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  • Wednesday, April 20, 2022 12:03 PM | Anonymous

    OWIT-Toronto celebrated its partnership with the Canada Arab Business Council (CABC) to provide women-led businesses and entrepreneurs access to market insights and opportunities across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The partnership was formally announced at a joint OWIT-Toronto and CABC webinar, “Expand your business into the Middle East & North Africa region” in December, which brought together senior women leaders in the public and private sectors to share a current update on doing business in the MENA region, delve into opportunities at the Dubai Expo 2020 and upcoming events and milestones for companies looking to enter, expand or re-activate their trade and investment efforts in the region.

    At the occasion of the launch, Helen Hemmingsen, past OWIT-Toronto President said, “As a global network with local chapter representation across Central, North and South America, Western Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, the missing gap of global connections has been the Middle East and North Africa region. This partnership serves as a gateway to tap into opportunities for business information, connections and support our members in doing business in the MENA region.”

    CABC is the voice of business between Canada and the Arab world. CABC and OWIT-Toronto have shared interests of advancing international trade between Canada and the Arab world, as well as enhancing international business education and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs, professionals and trade experts. Cathy Séguin, President and Executive Director, CABC noted, “Our partnership with OWIT-Toronto is a significant milestone for Canada Arab Business Council. It facilitates and accelerates our mission and our scope to promote Canada’s inclusive economic success and to foster international trade and the advancement of women in business in the MENA region. This is also consistent with the government’s strategy in supporting women leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.”

    The panel discussion was moderated by Carmen Sylvain, Former Canadian Ambassador to the Republic of Colombia, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Mauritania. She was joined by Katerina Tarasova, Executive Director, International Accreditation at Health Standards Organization; Lindsay Margenau, Counsellor (Commercial) and Senior Trade Commissioner, Consulate General of Canada to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Karima-Catherine [KC] Goundiam, CEO, Red Dot Digital Inc. & B2BeeMatch; Jennifer Cooke, Director, Inclusive Trade, Export Development Canada (EDC); and Amal Soliman, Co-Founder, Nubia Foods.

    Here are some key take-aways on doing business and expanding into the MENA region:

    • In terms of doing business in the MENA region, it is important not to generalize doing business across the region, as there are many geographical and cultural variations across the MENA region as well as in GDP economy levels.
    • Services to women entrepreneurs are accessible to offset challenges and barriers in accessing programs and solutions through EDC, the Trade Commissioner’s Service (TCS) and other counterparts in the trade ecosystem including the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), as well as B2BeeMatch’s VIBee program that provides customized solutions to women-led businesses.
    • Key trending sectors in the MENA region that have gained traction especially with the pandemic and increased digital transformation include: healthcare; health tech industry; robotics and artificial intelligence; education tech; health and wellness; and beauty and fashion. The healthcare sector will continue to drastically transform to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic, and also to find new ways of simplifying complex healthcare systems into more efficient and effective ways.
    • Resources, knowledge, education and skills building are available to support Canadian women to export with confidence in the MENA region, providing connections both to the ecosystem of organizations that can support them as well as to different opportunities internationally.
    • Learn and get an understanding of the players in the global trading ecosystem and leverage them. This helps to strengthen export plans and position in markets of interest. Reaching out to the TCS, EDC, and organizations like OWIT, chambers of commerce like the CABC can really help to achieve those export goals and accelerate your success, accessing market knowledge, strategic planning for market risks and challenges.
    • Crucial to start with an international mindset – businesses are more likely to have a global competitive advantage when their leaders have a global mindset and are thinking big from the outset.
    • Participating in trade missions provides opportunities to explore international business prospects, to build more networks and have access to specific sector information.
    • Accessing financing and grants using financial products can help speed up growth, help a business owner achieve their objectives more quickly. Financial support to women entrepreneurs looking at accessing new markets like the MENA region is also available at the EDC.
    • Important to protect yourself as a business owner from liability – this opens up access to more resources like grants or other financial products. It is also important to have a good understanding of all the risks involved in a market and what can be addressed.
    • Access to a strong network – this can enable introductions to customers, suppliers, partners, distributors etc., as well as providing knowledge and support.
    • The MENA region presents a good alternative with diversifying supply chains especially given the global supply chains disruptions caused by the pandemic.
    • Most MENA countries have very conducive environments for women to do and start businesses, with a large number of women entrepreneurs as a driving force for their economies, in leadership roles and company executive roles. Countries like UAE have been voted as the safest in the world for women and provide a global hub for business with a diversity in the population and in cultures.
    • Members were invited to the Expo Dubai 2020, one of the major highlights of the year. The world's largest business event that was held in the UAE, it hosted 200+ pavilions and 24 million registered visits from 178 nations over its six months duration (October 2021 to March 2022). CABC led a high-level Canadian trade mission of 30 companies to the UAE and organized its first international business event 'Canada Arab Business Forum 2022' with 250 attendees representing government and businesses from Canada and the UAE. With a focus on strategic sectors such as Healthcare, Education, Artificial Intelligence, Clean Energy and Agriculture, the event created significant business and networking opportunities promoting bilateral trade and investment outcomes.
  • Monday, April 11, 2022 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    The OWIT chapters in the CUSMA/USMCA/T-MEC region - Ottawa, Toronto, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Mexico - and the Los Angeles Small Business Development Center Global teamed up for a collaborative online event on April 5 that attracted over 300 registrants from around the world. It was the first of a series of virtual events on the topic of recovery and resilience in the trade community that highlight the voices of women in trade. This kick-off webinar brought perspectives from the customs agencies in Canada, the US and Mexico together with three women entrepreneurs from the three countries. Watch the recorded event. 

    Take-aways from he Canadian panelists included:

    From Carol West, CEO & President of the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers

    • Collaboration and sharing were critical during the pandemic and made us all think about border security and collaboration even more.
    • Supply chain challenges accelerated in Canada due to the collapse of the highway infrastructure in BC from torrential storms that caused additional costs and delays, and due to truck convoys that shut down border crossings and caused perishable goods to suffer immensely.
    • CUSMA has made it simpler to use this free trade agreement.
    • On the future of trade: She is hopeful but not totally positive, questioning what the recovery will look like as result of the war in Ukraine. Resilience will mean something different. Her advice: Be increasingly vigilant about cyber attacks on supply chains.
    • Priorities going forward include: collaboration, with the private sector at the government table to inform decision making; commitment to standardization; commitment to communication; and commitment to knowledge and investments in training and professional development

    From Suzie Yorke, Board Director & Founder, Love Good Fats

    • There is a higher bar now for companies to do things the right way – to be transparent and not just pay lip service.
    • Brands that are successful embrace sustainability and have a good story
    • Consumers and retailers want higher purpose brands and this demand is influencing trade in a big way.

    The next OWIT collaboration program will take place on April 29 4/29/22 and will highlight the voice of women in trade from Kenya, featuring the OWIT Nairobi Chapter and Kenyan women in trade. Keep an eye on. www.linkedin.com/in/witoc/ for details.

  • Monday, April 11, 2022 9:47 AM | Anonymous

     A group of women food exporters from across Canada participated in the March OWIT-Toronto Women’s Virtual Business Delegation to Mexico, focusing on the agri-food sector. This represented the third trade mission of its kind organized by OWIT Toronto. With the geographical advantage and the Free Trade Agreements that have eliminated duties on almost all agri-food products, Mexico is a natural market for Canadian exporters.

    Delegates had a total of more than 30 pre-arranged virtual business-to-business meetings with qualified buyers or partners. Feedback from delegates at the debriefing session was encouraging as they asked OWIT-Toronto to continue promoting and running business delegations; delegates found the virtual B2B meetings very productive and a delegate plan to follow the same format and template to reach out other prospect clients from the European market.

    Webinar kick-off

    Other food exporters seeking to diversify their markets beyond Canada joined the March 22 complimentary opening session of the Business Delegation. The Canadian Ambassador to Mexico, Graeme C. Clark, and the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affair, Lisa Thompson, shared welcoming remarks. The event included two panels - one featuring Catherine Beach of EDC and Brooke Gordon of BDC, who highlighted resources to help women-owned businesses export to Mexico; and the other featuring Nydia Orue, General Director, Cluster Agroalimentario de Nuevo León, Agroalim, and Rosa Maria Suarez, Import Manager at La Comer (one of the largest supermarket chains in Mexico City), who shared what buyers in Mexico expect from suppliers. Among their tips:

    • Having good communication is always key in everything. Stay in touch to understand the buyer’s needs and keep the buyer informed about new items in your catalogue.
    • Meet potential distributors and business partners through trade local associations

    Many thanks to our Business Delegation partners – Global Affairs Canada, through the Embassy in Mexico City , Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), EDC, BDC, Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, BMO, City of Toronto and Bennett Jones.

    And a big shout out Board member Alma Farias for spearheading this 2022 Business Delegation, along with her committee, Susan Baka, Selda Erkilic and Helen Hemmingsen. Watch the webinar recording. 

  • Monday, January 24, 2022 3:07 PM | Anonymous

    Calling all #shetrades #womenentrepreneurs in the agri-food sector!

    Interested in doing business with Mexico?

    Join OWIT-Toronto's virtual trade mission, 22-24 March, 2022 to Mexico.  Products of interest: gourmet/specialty agri-food products, private label, health and wellness, food ingredients (including beans and pulses).

    Program includes:

    - Pre-mission educational webinars.  See our events calendar for Trade Commissioners Service/EDC webinars on Exporting to the Mexican market:

    - January 25, 2022: Doing Business in the Agri-Food Sector in Mexico.

    - January 26, 2022: Food Labelling Requirements in Mexico.

    - January 27, 2022:  Making the Most of your Buyer's Meeting.

    - Briefing and overview of Mexican market.

    - Pre-arranged B2B meetings with qualified buyers and partners, arranged by an industry expert based in Mexico.

    Registration:  www.owit-toronto.ca/event-4518483?CalendarViewType=1&SelectedDate=3/12/2022

    Email us at info@owit-toronto.ca with any questions.

  • Tuesday, December 07, 2021 9:04 AM | Anonymous

    If you are in the agri-food industry and interested in exploring the Mexican market, you’ll want to consider joining a Virtual Canadian Women’s Trade Mission to Mexico – Agri-Food sector scheduled for March 22- 24, 2022 and hosted by OWIT-Toronto. The mission is organized in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada and will provide women-owned and women-led businesses a great opportunity to enter and grow into the dynamic Mexican market and to showcase Canadian agri-food products and the contribution of women in this industry.

    Mexico is one of the largest importers of agri-food products in the world. That – combined with tariff-free access under the CUSMA free trade agreement – makes Mexico an attractive market for Canadian exporters.

    Thanks to our sponsors and supporters – including GACEmbassy, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, EDC, the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, BMO, Bennett Jones, and the City of Toronto – the participation fee is quite modest (OWIT members: $150/company; non-members: $250/company). It includes:

    • Pre-arranged virtual business-to-business meetings with qualified buyers or partners
    • Pre-event market information webinar sessions by experts and the Trade Commissioner Service
    • Digital catalogue with you company listing in Spanish and English
    • Support from OWIT-Toronto

    Check out for more information Note that space is limited. Be sure to register today to save your spot!

  • Monday, November 29, 2021 9:12 AM | Anonymous

    OWIT-Toronto’s November webinar on The Global Supply Chain Grinch that Could Steal Christmas attracted record participation. It featured logistics expert Christian Sivière of Solimpex who gave an insightful presentation analyzing the causes, the impact on businesses and consumers, as well as exploring some remedies as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic.

    Here are some key take-aways on the causes of the supply chain disruptions and actions that can be taken to mitigate them:

    • The pandemic shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) mainly manufactured in China, the blockage of the Suez Canal by a huge container ship for a week, and now the recent events in BC that have destroyed some bridges and rail lines have all contributed to the heightened awareness of the importance of the supply chain and to create shortages of commodities and products.
    • The slow-down in production during Covid, the shortage of inventory when demand picked up, the resulting price increases, changes in consumer buying patterns, labour shortages, port congestion and huge increases in shipping costs have all combined to cause supply chain disruptions.
    • E-commerce growth is another contributor to both supply chain issues and environmental damage. The more we purchase online, the more we contribute to global warming (free shipping/free returns contribute to over consumption and waste, to high carbon emissions because of more trucks on road, and to congestion at ports.)
    • There is a huge economic impact when supply chain disruptions cause a shortage of products (eg. semi-conductor shortage for autos which means less vehicles at dealers).
    • Companies have to bite the bullet and rebuild inventory, which forces them to stock products earlier – now it is a Just in Case concept rather than Just in Time, which increases costs.
    • Trend: Many companies are starting to source locally (ie regional supply chain vs global supply chain) but this can be easier said than done if there is not supply.
    • Strategies for mitigating supply chain disruptions:
      • If it is not possible to buy local, at least try to build a regional supply chain – eg buy from US or Mexico rather than China.
      • Stock products earlier but reduce inventories to match sales patterns.
      • Buy from local merchants rather than online.
  • Monday, November 29, 2021 9:06 AM | Anonymous

    The Women-in-trade G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (YEA) Canada Panel and Networking Event, presented by Futurpreneur in partnership with EDC and OWIT-Toronto on 2nd November, brought together women delegates of the 2021 Canadian G20 YEA delegation and G20 YEA alumni as well as members of OWIT-Toronto, from a variety of regions and sectors. Held in the context of the G20 YEA 2021 Hybrid Summit which took place in Milan in October 2021, the session offered insights on international trade opportunities and the advancement of women in international business. It also provided an opportunity for young women entrepreneurs to connect and uplift each other, share common challenges and learn more about the solutions and services available to support their trade and export goals.

    The panel included Audrey Charles, 2021 G20 YEA delegate and founder & CEO of Convenient Business Solutions Inc.; Jennifer Cooke, Director of Inclusive Trade at EDC; Audrey Ross, Logistics & Customs Specialist at Orchard Custom Beauty, and moderator & President of OWIT-Toronto, Helen Hemmingsen. The panel discussion focused on experiences and data driven research on the current barriers women continue to face in trade and export from an intersectional and intersectoral perspective. While Audrey Charles highlighted her experience and learnings as a tech founder with multinational experience before and during the pandemic, Audrey Ross offered insights into navigating global supply chains in times of disruption and the importance of women-driven networks including OWIT-Toronto. Jennifer Cooke showcased insightful results of gender-driven research led by EDC and observations on export trends and gaps.

    The panel discussion was followed by a networking session where participants were able to connect and exchange on key take-aways around inclusive trade and its impact on economic recovery. The importance of accessing supportive networks and connections and sharing of resources and experiences were key takeaways from the panel and networking sessions.

    For more information on:

    EDC’s Women in Trade: https://www.edc.ca/women-in-trade

    OWIT-Toronto: https://www.owit-toronto.ca/

    Futurpreneur: https://www.futurpreneur.ca/en/

    G20 YEA: https://www.futurpreneur.ca/en/landing-pages/g20-yea-2021/

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2021 10:07 AM | Anonymous

    We are looking for new board members to join our team.

    This is an exciting opportunity to develop board governance skills for non-profit organizations. New board members will draw on a range of experience, talents and a keen interest in international trade and/or women's economic empowerment. No previous experience needed. You will develop new skills in areas like: board management, organizing and hosting virtual/hybrid events, trade policy development, and communications (website design and newsletters).

    Board members are elected at our AGM on January 26, 2022.

    You'll need to be a member of OWIT-Toronto, and can join within ten days of being elected. See our membership page for benefits and rates. If you're not a member, but are interested in this voluntary role, contact Helen Hemmingsen or Carolina Soto to discuss further. Current listing of board members and their roles can be viewed at: www.owit-toronto.ca/board_members

  • Wednesday, July 07, 2021 4:46 PM | Anonymous

    OWIT International just held its second Blue Table Talk in June. Hosted by VP Chapter Support Karen Bland, these informal monthly talks with past and present OWIT leaders are informal opportunities designed to give OWIT members the opportunity to relax while chatting and sharing information, tips and strategies to strengthen OWIT chapters.

    The topic for the first session in May was “Leadership Matters” where OWIT chapter leaders and members discussed what qualities make a good leader, how to effectively recruit board members and how to handle tough conversations related to underperformance. The topic for June focused on ‘How to leverage OWIT partners” which was an opportunity to learn about how to benefit as a member from OWIT’s various partners and how chapters can help market and promote partnership benefits. Special guests included Angela Hoffman, Co-VP Partnerships, and Cortney Morgan, Co-VP Partnerships.

    Summary of OWIT Partnerships:

    • US Department of Commerce: This is the second year of a strategic partnership with the International Trade Administration of DOC. The collaboration is focused on three elements: empowering and engagement in international trade, expanding networks and offering opportunities to drive new members to OWI. As part of the agreement, they help OWIT on the education front. They have conducted quarterly webinars on timely topics (eg on USMCA) and provide subject matter expertise as speakers for OWIT events. DOC has desk officers around the world. They have started a series to help women in other countries, such as a Coffee Series in Africa, and are helping OWIT expand our footprint in Asia. Their website is a sea of great info. 
    • NASBITE: National Association of Small Business and International Trade Educators. Offering a professional certification called the Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) for international trade professionals, NASBITE concurs with OWIT’s mission in terms of empowerment and education. They offer a discount to OWIT members. 

    There is a great opportunity to tap into NASBITE and DOC as a speaker bank for chapter programs.

    • FIIT: The Forum for International Trade Training. They are a certification and training organization based in Canada dedicated to providing international business training, resources and professional certification (CITP – Certified International Trade Professional for individuals and businesses. They have several offerings including a Trade Ready blog, Twitter chats, FITT skills training programs, all offered at a discount to OWIT members. 
    • TFO Canada: Trade Facilitation Office Canada is dedicated to helping SME exporters (particularly women) in developing countries to access the North American market and to connect them with buyers. They provide education, webinars and capacity building programs. 
    • GroYourBiz: helps small and medium sized businesses to reach their potential and success. They set up advisory boards for entrepreneurs. 
    • ITC in Geneva: International Trade Center (www.intracen.org) offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to plug into a global networking database and receive exporting assistance. Check out their SheTrades initiative

    How to find out about partners: There are partner spotlights from past webinars recorded on the OWIT website. Updates on these and other partners are also included in OWIT’s newsletter and in monthly board meetings.

    OWIT members are encouraged to take advantage of our partners, and Angela and Cortney welcome suggestions for new partners. Email to vp-partnership@owit.org .

    Next Blue Table Talk session will be held on July 23 at 12 pm, focusing on how to use social media to promote and grow your chapter. OWIT’s VP of Social Media, Kyesubire Talitwala-Greigg, and Past President Jennifer Diaz will be the guests.

  • Wednesday, July 07, 2021 4:38 PM | Anonymous

    OWIT’s International network just got larger with the addition of its newest chapter in the United Kingdom (www.owituk.org) . Marked with a high-energy virtual launch on June 23 and an impressive panel of high-level speakers, the event attracted a large turnout of global participants from the UK and representatives of OWIT chapters from other parts of the world. They included OWIT-Toronto President Helen Hemmingsen and VP International Susan Baka, as well as OWIT International’s President Camelia Mazard who welcomed UK into the OWIT fold.

    Noreen Cesareo, OWIT UK’s President, called the launch a milestone event that was a year in the making but “well worth the effort”. “We are delighted to be supporting the launch of OWIT UK,” said guest speaker Chris Southworth, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), UK. “It's perfectly timed as we scale up trade initiatives, tackle inequalities, modernize the trading system and importantly build back better.” Another guest speaker was Ambassador Stephen DeBoer, Permanent Representative of Canada to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, who outlined Canada’s various initiatives to promote women and trade, which include introducing gender chapters in several free trade agreements. Others lauded Canada for our trailblazing efforts.

    “Wow – what an event!” says Helen. “And it was great to see so many shout-outs to Canada.”

    “I’m thrilled to see a UK chapter get off the ground…and with a truly impressive group of accomplished women at the helm who are so knowledgeable and passionate about trade,” adds Susan. “Our Toronto chapter looks forward to potential collaborations down the road.”

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