SAINT JOHN – Donna Mazerolle, treasurer of the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce,
says she could have used female mentors when she was in her 30s and 40s.
“Women do business differently than men and I think we haven’t had a lot of mentors for each other,” says Mazerolle. “I’m in my early 50s and I can honestly say in my 30s and most of my 40s I wouldn’t have had any mentors at all. I think it’s really important that everybody works together. When we all give each other a hand or a pat on the back all those kinds of things, it changes you. It empowers you.
The Chamber has had its Women in Business Forum for a while now, but Mazerolle said it has never really gained traction. She thinks it’s important enough to give it another try, so they’ve set about revamping the format this month.
“When we met in January to plan for the year, the group was incredibly small and this is something I had been throwing out to them for a while and I said, ‘let’s just do it. Let’s see what happens,’ ” says Mazerolle. “From the conversations I had with colleagues and friends, people have wanted it but nobody has really taken the bull by the horns.”
It was then decided that the forum would hold a social event the third Wednesday of every month (except June, July and August). Those wishing to attend would pay $15, which would help go towards the cost of appetizers. Five dollars of that fee will also go to a charity the group decides on. The event is open to all women in the community, not just women who are members of the Chamber.
If you’re female and you’re breathing, you’re welcome to join us,” says Mazerolle.
Each monthly meetup will also feature a guest speaker.
“We’re going to have a different speaker every month. We have two or three lined up for the first few meetings, but we’re going to ask people, ‘what are you interested in? What do you want to hear about? What’s important to you?'” says Mazerolle.
“We’re going to have someone come in and speak for 15 to 30 minutes. But it’s going to be more of everyone just getting to meet. There’s a lot of people in this city that don’t know each other.”
The first event takes place February 21 at Happinez Wine Bar at 5:30 p.m. This month’s speaker topic is health and wellness and will feature Kaitie Taylor, fitness coach at the YMCA of Greater Saint John. Women interested in taking part in the event are asked to join The Chamber’s Women in Business Forum Facebook group for more information.
Mazzerolle says it’s important for Saint John to have an active networking group for women in business.
“Sometimes the big bad world out there beats you down and you think you can’t do it,” she says. “Or maybe you’re afraid or fearful or you haven’t seen someone else do it, and when you do, it changes your whole perspective. It’s just more about connecting and being part of a tribe.”
She says by creating a strong, supportive network of women in the city, it will ultimately help overall economic growth and keep more women in Saint John.
“I want it to be a group of like-minded people that come together to share ideas and support each other and move our city forward. We are not the most economically advanced community and women that operate businesses are becoming more the mainstream and more and more successful,” says Mazerolle.
“Whatever we can do together to move that along because where my children go, I will go. And I want them to stay here. Unless there are economic advantages, the reality is that they won’t.”