Beyond Networking goes above and beyond to help earthquake relief efforts

Attendees of networking brunch support food drive for survivors of Turkey-Syria earthquake

Angella Goran, Sarwar Qureshi
FinTech entrepreneur Angella Goran, founder and CEO of TAPanGO, seen with Ottawa chartered professional accountant Sarwar Qureshi, founder of Beyond Networking Ottawa, has 13,000 pairs of SokJok socks she'd like to liquidate in order to donate funds to help victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Pool parties, spa days, ziplining – there’s nothing Beyond Networking Ottawa isn’t game to try and, better yet, have its participants experience together.

On Thursday, several dozen attendees met at Les Grillades on Colonnade Road, just off Prince of Wales Drive, for a Lebanese-style brunch. No quiche or frittata here. The menu featured fatteh, foul and shakshuka.

The monthly get-togethers are arranged by Ottawa chartered professional accountant Sarwar Qureshi, a partner at Paterson & Company. He’s been doing it for nearly 10 years as as a way of connecting people.

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Back when Qureshi was with GGFL LLP, he used to organize team-building events as a member of the firm’s social committee. The University of Ottawa commerce graduate eventually branched off by bringing together a cross-section of professionals from his own network. 

“That’s how it started, and, over the years, it’s just kind of grown and evolved,” said Qureshi while noting how the original core group of 10 to 15 people has swelled to 100-plus. And with so many of them now married and with young families – including Qureshi – it’s more convenient to hold some of their Beyond Networking events during the day. 

Qureshi, a second-generation Canadian, said he’s learned from his Pakistan-born parents about the importance of making others feel welcomed.

“They’ve told me their stories of how they came to Canada and how challenging it can be at the onset, getting to know people and the language, and things like that. I feel like we want to be open to all and we want to make it as easy to participate and be inclusive.”

From left, Sarwar Qureshi, organizer of Beyond Networking Ottawa and a partner at Paterson & Company Chartered Accountants, with Mohammad Dourou, managing director and co-founder of Collabüro Coworking & Events Space, and Rashad Aumeerally, CEO at Titan Capital Properties, at Beyond Networking’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Attendees of the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Lojain Al Ahmad with Dr. Christina Romulus, owner of Dr. Christina MD Clinic, and Rana Charara from Statistics Canada at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Amira Dali, real estate agent at EXP REALTY, with Shash Patel, general manager at MasterBUILT Hotels, at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Olu Ibilola, senior account manager at BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada), with Dagii Jamts at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Craig Heward, sales manager at digital marketing agency seoplus+ , with his colleague, account coordinator­ Cara Corbett, and Anyse Marsh, a real estate agent with Century 21 Synergy Realty, at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips­

Qureshi purposefully chooses activities, such as escape rooms or paintball, that people want to do – but just not alone. Participants cover their own expenses.

“It’s really about trying to give people that inclusivity, that group of people to go with,” said Qureshi, who was observed during the 90-minute event mingling with attendees, spending time visiting each of the tables and making sure to thank everyone for coming. He grew up in Ottawa and graduated from Merivale High School.

Beyond Networking continued during the pandemic, once social gathering restrictions eased. Participants did the whole masks and proof of vaccinations thing until they were no longer required to do so.

“Whenever possible, we kept going,” said Qureshi. “Social camaraderie is important.”

Attendees included consultant Michael Hughes, who’s actually a specialist in networking as a business strategy, 2022 Fight for the Cure white-collar boxer Rashad Aumeerally, and fintech entrepreneur Angella Goran, founder of TAPanGO Technologies and a retired professional athlete. She’s been part of Beyond Networking since the start.

“It didn’t even have a name yet,” she recalled. “It was called ‘Sarwar’s group’.”

Goran, who used to run a social enterprise called Sokjok that sold athletic socks, is now trying to liquidate the last of her supply in order to use all sales to help victims of the massive earthquake that struck Turkey and neighbouring Syria on Feb. 6, killing more than 40,000 people and injuring many more. Her socks were made in Turkey.

She has about 13,000 pairs remaining and is looking to sell them in bulk to corporations that may want to gift them to employees.

Goran figures she could raise as much as $25,000 for the Canadian Red Cross Earthquake in Turkey and Syria Appeal. She has the potential to double her impact, too. The federal government is matching donations given to the appeal until Feb. 22.

Participants of the Beyond Networking brunch came bearing non-perishable food items as part of an effort to send shipping containers of supplies to earthquake victims.

Attendees at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips

In speaking with attendees of the brunch, many expressed their gratitude in being able to participate in networking events, especially in this post-pandemic remote-work world.

Beyond Networking Ottawa and Aaron McFarlane’s RÄNDĀ VO͞O Business Network events have helped new business owner Kristina Beauchesne engage with other entrepreneurs and professionals in a really constructive way.

“I’m realizing how much people want to help one another, and that’s a really beautiful thing,” said Beauchesne of the people she’s met.

Beauchesne stepped away from her 22-year career as a teacher to launch Common Ground Consulting last May. She helps teams create productive, positive organizational work cultures.

Beyond Networking attendee Ruddy Daniels sees the gatherings as a way of putting faces to names.

“Sometimes, you’ll see them online but you never meet them,” said Daniels, senior business development manager for digital marketing agency Notionhive.

Networking events are also good for coaxing people out of their comfort zone, he said.

“You can come here and be a wallflower, if you like, but somebody is going to come up to you and say, ‘Hi, my name is …’ and that’s a good thing.”

From left, consultant Michael Hughes and Ruddy Daniels, senior business development manager for digital marketing agency Notionhive, at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Attendees at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Jean Claude Nasser, CEO of Revelation Marketing, with Beyond Networking Ottawa organizer Sarwar Qureshi and Kamila Sleiman, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Sarazen Realty, at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Kristina Beauchesne,  founder of Common Ground Consulting, with Peter Smith,  pa
Attendees at the Beyond Networking Ottawa’s Lebanese brunch held at Les Grillades restaurant on Colonnade Road on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips

caroline@obj.ca

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