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Hamilton Economic Development

Spa owner nails it with business award

Alexis Fletcher started her spa business on her unheated front porch while on maternity leave about three years ago.

She had 10 clients who would hold her baby while Fletcher worked on their nails.

Monday night the mother of two was named the city’s young entrepreneur at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Achievement Awards.

Close to two dozen Hamilton businesses were celebrated at the ceremony.

Albanese Branding was named outstanding small business and FirstOntario Credit Union took the award in the large business category.

Fletcher, 35, opened Kabuki Spa and Skin Care Centre on Locke Street last summer. She now employs four and serves about 500 clients.

“I’m almost speechless,” she said, shortly after wiping away tears.

“I’m feeling a lot of gratitude. I don’t think I did any of this alone.”

She was joined at her table by employees and her clients. She took a call from her mom, a business owner herself recovering from surgery, shortly after accepting her award.

“I work crazy hard and to be recognized is fantastic.”

Textile company Fellfab won the chamber’s Ironman award and CareGo took the honours for communication technology. Mark Preece Family House was named outstanding not-for-profit.

Judge Steve Kulakowsky said he was amazed by the quality of more than 50 candidates the selection committee evaluated.

“There was a tremendous amount of quality applications. It showed the diversity of the city,” said last year’s young entrepreneur winner.

While business success was important, Kulakowsky says contribution and commitment to Hamilton were big factors for the five-member judging panel.

“This is the heartbeat of Hamilton,” Mayor Bob Bratina told the crowd of 510 people.

“You can’t have a city without an economy and you can’t have an economy without motivated people who are inspired and passionate.”

Chamber chair Louise Dompierre announced two new awards beginning next year. In partnership with the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, the chamber will institute a diversity award. As well, the 2014 awards ceremony will include the first group of inductees into a business hall of fame.

Century awards, marking 100 years of business in the city, were also handed out Monday to ArcelorMittal Dofasco, the Hamilton Port Authority, National Steel Car and Soper’s Engineered Fabric Solutions.

Accounting firm KPMG was awarded a business retention and expansion award from the city’s economic development department.

National grain handler Parrish & Heimbecker earned a new business award from the city.

“There isn’t a jurisdiction we operate in that we feel better about than Hamilton,” said vice-president Robert Bryson.

Twenty business and property owners in city business improvement areas also won community partnership and property improvement and maintenance awards.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod , The Hamilton Spectator.

Hive mentorship program launched

Young professionals looking for advice to build their businesses now have a new well to draw from.

Hamilton Hive’s new mentorship program has been officially launched, giving the next generation a chance to pick the brains of experienced business people in their areas.

“We did this because a lot of people have approached us saying it’s hard to find people who know their stuff,” said Melissa Height, Hamilton Hive chair. “In fact, the city is filled with people who can help; all that’s needed is a way to make that happen.”

The Hive’s answer to this need is simple — young professionals looking for advice and older players with advice to give register for a new Internet site, build a profile, exchange messages and follow a news feed.

Height said the new site has been operating less that a week and is already attracting wide interest.

“We were surprised at how many people signed up right away,” she said. “I think people have seen the value of this right away.”

Mentorship sites aren’t new. Height said what’s different about this one is the fact there’s no minimum commitment.

“We’re not setting any kind of time commitment for the leader,” she said. “An hour a month seems like nothing, but it’s invaluable to the people who need it.”

Hamilton Hive was formed about four years ago as a way to provide a simple resource for the city’s growing network of young professionals looking to make connections that would help them start or advance their careers.

The new mentorship site is at http://www.hiveconnect.ca/

Article courtesy of  The Hamilton Spectator.

Success in the City about networking for fun and profit

From left, Susan Austin of Roux Commercial Kitchen, Anne-Marie Burton of Momstown, Jennifer Hudder of Kitestrings Creative, Stephanie McLarty of Refficient, Lisa Mercanti-Ladd Carstar Canada. All were panellist at the Success in the City event.Ashley Willett found inspiration to go through the slog of getting her home cleaning business off the ground again after attending a women-in-business event Wednesday.

Success in the City brought together entrepreneurial veterans, newcomers and everything in between for a daylong session full of laughter, advice and group commiserating about balancing work and family and surviving the inevitable tough times.

Willett had to put her Miracle Maid business on hold while she recuperated from a medical problem. Now that she’s back on her feet, she’s still passionate about what she does but this time around there are no illusions — she knows the hard work that lies ahead in building it back up.

“It’s inspiring to be in a room full of women with the same inspiration and drive. I feel like I’ve had a boost today.”

She absorbed a lot of the wise counsel of a panel of women running Hamilton businesses who talked about their journeys as entrepreneurs, their challenges and where to look for help and support. The session included advice about entering partnerships, seeking investment and the importance of finding a mentor.

There was also some straightforward myth-busting.

“Too many people go into business for themselves on the myth of balance and flexibility,” said Ann-Marie Burton, who founded Momstown, a resource and event planning group for mothers that has grown to 20 chapters in Canada.

“It doesn’t happen. The weight and responsibility of being responsible for other people’s paycheques and mortgages is a far greater weight on me than working 9 to 5 for somebody else.”

Jennifer Hudder, co-founder of branding firm Kitestring, said she’s still working as hard six years later as she did Day 1, contrary to the idea that business owners can eventually step back and let others do the work.

Susan Austin of Roux Commercial Kitchen and Commissary says another myth is businesses can be built using social media alone. She said personal relationships are still key.

“So much emphasis is put on the value of social media, but you have to ask if you are really getting value for it. Are you really getting sales leads?”

The afternoon session was devoted to the story of Mabel’s Labels, a Hamilton-grown company celebrating 10 years of huge growth and sales in Walmart and Target. Co-founder Julie Cole spoke about balancing the demands of her business, six children and her growing blogging audience.

Candy Venning, who describes herself as a Toronto “evacuee” who has set up home and shop, a garden design and build company, in Hamilton, says the event helped her learn about her new city.

“I love to see what others are doing. How did they get into business and how did they stay in business.”

Keynote speaker Tracy Moore, host of CityTV’s Cityline and a mother to two youngsters, kept her audience laughing as she shared her ongoing battle with mommy guilt.

“I’m telling you to say good riddance to guilt. Guilt will not make your kids love you more, it’s not going to make your business better and it’s not going to make your husband happier.”

The second annual event, hosted by the Small Business Enterprise Centre, attracted more than 140 women to LIUNA Station. International Women’s Day is Friday.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod , The Hamilton Spectator.

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