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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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