Making connections

No-name lesbian business network already a success for community


Alison Dewar is one lesbian who means business – but she doesn’t want to do it alone. For Dewar, after all, the key word is “networking.”

“We started talking about this towards the beginning of the year,” says Dewar of the yet un-named lesbian business network she and cohorts Pam MacEachern and Claire Sarda started this summer.

“We thought that it would be important to try to create a forum where lesbians could meet to network about the kind of services that we provide or for individuals who want to access services.”

Dewar says the group is designed to help lesbians in the community find, meet and support each other’s businesses and services. While there is not official membership yet, the group’s first two meetings have brought out financial planners, lawyers, taxation specialists, chiropractors, holistic medicine experts, artists, carpenters and web designers.

“It’s a whole range of people who are involved,” she explains. “There are also individuals who come who are teachers or who are working in the federal services, who come and want to see what’s out there.”

The group’s initial meeting took place at The Buzz in June and attracted 35 curious women – women, Dewar says, who were simply on an e-mail list of lesbians the three cofounders knew. But numbers grew significantly for the second event in September.

“We followed up with an event at Valerie Preston’s art studio. We had around 50 women there. It was mostly a networking night that was a wonderful wine and cheese,” she explains. “There were a few announcements and a chance for people to tell about any events that were coming up.”

But the kicker comes next month in the form of a fundraiser, a wine-tasting soiree called Lady In Red. (See sidebar story.)

“We are supporting Harmony House. They are a women’s shelter that has to find 100 percent of its own funds, I believe. They do remarkable work, and it will be a lot of fun,” says Dewar of the event that coincides with the season’s Beaujolais nouveau release.

The turnout should be big, she adds, based on the number of lesbians who’ve shown support thus far.

“I’m using the word lesbian, but we want to be as inclusive as we can,” says Dewar seriously. “People that are there don’t have to be fully out in the communities that they serve, but if they want to attract lesbian clientele, it’s the place to be and the place to be seen.”

The group currently has no membership fees, and is in the process of developing a directory of businesses. But despite the group’s immediate success, this baby remains without a name. Loosely referred to as the lesbian business group or network, it is searching for name suggestions.

 

“We really are in our infant stages, but we’re incredibly optimistic,” explains Dewar of the no-name group’s future. “What we want to be able to do is make a name that we feel comfortable with.”

In the meantime, Dewar says the co-founders are enjoying tremendous support from their own businesses: National Bank Financial and the law firm Nelligan, O’Brien and Payne. “I think that makes a big, big difference,” she adds. “That’s been a real bonus.”

* For more information on the lesbian business network, contact Sylvie Vanasse at Sylvie.vanasse@nelligan.ca.

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