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  • Wednesday, March 25, 2020 2:35 PM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)




    In honor and celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) – Toronto Chapter partnered with Casa Foundation for International Development, the World Trade Center Toronto and the Toronto Region Board of Trade to host the Women in Business and Leadership Forum. The Forum was focused on supporting women-owned businesses, while empowering women to run businesses through connecting resources (social, capital, human) to ideas, providing a platform to showcase lessons from Canada’s businesswomen and leaders who inspire and empower other women.


    Aligned with the 2020 IWD thematic focus on “Each for Equal: An equal world is an enabled world”, the Forum also served as a knowledge-based learning platform to share successes, best practices, lessons learned, networking, with robust debates on how to cultivate new partners, new relationships and new markets for business growth. Providing welcome remarks, Olutoyin Oyelade, President, Casa Foundation, spoke about her vision for the Women in Business and Leadership Forum, noting, “The Women Inspire Forum is so important when one recalls the gaps in mentorship that women experience and how mentorship and sponsorship can fast-track the journey for other women”.


    Farah Mohamed, Senior VP, Strategic Initiatives, Policy and Public Affairs, at the Toronto Region Board of Trade opened the Forum highlighting the work done by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and World Trade Center Toronto in supporting women entrepreneurs. This included their first all-female Trade Accelerator Program cohort helping women-led or owned businesses create a custom export plan. “If all women were given the opportunity to work in Canada, the GDP would go up by 6%,” she noted. Jill Andrew, MPP, Toronto-St. Paul’s, provided keynote remarks emphasizing the unique opportunity that the IWD celebrations provided in acknowledging and celebrating women and their purpose, as well as challenging the status quo to ensure that innovative women are able to lead, amplify and inspire others especially the young women on the rise in business, trade and entrepreneurship.


    Hon. Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, delivered keynote remarks highlighting the outstanding efforts made by the Government of Canada in uplifting women, supporting more inclusive trade agreements and investments in affordable child care. Additionally, the roll out of the first Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a $2Billion investment to double the number of women entrepreneurs by 2025. “According to a report by the McKinsey Institute, Canada can grow our economy by $150 billion by 2026 by simply including women,” she noted, “And yet, women today still face unique barriers to business success, and they remain underrepresented in our economy – with only 16% of Canadian small businesses owned or led by women, and only 11% of women-owned business currently exporting.”


    Hon. Ng further highlighted the Government’s work during a fireside chat on supporting women in business with Wendy Cukier, Founder, Diversity Institute and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Ryerson University. She underscored the Government’s mandate to apply Gender-based Analysis Plus in all decisions made which required analyzing the best way to implement policies and programs based on evidence and an intersectional approach to benefit all Canadians.


    She also elaborated on the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy’s role in advancing women entrepreneurship in Canada, the set-up of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub to engage women business support organizations across the country (with organizations including OWIT-Toronto); to challenge stereotypes and build awareness of women’s entrepreneurial success; to improve access to financing, talent, networks and expertise; and to promote internationalization and engagement of women in international trade. “Women-owned businesses are still helping to drive the Canadian economy – they represent over $117 billion of economic activity and employ over 1.5 million Canadians.” She noted, adding that, “Investing in women entrepreneurs and fostering export opportunities for women-owned businesses is an investment in the Canadian economy as a whole.”


    OWIT-Toronto President Helen Hemmingsen moderated a case studies session on connecting and enabling women leaders in trade and business. Key takeaways from this session included effective use of trade shows to gain access to new markets, and with support from the Trade Commissioner Service, women entrepreneurs are able to exhibit in foreign trade shows gaining new global markets. An example is Anita Agrawal, CEO, Best Bargains Jewellery. Her business was able to access and thrive in the Tokyo and Seoul markets. Providing further insights, Anita also noted the challenges and opportunities, “It’s hard to navigate as a small business, how can I grow more, how can I export more… networks with other women that support women like OWIT-Toronto and WEConnect Canada are invaluable for peer learning on export strategies, branding and leadership.”


    The full house celebration of the Women Inspire showcase emceed by Emily Mills, Founder, How She Hustles, had a fantastic line-up. With male and female participants from different industries, business, academia, corporate, public and private sectors engaging in interactive panel sessions, a fire side chat and case studies, as well as engaging in fun business games on Kahoot. It was an empowering event, a testament of what happens when women collaborate and connect. The women trailblazers in entrepreneurship and leadership shared many insightful tips on empowering and advancing women in business including in global trade and in leadership. They also recommended practical steps to help forge a more gender-equal world.


    Many thanks to our members for celebrating with us.

  • Monday, March 23, 2020 2:07 PM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)



    The Women Leadership Expo networking fair hosted by the University of Guelph Humber (UofGH), as part of the 2020 International Women’s Day(IWD) celebrations, marked another successful collaboration with OWIT-Toronto, where students were offered networking and professional development opportunities. Coming into this year's IWD events, celebrating women's achievements and raising awareness against bias felt more meaningful than ever as solidarity touches new peaks every day. By engaging UofGH students, Helen Hemmingsen, Justine Namara, Alina Grigorescu and Ledia Dervishaj of OWIT-Toronto presented our long tradition, global exposure and membership benefits to advance women in the competitive business world.


    In addition, students were encouraged to visit OWIT-Toronto’s website and social media, where they can discover the organization’s initiatives and events and access the free online resources As part of OWIT- Toronto’s efforts of supporting the next generation of women professionals and entrepreneurs, discounted annual membership fees are offered to students to facilitate access to specialized education, training, mentorship and networking.


    OWIT-Toronto has made a tradition of supporting women throughout their unique challenges and opportunities. From sharing real life experiences to presenting new trade challenges, OWIT’s amazing network of leaders has been amplifying the voices from diverse women entrepreneurs and professionals for over 20 years.

  • Monday, March 23, 2020 1:54 PM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)


    In February, the Government of Canada launched public consultations to seek the views of Canadians on the possible modernization of the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA). The focus of these consultations is to seek feedback on new areas that could be included in a modernized CUFTA, such as chapters on trade in services, trade and gender, investment, and SMEs, as well as potential updates to existing chapters in order to bring the Agreement up-to-date with Canada’s most recent agreements. WIT-Toronto was invited to make a submission, which was completed in March by Maria Marchyshyn, Advisor to the Board, and Susan Baka, VP International, on behalf of OWIT-Toronto.


    The CUFTA entered into force for Canada on August 1, 2017, eliminating duties on 99.9% of goods imports from Ukraine, and 86.8% of Canadian goods exports to Ukraine. Bilateral merchandise trade has remained strong since entry into force, totalling $346 million in 2018.


    The CUFTA contains a review clause, in which Canada and Ukraine agreed to review the Agreement within two years of entry into force, with a view to adding additional provisions that were not in the original Agreement, including investment and services. In July 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly announced their agreement to expand the CUFTA.


    As part of its Trade Diversification Strategy, Canada has advanced an inclusive approach to trade in its recent free trade agreements – through the inclusion of provisions regarding labour, gender, the environment, Indigenous peoples, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The potential modernization of CUFTA presents an opportunity to add, or improve trade provisions within the existing CUFTA to help ensure that a broad range of stakeholders are able to benefit from the Agreement. Previous modernization negotiations such as the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), and the modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) are examples where Canada has successfully sought the addition of inclusive provisions, including those on SMEs and on Trade and Gender.


    Canada is committed to pursuing an inclusive approach to trade in recognition that trade policies and agreements need to respond and contribute more meaningfully to broader economic, social and environmental policy priorities. This means seeking trade policies that are responsible, transparent and inclusive.

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 4:45 PM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)


    The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has resulted in a global health crisis posing grave threats to human life, and is having far-reaching consequences of major economic disruptions. In today’s world of globalization and interconnectedness, the spread of the virus has gravely impacted international trade, especially with the regional and global value chain linkages. Efforts to control and quarantine the disease have also resulted in restrictions on travel and public gatherings.


    During these unprecedented times, the first priority is clearly to keep people as healthy and safe as possible. In light of this, OWIT-Toronto will be postponing all planned events for the time being. We thank you for your patience and understanding, and encourage you to visit our website and social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) for any updates, news and trade information.


    The spread of the coronavirus has left businesses around the world counting costs. To mitigate and manage the economic fallout caused by the global pandemic, the Government of Canada has launched a new webpage – offering Canadian businesses a one-stop-shop to navigate the effects on their businesses and operations. This includes information on employee support, financial implications, business travel and events, and doing business in international markets. More information and resources for Canadian businesses is available at the Trade Commissioner Service website.


    Additionally, Export Development Canada has increased their internal capabilities to respond to the concerns of Canadian exporters. More information is available in their FAQs on what Canadian exporters need to know about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and latest press release.


    Toronto Mayor John Tory has also announced an economic task force to ‘help protect Toronto’s economic success in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


    As we navigate these difficult times, we are wishing everyone good health and well-being.


    Sincerely,


    The OWIT-Toronto Board of Directors


  • Tuesday, March 03, 2020 4:42 PM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)


    Women’s trade group launches innovative social media campaign

    Toronto, 3 March 2020


    In commemoration of 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD), the Organization of Women in International Trade – Toronto (OWIT–Toronto) is launching a social media campaign – Women Inspire – to help change perceptions that entrepreneurial success is typically male dominated and “one size fits all”. The campaign will capture the vibrant work and successes of a variety of women entrepreneurs and professionals and will serve to disrupt the status quo, change the narrative and amplify the voices from diverse women entrepreneurs and professionals.


    Leading the unique social media campaign is past OWIT–Toronto President and CEO, Best Bargains, Anita Agrawal, who is also featured in the inspirational book, “Fearless. Girls with Dreams, Women with Vision”, being launched as part of IWD.


    “As a professor at the School of Business at Centennial College, I often ask my students whom they admire the most and what success means to them,” says Anita. “Many of the students mention wealthy entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. With this social media campaign, I want to change that. I want my students and other young people to know that success can mean many different things and that women entrepreneurs are leading that change. You can have success as an entrepreneur or in various professions. The scale can vary, and that’s okay.”


    As part of a premier global trade association across the world, OWIT–Toronto is a 20-year-old non-profit professional organization designed to promote women doing business in international trade. Through networking, educational and professional growth opportunities, the organization helps to build members’ expertise in the international trade arena. Members include women entrepreneurs, service providers, trade practitioners, business women involved in international trade as well as students passionate about international trade.


    OWIT–Toronto Co-Founder and Vice President International, Susan Baka, reflects on OWIT’s foundation, noting the need to strengthen women entrepreneurship and engagement in international trade, and to create sustainable businesses.


    Likewise, there was a need to step up and tell women inspiring stories of entrepreneurial and leadership successes. Changing the narrative around what entrepreneurial success looks like with an engendered lens meant having a wider mix of diverse voices.


    “From its inception, OWIT–Toronto has worked to increase the visibility and recognition of women trailblazers in international trade through our prestigious Annual Gala awards,” she says.  “We celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women entrepreneurs and leaders across a variety of industry sectors to inspire and empower other women entrepreneurs, leaders, aspiring leaders and youth.”


    The social media campaign also serves to break up the stereotype tales of labelling women in specific sectors such as retail and personal services industries where profit margins are usually much lower. As part of IWD celebrations, the campaign will promote awareness raising, shining a spotlight on the pivotal role that business and markets can play in advancing gender equality.


    Today, women are leaders in technology and innovation and in the specific sectors such as STEM that were originally perceived as male dominated,” says Helen Hemmingsen, OWIT–Toronto President. “Through OWIT’s global network, you are exposed to a wide range of global business contacts, resources for learning and information from our global community. Through sharing these resources, contacts and promoting sector specific trade missions like in STEM, we are encouraging women and inspiring girls to take advantage of technological transformations and innovations changing our world today.” 


    With the ‘Women Inspire’ social media campaign, OWIT – Toronto joins people around the world who are galvanizing for a future that is gender equal.


    Join the online conversation on twitter using the hashtags #IWD2020 #WomenInspire and following @OWITTORONTO. The social media campaign will also be launched at the Women in Business and Leadership Forum held on 5 March 2020 at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, and will be run throughout the year.


    To participate in this social media campaign, contact OWIT – Toronto on twitter @OWITTORONTO, or email: info@owit-toronto.ca or on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/owit-to.


  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 9:50 AM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)


    2019 OWIT AWARD WINNERS


    The Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) is pleased to announce the recipients of its annual awards. The awards recognize outstanding contributions to the organization and showcase how the winners leverage their passion and dedication to advance women in international trade and business. Awards will be presented at the Gala Dinner (6pm – 10pm) on Thursday May 28th at the OWIT x GroYourBiz “EXCELerate” Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Registration for conference is open now. 


    2019 Woman of the Year

    The Honourable Chrystia Freeland




    Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2013 and was re‐elected in 2015 and 2019. 


    When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came into power, he appointed her as Canada’s Minister of International Trade, the first woman to ever hold this senior Cabinet position. In this role, she successfully negotiated the signing of the trade agreement with Europe, CETA, in 2017, despite many obstacles, and remains a strong and vocal proponent of free trade. The agreement is touted as a model for contemporary trade agreements. From 2017 to 2019, she served as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.


    A superstar of Trudeau’s Cabinet, Ms. Freeland was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister in last fall’s election, with responsibility for continuing to oversee the NAFTA renegotiation and Canada’s long‐time and critically important relationship with the US – a strong endorsement of her skills, her deep network and the respect she has garnered. She was Canada’s signatory for the new deal signed with the US and Mexico in December 2019. An esteemed journalist and author, Minister Freeland was born in Peace River, Alberta. She was educated at Harvard University before continuing her studies on a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford. After beginning her career in journalism as a Ukraine‐based freelance reporter for the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist, she went on to various roles at the Financial Times. She then served as deputy editor of The Globe and Mail between 1999 and 2001, before returning to the Financial Times as deputy editor and then as the United States managing editor. 


    In 2010, she joined Canadian‐owned Thomson Reuters. She was a managing director of the company and editor of consumer news when she decided to return home and enter politics in 2013. Minister Freeland has written two books: Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution (2000); and Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super‐Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (2012). Plutocrats is an international best‐seller and won the Lionel Gelber Prize and National Business Book Award. 


    In 2018, Minister Freeland was recognized as Foreign Policy's Diplomat of the Year and was awarded the Eric M. Warburg Award by Atlantik‐Brücke for her achievements in strengthening transatlantic ties. Minister Freeland speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, French, and English, and lives in Toronto with her husband and three children. 



    Members of the Year: Deanna Clark‐Esposito & Christyna Doege




    Deanna is the founder of the Clark‐Esposito Law Firm, P.C. with over 15 years of legal experience in the areas of international trade (imports/exports), transportation, maritime and administrative law in the areas of fashion, vape/tobacco, hemp and others. Prior to starting her own law firm, Deanna headed up the global trade compliance regulatory division of a New York City based 3PL, and worked at a well respected international trade law firm. 




    Christyna is the Client Engagement Manager for Port Tampa Bay, the Tampa Port Authority, which calls for communicating clearly with current port tenants and users as well as coordinating and hosting successful port events. With a comprehensive knowledge of port operations; the ability to speak to a wide variety of audiences, mastery of the application and billing of port charges and fees; the interpretation of contracts, tariffs, and leases; and the analysis of port statistics.



    Chapter of the Year: Tampa Bay



    Host of the 19th Annual OWIT International Conference: Year of the Woman, featuring a Tampa Business Day Tour, conference and Awards Dinner. Notable Speakers included Cristina Puig, Dr. Patti Fletcher and Ilya de Marotta. TBOWIT stands on three pillars: networking, education and scholarship. They are ‘enriching Tampa Bay through International Trade’.



    You may see more news and subscribe to OWIT International mailing list here.

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020 12:33 PM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)

     


    OWIT-Toronto partnered in the first women’s cohort of the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) put on by the World Trade Centre in Toronto.




    Packed agenda… full of great speakers and contacts to help women build their export plans and diversify their markets. We were glad to share expertise, along with other partners like Global Affairs Canada, EDC and OWIT-Ottawa.


  • Tuesday, January 07, 2020 10:17 AM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)


    2019 was a phenomenal year, OWIT-Toronto marked 20 years of promoting women doing

    business internationally.


    In 2019, we expanded the depth of our initiatives, starting off with a business women’s trade mission to Monterrey, Mexico, in February 2019, in the advanced manufacturing sector. Mission participants have since been reporting business wins. In the spring, we partnered with the Asia Pacific Foundation on Doing Business in Japan and participated in Export Development Canada (EDC)’s Stakeholder Forum in Ottawa for national business and industry associations.


    In the Fall, we hosted our 20 th Anniversary Gala and Export Awards which attracted a record number of nominations. We didn’t envy the judges in their tough task of selecting winners. We also engaged in an innovative one-day “Professional Membership Showcase” at the University of Guelph Humber encouraging young women in international trade to join OWIT-Toronto. We continued to participate in forums advocating for gender inclusion in Free Trade Agreements, including the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) event in Ottawa. We also joined our colleagues across in Tampa, to celebrate the “Year of the Woman”, an OWIT International event.


    We ended our extraordinary year marking a 20-year operational period with our 20th Annual General Meeting and a Holiday Reception hosted by Bennett Jones, where three outstanding women entrepreneurs gave us tips on export success including insights on successfully building their businesses, accessing and expanding into global markets. 


    Our engagement and involvement in the different initiatives was made possible with many thanks to our partners and sponsors including the Government of Ontario and OWIT Monterrey, Bennett Jones, Jewels4Ever, EDC, Global Affairs Canada and the Diversity Institute/Ryerson University.


    In 2020, a five-year milestone will be reached towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2020 is therefore a pivotal year to continue to shine a light on women entrepreneurship, women economic empowerment and an inclusive role of women in trade agreements to advance women doing business globally.


    We look forward to working with our partners and sponsors on events and initiatives that bring these themes to fruition. Thank you to everyone for a fantastic year!


    Helen Hemmingsen

    President

    OWIT-Toronto


  • Tuesday, January 07, 2020 9:45 AM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)


    In February 2019, I was privileged to have the opportunity to participate in a Canadian trade mission to Monterrey, Mexico with the Organization of Women in International Trade Toronto chapter. The mission was facilitated by the Canadian Trade Commissioners’ Service in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy and Labour of the State of Nuevo LeónEGADE Business School Technológico de Monterrey, and numerous other organizations. This mission was the first initiative out of an MOU signed by the OWIT-Toronto and OWIT-Monterrey chapters in March, 2017 in the presence of the Canadian Minister of International Trade and the Consul General of Canada in Monterrey.




    The purpose of the mission was to encourage female business owners, professionals, executives and service providers to export and expand globally, and to showcase the contribution of women in international trade and in historically male-dominated industry sectors, in both Mexico and Canada. The 10 delegates participated in conferences and meetings with local industry clusters, government and educational organizations, tours of various research and development facilities, and a visit to the ExpoManufactura trade show. We also had individual business-to-business meetings with potential customers, suppliers and business partners in the Monterrey area of interest to our respective

    organizations. Here are some of my key takeaways from the mission:

    • Women are a historically untapped resource in manufacturing and industrial sectors.

    According to data from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), women currently represent only between 4.4%-15.7% of jobs in industrial, electrical and construction trades, maintenance, equipment operations, transportation and heavy equipment, and machine operation. Technology and automation have lowered physical barriers to participation, making these industrial roles more accessible for women. Our expanding involvement is key to growth in these areas, in light of growing labour shortages in high skill positions. The challenge is encouraging increased participation by women, through skills training and mentorship as well as promoting these roles and STEM subjects to be seen as desirable career paths for young girls. CME's We Can Do It! Campaign is a step along this road.

    • Mexico, and Monterrey and the State of Nuevo León in particular, is a high value market for Canadian manufacturing businesses to consider expanding into.

    Nuevo León is Mexico’s manufacturing hub, its top destination for foreign direct investment and has the highest GDP per capita. Situated in the north of the country and connected with major North American rail and highway networks, the region has developed dramatically since the advent of the original NAFTA. Its business culture is similar from that of Canada and the United States and the population is highly educated and technically skilled relative to other regions. There are also surprisingly widespread

    levels of English spoken by the workforce, and there are many organizations, both private and public, set up to help foreign investors establish operations in the region. More information about the region is available on the Nuevo León Ministry of the Economy's website.

    • Trade diversification is more important than ever.

    The current uncertain trade climate has sent a clear message that diversification is essential, particularly for businesses with international supply chains or customer base. Mexico has free trade agreements with Canada two times over: under the NAFTA (and its soon-to-be successor USMCA / CUSMA / T-MEC) and, as of December 30, 2018, the CPTPP. The CPTPP in particular opens up opportunities for cross-integration of Canada-Mexico supply chains with partners in Asia. But free trade agreements are only valuable for economies to the extent that businesses use them. The skilled advisors at Bennett Jones can help Canadian importers and exporters explore and leverage the opportunities under these agreements, and to set up the necessary commercial and tax structures to make expanding internationally a smooth and profitable experience.


    Jessica B. Horwitz is an Associate at Bennett Jones.


  • Monday, December 30, 2019 10:41 AM | OWIT-Toronto (Administrator)
    OWIT-Toronto celebrated the end of 2019 in December with a festive networking and holiday reception hosted by Bennett Jones. This inspiring event provided the platform for OWIT-Toronto members, key stakeholders and decision makers in international trade to network and celebrate all things trade. Three successful women exporters had podium time to shine a light on their journey in building their businesses, accessing and expanding into global markets. The session was moderated by OWIT-Toronto Board Member, Aylin Lusi.



    Myra Sable, President of Sable and Rosenfield and recipient of OWIT-Toronto’s Woman Exporter of the Year award (2019), kicked off the discussion, explaining how her 50-year food business was founded in her kitchen while she worked as a part-time restaurant reviewer in Toronto. She highlighted her incredible journey from St. Lawrence Market to getting a business plan, and to her first scoping mission to Europe, in Paris and Brussels, where she collected various samples of beautifully packaged and designed gourmet products for inspiration. Initially, starting with a home recipe for Russian Mustard, which sold out in six weeks, she meticulously grew the product line into what it is today, specializing in gourmet appetizers and condiments, sauces and cocktail garnishes.



    Kathy Smith, VP Operations of Sable and Rosenfield, complemented Myra’s story and elaborated on the niche markets that they had targeted which required making different unique gourmet product lines, for instance, no alcohol ingredients for the Dubai market. She also highlighted some of the challenges faced along their entrepreneurial journey including supplier delays, buyer challenges and logistical issues. On addressing challenges like language barriers, Myra recalled how she turned this into an opportunity to learn a new language - French - to be able to fully expand her business in France and Brussels. Giving examples of their San Francisco and New York food show experiences, she also noted the importance of trade shows which helped to identify what retailers were seeking. If the packaging was appealing to the buyers, they would buy the products on site and order more. She also said that the ‘Made in Canada’ label was a key marketing tool as it stood for authenticity.



    Barb Wilmer, Director of Sales for Racer Machinery International, shared glimpses of her experiences in Cuba as a young girl, through to moving to Canada as an immigrant at an early age, studying and working to finally achieving top salesperson award in the steel industry in Canada. Her snippets of wisdom in becoming a successful steel industry entrepreneur included staying up to date with the latest technology, keeping in communication loops, networking and having strong perseverance. She noted the turbulent times that have rocked the steel industry with the initiation of the US steel and aluminum tariffs that caused an increase in the cost of raw materials and big reservations on spending, greatly impacting the industry. She welcomed the news of the conclusion of the re-negotiated NAFTA.


    Barb also recommended participating in trade missions. She joined OWIT-Toronto’s trade mission in February 2019 to Monterrey, Mexico which provided her with a variety of networking opportunities and connections to different businesses. She subsequently took an independent follow-up business trip to Monterrey in September 2019 to continue the business engagements. Her ability to communicate fluently in Spanish is key in facilitating doing business in Mexico.



    The evening included brief presentations by OWIT-Toronto partners including EntrepreneursPoint’s Olutoyin Oyelade who announced that their women entrepreneurship incubator development program is available to OWIT-Toronto members at a 10% discount. World Trade Center Trade Accelerator Program’s Frances Guo invited members who meet the criteria to a Women-specific cohort in January 2020. Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC)’s Neha Bahl announced plans to provide a customized free one-day advisory event for OWIT-Toronto members looking to build and scale new businesses and network with TBDC’s international clients that are part of the Start-up Visa program, TBDC’s mentors, national and international trade partners.



    To crown off the evening, OWIT-Toronto President Helen Hemmingsen recognized Susan Baka, one of OWIT-Toronto’s founders. As a Board Member, a true OWIT-Toronto and OWIT-International champion, Susan has been instrumental in pioneering women in international trade both in Canada and abroad for over 20 years.


    It was an evening of festive celebrations, celebrating the trailblazing women in international trade, their great achievements, and the unique platform that brings all these women at the table to support each other and share many lessons learned along the way. To spice it up further, Sable and Rosenfeld provided a token memento for everyone to taste and remember the occasion. A wide selection of beautiful jars of gourmet products from cocktail garnishes, appetizers, condiments and sauces, many of which were all-natural, Non-GMO certified, gluten free and Kosher, were provided to the participants to take home to appreciate a truly made in Canada experience.



    The evening event was preceded by OWIT-Toronto 20th Annual General Meeting (AGM) marking the end of the year and a 20-year operational period. The 2020 OWIT-Toronto Board was reconstituted, with Board directors reelected and new directors coming on board forming a quorum.

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