Canadian Business Chicks: Connecting women entrepreneurs in the Calgary Region

by • October 18, 2016 • Community, Economy

By Jemma Young, Content Contributor

Has a difficult experience served you a greater purpose? Do you have a passion project? How did it start?

Monica Kretschmer was once in an abusive relationship and reliant on the services of organizations like HomeFront and CWES.

Now as an entrepreneur, she’s paying it forward in big ways.

In her second year of business as founder and CEO of Canadian Business Chicks — a community for professional and entrepreneurial women —, Monica is on a mission to inspire others to greatness.

She’s built an outlet to serve support and celebrate hardworking women.

She’s also shed light on the incredible rewards and very real challenges business owners and people face when chasing their goals.


Monica KretschmerBecoming an entrepreneur

It was a surreal day when Monica launched, Canadian Business Chicks, in May 2014.

“Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it,“ claims Monica.

But Monica is no stranger to hard work.

Prior to starting her business, Monica had worked in interior design.

She also spent eight years in and out of courtrooms and women’s shelters battling a tumultuous domestic abuse case.

It was the support of a few exceptional individuals and benevolent organizations that got Monica and her family through the ordeal.

It was the difficult experience that spawned her passion for giving back and helping others.

The combination of personal life experiences and 29 months as CEO afforded Monica great perspective.

A perspective bestowing great insight for other budding entrepreneurs:

  1. “There are always going to be naysayers. Surround yourself with the ones that lift you up. Take the advice of the background, but cut out the noise.”
  2. “It’s really important to sit with your idea. If you’ve got something that you desperately want to do, just know that there are going to be highs and lows in everything and that there are going to be beautiful rewards at the end.”
  3. “I believe that when you’re starting in business, the marketing piece and the branding piece is probably one of the biggest. Make sure you’ve got your core values done; think about the foundation of your company. That for me was one of our key elements that I’m still building on.”


What is the Canadian Business Chicks?

Canadian Business Chicks group pose
Photo credit: Toni Nicole Photography

Canadian Business Chicks is a platform for women of all ages, skills and levels to connect in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.

It’s about equipping women with the right support to be successful in business and life.

“We partner with the organizations with the tools and resources, which is key… And then we provide the connection and the online visibility, “ explains Monica.

Building strategic partnerships as a way to provide value to the members has been Monica’s focus.

As a result, they’ve joined forces with two significant groups: Business Link and AWE (Alberta Women Entrepreneurs).

Membership, once modest and local, has grown exponentially.

“It has at least doubled, if not tripled. It’s about awareness. I mean, when people find out what we’re doing, it attracts like-minded, like-hearted women with shared values,” explains Monica.

One of Monica’s truest beliefs is that every woman has a story.

So in addition to planning events and knowledge-sharing seminars, the business also provides an online community where these stories can be shared and celebrated year round.

“These women can connect online and build those relationships through that online community, which is where we’re going. Which is pretty exciting. We have members from all over Alberta now, coming in from B.C. and an interest from down East. We’re going to be strategic how we do it, but because we’re online we can welcome these women from all over,” says Monica.


Women of Inspiration

Photo credit: Toni Nicole Photography

One of the most significant ways Monica has been accomplishing her mission is through Women of Inspiration, an annual Fall fundraising event in Calgary.

What once was an event to honour one woman — Diane Harms, the leader behind Monica’s legal battle — has evolved.

“It’s empowering women. It’s supporting women. It’s a celebration,” proclaims Monica.

October’s event recognized 10 ladies from a pool of 60 nominees selected by a three-person committee comprised of:

  • Karen Judge – Founder & CEO of Studio Gorgeous and A Happier Mind
  • Suzanne Ebelher – Director of Client Services, Business Link
  • Angela Braun – WestJet Regional Manager, Planning and Development

380 attendees gathered, including notable guests:

  • Brett Wilson – Entrepreneur, philanthropist and panelist on CBC’s Dragons’ Den
  • Rachel Miekle – Saskatchewan native, founder and CEO of Hillberg & Berk
  • Erica Wiebe – Canadian wrestler, 2016 Olympic Champion, Gold Medalist
  • Cassie Hawrysh – Professional athlete, Canadian National Team Skeleton Racer
  • Graham Wardle – Canadian actor on CBS’s Heartland
  • Michelle Morgan – Canadian actor on CBS’s Heartland, HomeFront ambassador

Funds raised from the event are donated to HomeFront, a non-profit devoted to ending domestic violence.

This year over six thousand dollars were raised ($6,285).

But HomeFront is not the only beneficiary.

As a business owner, “The visibility is huge and you get to connect with all these women. It’s about building those authentic connections,” explains Monica.


What’s Next?

Photo credit: Toni Nicole Photography

Despite working in a small team, mainly comprised of volunteers, Monica and Canadian Business Chicks have no shortage of aspirations for 2017, including:

  • Creating The Nest Foundation
  • Developing a mentorship program
  • Hosting a four-day retreat in the Spring
  • Growing membership nationally

“People want to be involved in things where they can actually make a difference,” claims Monica.

And to Monica, everybody can make a difference.

“Doesn’t matter whether you’re starting a business, whether you’re going through a transition, whether you’re a CEO of a company. Everybody brings something special to the table.”

To learn more about getting involved with Canadian Business Chicks and Women of Inspiration, visit their website.

All photos provided by Toni Nicole Photography.

Jemma Young is a Communications graduate from Carleton University with a passion for storytelling, social media and sports.

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