Wendy’s Latest EMC Column (March 2013)

W.E.L.L. Done in Carleton Place - Several months ago, after lunch at the Eating Place, I popped in next door to chat with Erica Zwicker of the Floral Boutique.  As I still had plenty of time before being due back at the Town Hall, I went to neighbouring business owner Michelle Bedel’s Surrounding Memories, then crossed the street to speak with Janice Martin and Gail Sheen-MacDonald at Wisteria, continued over to Chantal Gervais’ Sunshine’s Then and Now, and finished up at Krista Lee’s Applecheeks.  Later in the afternoon I was reflecting on my visits and it suddenly struck me that these businesses were all run by women entrepreneurs!  It didn’t take much time for me to realize that a large majority of our BIA’s businesses are owned and run by women – and many of them young women.  I followed up with Cathie McOrmond, manager of the BIA, who became equally excited.  We both felt strongly that somehow this fact needed to be made public, needed to be recognized and needed to be built upon. Early in the New Year, I spoke with Susan Fournier, Executive Director of Valley Heartland, a Federal Government Agency that administrates both federal and provincial economic development funding programs. Within 48 hours of the call, Susan, Carleton Place Economic Development Co-ordinator Jasmin Ralph, Cathie McOrmond and I were sitting down talking over how we can assist these entrepreneurs, draw attention to their presence in our community, and make it work for the benefit of both the town and the women.  Interestingly, the timing could not have been better as Susan had determined her three areas of focus in the next fiscal year starting in April, and one of them just happened to be creating a program to support female entrepreneurs. Then, during International Women’s Week, Susan announced the initiative W.E.L.L . – Women Entrepreneurs of Lanark and (North) Leeds – to be headquartered in Carleton Place.  The program is essentially a support network with some funding capabilities; established women entrepreneurs will act as mentors to start-up business owners, and will also determine who receives support from the funding pool.  As the program is in its early planning stages, details still need to be worked out.  Stay tuned! W.E.L.L. done, once again, Carleton Place!