One of my favourite sayings is “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” We’ve all found our unique ways of making a living through our businesses in the Ottawa Region. Some of us reached incredible success early on, some inherited family businesses, some worked with large multinationals on ground-breaking projects, and some took a little longer to get off the ground. Regardless, the next step to building a life is through community and giving back. Giving back has always been a driving value for me, and was largely what drew me to a career in HR.
Back in 2015, I had a strong desire to volunteer and get involved in something outside my business. As a young(er) mother of two, I wanted to make wider connections to the outside world to help TAG HR grow to the next level. It is very challenging during the first ten years of your children’s lives to find time for extracurricular activities, personal development, or socializing. The Ottawa Board of Trade captured my attention as a space where I could check all of those boxes, allowing me to give back, connect with my peers, and grow as a businessperson.
A lean organization driven by volunteers
What many people may not know about OBOT is that it runs with a core team of only five employees. These five employees (all women!) work tirelessly to respond to the needs of our business community, supported by a team of over 100 volunteers. These volunteers are the powerhouse behind OBOT, dedicating their time on committees to make sure that businesses have access to the tools and support they need. OBOT not only provides access to useful resources such as networking opportunities and group insurance plans but also engages in crucial advocacy to advance local business growth and remove barriers.
Navigating crises together
Much more than a networking organization, OBOT partners closely with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on provincial and national initiatives. These alliances proved to be especially fruitful during the pandemic where I saw how much a community can accomplish when all levels of government collaborate. Starting in March 2020, OBOT worked to keep all members updated with regular community newsletters, helped businesses stay informed about changing guidelines, hosted regular virtual council meetings for peer support, and provided free resources like Rapid Testing Kits. It was inspiring to see our many volunteers band together to navigate the waters of a crisis.
Another recent example where our membership came together was during the three-week protest occupation of our downtown streets, which caused many businesses to temporarily close down. OBOT worked quickly to reach out to government officials to advocate for a speedy resolution and provide updates to our members. I am incredibly proud to volunteer with an organization that will take action to speak for the needs of our citizens, our businesses, and our community.
Looking to the future
Seven years since joining, I am now Vice-Chair to the Officers for OBOT and Chair of the Membership and Engagement Committee. People often ask me where I find the time to volunteer, and the short answer is: I don’t — I make the time. I believe this organization has given me tenfold more than I have been able to contribute over the years. As I look ahead, I am excited to see what else we can accomplish. I urge any Ottawa business that is not a member to sign up today. We are truly stronger together and when our business community collaborates, amazing change can happen!
Priya Bhaloo, CPC, is the COO at TAG HR, an Ottawa based, national staffing firm committed to excellence. She is also the Vice Chair, serving the Ottawa Board of Trade and a Forty Under 40 Recipient. Priya is a passionate community leader and advocate for women in business. She is an activator with SheEO Inc. and a former executive member of Women’s Business Network of Ottawa. Priya graduated from Ottawa University and serves as an advisor for In-TAC (International Talent Acquisition Centre) and Public Services and Procurement Canada.