, but opens up a world of possibilities. It’s no wonder women are hooked after their first WBN event.
Since WBN’s 2019-20 membership is already sold out, you’ll have to wait until next year if you want to join the organization as a member. But why not attend a member meeting as a guest this year and discover for yourself why there’s such a great demand for the Kawarthas’ preeminent networking organization for women?
For more information about the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough, visit www.womensbusinessnetwork.net.