Let’s take a trip back for a moment to 1997, when Titanic ruled the box office, the Spice Girls owned the airwaves, the first Harry Potter book lined the shelves, and no one could stop talking about Dolly, the first successfully cloned sheep. It was in this year that NLOWE was launched.
NLOWE is the successor to the Women’s Enterprise Bureau (WEB), which was established in 1989 and was the first organization of its kind in Canada. WEB’s mission was to assist potential women entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador. NLOWE expanded its mandate to include not only potential entrepreneurs but also existing businesses owned by women. The transition from WEB to NLOWE was proposed and accepted in a January 1997 board meeting, with a launch taking place later that year, in November at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s.
In 1997, NLOWE employed five regional facilitators to meet and assist women entrepreneurs throughout the province. Twenty years later, we have expanded to nine regional business advisors, who specialize in either Start-Up or Growth. Our Business Growth Advisor— Eastern, Paula Flood, has been working with NLOWE for 20 years. We have several other long-time employees as well, including Office Manager Judy Raske (19 years), Business Start-Up Advisor—Eastern Colette Crosbie (15 years), and Business Growth Advisor—Western/Labrador Marvella Wells (15 years).
NLOWE became a membership organization in December 1997, with 74 members within the first six months of the membership program. Today, we have over 400 members that include women business owners, community organizations, corporations, and individuals who support the goals of NLOWE and women’s entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador. Many of our members have continued to see the value of an NLOWE membership year after year. In fact, some of NLOWE’s original board members are still members of NLOWE today, including Barbara Genge, Tuckamore Lodge; Sharon Horan, FIT for Work; and Susan Hollett, Hollett & Sons Inc.
Since 1997, NLOWE’s board of directors has consisted of female business owners. In order to better reflect the governing of the organization, in 2001, the original name, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization for Women Entrepreneurs was changed to what we know it as today, Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs.
NLOWE has always been an organization of women helping women in business, and one way we do that is through regular communication with the entrepreneurs and business community we support. NLOWE’s first newsletter, NLOWE Link, was published in April 1998. Since then, the newsletter has grown into a quarterly magazine that offers articles on business development and issues important to our members. We also distribute a weekly email update to keep our members, clients, and partners apprised of important news items and events. Of course, such frequent updates were not an option for the organization in 1997, as, with the World Wide Web going public only six years earlier, email wasn’t widely used at the time. In fact, when NLOWE’s website was under development in 1997, printed copies of the site had to be distributed to board members for review, as many directors did not have Internet access at the time!
A lot has changed in the last twenty years, and we are proud of what we have accomplished in these past two decades. However, one thing remains the same: NLOWE is here to support, encourage, and connect the women business owners of Newfoundland and Labrador so that they can start, grow, and advance their businesses. So here’s to another 20 years of success for the women entrepreneurs of this province and another 20 years of NLOWE being a part of that journey!