Every year the Business Women’s Network of York Region hosts an annual gala to raise funds for bursaries awarded to young women in high school who are pursuing business degrees at post-secondary schools.
This marks the seventh year the group has hosted the gala, which will take place Oct. 3 at Madison Greenhouse in Newmarket.
“We go to high school graduations and present the bursaries to unsuspecting young women because we want to help young people,” said Elizabeth Johnston, Business Women’s Network of York Region president and founder. “It’s an amazing audience because young people can see that the business women’s network is here to support women going into business. It also lets all the mom’s in the audience know that we’re here to support them too.”
This year the gala will have both silent and live auctions, games, live music, an unannounced guest, and local dignitaries will be in attendance.
“We like to do things to get people moving around at the gala to get the networking happening any way we can,” said Johnston. “And people are going to love the venue and enjoy the food. We’ve already got over 80 people booked and a strong number of sponsors, we already consider that a success.”
Johnston’s husband, Garry, owns the Canadian Tire in Keswick, and funds from the gala will also be going to support Jumpstart.
“We plan to raise a couple thousand for Jumpstart because it helps in all different communities, not just in one,” she said. “We can have that dispersed around York Region.”
With the business women’s network memberships fee of $50 keeping the organization running, everything raised at the gala is able to go toward the bursaries, which can vary in amounts, and Jumpstart.
“My goal this year is to raise around $25,000 so we can award lots of bursaries over the next year, but realistically we would just love to make $15,000,” said Johnston. “That would still be enough for us to run around and help a few students.”
The gala will also be a celebration of sorts, said Johnston, who began the business women’s network about 10 years ago.
“We’ll hand out pins to people who have been with us for five and 10 years, there’s about 11 or 12 who have been with us since the beginning,” she said.
The reason it started a decade ago was because Johnston recognized that the only business women networks in the area were exclusive, and she wanted to start one in York Region that was open to all women.
“I had been with a women’s business network in Australia that was very inclusive and included you regardless of if you have a degree or are a start-up,” she said. “It was for women of all walks of life.”
Making the organization inclusive to all women was one of the two main goals, with the other being hosting events to educate, network, and fundraise for the community.
“We wanted to help bring women back to the subject of their business health,” said Johnston. “We bring in guest speakers or get into groups and look at different subjects. People always come out saying it’s helpful.”
The networking events also provide an opportunity for women to share the products or services of their businesses.
“Word of mouth is still very powerful,” she said. “The goal of all of this is to just help women out there no matter what business they’re in. We want women to know that anyone can own their own stores, that’s why we want to encourage our youth… that’s what the bursary is all about.”
The gala is set for Tuesday, Oct. 3 at Madison Greenhouse, 160 Bayview Pkwy., from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50 and include swag bags, door raffles, food and drink tickets, and more.
Learn more and purchase tickets to the Business Women’s Network of York Region gala here.