“Some of our biggest lessons that we learn are when things go wrong.”

Maureen Van Overliw has seen a lot go right lately. The business she founded, Momentum Training Services, is growing. She recently organized a TEDx Yellowknife event devoted to the city’s women, and now she is part of a symposium dedicated to helping Yellowknife’s female entrepreneurs.

“Why did that go wrong? How do we stop that from going wrong again? Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Van Overliw. “You’ve got to get out there and give it a try, and you build resilience around that.

“If you’ve got a community of people around you that believe in you, it makes all the difference, and if you can build on their knowledge and their experience, that’s going to help save you the tragedy of having to go through some of the same experiences yourself.

“Just connecting with people, having dialogue in a symposium, is an amazing opportunity to do that.”

More information: Trailblazers Symposium

Next month’s Trailblazers Symposium, a co-production of the City of Yellowknife and the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, is designed to provide exactly that opportunity.

Taking place on March 8 at the Chateau Nova Hotel, the symposium focuses on female entrepreneurs and costs $150 plus GST to attend.

The day-long symposium features six major sessions, including a keynote from Mark Brand – dubbed one of North America’s foremost social entrepreneurs – on doing business with a conscience.

Deneen Everett, executive director of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, hopes the symposium facilitates the in-person networking Van Overliw is talking about.

“It’s a chance to network, it’s a chance to discuss issues and possible solutions with other entrepreneurs,” said Everett.

Stephanie Vandeputte, an economic development officer for the City of Yellowknife, said: “The theme of the day is really a celebration of women and a celebration of their successes. We want to showcase and highlight what women can do, to empower and inspire them.

“This is an opportunity for people to connect on the topic of equality in the workplace, and it’s aimed at men and women,” said Vandeputte.

“It is really important to know that we want men and women in that room, because we want everyone to work together towards this new workplace.”

“We want both genders in the room,” agreed Everett. “This is not just for women, although it is a celebration of women in our community. But it is absolutely open and we encourage lots of both genders to come.”

Additional loads

Van Overliw, one of the speakers at the symposium, gave little away about her planned presentation.

“I have the concept. I do believe it may be slightly contentious, and kind-of flipping things around a little bit in terms of how I’m addressing gender representation in the workplace,” she said.

Van Overliw began her business in 2012 as a means to spend more time with her young daughter. Now with two children of her own, she considers her business a third child in the family.

For Van Overliw, a key issue for the symposium to discuss is the presence of “additional loads” female entrepreneurs face when starting a business.

“Where do I start? I mean, they’re not necessarily super-unique from an entrepreneurial perspective but I think women carry those additional loads that might be invisible, or more difficult to navigate in terms of some of the domestic responsibilities,” she said.

“Ways to negotiate that with scheduling is always incredibly helpful. Like, what have other women done in these situations? From a child care perspective to house cleaning.

“We’ve got someone that comes in every week in my house, and my husband and I both agree we’d rather go without groceries than go without a housekeeper. At this point, it’s such a major difference in our lives.

“It’s just navigating the things that relate to running your own business, but also might be especially unique to being women who are running their own businesses.”

Van Overliw’s session will deal with “balanced leadership” and how we define good leaders in the workplace.

Other sessions planned for March 8 include a presentation on decision-making, a financial planning seminar, a talk on women and negotiation, and a panel on diversity in Yellowknife.

‘Important for our economy’

This is the symposium’s third year, though its first as a full-day event having previously taken place as a lunch session only.

“The campaign actually started at the Fat Fox. Stephanie sat down with me and was like, ‘I have this idea, let’s get together and make this work,'” said Everett.

Trailblazers now encompasses the symposium alongside an annual business award sponsored by the City and a promotional campaign highlighting Yellowknife’s female leaders.

“It is so important for our economy and for our community,” said Everett, “to make sure that we are engaging with women, encouraging them to start businesses, and supporting them.”

The Trailblazers Symposium is organized by the City of Yellowknife and Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce with support from CanNor, CIBC, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.


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