A tale of two Canadian symbols and one Alberta financial institution.
Words: Lana Cuthbertson
Shannon Manuel was in college when she took her mother to a gala event at her school. She noticed that, like usual, her mom kept pretty quiet during the party. But this time, she decided to ask why—after assuming growing up that her mom was just introverted.
“My mom grew up with 14 sisters and four brothers. She had to quit school to support her family. She never finished school, but she was a really hard worker. I always saw her as a strong, independent woman because she worked so hard,” Manuel said.
“She said, when I’m around these people, I feel that I don’t talk like they do, because they have a better education than I do. She said, I don’t have the experiences they do, like travelling, because all I’ve ever done is worked in this town. She said, I don’t feel like I can contribute.”
That’s why Shannon Manuel, an ATB branch manager, decided to start a group for women entrepreneurs in her new community of Wetaskiwin.
“If my mom had a support system back when she was 30 or 40 or 20, where she could have met with local entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders, her life would have been completely different,” Manuel said.
Manuel started the Wetaskiwin chapter of Empowering Women Entrepreneurs after moving to the city to lead the ATB branch there. She looked around for a group where she could network with women business leaders, and since the chamber of commerce wasn’t quite up and running and there was no rotary club, she decided to start something.
“Especially in times like these, where we’re still in a recession, if the bridal store has customers who are getting married, are we setting them up to refer those customers to the flower shop, is the flower shop referring them to the bank if they need to get joint accounts,” Manuel said.
“I’m hoping this group will be a place where women entrepreneurs can express our challenges and successes in a safe environment.”
At the first meeting in the fall of 2016, she expected about 10 to 15 people to show up. Forty came.
“The local paper came out, and it was all different lines of business, women realtors, lawyers, financial advisors, store fronts, home-based businesses, health and fitness, all different types of business owners and leaders. City councillors came out. It was really fantastic.”
The group plans to hold meetings on the second Tuesday of each month and host guest speakers, facilitate networking and share resources.
More information can be found here or on the Wetaskiwin Empowering Women Entrepreneurs Facebook page.