Community Futures Middlesex proudly hosted its highly anticipated 2024 International Women’s Day Symposium and Luncheon on March 8th, 2024, at the Lucan Biddulph Community Centre. Marking the first in-person gathering since 2020, the event also reached a global audience through live streaming on the organization’s social media platforms, thanks to the expertise of their partners at Tractus Events.

The morning commenced with a warm welcome from Cindy Viner, Business and Loans Advisor at Community Futures Middlesex, alongside Aina DeViet, Warden of Middlesex County and Mayor of Middlesex Centre, and Lianne Rood, Member of Parliament for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. Facilitated by Heather Lalonde, Development Commissioner for the Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc, attendees were treated to an enlightening fireside chat featuring three remarkable female entrepreneurs: Deb McCoy of Fresh Skin Therapy, Alla Shevchuk of Alla’s Perogies & Bakery Cafe, and Susan Judd of Ride the Bine.

Dallas Barnes, Founder and CEO of Reya Health, then captivated the audience with an insightful presentation on the concept of Femtech, shedding light on the vast opportunities for innovation in women’s health.¬†Michele Sands, Business Developer/Job Coach of Community Employment Choices, followed with a stimulating discussion on women’s leadership and mentorship, featuring Cathy Burghardt-Jesson, Mayor for the Township of Lucan-Biddulph and Deputy Warden for Middlesex County, Sheri Doxtator of Doxtator Enterprises, and Gitanjali Aggarwal of the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise.

After a delightful lunch and networking session, Todd Copeland, General Manager of Community Futures Middlesex, shared the organization’s impactful initiatives, paving the way for Filomena Tassi, Member of Parliament for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, to express her gratitude for the event and emphasize the pivotal role of female entrepreneurs in rural communities. Singer-songwriter Emm Gryner then graced the stage with an engaging keynote, incorporating music and audience participation to uplift spirits.

Fraser Macdonald, Board Chair of Community Futures Middlesex, brought the event to a close with heartfelt remarks, expressing appreciation to sponsors, partners, and attendees for their support. Notably, the event’s success was made possible by the generous contributions of sponsors like Libro Credit Union, Siskinds LLP, McFarlan Rowlands Insurance Brokers, Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board, and Angels Childcare.

The event also featured local partners and vendors from rural Middlesex County, including Let it Brie Charcuterie, Dessert First Bakery Cafe, Muggs Coffee Bar & Clayroom, Proofline Creamery and Farm Market, Generations Cider Co., NE1 Spirits, Heeman’s, Little Brown Farm, and Indubitably. Other local, regional, national partners included the Middlesex Workforce Development Partnership, Township of Lucan-Biddulph, Municipality of Middlesex Centre, and FedDev Ontario.

With the help of media partners like Social Edge Marketing, myFM 105.7 Strathroy, Villager Publications, Dodging Life Photography, and Tractus Events, Community Futures Middlesex was able to spread the word and host the event in a hybrid format smoothly. Moreover, the event extended its impact beyond the venue and virtual platforms, with a substantial cash and product donation of $1,500 supporting organizations such as the Women’s Rural Resource Centre, the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, and Nokee Kwee.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of various sponsors, partners, speakers, and participants, the event was an incredible way to inspire inclusion, foster community engagement, and empower women across Middlesex County.