Today was both exhausting and exhilarating – trying to be in two places at one time in order to hear speakers in areas that were of particular interest to me: Financing, Networks, and Impact Assessment. More and more business service providers are discovering how valuable academic research can be. The scientific approach to gathering and analyzing data, while seemingly abstract, can result in outcomes with practical application in the world of business development and support. Our WEC-Tech program
is a good example; it was inspired by research done in the US examining how women business owners adopt and utilize technology.
Similarly, the projects we are developing based on the hands-on work with women entrepreneurs provide areas of further study for our academic colleagues. Tracy Scarlett, CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs
, presented a paper outlining the evolution of the Women’s Enterprise Initiative (WEI) in western Canada. The foundation of the paper was the impact studies that have been carried out over the years to measure the success of the initiative. This was of particular interest to practitioners from Europe and the UK whose varied funding models and approaches differ from the Canadian model. Our results were seen to be highly estimable. A good part of our networking at the conference was with women business support practitioners whose work in other countries, often under more difficult circumstances, provided a two-way learning opportunity. Of particular note were the wonderful women of Train 2000
from Liverpool, who are building an incubator for women business owners in the north of England.
The conference not only presented intellectual challenges (these academic papers really stretch the brain), but the location tested our physical and directional abilities as well. The Banff Springs Hotel
, built in the latter part of the 19th century, was modeled on a Scottish baronial castle. There have been renovations to the original buildings that have created a warren of confusing stairways and halls that never seem to lead where one expects. My room, in the renovated section, always seemed to be in a different place, reached by two banks of elevators, a series of up and down staircases, and long stretches of carpeted corridors, some of which decanted into cul-de sacs and dead ends. Elegant, but decidedly difficult terrain to manage, especially if one has had a glass of wine at dinner. Having said that, however, it should be noted that the venue was a wonderful accommodation with a spectacular view of the mountains and excellent service.
Now the real work starts: I brought back a pile of books and papers to peruse, ideas to consider, a dozen people to connect with for ongoing discussion and plans to meet again to continue our dialogues and to share projects and programs that can benefit all of our clients.