The Women’s Business Network of Ottawa was back doing what it does best Wednesday by bringing businesswomen of all ages and stages together under one roof to celebrate those among them who are doing exceptional things in their careers and communities.
It was the BYA Finalist Cocktail Reception, which revealed the names of 22 women selected as finalists for a Businesswoman of the Year Award. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner later next month.
“This evening is a reflection of so many women who have cultivated their passion for their work with outstanding results, and we are proud to thank all of them tonight,” WBN board president Victoria Stewart, account executive and project lead at the Ottawa Business Journal, said as she welcomed some 100 guests to Rideau Carleton Casino Future Home of Hard Rock Ottawa in the city's south end.
The gala is being chaired by Jennifer McAndrew, event director and co-founder at Mastermind Event Rentals, with co-chair Tracey Parslow, retirement living advisor for Tea & Toast.
McAndrew described this year’s cohort as superheroes, in keeping with the theme of the night. “Tonight, we’re taking a moment to celebrate and appreciate all the superwomen among us,” said McAndrew, who shared her own superhero story from when she was a wee thing and training to be the next Wonder Woman, in the event that her superhuman idol decided to pack it in. “That was my career goal. I had to modify it a little bit and go into events.”
Organizers called up some of the sponsors, including GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants partner Anne Van Delst and Layla Darwish, a vice president of commercial banking with BMO, to help announce the finalists. Also there to welcome guests was Helen MacMillan, general manager of Rideau Carleton Casino.
The awards program was recently updated “to make it more accessible to more people,” Stewart told OBJ.social. The WBN added two new categories, the Community Impact Award and Lifetime Achievement Award. The association is now also recognizing women from different stages of their careers.
Mira Yasiri from RBC was at the event as the BYA chair of nominations while Jill Bourchier, Julia Canning (University of Ottawa) and Lynda Carter (MNP LLP) served this year as members of the nominations committee. Bourchier, a chartered professional accountant, invited along her mom, Deborah Bouchier, who retired a few years back as a partner at GGFL. She won a Businesswoman of the Year Award in 2016, in the professional category.
Former BYA recipients in attendance that night also included Marion Balla, president of Adlerian Counselling and Consulting Group. She won her BYA in 1996.
Finalists for a Businesswoman of the Year Award
Entrepreneur Category: Start-up
- Amy Aziz (Apsogos Contracting Services Inc.)
- Lisa Flanders (Bloom Integrate Health & Movement Centre)
- Kate Laird (Love Your Body Fitness)
Entrepreneur Category: Emerging
- Tanya Coughlan (Twillow Lifestyle Community)
- Shannon Ferguson (FanSaves)
- Liana Norman (On the Ball Pediatric Physio and Occupational Therapy)
Entrepreneur Category: Established
- Davinder Kaur (PranaShanti Yoga Centre)
- Catherine Priestman (CP Business Solutions)
- Roxanne Whiting (SLIAO)
Enterprise Category: Rising Star
- Kris Beauchesne (Common Ground Consulting)
- Piriya Yoganathan (The Ottawa Hospital)
Enterprise Category: Innovation Champion
- Monika Bains (Multiview Financial Software)
- Solange Tuyishime (Elevate International)
- Shaina Watt (Hendry Warren LLP)
Enterprise Category: Accomplished Leader
- Lisa Meuser (The Meus)
- Dobrila Moogk (Giatec)
- Louise Summers (RBC)
Community Impact Award
- Sheena Brady (Tease Wellness)
- Heidi Hauver (Shinydocs)
- Robyn Osgood (McMillan Vantage Policy Group)
Lifetime Achievement Award
- Lorraine McKay (HRSG)
- Sheila Winter Wallace
The BYA Gala is being held at the Infinity Convention Centre on Thursday, Sept. 29th, more than two years since its last awards dinner in 2019, which had been its largest to date. Organizers put the gala on pause during the pandemic, although they did still manage to hand out awards in 2021 by paying visits to each of the finalists’ homes, bringing gifts and announcing the recipients.
WBN is a non-profit association for women, mostly run by volunteers, that supports and celebrates the business success of women in the national capital region. It was created in 1981 by a group of businesswomen at a time when most banks still required female entrepreneurs to have their husbands co-sign for a loan in order to obtain financing, said Stewart.
Along with its popular BYA program, WBN also hosts educational and networking events, a scholarship program and a mentorship program.
Stewart said WBN continued to be a source of support and information-sharing for businesswomen during the pandemic through its online events. The association is very excited to be back hosting live gatherings, though.
"Networking is such an important part of what the association is about," said Stewart. "That's what WBN does really well, making those relationships."