Hamilton Economic Development

Women get down to business at entrepreneurial showcase

Sarah Powell envisions a day when harried parents can drop by her shop to pick up a bag lunch for their child on the way to school.

She’s launched The Healthy Lunch Bag, which cooks and packages healthy meals for corporate meetings, special events and daycares.

Powell was one of the featured businesses at a sold-out entrepreneurial showcase Thursday aimed at women dubbed Success in the City. The feminine touch was everywhere, from the tagline on the poster (Pastels beat a power tie), to the babies bouncing on knees to the take-home cupcakes for each attendee.

The inaugural event, organized by the city’s economic development department, was aimed to coincide with International Women’s Day. It featured a range of speakers, plenty of advice and attracted a mix of people, from university students to business veterans to those pondering a move to entrepreneurship.

“This is long overdue,” said Kristin Huigenbos, co-ordinator of the city’s Small Business Enterprise Centre.

“We needed to take the opportunity to connect our women entrepreneurs and identify their needs, challenges and struggles.”

Powell said the experience of other women shared at the event convinced her that she can’t do everything by herself.

“I need to get help with my business plan. Actually, I don’t even have a business plan that’s written down.”

She also learned that it’s normal to doubt yourself and your idea early on.

“That’s what happens when you try to do it all.”

Powell provides three- and four-piece lunches for $10 and $13. All the food comes from local farmers’ markets. After leasing a commercial kitchen, Powell is turning her attention to marketing her business. Her goal is a storefront location and a presence in local schools.

Powell, who has a diploma in holistic nutrition, got the idea for a business while staying at home with her young daughter.

“I saw people rushing around all the time. I knew I had the advantage of having time to cook healthy food,” she said.

“I figured there had to be market for lunch time corporate catering that’s not pizza or unhealthy stuff.”

One of the success stories of the day was Momstown, an 18-chapter nationwide organization that connects mothers of children under five. Momstown hosts an online community for moms but also organizes events, play groups and programming in the arts, math, fitness, nutrition, play and literacy.

“Some of our moms are new to Hamilton but a lot are career women who had a social network but are now on maternity leave and craving that social construct,” said Andrea Kovacs, owner of the Hamilton chapter of Momstown.

The company makes money through linking advertisers with the lucrative and powerful mommy demographic who will be loyal to companies which serve their needs, says Kovacs. Moms then share that information with each other.

“We call it the word of mom,” says Kovacs.

Jennifer Blakeley, founder of Alphabet Photography was the keynote speaker. She shared her tales of leveraging celebrity endorsements and innovative marketing stunts, along with her mistakes and stumbles in building her Niagara photography company.

Her advice included: get a good lawyer to look over every deal; think bigger than yourself; risk rejection in seeking partnerships; and embrace social media.

“When people feel like they know you, they feel they can trust you and they will spend their money with you.”

Click here to read the full story from the Hamilton Spectator. Photo credit: Barry Gray, Hamilton Spectator.





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