Just over a week ago, I had the opportunity to experience one of the most inspiring conferences I have ever attended. On March 31st, I ended the month at the Born to Lead Conference at the White Oaks Resort and Spa in Niagara on the Lake. This conference was sponsored by Pandora (and yes, we all went home with a free Pandora bracelet!) This was the conferences second year in a row running, and was aimed towards young women between the ages of 16 and 26 with a large passion for leadership and Entrepreneurship. As you know, I graduated from the Small Business and Entrepreneurship course at Mohawk College in June of 2014, and am in the process of growing my Graphic Design company, Graphically Yours. I attended this conference with my best friend, Lindsay Plank. Lindsay and I have grown up with each other right from birth. Lindsay is currently working on also growing a business of her own, Lindsay Plank Events, specializing in wedding planning in the Hamilton and surrounding area. Check out her page here! Anyway, when we heard about the event and who was going to be attending, we just had to go!
If you know me, you know I LOVE Arlene Dickinson. She is very strong and independent women in the business and entrepreneurship world. Arlene was the main keynote speaker at this years conference, so naturally I couldn’t miss it! You probably all know of Arlene from the hit TV series Dragons Den. Arlene has come a long way in her life and her early years were not at all easy. Many may think she came from a wealthy family, but the reality is that she came from the complete opposite and went through many hardships in her life. I won’t get into all of the details, but just briefly, Arlene was moved around a lot by her family as a young child. There was only one thing that she really wanted in her life and that was to be married and to have children. Unlike the rest of her siblings, Arlene never went on to College or University after High School. Instead, she married at a young age of 19 and had 4 kids within 6 years by the time she was 27 years old. Later, she found herself in a bad relationship and fighting a tough battle for the custody of her kids. It was very difficult for her to gain custody, as she had no education, no job and no money. She also didn’t have anyone helping her. After her divorce, Arlene spent a lot of time on her fathers couch having what she liked to call “a pity party”. It wasn’t until a short time later that her father encouraged her to get up and get on with her life and that she wasn’t going to get full custody of her children by just sitting on the couch all day. With little skills this was tough. It wasn’t long and Arlene got her big break and scored herself a marketing job with Venture Communications. Arlene eventually became a partner of Venture, and then the sole owner. It was through this company that she learned that marketing was what she was good at. If you want to hear more about Arlene’s story, check out this short clip here.
Today, Arlene is one of Canada’s most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs. She is the CEO of Venture Communications and also the CEO of YouInc.com, a company that she founded in 2012 that is dedicated to serving and investing in Entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Arlene may seem like a scary person sometimes on Dragons Den, but she is very kind, has a lot of faith in every young entrepreneur, and her keynotes are very inspirational. If you ever get the chance to see her, I would not pass it down if I were you!
Arlene also has written 2 books on her story and her success. Recently I have read her newest book “All In”, which really helps put into perspective what it takes to be an Entrepreneur in today’s society. I would highly recommend the book.
Aside from Arlene, there were many other workshops that we attended during this conference. We learned about social change from Dr. Wendy Cukier, about job search and job hiring from Mark Patterson from Ryerson University, about how to manage money in your business from Christiane Rutledge and Sandra Lethby, both from Meridian Credit Union, and also about personal branding from Paul Copcutt. There were also a number of other speakers throughout the day and also a few young Entrepreneurs and women in business that explained their stories and how they got to where they are today.
I have to say, I learned a lot throughout this day, but one of the most valuable things I would say I learned, was “don’t be afraid to fail forward.” In entrepreneurship, it is all about taking chances and trying new things. How else are you suppose to eventually come out higher than everyone else competing for business? We all know it can be scary to come out of our comfort zones, but we learn our most valuable lessons from our mistakes. Also, making mistakes does not mean you have failed. “Smooth seas do not make a skillful sailor.” Trying new things and failing will only help you understand your strengths and your weaknesses.
In today’s world, we need to overcome the confidence gap, set high goals for ourselves and achieve them, find a mentor and be a mentor, and last but not least, build your networks and use your sphere of influence to help you.
“Ask yourself what success looks like to you. Then put all of your energy into making it happen. Live by your own measure, not someone else’s.” – Arlene Dickinson