This article is sponsored by the Women's Business Network.
Since mid-March, businesses and associations across Ottawa have had to find new and creative ways of connecting with clients and colleagues – a challenge the Women’s Business Network embraced when it transitioned to a virtual network earlier this year.
Like many groups, the WBN was initially unsure of the traction it would gain by switching its events – which would typically include regular in-person meetings, receptions and its flagship gala, the Businesswoman of the Year Awards – to a virtual format.
But the board quickly realized that the WBN had an important role to play in helping its members and the broader community of business women navigate what is for many the most challenging period in their career, said Abbie Sizer, president of the WBN in Ottawa.
“While networking is changing, ultimately our core values and the way that we operate remains the same,” she says. “We are a community of women dedicated to celebrating, supporting, connecting and inspiring business women in whatever way that we can.”
Focusing on the future
As an organization that provides various educational tools and advice on how to navigate the business world, it only made sense for the WBN to begin providing entrepreneurs and those in corporate positions with resources regarding COVID-19, says Soula Burrell, executive director of the WBN.
In recent months, the network has hosted various events such virtual coffee chats for both registered WBN participants and non-members.
Often run by board members themselves, the virtual events covered various topics such as how to sustain, thrive and grow your business during trying times, an open forum for women to share their COVID-19 challenges as well as a “Back to Business” series geared toward entrepreneurs navigating the legal and HR issues related to new public health guidelines and restrictions.
“We are reaching out to help those affected by job loss or those who need support for their businesses,” says Burrell. “We are continuously listening to our members and creating content for them that is both educational and informative.”
To help keep members engaged and bring a sense of lightheartedness to the group, the WBN also hosted a handful of fun-filled activities for members such as a virtual murder mystery party, and a physically-distanced tour of local winery Kin Vineyards.
Women’s Business Network board:
The network also welcomed in a new board over the summer, which has set a course for the group moving forward, adds Sizer.
The WBN wants to continue to engage its members as the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold, she says, as well as focus on the topic of diversity to ensure the network is truly representative of the business community.
While the WBN has seamlessly transitioned its operations to a digital platform, the highly anticipated Businesswoman of the Year awards is one event that just wouldn’t be the same over a screen.
The typically sold-out evening – which recognizes the success and accomplishments of local women business leaders – was originally scheduled for April 2020, but has since been rescheduled to 2021 in hopes of being able to gather in person, says Sizer.
“The COVID-19 pandemic really pushed us to be more agile and flexible in our planning,” she says, addings that nominations for the 2020 awards will be opening soon.“We have consulted with the stakeholders involved, and these women want – and deserve – their moment on stage. We are willing to wait until it’s safe to celebrate.”