Nickie Shobeiry is Apt613’s correspondent at Synapcity, Ottawa non-profit for civic engagement, connecting people across diverse communities to share perspectives and create positive change.
There’s nothing quite like a group of women celebrating one another’s successes. Tuesday February 27th was the finalist cocktail reception of The Business Women of The Year Awards, presented by sponsor BMO, and supported by the Women’s Business Network. Established in 1983, the BYAs recognize the accomplishments of outstanding women in the National Capital Region. Katherine Scarlett, head of divisional operations for BMO for Eastern Ontario, opened the evening by talking about BMO’s work with businesswomen, including their recent report on women entrepreneurs and innovation.
For the second year, the BYAs was hosted by the vibrant Julie Beun: writer, publicist, consultant and TV personality. Julie noted that “Women excel [at volunteerism] because we’re community builders. We understand intuitively that if we give, everybody benefits – our community, the people around us, and of course, the planet.”
One of the incredible nominees included Cathy Hay, president and founder of Hay Design. Established in Ottawa for 29 years, Cathy is an interior designer, energy and environment design specialist, and project manager. We asked her what advice she had for women starting their careers. “Set your goals, and go for them. Don’t let anyone hold you back. You’ll make your dreams come true. It was a great risk, opening up my own business, having a team and a payroll – but it was well worth it.”
Whether it’s between art and business, or work and family, balance can be a tricky subject. “I haven’t had balance in life and work for 29 years,” Cathy laughed, “up until 3 years ago, when I really started taking care of myself. That would be another piece of advice for anyone starting out: take care of yourself, because it’s so important, and it’ll make everything you do better.”
We had the opportunity to catch up with Candace Enman, president of WelchGroup Consulting, and winner of last year’s award. Thinking back, Candace told us, “it was amazing to have my work recognized and validated. I’ve said to this year’s nominees that the whole experience is like going to the Oscars. They pamper you, they send you to get your hair done, your nails done, dresses – you get to borrow jewellery, so it’s real diamonds! I told them to embrace it because it’s really fun, and there’s not often opportunities like this for women to be recognized. Here we are, recognizing 12 of them each year!”
Reflecting on her own career, Candance said, “People might not say consulting is very interesting but being able to affect change in people’s businesses and personal lives is really rewarding. That’s always the key.”
Candace acts as a mentor to young women. “Sometimes I find they’re afraid to ask for what they want, but the men will ask without permission. They’ll go to their bosses and say what they want, while women will believe that their hard work will get them there. You need to ask for it. When I started consulting, it’s not like I knew how to consult. You jump into it. Ultimately if you make a mistake, it’s all a learning experience.”
Solange Tuyishime, president and CEO of Elevate International, was the honourary chair for the second year in a row. Solange works to advance leadership and economic development for women and girls, both internationally and nationally. As well as being the Canada Ambassador for UNICEF, Solange was crowned Miss Canada International 2006 and Miss Galaxy Canada 2011.
Solange told us we need to elevate women’s economic participation, contribution and community-building. “I look at myself,” Solange explained, “and I’m a 30 plus year old, a mum of three, and I run an organisation. Eventually you’re torn between what to do. My greatest advice is to find purpose – find what we’re good at, and then go for it unapologetically. We apologise for so many things, and we shouldn’t. We are brilliant, and we can manage so many things at the same time. We need to celebrate on another, encourage one another, support one another and be there for one another during the good and the bad. If I make a mistake as a CEO, I need another woman to come and say, ‘It’s ok, there’s room for mistakes, it’s an opportunity to grow – how can I help?’ That’s how we will elevate one another. Let’s elevate each other.”
Nominees were split into four categories: Professional, Emerging Entrepreneur, Established Entrepreneur, and Organizational. Amongst these incredible names were Dr. Nathalie Beauchamp, CEO of Santé Chiropractic; Ilona Garson, Co-Owner of Jet Black Hair & Studio; and Linda Eagen, President and CEO Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. The full list can be found here. To quote Julie Beun: “They gave me 20 pages of stuff to read about you [nominees] – that’s gotta say something!”
In their report, BMO found that women entrepreneurs feel there’s an underrepresntation of female mentors and investors, restricting them from opportunities. Not even a month later, BMO were presenting a room filled with an unmistakable sense of women’s empowerment, of inspirational fierceness, and of true support.
Here’s to many more such times.
Winners will be announced at the BYA Awards Gala taking place at the Infinity Convention Centre on Thursday, April 19. Tickets can be purchased here.