I was invited to attend a roundtable discussion with Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation. It was at the Small Business Enterprise Centre on Bronte Rd, Oakville, which is a great place for business owners to go for support and information.
You can check them out at www.halton.ca or call 1-866-442-5866 for more information.
Anyway, back to the roundtable. I was rather intimidated about attending a meeting with well-educated business owners and politicians. I finished High School (in the UK) and took a bookkeeping course at Sheraton College, and that was all the formal education I have had – the rest I know from learning on the job and through life experiences. I had decided not to go because I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but Catharine Frith from the Centre persuaded me that I should be there. I finally said, why not, I’ve faced the Dragons on the Dragons’ Den, so it couldn’t be any scarier that that! And if nothing else, I can just listen to everyone and not open my mouth….. yeah right, as if that’s going to happen.
I started to think about what issues I had and decided on 2, one was about a certain licence that I thought I needed – but didn’t, and the other one was the issue of ADP (Assistive Device Program) only giving grants to ladies who buy a breast prosthesis made of silicone. Even though it was really the Ministry of Health’s jurisdiction I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to bring it up. It’s still the Government, right? I started to get more excited about attending and ended up determined to be heard.
I arrived (first to arrive, by the way) to the hustle and bustle of the “Open For Business” organizers getting the room ready. I was warmly welcomed and started to feel more relaxed. I found my seat and realized I was sitting next to Keith West, the Assistant Deputy Minister. After introductions, I cheekily asked if I could have a photo of myself and him, for my blog, which he gladly agreed to. I then introduced myself to the gentleman on my right, and found myself completely at ease talking to him. He was such a nice man, anyway, after telling him about my business, he said he wanted to help me (he actually reminded me of Laurence Lewin from the DD, he had the same kind eyes). He said he wants to introduce me to some people who can help me with my business, so we will connect after the meeting. AND I DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO THE MEETING!!
The Minister then came round to each of us and introduced himself, he said that I am in a very important business – I agreed! We then got down to business, and he asked who wanted to start, there was a few seconds of silence, so I said I wanted to – in reality I just wanted to make sure that my issues were heard. I expressed my concerns about the unnecessary licence, I won’t bore you with the details, but they did take notes. Then other people spoke and the discussions got underway.
Time was flying by and then they said we had 10 mins left. A man started telling them his concerns and took up the whole 10 mins, so then they said the meeting would wrap up. I sat concerned that I hadn’t brought up the issue of ADP, so I asked the Minister if I could say one last thing – he jokingly said no, then said “of course”. I then got into my concerns about Ontario breast cancer survivors not being able to get help if they chose a breast prosthesis that wasn’t silicone and yet in many other provinces they were allowed a choice. I showed my passion for supporting women’s free choice and even thumped my fist on the table saying “these women need to have what boobs they want”. I must say it probably looked rather funny, but I know I got my point across, because after the meeting ended Keith turned to me and said he wants to help me get in touch with someone high up in the Ministry of Health. Then I was approached by a Senior Policy Advisor from Brad’s Office who said that she wanted to help me, too.
I couldn’t believe it, there I was, reluctant to attend this meeting and now I have all these offers of help. I will keep you updated about my progress.
It just goes to show that sometimes things happen for a reason (I don’t always believe that but in this case I was obviously “meant” to go to this meeting). So thanks to Catharine from the Centre, I owe you!