Held from May 4-5 at the Kingbridge Centre in Toronto, the ninth annual WEE broke all previous attendance records, drawing double the amount of industry women to its conference, selling out the venue and prompting a wait-list.
Carol DeVille, owner of The Branding Company and one of the founders and driving forces of the event, noted there were a number of changes that transpired to which she can attribute the uptick in attendance, such as increased sponsorships, industry support, direct targeted contact with industry colleagues and a much stronger marketing plan.
“Suppliers, distributors like Talbot and industry partners stepped up to sponsor this year’s WEE, with ASI being our first Gold Sponsor and sponsoring our first hosted cocktail party,” DeVille said. “With the support and the funds we were able to generate, we continued to raise the bar with the quality of speakers, the activities and the value that WEE would deliver ... with a ‘failure is not an option’ motto. Our event is focused on encouraging individuals to become the best they can be through personal and professional development, networking, sharing, strength, trust and personal growth. We attracted industry members from all across Canada and the U.S., and know once a colleague attends WEE and experiences the journey, she comes back and tends to bring a colleague.”
Kippie Helzel, senior vice president of Custom Plastic Specialties Inc. and one of the handful of Americans to make the trip over the border to the event, is a stalwart supporter. “This was my fourth WEE, and I’m lucky to know so many of the attendees, suppliers and distributors alike,” she said. “The Canadian market is, of course, much smaller than the U.S. promotional marketplace, and I have personally exhibited at the PPPC show for 15 years, and have attended many of their educational events. Maybe because it’s a smaller group, maybe because there is such a variety of personalities when you bring women in from diverse provinces, whatever it is, there’s a particular camaraderie at WEE that I really love.”
Genumark’s Tracey Clingen concurs. “Every year I leave the WEE event with not only new ideas and ways to approach my work day, but also with new perspectives on life as a whole,” Clingen said. “WEE is a great opportunity to build new relationships with strong industry women and reconnect with your faves. It’s easy to get ‘stuck’ in your every day; WEE shakes it up!”
With educational sessions like “Own Your Time and Be an Email Warrior” by Frances Biernacki, “Three Facts, Four Fears, Five Mindset Shifts & Six LinkedIn Strategies That Will Change Your Life” by Cher Jones and “Five Keys to Unlocking Self-Love and Mastering Overwhelm” by Nicole Weston, the nearly 80 women in attendance were presented with a mix of effective, usable strategies to improve work/life balance, and fun networking activities like a Paint & Sip party hosted by the event’s other Gold Sponsor, SAGE.
“This is the third year I’ve attended WEE, and it only gets better,” said Cindy Puritt, Senior Business Development Manager for Debco. “Kudos to the special ladies on the planning committee – they never cease to amaze with the professional speakers they hire, the fun evening events, hilarious early morning exercise (hula-hooping this year!), and wonderful women to share this memorable event. I can hardly wait for next year.”
Ann Baiden, owner of Innovatex Solutions Inc. and one of the instrumental architects of the event, pointed out that the driving force for WEE in 2017 was to honor Clearmount owner Ros Plummer, who passed away last year, and her passion for education. “The committee – Kate Plummer, Ros’s daughter; Suzanne Simpson; Kathy Cheng; Josee Boivin; PPPC’s Tiffany Moniz; Carol DeVille and myself – worked tirelessly to ensure we hosted an event she would be proud of,” Baiden said. “It was also the first year funding was raised through incredibly generous sponsors. The sponsorship dollars allowed us to raise the bar with regards to our speakers and opened the door to providing professional value-added options to the event. I truly appreciate and am touched by the devotion to the event by those that travel yearly to attend! The proximity of the Kingbridge Centre to both the airport and the greater GTA makes it a central location for most.”
Baiden acknowledged the friendships that have developed amongst women who are in many cases considered “direct competitors” speak volumes to the willingness to share and build the industry as a whole. “From the very beginning, this has been the one industry event I’ve never missed,” she said. “There’s an energy created by this ever-growing group of women that, if it could be bottled, would be priceless. I can’t think of another Canadian industry event that has the same impact both professionally and personally for this group of incredible women.”
The 2018 WEE sold out in less than two weeks, more than doubling the previous year’s numbers and creating an instant waiting list. “To me, this speaks to a need for WEE,” Baiden said. “We were totally blown away by this incredible response and look forward to continue building on this momentum for the 10th anniversary in 2019.”
For more information on next year’s event, contact Tiffany Moniz at firstname.lastname@example.org.