If you pass by the Pickle Barrel at Yonge and Eglinton on a Wednesday morning, don’t be surprised if you hear a group of women engaged in lively conversation. It’s the sound of entrepreneurs discovering new business skills, learning from each other, and making meaningful connections.
Paulette Durepos, the organizer of the EWC, started the group in 2013. In less than two years it has grown to over 600 members and offers multiple events throughout the year. The Wednesday morning Meetup attracts up to 20 women, often with more on the waiting list. How did it all start? Paulette admits it began with the desire to fill her own need as a solopreneur:
“There weren’t really any networking groups that fit my personality. I was looking for a group that was a mix of formal and informal and had learning, sharing and accountability components.”
A self confessed introvert, Paulette sought to create a welcoming space for women to share about their business and generate ideas. At the beginning she was very much a “secret agent”, working behind the scenes in the role of group organizer. But over time, Paulette has used the group to give her energy and inspiration — ultimately leading her to finding her own voice.
“I grew more into my own voice, I claimed who I was, and became more emphatic about the products I sell and having more fun. Now, no one is confused about what I do and I’m attracting more success.”
Paulette has been in business for herself several times over the years, from being in real estate sales and freelancing in IT for ad agencies, to starting an independent Café, and currently selling a high end line of make-up and cosmetics. “It’s a product I really enjoy,” she says, “It’s far more fun to sell something that makes women happy and something that I love myself.” She delights in being responsible for generating her own revenue and loves the café lifestyle where all she needs is a smartphone or a laptop and an Internet connection to do business. She has found a way that works for her and is helping others do it too.
Through the EWC, Paulette is fulfilling her passion for helping others be successful. Each week she brings in a presenter, often from within the group so that members have a chance to showcase what they do while also gaining experience and confidence as experts in their field. She creates a friendly learning space where everyone is invited to present their businesses, meet each other, and seed new initiatives and collaborations. Women are encouraged to practice good listening skills and not be too “salesy”. Paulette emphasizes that the group is not about showing up and handing out a business card. Those who come and participate each week are seeing the most success because they are building community and cultivating meaningful relationships.
“We as a group of networking women are changing the face of how networking is done. The success of EWC is evidence of that. Networking based on support, accountability, and learning is how we change the way we do business — one Meetup networking group at a time.”
The EWC started because of one woman’s desire to get support on her entrepreneurial journey. It has grown into something much more than that. The growing numbers of members in the EWC has not only been Paulette’s success but has also contributed to the success of so many others. It has even inspired similar networking groups both in Toronto and recently in New Brunswick.
Paulette’s advice to new entrepreneurs is to create your own space. “In this way, you will attract people with the same energy. Go to groups for experiments and find something that resonates and be comfortable with yourself. Get out to do it, find something that will give value to other people, and accommodate your own personality. Don’t let being an introvert stop you.”
Edited by Shari Lash, Wordsmith at In Your Own Words.