This is my third year covering the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs Gala; each year, the theme and guest speaker changes however the message and camaraderie don’t.
This year, a La Dolce Vita theme was chosen to highlight the 11th annual event that raises funds to help support women in their journey to entrepreneurship.
A silent auction was held throughout the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel’s ballroom lobby while an accordionist entertained guests.
By 6 pm, the room was fully packed with women (and men) from all industries, mingling and networking over wine and canapés.
[eBay Canada founder/Gilt Groupe's Alexis Maybank]
I had a few moments to sit inside the beautifully decorated ballroom with keynote speaker Alexis Maybank. Alexis started eBay Canada in 1999, leaving the US for one year to live in Toronto. She’s currently part of the Gilt Groupe duo, an online shopping site currently worth over $1 billion dollars with more than five million members. Together with fellow New York City mom Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, they started with a combined passion for sample sale shopping that’s led to an enormously popular “flash sale” e-commerce site. Gilt Groupe is now the go-to source for online fashion deals.
[Alexis Maybank, Emcee Monika Deol, Pamela Martin]
Alexis has a business background, and spent the 90’s in Silicon Valley, honing her e-commerce, product development, and marketing background. She’s all about creating online experiences.
As I spoke with Alexis, it dawned on me that even though last night was her first Canadian speaking engagement, she does as much as possible to support female entrepreneurs as a member of New York City’s FWE. She’s also involved with two organizations, Springboard Enterprises (on the Media/Tech Council), and Girls Who Code (on the Board of Directors), fostering high school girls to continue their tech/coding interests, even though “it’s not cool”.
And if that’s not time consuming enough, she’s recently been added to the Audubon Society’s board of directors.
We also bonded over our former beloved San Francisco neighbourhood, Noe Valley, and learned that we lived about four blocks away from one another (though at different time periods)! Alexis is an easy-going, soft-spoken woman who’s given a tremendous amount of her time and talent to several organizations throughout the States.
[Christina Anthony, CFA, Premier Christy Clark, Gilt Groupe's Alexis Maybank]
The evening continued with a delicious supper and live auction. Premier Christy Clark gave a speech at this year’s gala as well. Clark’s most memorable comment? “I believe that government should get out of the way of entrepreneurs like you”, with regard to Alexis Maybank. Alexis seemed to engage the Twitter crowd as well, proclaiming “It’s no longer OK to have a 30 second pitch. Find a way to get your message out in 5 to 10 seconds”.
As if 140 characters weren’t hard enough to formulate a brilliant thought.
The sold out gala saw over 500 attendees. That’s truly amore.