May 20 to 26 was proclaimed as Women Entrepreneurs Week in Saskatchewan — a week to recognize the success of women entrepreneurs across the province and celebrate their contributions to our communities and the economy. There are currently more than 34,000 women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan contributing to the economy in many sectors — an increase of 16.5 per cent over the last 10 years, with the third highest growth rate in our country.
A non-profit organization that works with Saskatchewan women to assist them with starting, buying or expanding a business and to achieve their entrepreneurial goals, WESK — Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan — hosted its two-day annual small business conference and gala on May 23 and 24 at the DoubleTree Hotel & Conference Centre in Regina. Focused around the theme “Resilience: Tragedy to Triumph, Failure to Success,” the conference offered inspiring keynotes and practical tools and tips for innovation, success and entrepreneurism to empower women business owners. Attendees were encouraged throughout to not fear failure, to keep moving forward in the face of adversity, and to keep believing in themselves.
First keynote speaker Eric Dillon, CEO of Conexus Credit Union, opened the morning of May 24 with insights about innovation inside his company that is making it different and stand out. Citing Conexus’ own Women in Leadership Program, he added: “We believe that if we are going to support female businesses in a much different and better way, we're actually going to have to think quite a bit differently about the ecosystem that supports female founders. That's why we're working so closely with WESK.”
Attendees also gained insights from the Raj Manek Business Mentorship Panel, a discussion moderated by WESK Board member and businessperson/entrepreneur, Aimee Schulhauser. Aimee led an engaging round of topic areas with Bruce Anderson, Managing Partner of b-creative group; Colleen Haussecker, owner of Canadian Organic Spice & Herb Co.; and Shantel Lipp, President of Heavy Construction Safety Association of Saskatchewan.
Addresses from two keynote speakers relayed personal stories of tragedy and triumph. Candyce Fiessel, owner of Shear Escape Salon & Spa, co-owner of The Style Academy, and one of the original founders of Saskatchewan Fashion Week, emphasized that she has never been defined by trauma in her life: “If I can leave you within anything, it would be value those challenges that come into your life and use those as opportunities to grow. But most of all… live in gratitude.” Jess Tetu, owner of Just For You Day Spas and founder and CEO of Lia Reese Canada, stressed the responsibility of businesses giving back to the community, and added: “I truly am a perfect example of how it does not matter where you've come from or what hand you've been dealt in your life. You really have control over your own future and you have to decide at some point that where you are at is not where you are meant to be and that you can find something better for yourself.” One of her closing quotes reaffirmed a message woven throughout the entire event: "In order to succeed, your desire for success must always outweigh your fear of failure.”
“The WESKAwards Gala and Conference were a tremendous success. It was befitting that our first recipient for the Celebration of Achievement Award was Rachel Mielke, ownerandfounder of Hillberg & Birk. Rachel used to work forWESKduring the early years of starting her business. Rachel not only has been a remarkable and inspiringentrepreneur,but a strong advocate and champion for women. Our speakers werethought provoking, insightful and poignant. Eric Dillon framed the concept of ‘resilience’ in an innovative way; he certainly hit home with his remarks on being ‘different’ rather than ‘better!’ Both Candyce Fiessel and Jess Tetu embody ‘resilience’ in every sense, surmounting tragic circumstances to create successful enterprises with a strong commitment to community engagement and involvement. We are grateful to have all these stellar men and women connected toWESK.” —Prabha Mitchell, CEO, WESK