A new business networking event organized for women by Ottawa business leader Melissa Reeves lived up to its name by giving this morning’s attendees just the lift they needed to get on with their day feeling energized, motivated and ready to take on the world.
The Boost Breakfast Meetup attracted some 40 businesswomen to one of our city’s hidden gems, Working Title Kitchen + Café, for conversation and connections. The restaurant is located in AllSaints, a repurposed former church in Sandy Hill that made for a lovely venue with its stained glass windows and exposed stone walls. AllSaints is owned by Leanne Moussa.
The two-hour event kicked off with 45 minutes of networking before attendees heard how WIRE (Women in Real Estate) Investment CEO and founder Jennifer McGahan evolved her career in a new direction. She went from being an interior designer to launching a private equity firm focused on women through their investment in real estate.
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The attendees of Boost represented a wide-range of industries, including commercial real estate, land development, hospitality, wellness and fitness, and communications.
“The idea behind Boost is to bring together this really diverse group of women, women who are doing really interesting things in the city right now, and to share ideas and to help one another out,” Reeves, COO of Ottawa-based architecture firm Linebox Studio, told the room. “It’s also to do business together, and that’s something I want to be unabashed about — we’re here to find ways to work together.”
Reeves, who’s on the board of the Ottawa Board of Trade, was inspired to create Boost after attending, several years ago, smaller networking events for “interesting women doing really interesting things” in Toronto, where Linebox also has clients. The gatherings were geared toward women in tech in “a cool space with really good coffee,” said Reeves. “It stuck with me and I thought, ‘I would love to do this here’. ”
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stéphanie Plante, who spoke briefly, gave a special shout-out to one of the attendees, Pure Yoga and Pure Kitchen co-owner Amber Stratton, for the classes she ran, via social media, after the world shut down in 2020. “They totally got me through those first really rough weeks of the pandemic,” said Plante.
The councillor has been advocating at City Hall for daycares with extended hours to accommodate parents who don’t work the typical nine-to-five hours. It’s especially important as Ottawa explores ways of revitalizing its nighttime economy, she pointed out.
Reeves, who is on the board of directors for the Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) Foundation, invited its executive director, Angela Bégin, to speak about some of the good work the organization is doing in the community. OCH is home to about 32,000 people in Ottawa with 155 communities across the city. It houses New Canadians, large families being raised by single parents, people living on government assistance programs, and folks who are dealing with mental health and addiction challenges. The foundation provides opportunities to make positive changes in people’s lives, said Bégin, who spoke about their Hop on Bikes and Pack-a-Sack programs.
The room heard how McGahan’s involvement in real estate investing began while she was running her interior design firm. She built relationships with contractors and suppliers, which eventually led to her buying, renovating and flipping properties.
Real estatement investing is too much of a man’s world, she said. Throughout history, the wealthiest people have been land owners. Seventy-six per cent of the nation’s wealth is in real estate and property, she also shared.
Several years ago, McGahan was out for dinner with a few married girlfriends when she realized that their connection to a particular real estate deal was being entirely handled by their husbands. Their spouses had attended an investment meeting that day. “I was listening and I said, ‘Were any of you at the table? Were any of you invited to the meeting?’ And they all said no.”
In 2019, McGahan launched WIRE Investment. “My passion is to make money for women, to create wealth for women using real estate,” said McGahan of her goal to get more women discussing financial matters. “Women don’t talk to each other about their investments or their money; we avoid it.”
McGahan works with all types of women investors — married, single, widowed, business owners. “We are pooling female capital only; I’m not taking capital from men. Of course, I’m sure lots of you are married; that money counts, too,” McGahan said as the room erupted into laughter. “But, I’m not going to speak with your husbands. I really think it’s important that we empower women to make big decisions about investments and to empower women to take control of their finances and their future.”
Women can expect to outlive their male partners, on average, by seven years, she noted.