I have been to three Ladies Who Lunch events now but I never stop being amazed when I walk through the door of a Catherine Landry Masterpiece.
Donning a little black dress and toting around a bag of valentines cookies with my business cards attached, I walked into the Shore Club and staggered a bit. The venue is such an elegant, posh room and it is packed with powerhouse business women; talk about intimidating! Perhaps that's why the complimentary champagne was conveniently located right at the entrance. But what else would you expect at a Ladies Who Lunch event, especially one that is celebrating 10,000 members!
I'm always a little nervous at these things. I'm still just getting started and I don't know many people well yet. That always disappears quickly though, as there is never a shortage of thoughtful ladies ready to take you under their wing. On this night, the lovely Debra Fett was by my side as I dropped my business card into the bowl and pulled out one of the exclusive martini key tag gifts, that happened to have been made by Debra. Soon I was in the thick of it with champagne, oysters and ladies chatting eagerly.
Coming to these events sort of feels like when you go home at Christmas when you're single. Your mom pulls you around the room introducing you to all the other single friends and neighbours, unabashedly bragging about your great qualities. "Oh have you met Cait? She just launched a wedding planning business and you're a photographer. You two should talk!" Followed by a knowing smile and a sudden need to run off and check on something. Except it's ten times better because you actually want to talk to these people!
Then of course come the surprises. First a few gift draws which have become commonplace at these gatherings. Just your standard shopping sprees, fancy nights out on the town and general luxury spoils. Then come the announcements, which are always ground-breaking and heard first at these exclusive events. Catherine had her own exciting news that she'll be working in conjunction with the three museums: Science & Technology, Aviation and Agriculture and is working on an exciting, unique Star Trek Exhibition, Start Fleet Academy Experience.
Ottawa's beloved, Carol Anne Meehan took the stage next to announce that she will be launching a blog all about Ottawa local news and stories, and even a video section bringing back the Celebration Files. LWL's own Meg Stickl and Michelle Bourdeau-Halverson from AIM Fitness will even be featured on the new blog discussing their new fitness classes AIM Fido- designed for dogs and their owners!
We also had two of the ladies from 2017 Ottawa in the house getting us pumped up for Canada's 150 celebration and to announce a few exciting details such as the Junos and Crushed Ice coming to Ottawa next year! These are exciting times in the nation's capital and these ladies had the best inside scoop. There are so many ways for local business to get involved and one great suggestion was to paint your storefront window in the 2017 flag colours.
Nikki Lafromboise was also present to talk about how she is reinventing glamping. You thought air conditioning and a comfortable bed was impressive? That is nothing compared to what Nikki has in store for you! Try a getaway in the stunning heart of the Ottawa Valley with all the luxurious amenities of a hotel while being surrounded by the beauty of nature!
Two very inspirational women, Gwen Madiba and Julie Beun, took the stage to speak about the upcoming Black History Month Gala, which will take place on February 20th at the Canadian Museum of History. Gwen was a student at the University of Ottawa when she came up with the gala's concept and was encouraged to pursue the project by former Governor General Michaëlle Jean. Members of the Mandela family will be present and will be awarding Mandela Legacy Honours during the gala.
To conclude the evening, Catherine announced a monthly event in partnership with Strathmere called My Day. This unique event is designed to give women who are fighting cancer the chance to get away from everything and have a luxurious retreat and spa day in the beautiful setting of North Gower. Nothing says Ladies Who Lunch like incredible initiatives giving back to the community.
What an incredible evening it was!
I often hear people asking whether these events are worth their time or their money. I hear people say that it's just a big clique and since they aren't in the "inner circle" there is no point in going. I can't emphasize how wrong that notion is and how valuable these events have been. Without events like The Waterfront Series, I wouldn't have learned where to focus my energies, manage my budget, and promote by business. Thanks to this event I was able to avoid many common mistakes that are made when people are just starting out. Without The Engagement I wouldn't have been exposed to such a wide variety of vendors who are crucial to the success of my business. Without The Shore Club's event I wouldn't have come home with 27 new business cards, 6 new facebook friends, 11 new page likes, 3 new twitter followers, and even potential new clients. I went to the event alone, I barely knew anyone, and my business is not even two months old. I thought I would stick out like a sore thumb and stand awkwardly in a corner by myself all night but I was welcomed in immediately and had a great evening getting to know like-minded women. To make sure it had nothing to do with the delicious cookies I brought from Cutie Cakes and Sweets I asked around and the feeling was mutual.
Some come join the 10k circle; there's room for everyone!
Author: Cait O'Malley, Owner of Bourbon & Bloom
Photography: Anna Epp Photography