Thirty years after the WBN was founded, business-minded women continue to connect, share and inspire one another at our monthly events.

In 1981, a group of businesswomen created the Women’s Business Network, a network for women entrepreneurs. In order to be a member, a woman had to risk her own money for her business. This reflected the context: in the 80’s, most banks required business loans to female entrepreneurs to be co-signed by their husbands.

Today, the WBN is a thriving volunteer-based organization. We are proud of our past and excited about our future!

The Women’s Business Network of Ottawa (“WBN”) was established in 1981. Anne Lal-Da Nada and a few other intrepid entrepreneurs decided to invite like-minded women to join them in the creation of a volunteer-based organization to facilitate networking for businesswomen in Ottawa. The original members came together to share their challenges and successes with the hopes of learning from and helping others around the table. This filled a significant void in Ottawa – opportunities for women to discuss the challenges faced when starting or growing a business were few and far between.

By hearing other women’s stories, it also became evident that women have their own approach and that doing things differently from men is not a bad thing. Every WBN meeting was about fostering networking, support and education.

When the WBN was first established, women with decision-making power worked alongside mostly male colleagues. Sharing their experiences served as an “aha!” moment for many members as they discovered that other women also experienced this. By hearing other women’s stories, it also became evident that women have their own approach and that doing things differently from men is not a bad thing. Every WBN meeting was about fostering networking, support and education.

The WBN’s membership criteria have evolved gradually over time. For many years, any female entrepreneur, manager or commissioned salesperson with at least two years of full-time business experience was invited to join.

Today, a member is a woman who embraces the vision statement of the WBN and who:

  • dedicates her time and effort to an organization;
  • embraces opportunities for professional and personal growth;
  • gives back to her community and inspires growth and leadership in others; or
  • holds a decision-making position that impacts profitability, staff productivity, business development or customer/client care.

The BYAs

In 1983, the WBN created the first award recognizing a woman’s excellence in business in Ottawa: the Businesswoman’s Achievement Award. In 2003, the award was renamed the Businesswoman of the Year Award (“BYA”), a title which persists today. In the early days, the award galas were held in smaller venues such as the West Block of Parliament and later the Chateau Laurier. As the WBN’s membership steadily expanded, we moved to larger venues and currently hold the awards gala at the Ottawa Convention Centre. We now host over 350 guests each year.

 

As women increase their presence in the workplace and play more diverse roles in our community, the BYA is continually evolving to recognize the successes of women in Ottawa. This is something we are very proud of!

 

Originally available to a single category of nominees, three categories of the BYA were established in 2005: Entrepreneur, Corporate and Professional. The WBN considered this necessary in order to modernize the BYA. In 2014, the Corporate category was renamed the Company category carrying newly expanded eligibility criteria. As women increase their presence in the workplace and play more diverse roles in our community, the BYA is continually evolving to recognize the successes of women in Ottawa. This is something we are very proud of!

Scholarships & Charity

To give back to the community, the WBN set up scholarships for female students at Algonquin College, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa in the early 1980’s. Fundraising for the principal monies was originally done by hosting a fashion show and a live auction. In recent years, contributions have increased by funds raised in our annual golf tournament.

The WBN is a networking community for women with a focus on building strong relationships. Our goal is to offer you the opportunity to cultivate lifelong mentorship and friendship – and have a little fun!