Event: A Brand Called You – Learn, Improve, Build and Grow | Personal Branding 2.0

Keynote Speaker:  Lydia Fernandes, MotivMode  Kick-off Speaker:  Laura Furtado, DivaGirl Inc.

Join the Brampton Small Business Enterprise Centre and Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation on March 6 for a morning of networking.  I will be the keynote speaker at this event and the focus of this informative and fun-filled morning is business image and branding. 

This women’s business event is open to owners of Brampton-based established small businesses; seating is limited to 50 so register early!

Your attendance at this event means you’re eligible to win a $3,000 business wardrobe makeover from Bramalea City Centre!

Date: Tuesday, March 6
Time: 8:30 am – 12:30 pm (breakfast and lunch will be provided)
Location: Ski Chalet, Chinguacousy Park, 9500 Bramalea Road (just north of Queen St.)
For more information and to register, please click here to be taken to the City of Brampton’s site

Online Marketing: Re-frame Your Perceptions

Why Internet Marketing Is The Best Way To Build High Trust For A Low Budget – guest post by Cathy Presland
I know, the words “internet marketing” and “trust” in the same sentence sound incongruous don’t they? You probably have that image of big red headlines and lots of yellow highlighting – and I KNOW this isn’t the image you want to create for your business.
And all those emails – they’re just spam right?
Well the ones you the ones you don’t want to get are. But what about the ones you do sign up to like the children’s clothing companies that you get special offers from? Or amazon? Or any of the ones you DO actually open?
The challenge for many women entrepreneurs – and especially if we are in any business to business service, and particularly anything related to marketing – is that it is a very noisy space and some of that noise is very loud!
The reality is that online marketing is just a way of reaching more people than we can possibly meet in person. And those emails are a way of keeping in touch with people who WANT to hear from us.
So if you are totally new to internet marketing, and you want my BEST tip to get started in a way that isn’t in the slightest spammy or sleazy, then here it is.
A way of marketing that is really straightforward, plays to your strengths, let’s people get to know you in an authentic way, AND comes with a price tag of or close to zero dollars.
It’s Just Talking
I bet you have some kind of offline networking in your marketing mix at the moment? Whether that’s a Chamber Of Commerce, a women’s group, even a local community event or exhibition?
Great. It’s usually the best way for business to get started – especially service businesses. What better way to talk to a group of targeted leads than getting them all in a room together?
Now imagine if, instead of ten or twenty people or even fifty people in a room, you could talk to hundreds of targeted leads. Or you could talk to a room of twenty but in just ten minutes – without the need to leave your desk and take two hours out of your day?
Well, this is basically the idea behind promoting your business online. You do just the same kinds of things you do offline – but the reach is so much greater.
And you’re using the technology of your computer rather than the face to face marketing you’re doing right now.
How To Get Started
The BEST way to get started if you’ve never done ANY kind of online marketing is to start with the online equivalent of the networking meeting – and that’s a forum.
But an online forum isn’t confined to a radius that you can drive to.
And it’s set up so that the timing suits YOU not the organisers of the meeting. I know what it’s like trying to juggle the breakfast meetings with the school bus or the early evening meetings with the children’s after-school activities.
Re-frame online marketing
So if you’re not online already then try to re-frame internet marketing as something that you do already – just that you’re going to do it online rather than in person.
You’re meeting people, getting to know them and then introducing them to your business so that they can recommend you or buy from you. The only difference is you don’t meet them physically. And I can assure you that I have friendships with colleagues online that feel as real to me as my ‘real’ friends.
Meet, Know, Like, Trust – And Then Buy!
So with this shift of perception, let’s dig in to the practicalities of where to start. And how to create that “meet, know, like, trust, buy” factor online.
The first step is to meet. And if you’re new and even a little nervous the absolute best first step is to visit a forum. You’re probably in some already? If not then find some. Ask around. Look to your industry association. A mum’s groups. Run a search on ning, or for a facebook group or on http://groups.google.com
The second step is to know. Join in the conversation. I can’t emphasise this strongly enough. You need to post, ask questions, reply to requests for help. Not only does this all help with getting links to your own site (advice for another day) but it helps you get know, and get known as an authority on your topic.
Build liking and trust. Stay in touch.
You know when people turn up to just one meeting, you’re much less likely to recommend them – you don’t know or trust them yet. So keep going back to the conversation. And better still, stay in touch with email marketing. Just a snippet of advice or a tip you can send out to continue to build trust when you’re not meeting people face to face on a regular basis.
Be aware though, that there are many more tyre-kickers and researchers online than you’ll see at your in-person meetings. People will come and go from your email marketing lists so stay consistent, give it time.
And the buying part? Someone in my mastermind group used a great phrase recently. He said he was being out-marketed by someone who was less of an expert than him. And I bet you’ve seen it too – people who make offers while you sit there and think, “hey, I can do that at least as well as or better than that person!” Well, it’s the same online. You need to make offers. Ask for the purchase, the recommendation or the referral.
So, give it a go, dive in and see who you can talk to online today and lose some of your trepidation about internet marketing!
Cathy Presland teaches women entrepreneurs to grow their business doing what they love for financial freedom and time freedom. She specialises in helping women get known and create a sustainable income online. You can find out more about her at http://cathypresland.com/ and also connect on twitter at http://twitter.com/cathypresland

Canada’s Hot Mommas 2011

These are just some of the themes represented in the newest cases written by Canadian women for the Hot Mommas Project this year.  In honour of International Women’s Day, here’s a sneak peak at some of our nation’s “everyday revolutionaries”.
Teresa Ierullo & Just the Facts!  500 million Facebook users can be wrong  “Why aren’t you on Facebook? You’ve got to get on Facebook!” These were the words of a good friend that echoed in my head days after meeting for breakfast. At the time, I had no good answer to give her, but it got me thinking: If 500 million people are registered on Facebook, why wasn’t I?  Read more…
Paula Whittaker- Pyne & Principal of Uplift! Consulting – Coming Home  A couple of years ago, when I surfaced from a period of transition and really tried hard to get to my core, I just needed to speak to my wise Mom. I asked her what I was like when I was a child. She responded quite quickly, “You laughed a lot. You didn’t play with regular toys. You made your own games up – very creative, a dreamer. You marched to the beat of your own drum.”  Read more…
Marielle Smith & LifePath Designs – Who am I? And how did I get here?  Sitting in her client’s office with a baby on her breast was the moment that she realized it – oh my god – I  am a mother!  And a wife….and sister….and daughter…. and business owner… and…  The list went on and overwhelm came in like a slow morning fog.  Marielle had always been someone who took action. All her friends knew her as the one to commit to an idea until it was birthed.  But in this moment, she was reeling from the hormones of breastfeeding a new baby, the many projects on the go and the commitment to her clients.  How do we get to that point in life when we ask ourselves, “How did I get here?”  Read more…
Zahide Yilbas – Lighting Your Own Way in the Journey of Life.  I resigned from my job as a university professor at the Information Technology Department and came to Canada with my two daughters in September of 2005 for them to have a better future, and live in a country where women are respected. My elder daughter was just accepted into the Biomedical Science program at the University of Ottawa, and the younger one was starting grade six at the time. As a mother, I wanted the best for my daughters and for them to fulfill their dreams of becoming a doctor and a dentist someday; even if it was going to cost me my career.  Read more…
Stay tuned for the winners of this year’s Hot Mommas Case Study Competition, including the Top Canadian Case Award!

Can you save your business?

Being an entrepreneur is very liberating and fulfilling, but sometimes it can be downright scary.  A study done by Inc. magazine and the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) revealed that 80 percent of new businesses fail within the first five years.


While external factors are always at play, there are plenty of internal factors that are very much within the control of the business owner to remedy.  Self-employment expert Karyn Greenstreet, cited 14 reasons why small businesses fail in a very interesting article for CapturePlanning.com.  Some of the reasons she gave that caught my attention include:

Mistaking a business for a hobby: Just because you love something doesn’t mean you should convert it into a business. Too often businesses fail because the owner feels their passion is shared by others. Research your business idea and make sure it’s viable.

Poor planning: Yes, you must have a business plan. It can be a simple three-page plan or a huge 40-page plan. The point is that you’ve looked at all the aspects of your business and are prepared to handle problems when they arise. Your business plan helps you to focus on your goals and your vision, as well as setting out plans to accomplishing them. And don’t get mellow – revisit and revise your business plan annually.

Lack of experience in running a business or in the industry you’re entering: There are so many hats you have to wear, from marketing and selling in order to run a business effectively. On top of that, you have to understand your industry, the skills required to offer your products and services, and the trends in the industry. If you don’t know about these basic skills, educate yourself. Talk to others who are successfully running their own businesses, talk to industry leaders, get a book, find a website, get a coach, do your homework. And keep increasing your business and industry skills by attending classes or reading new books every year.


“Far too many women in business start wonderful companies only to hide in the backdrop and play it small.”


Poor money management: You need to be able to live for one to two years without income when getting started; often businesses are very slow to get off the ground. Also, you have to create and use a realistic business budget, and not constantly drain the business income on personal spending.

 Competition: Customers will go where they can find the best products and services. It’s important for you to know who your competition is, what they have to offer, and what makes your own products or services better.

 Procrastination and poor time management: Putting off tasks that you don’t enjoy will sink your business faster than anything else. You can’t afford to waste time on unimportant tasks while critical tasks pile up. All tasks need to be done; if you don’t like to do them (or don’t want to spend your time doing them), hire someone to do them for you. If your time management and prioritizing skills are rusty, hire a small business coach or take a class to help you.

 Entrepreneurial burnout: owning your own business requires a huge investment of time, money, energy and emotion. It’s easy to work long days and forget to take time off. But in the end, this only causes burnout where your motivation and creativity will suffer, and a pessimistic attitude prevails. You’ll find yourself unable to balance your business and personal life, and both will suffer. Schedule self-care time into your work week and be religious about taking time off from your business.

 Some other reasons I’d like to add include:

Going it alone:  Most small business owners I speak to agree that being an entrepreneur can be incredibly lonely and isolating.  Joining a mastermind group or creating a personal board of advisors are proven methods to help you achieve your professional goals and also re-ignite motivation.  Every woman in every women’s leadership group I have ever facilitated have said hands-down that coming together collectively and sharing successes and challenges is one of the best things they have ever done for themselves professionally.

Dropping off the radar – or not being on it in the first place:  I know far too many women in business that start wonderful companies only to hide in the backdrop and play it small.  They expect that their website alone will bring them the recognition and business they are looking for!  Determine what it is you want to be known for and what you want to be seen as an expert in – and then go out there and showcase it!  Don’t assume that your audience is just going to “get it”.  Be clear, consistent and constant in your messaging.

Realizing life will ALWAYS throw you curve balls:  Tending to elderly parents, organizing your children’s lives, fixing that leak in the basement…..there seems to be a never-ending list of responsibilities that can completely exhaust and de-motivate you.  So you put your business on hold until things get better, only to realize that some other event awaits you and beckons your immediate attention.  There was a time not too long ago when this was exactly me.  In fact, I remember doing my 360 feedback personal brand assessment several years ago, and one of the overriding weaknesses that people identified in me was “she doesn’t give time to her business”.  I needed to wrap my brain around the fact that life is never going to cease to give me challenges – and that if I wanted to see my business thrive and my vision realized, I needed to commit to doing at least one small thing regularly.

So, the answer is yes you CAN save your business if you eliminate self-sabotaging behaviours and stop ignoring basic, fundamental principles of owning a small business. 

Do you have more tips to add to this list?  We’d love to hear from you!


FOCUS in Business

I’ve been speaking to women a lot lately about the idea of “focus” in business in terms of understanding their target audience.  Then I came across a great interview that spoke about “focus” in product and service offerings.  The interview is led by public relations expert Marsha Friedman  and she chats with Al Ries – author of “The 22-Immutable Laws of Branding“.  Here is an excerpt that I’d like to share with you:

 Marsha Friedman: Every business person obviously wants to have success. Their long term goals are to be very profitable and growing. However, when the doors need to stay open now, it’s hard to worry about 2 to 5 years from now. What are some of the things one needs to be aware of so that good decisions are made that will support all of their goals?
Al Ries: Short term needs and long term goals can sometimes conflict, and the most important advice I can give in this situation is don’t forget your focus. When it comes to focus, one needs to narrow it, not widen it. My company, Ries & Ries, works with clients all the time looking for ways to narrow their focus and get them out of offering too much stuff. However, many businesses aren’t keen on the idea, because when one narrows their focus they have to drop some product. So what happens in the short term? When you drop a product or service, you’re going to lose some business initially. Who wants to do that?  To the average business owner, the thought is “Wait a second, we can’t do that!” 

I’ll give you an example. My company was doing some consulting for Burger King. Now, Burger King has twelve hamburgers on their menu. We said to them, “That’s too confusing. Let’s reduce it.” Their reply was, “Oh! We can’t do that.” You see, they know the percentage of sales each one of those 12 products brings in, right? So they think, “If we make it five products, it means we’re going to lose 3.7% of the business.” They look at the numbers and what will happen in the short term, but they don’t look at the long term implication. The implication is when you simplify your product line, you make it easier for consumers to know what you’re selling and you’ll sell more, but not necessarily in the short term.
So “focus” is a long-term concept that can eliminate the short term issues, but you need to start for it to work.  The result of focus is the more you focus the stronger your brand becomes, because you can stand for something. For example, what’s a Chevrolet? I know what a Chevrolet is: it’s a large or small, cheap or expensive, car or truck. If somebody says to you, “I bought a Chevrolet,” not much was said. Did he or she buy a ZR1 for $105,000 or a sub-compact for $13,000? There’s a big difference there. So to say, “I bought a Chevrolet” is saying nothing, because the brand doesn’t stand for anything!
Many, many, many brands today do not stand for anything, because they’re into everything. If you’re into everything, the brand can’t possibly stand for a single thing. Yet what’s the trend in business today? Expand the brand. Why? Because it makes sense! “Well, we want to grow,” they say. “So if you expand the product lineup, you’re going to grow.” That’s logical. But it doesn’t work and that’s the most important thing about marketing. Every single principle of marketing is not necessarily logical and it makes it a very difficult discipline to learn, because almost everything you should be doing doesn’t necessarily make sense, if you look at it from the obvious point of view.

You can read the rest of the interview here: 
The added bonus, from where I stand, in getting focused is that also makes things manageable – something especially important to solopreneurs.  I know it’s important to me, as a woman entrepreneur, who carries out multiple roles in life.  Any strategy that keeps things lean and simplifies tasks like sourcing advertising avenues, writing copy and just staying on top of it all is always most welcome!

Lessons Learned – 2010 Edition

This year was chock full of lessons learned for me as an entrepreneur.  I think if I were to assign a theme to my 2010 it would be “The Year of Focus” along with a heavy dose of mentoring.  While there are principles of entrepreneurship that I know on an intellectual level, my experience this past year was that it’s always important in the hustle and bustle of growing a business and managing work/life that you take time to pause, reel it all in, and bring back focus.  Here are some of the major learnings for me in 2010:

Public Speaking and playing to my strengths

When I was a kid, I dreamed about being a TV news anchor.  I loved public speaking and even won a few regional public speaking contests in elementary school.  Not only did I feel like I was in my element when I was on stage, but people told me I was good.  In adolescence and early adulthood I all but abandoned my love….and I always felt that something was not quite right.  At the time, I couldn’t put a finger on it.  When I started teaching in Adult Education, I felt a renewed sense of purpose and although I felt the pressure of always needing to be “on”, it was kind of a rush.  Now that I am a business owner and a lot of my time is spent on 1:1 coaching, again I  somewhat dropped in the number of presentations/workshops I was delivering because I was so immersed in the coaching.  This year, I made it my mission to do more public speaking through my business and I’ve regained my state of flow.  I feel a state of equilibrium now that more of my strengths and interests are at play.  I now know that I need to schedule regular speaking opportunities into my calendar, not just because it’s good for my business but also because I honour myself in doing so.

Get. OUT!

When my youngest was only in school half days I found it very difficult to leave my home office to network, build new relationships, and nurture existing ones.  Technology has been wonderful for me as a business owner as it has allowed me to do so much virtually – however, it can also leave you feeling very isolated and out-of-the-loop.  Once all my kids were in school full-time I made it my mission to arrange regular coffee meetups with Twitter pals and fellow business owners, and it has done me a world of good on so many levels.  I feel more energized and inspired after engaging with people face-to-face and it has increased professional opportunities as well.

Learning when to just say “no”

This is a classic challenge for many women and I am no exception!  I’ve become pretty good at saying NO in my personal life (and trust me, this was a monumental feat in itself!), but I have to say it’s much harder to do in business.  It’s very scary to turn down opportunities, but I realize now that when they are not aligned with your overall professional and business goals they can do more harm than good.  For me, it was a matter of reminding myself of why I became and entrepreneur, which for the most part was to choose what I want to be involved with based on my values and passions and relinquishing the rest.  This is a reason why an advisory board is such a great idea (see below).  They always help to bring you back to focus when you seem to going astray.

Creating my “advisory board”

While this is still a work-in-progress for me, Kathy Korman Frey from the Hot Mommas Project speaks a lot about the importance of having a personal advisory board.  She even goes on to say, based on research, that the magic number is 5 for women.  Towards the latter part of this year, I made a conscious effort to connect with my board of advisors – all of whom are incredibly brilliant and compassionate.  The value of this cannot be underestimated.  It allows you to get out of your own headspace ever now and again and tap into fresh thinking and perspectives.  Since these advisors are people who know you quite well, they tend to pick up on subtle behavioural warning signs and patterns that others who don’t know you wouldn’t catch.  For example, I was going to take on a project this past year that I initially thought was a good idea.  I mean, it was going to make me money, so on the surface it looked great.  However, one of my advisors knew enough about me and the type of project to ask me questions like, “Remember 2 years ago when you had taken on project x and how miserable you were for doing so?  There are several elements of this potential project that seem very similar and I think you should reconsider”.

Ask and you will receive

As a personal brand strategist, one of the core activities I engage in with my clients is having them complete a 360 feedback assessment.  I reminded myself this year, however, that getting feedback isn’t just a one-time gig and should be requested as issues arise.  There were different points throughout the year when I made a move I was unsure of or wanted more clarity on how I was doing with a particular venture to the point where the not-knowing was driving me bonkers.  I decided to just flat out ask for feedback and advice, and what I got in return were some truly unbelievable mentoring moments.  People are quite willing to share experiences and guidance, but if you don’t ask you’ll never benefit from it.

Bringing back focus and the tools I used to help me do that were a significant part of 2010 for me and I’m looking forward to continuing to practice them in this new year.  So how about you?  What were some of your professional lessons-learned this year?   

Not All Friends Are Created Equal

Written by Ali Brown

“True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice.” – Samuel Johnston

They are your closest confidants and most passionate cheerleaders who make the bad times bearable and the good times even better. Your gal pals know you better than anyone else. But no matter how much you love them, you can’t expect your friends to be everything for you all the time. Life is so complex and multi-layered — no single friend is equipped to handle your multitude of different needs, wants, and desires.

You must cultivate a collection of friends to help you handle every aspect of your life. Think of it as being a little like running your business. You always employ the right person for the right job, so in your private life, pick the right friend for the right need. Worried about taking the company in a new direction? Call Barbara; she’s adventurous and has sound business advice. Can’t decide whether your new boots will go with the purple trench coat? Get in touch with Jane — she’s a fashion diva, always on top of the latest trends. To cover all your bases, surround yourself with friends who each possess at least one of the following traits.

The positive pal

This is someone endowed with boundless energy who is always looking on the bright side of things — even when it appears a bright side cannot be found. She sees potential barriers as mere hurdles to kick over. This is the friend that not only gives her approval by way of a thumbs up and an emphatic “Go for it!” when told you’re taking a year off to write poetry — this is the friend that takes less than a nanosecond to do it.

The truthful pal

There’s no hidden agenda here. She’ll always tell it like it is. If that outfit makes you look like a balloon, she won’t be shy about saying so. This isn’t done with any malice — the truthful pal only has your best intentions at heart.

The fashionable friend

Avoid those clothing calamities and wardrobe disasters with a fashionable friend who has the style tips and advice that are just right for you. She always knows what shoes go with which outfit and is a genius when it comes to accessorizing your look.

The forgiving friend

No one is perfect, but this friend will always forgive your faults. As Elbert Hubbard once said, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you just the same.”

The travel buddy

Whether you want to dive off the Great Barrier Reef, explore the pyramids of Egypt, or be pampered in a health spa, this friend wants to discover the world with you. She’s good at compromising; and like you, is just as happy by the pool, the bar, or on top of a mountain.

The party pal

When it’s time to dress up like a diva and hit the party hotspots, grab the friend who’ll make you giggle and forget the burdens of business. This friendship is about spontaneity, fun, and great times.

The faithful friend

She is devoted to you at all times. Whatever life throws at you, the faithful friend is always there at the other end of the phone and willing to jump on that plane, train, or automobile to be with you in your hour of need.

Picking and cultivating good friends is one of life’s greatest skills. It’s not easy but the results can be truly amazing. Think of each pal as a specialist, and you can call on their expertise at anytime. It’s like having your own team of special advisors.

© 2010 Ali International, LLC


Self-made entrepreneur and Inc. 500-ranked CEO Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE weekly articles and advice at http://www.AliBrown.com

Interview Series: Marielle Smith, Young Women’s Discovery Society

Transformative.  Dynamic.  Empowering.


NEW!! – The next 2011 Young Women’s Discovery Weekend will be held in the Spring/Summer of 2011


In 1997 a group of 12 women created a one time “higher purpose” project called the Young Women’s Weekend.  Its purpose was to create the space for young women to share in being women together and to find their inner voice.  Marielle Smith was part of that group.

Marielle had an incredible experience facilitating for the first time, leading and listening to the girls talk about their lives, what they believed, what they were passionate about, and what they were sad about.  It was a life-changing event for all involved.  For Marielle, it sparked a desire and passion to continue the event.

Her original vision in 2001 as she was contemplating the creation of a grass-roots Society to continue this event was:   “To inspire young women and add to their journey into womanhood, so that it gives them strength and confidence to live life as who they are, not as who they think they should be.  It will be a weekend that encourages young women to pursue their dreams and to learn that no matter how old they are, who they are makes a difference.  It will be a weekend that is created by different groups of women each time, yet the purpose and vision will be the same. “  

From this, the Young Women’s Discovery Weekend was born – a retreat for young women to discover more of who they really are and to provide them the opportunity to deepen their relationship with their Self.

We had a chance to chat with Marielle, founder of the Young Women’s Discovery Society (YWDS) and the Discovery Weekend to learn more about this wonderful initiative.

Marielle, who is the Discovery Weekend for?

Any young woman, age 13 to 17.  We also have a mandate to create events for ages 18 to 25 as well.  Our only criteria is that they are willing to participate, they have a desire to look inside themselves and that they have fun!

What are some of the biggest issues that you see girls and young women are facing?

Being seen and heard by their parents, peers, teachers and siblings.   One of the biggest issues for girls is finding someone – usually an adult – to listen to them and not fix or change them in the process.  Girls are aching for people to accept them – their emotions, their day-to-day changes, their whims and wonders – without judgment, and with consistent unconditional acceptance.

Simply put, it is mentorship they long for.  Young women and girls are looking for and wanting advocates who will help them with their dreams.  And yes, I mean dreams.  It seems like society is expecting girls to grow up NOW, otherwise you’ll miss the boat.  

But the truth is that young women between the ages of 13 and 17 are still trying to figure out who they are…and it changes daily!!!  They still have dreams and are passionate and innovative enough that if given the opportunity, they will follow their passions and change our world.  There are not enough mentors, coaches, guides or whatever label you want to give it.  Young women need people who will listen, coach and accept them as they are.  

What do participants walk away with?

A connection to their voice, their inner wisdom, and to learn more about who they are at their core.  We coach them to see that outside influences may be something to consider and experiment with, however what is more important is to learn how to keep the judgments at bay.  In the end, their choices are their own.

I believe they also walk away with inspiration to continue with their learning process, and that they make a difference in this world.

What have been some of the “memorable moments” from previously held retreats?

We had an exercise called the Magic Wand.  The wand symbolized a talking stick, that each young woman held as she spoke.  We asked the girls, ‘If you had three wishes, one for yourself, one for another person, and one for the world, what would they be?”

We were amazed and touched by the depth of their wishes.  It was a profoundly emotional experience for the facilitators to hear their answers.  There were wishes that ranged from “I wish my father would recognize me on the street.” to “I would give everyone in the world the ability to feel happiness.”, to “I wish my friend’s parents were back together because she is so sad.”

Another memorable moment, and it occurs at each weekend – is at the end of the event – when the girls don’t want to leave, and we are all laughing, crying or hugging and SO connected to one another.  It is really why I continue to do this – for those connections.


When and where is the Discovery Weekend being held this year?

The upcoming Weekend is October 9 and 10th.  It’s from 11am Saturday till 2pm Sunday.  Our theme is around gratitude and acceptance – so the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend is perfect for that – plus the girls will be done in time for Sunday family celebrations.

This year it’s in Delta, BC at a residential retreat.    We are planning another one in the Spring of 2011 as well.


Get Involved!  How can others support the Discovery Weekend?

Help us spread the word about the Society and the Weekend.  Tell the young women in your life to check our site, or email me, as I’m always happy to talk by phone to parents or girls interested in more details about the weekend or how we can help coach individuals as well.  If you have a desire to volunteer, we always welcome those who wish contribute in many arenas – including marketing, fundraising, volunteering for the Weekend itself, and offering supplies and food too.

 As a not-for-profit Society, monetary donations are always appreciated. We have not yet attained charitable status, so we are raising funds not only to produce the Weekend itself, but also to hire someone to help us with charitable process.  Most importantly, there are always at least 3 to 4 girls who need sponsorship to attend the Weekend, and our intention is to offer this to as many girls as possible.  

To learn more about the Discovery Weekend or to register, please visit www.discoveryweekend.ca or contact Marielle Smith at marielle@discoveryweekend.ca.

Meet Canada’s Hot Mommas!


The first wave of Canada’s Hot Mommas secured their spot in history earlier this year.  These women have taken mentoring to the next level, offering their stories of personal and professional challenges and a-ha moments to  the world’s largest online library of role models for women and girls – The Hot Mommas Project.  I am thrilled to be part of this stellar group of women and had the pleasure of chatting with these ladies about their Hot Mommas journey.

Importance of having role models

Research has shown that having access to role models increases the self-efficacy of women.  Tamara Plant, the winner of the Top Canadian Case Award for 2010 and publisher of MOM Magazine, said it felt empowering to know that her story will be available to the world as an educational tool, “I want women to take the lessons I’ve learned and the examples from my life and use them for their own successes.”

These women are not just role models to others.  They understand the importance that role models have placed in their own lives as well.  Case author Chrissy Atley, president of TotalHarmonyCoaching.com states, “I think it’s super important to have someone who will support you and give you positive encouragement as you’re trying new things and finding your way through life.  It’s important to choose someone who won’t judge you and is going to be your cheerleader!  This helps to motivate me and in turn follow my dreams.”

Betty Ann Heggie, speaker and founder of StillettoChick.com, has been fascinated by women’s stories right from childhood, “I remember in high school vowing to make all my leisure reading be autobiographies of famous or inspirational women. I always wanted to know what those of my gender did to handle situations and what I could glean from their actions that would be of value for me.”  For females, having access to other women’s stories – whether virtual, in a book, or in person – provides them with an incredibly powerful learning tool.

The thrill of being nominated

Many of the case authors were nominated by others to write their case study.  The Canadian case authors all agreed that being nominated was a thrill.  Atley describes it as, “Amazing!  Unbelievable!  A dream come true!  I have dreamed of being a role model myself and feel so thankful that others may learn or even feel comforted from my experiences.” 

Heggie has spent a number of years mentoring young women and felt that to be recognized for doing something you believe strongly in is a tremendous feeling of achievement, “It is external validation of my internal value-system and that feels like I am on the right course.”

A tool for self-learning

The end result and value of a case study is quite clear.  But how does it feel to actually write your own case?  Marcy Berg, founder of Mortgages4Women.com and one of Canada’s Hot Mommas found that writing her case was an emotional but beneficial experience.  “Writing the case study turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined.  I started my business with a business plan and model but writing the case study was my first experience confronting the emotional force behind the idea.  I learned a lot about myself.”

Lara Galloway, founder of MomBizCoach.com and a Top 25 Case Winner says that in writing her case it gave her an opportunity to step back and reflect on the life she has been living.   She explains, “Although it didn’t always seem so at the time, I realized that I actually WAS following a logical path to get where I am today. And that made me feel satisfied and proud. It also felt good to be honest about the mistakes and problems I’ve had along the way, knowing that people can often learn more from those than from me wrapping my story up with a happy ending and trying to appear perfect.”

Are you ready to be a Hot Momma?

So if the Hot Mommas Project is resonating with you and the idea of writing your case study for this award winning initiative sounds intriguing, there is a strong “just do it!” consensus from the founding Canadian Hot Mommas.  Heggie encourages women by saying, “Go for it!” We all seem to suffer from a syndrome that we believe our stories aren’t significant enough to be shared but all our stories have value for others and may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.”

Rather than looking at your case study as a final piece, it can be a great impetus to self-understanding and appreciation.  Plant encourages, “Don’t over analyze it, just write. And write. And continue to build your story as you go through life. Don’t stop with one case study, write multiple stories!! The final case study will be written by someone else when you’re gone because you can never stop growing or encountering new

To read the case studies of these and other dynamic women, visit the Hot Mommas Project website at www.hotmommasproject.org.


Lydia Fernandes is the Canadian Regional Manager and the 2009 Top Canadian Case Award winner for the Hot Mommas Project.  You can connect with her by email at lydia[at]motivmode.com or visit her website at www.motivmode.com.