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United around the globe to foster international trade and the advancement of women in business.


OWIT-Toronto wants to provide you with current and valuable news and resources on a regular bases. We do this through our site as well as through our monthly newsletter. Sign up today to receive these in your inbox.

  • Monday, October 31, 2022 6:31 PM | Anonymous

    OWIT-Toronto is proud to recognize the achievements of women who, through their careers and personal commitments, foster international trade and the advancement of women. 

    We are now accepting nominations for the 2022 Export Awards for:

    - Excellence Award for Leadership in International Trade

    - Women Exporter of the Year

    - Student of International Trade

    Nominate your favourite leader, exporter and student here ! The deadline for nominations is Saturday,  November 19, 2022.  

    We are excited to be hosting our Export Awards in person on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre (OITC), 250 Yonge Street, Eaton Centre, Toronto, from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm.

    Watch our Events Calendar further details !

    Please contact Helen Hemmingsen if you have any questions or need further information.

  • Tuesday, October 25, 2022 12:53 AM | Arsheen Kaur (Administrator)

    (This article was originally published in FITT's Trade Ready Blog available here.)

    By now, we are all probably well aware of the economic turmoil caused by the COVID 19 pandemic and the knock-on effects it has had, and continues to have, on global value chains.

    The importance of building a resilient supply chain has become a top issue for businesses with international reach.

    Businesses of all sizes have been affected all around the world, from Ikea’s empty warehouses to bare grocery store shelves. This has exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains and value chains.

    We’ve seen the increasing international fragmentation of production processes and also the changes that they’ve had on the structure of global trade overall.

    Simultaneously, the trade pressures for companies engaged in international trade to build supply chains with full traceability and accountability for social and environmental impact continues to build.

    Companies are currently challenged to make their global supply chains more resilient without weakening their competitiveness in the marketplace.

    We teamed up with our partners at OWIT-Toronto to host a webinar to discuss how this can be achieved. In this recap article we’ll go through some practical steps that small businesses can take to respond and act upon today’s supply challenges.

    And we’ll also talk through how to set up strong supplier relationships and mitigation plans that will help to prevent disruption and delays.


    Rashpal Uppal-Assi, CITP – Manager, Procurement Services Division, Town of Stouffville

    Rashpal is a seasoned professional with expertise in supply chain management, international business learning design, and academia spanning over 15 years in serving public, private and non-profit organizations. She also founded her own strategic management consulting firm, working primarily with small and medium sized businesses and serves on the boards of three trade organizations.


    Amesika Baeta, CITP – District Manager, GTA West, Export Development Canada (EDC)

    Amesika manages a team of eight locally engaged account managers who work directly with Canadian exporters to offer knowledge, financing and risk mitigation strategies. She has 14+ years of experience in international trade and a proud CITP.

    Maryam Fouladirad – Founder & CEO, fundii

    Maryam has a wealth of international trade and development experience in the Middle East, Europe and North America. She received her MBA in London. She has experience in management consulting in FinTech, and the food and beverage manufacturing industries as well as direct trade in the U.S. with focus on entrepreneurship.

    Lora Rigutto, CITP – Loyalty and Engagement Manager, Forum for International Trade Training (FITT)Lora started her international trade career working for a foreign office trade commission based in Toronto. She brings experience from the procurement side for Canadian companies that are looking to procure from overseas. She is also a proud Certified International Trade Professional (CITP).

    Let’s start by talking about today’s international supply chain environment – what are some of the challenges to be aware of?

    Maryam: One of the main issues we’ve noticed over the past couple of years is logistics disruption. The labor shortages, the lack of proper raw materials for the manufacturers, and delays as a result.

    So that’s a chain that impacted from A to Z, the supply chain workflow around the world that impacted everyone from the manufacturers, to the freight forwarding companies, to both public and private sectors and at the end, the final consumers.

    Amesika: The key challenges that companies have faced have been the cost of inputs. This increase has been devastating in terms of understanding how they can price the costs. The increase in cost of inputs onto their customers while not hitting company’s margins has been a real challenge for companies.

    The cost of shipping and freight has gone up by, for some of our clients, three times, four times, where what used to be $5,000 to send the shipment is now $25,000, sometimes $50,000.

    Inventory management has been very challenging for companies to manage throughout this time, keeping up with the increased demand at the beginning in 2020 and 2021.

    And now in 2022 we’re entering a different stage of the pandemic, consumer spending has gone back down. As a result, companies are managing an overstock of inventory and have to figure out how to get rid of all this product while not taking a hit.

    And we’re also seeing the cost of financing rise due to the interest rate hikes, which will also have a huge impact on companies as we enter into 2023.

    For businesses that are setting up new resilient supply chains, or modifying their existing supply chains, where should they start building in that resiliency?

    Maryam: I often recommend three suppliers in every single market you are active in. And then you can prioritize them. Who is number one for you, number two and number three in terms of different products and the quality enterprises they have. These are the important points in selecting your suppliers and in negotiation.

    Amesika: It starts with creating an export plan and then having a backup plan, and then sometimes even having a backup plan to your backup plan.

    Through the process of creating an export plan you’ll assess your company’s financial position, human capital, the production capacities. Having a plan in place will be a great foundational work to help them determine what your needs are.

    And before all else, I encourage you to really understand your cash flow, understand your costs and how you’re going to finance this. Your suppliers may ask you for payment terms. You have to get the cash flow to pay them up front. And then, depending on the payment terms you have with your clients, your clients may pay you in 30 days, 60 days, sometimes 90 days.

    Before you engage in these relationships, it’s really important for you to know how much you can afford to pay your suppliers, and how long you can wait to be paid from your clients. And that is a key component to the successful implementation of a supply chain system for yourself.

    Maryam: Get all the information you can from Export Development Canada and the Trade Commissioners Service and their reports, but I highly recommend that all the business owners, as either an entrepreneur or SME, do your own research as well because it will really give you a better understanding regarding the market you’re expanding to. This is my recommendation, having a really good understanding regarding the market, and what has changed during the past two to three years due to COVID 19.

    How should small businesses in particular approach finding new international suppliers to create a more resilient supply chain?

    Lora: Let’s say you want to procure from a market and find foreign suppliers. Sounds so easy, right? But the truth is that you need a roadmap to do that. You need to become strategic about sourcing and procurement.

    And learning to navigate through some of those complexities is what FITT can really help you with. FITT’s Global Value Chain course gives you a comprehensive look at supply chain management.  There are different units within that course that teach you what to look for when you’re searching for foreign suppliers. How do you do a cost-benefit analysis? How do you really determine what you can afford to pay for those goods and inputs

    Or if you don’t have time to learn a new skill set yourself, set your team up with the needed training to have the skills within your business to be able to do a proper cost benefit analysis.

    If you go in blindly, often areas are overlooked. And let’s say you start to procure from a foreign supplier, but you don’t do your due diligence because you don’t know what to look for. Those mistakes can be really, really costly.

    Amesika: As a small business, you can’t be everything, right? Doing the analysis of where your gaps are as a business will empower you to know where you can go to get help. And don’t forget that you can also lean into your community. 

    Often suppliers are found through referrals, by speaking with people, going to trade shows, asking where people find products.

    If you find a supplier from a Google search, you don’t know much about them, there might not be much on their website. But you can ask them to produce references for companies that they’ve worked with.

    If you don’t have the budget to fly there to see their actual production, that’s one way that you can get around that. But honestly, if you want to save yourself a lot of headaches down the road, fly there to meet the companies that you want to do business with.

    I know for a lot of small businesses don’t have the resources to do that, but there is a program called CanExport that’s run through the Trade Commissioner Service. It’s a government grant program that helps subsidize the costs of small businesses that are looking at entering into certain markets around the world. I highly recommend you look into that program to help you subsidize some of those costs.

    Maryam: One of the best sources that Canadian companies can use to find suppliers is to contact the commercial section of the embassy of that foreign country in based in Canada.

    That’s their job exactly, much like trade commissioners, helping Canadian companies to find their suppliers. They can also help you in translation if there is some sort of a language barrier or cultural issue. 

    Let’s talk about negotiating with suppliers – what are some pointers you can give for negotiating payment terms and contract details with suppliers?

    Maryam: It’s an art, we need to develop it.

    There are a lot of resources out there that you’ll want to tap into regarding the cultural ethics, the how to negotiate with different countries, what is important for them. Building trust is crucial, and another reason why flying to meet them in person can be so important.

    But face time, even in online meetings is a good way to build trust with them. Do the work in vetting the supplier – ask for samples, test them, check their payment terms.

    Negotiation skills also get better with practice. It’s a skill that people can learn. There are a lot of resources available, from Youtube to major universities, that teach negotiation skills. I would suggest people just watch those videos, give it time, practice it, see the result.

    Amesika: You have to remember at the end of the day, you have to look out for your own company. I would always say this to my clients when I was an account manager; if somebody is looking to put food on the table, whose table are they going to put food on? They’re going to worry about themselves. 

    Get the expertise. If you don’t have the expertise in a certain area, educate yourself to empower yourself to make the right decisions. Get good legal advice too. Make sure your contracts are well structured from the beginning and very clear in terms of who’s responsible for what.

    Lora: You need to have confidence to go into negotiations, whether you’re negotiating with a potential buyer for your product or negotiating with a supplier.

    Partner with your logistics provider or your freight forwarder, they have the expertise. Before you agree to a price that has an Incoterm, understand what that Incoterm really means to you and your obligations as a buyer.

    It all comes back to being prepared. In a negotiation, if they’re quoting a certain term or a certain price with an Incoterm, you could be in a position to say, it’s the first time I’m dealing with you as a supplier, I’m not comfortable with buying “FOB”.

    If you don’t have the answers, partner with somebody that knows more than you do. And don’t agree to anything that you’re, you’re not comfortable with. Be willing to negotiate and have your reasons for not accepting that price with that Incoterm.

    How can a small business without the resources of a large corporation diversify and create a more resilient supply chain?How can they mitigate any risks and avoid disruption for their customers?

    Maryam: Make use of all the help and resources available to you from the TCS, EDC, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and the embassies. Go to trade shows and build your network, build those relationships.

    Another really good source regarding Incoterms and finding the best route is freight forwarders and shipping companies. They know everything regarding Incoterms and they can be really helpful for entrepreneurs.

    Amesika: EDC provides risk mitigation strategies. If you’ve got a company that you’ve never done business with before that’s emailed you, you’re worried about giving them payment terms, whether it be net 15, net 30, net 60 day terms, even net 90 in some cases. 

    But the reality of getting paid up front is just not possible for a lot of companies. EDC does offer a variety of insurance solutions to cater to what your needs are, depending on how large you are, and depending on the size of your contract as well.

    We have an online insurance solution called select credit insurance, where you can go online, apply for a credit limit through our system, we will do a credit check on that company and then advise you as to whether we can insure that company or not.

    You can get a quote from us and then determine whether you want to pay for the insurance or not. And there’s no minimum size. This is ideal for companies who have the occasional order here or there, in a small amount. And it’s a way to educate yourself.

    Lora: I’ve been mentoring a company with an e-commerce model for the past nine months. And their biggest issue was shipping costs. My recommendation to them was to actually reach out to the small business solutions division of their courier. 

    Most couriers have a small business solutions department, and they understand the unique challenges of small businesses. They have the tools and resources and can provide guidance on how to avoid some of the risks of the particular products that are being shipped or the products that you’re trying to procure.

    Amesika: The more informed that you are, the more you are empowered to make the appropriate decisions for your company. 

    It goes right back to the importance of having a plan and then having a backup plan for that plan, and most likely be prepared to change that plan again in six months or even a year.

  • Sunday, October 23, 2022 4:22 PM | Arsheen Kaur (Administrator)

    The Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) is collaborating with Export Development Canada (EDC) and Coralus (formerly SheEO) to offer the Growing Global Activator Cohort, a 12‑month long program curated to help woman or non‑binary owned companies to grow globally.  

    You will notably:  

    • participate in cohort sessions including networking opportunities, expert panel discussions and workshops 
    • receive a 1:1 introduction to a regional Trade Commissioner for a session to support your specific international growth needs 
    • benefit from knowledge and resources focused on growing your business globally as a women or non‑binary owner

    The next cohort will start in January 2023.

    Applications will close on November 13th at 11:59pm EST.  

    Learn more and apply to join the Growing Global Activator Cohort today.

    You're ready to grow. We're ready to help.  

    The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service helps Canadian businesses grow by connecting them with its funding and support programs, international opportunities and its network of Trade Commissioners in more than 160 cities worldwide.  

  • Wednesday, September 21, 2022 3:34 PM | Arsheen Kaur (Administrator)

    BMO Financial Group, in collaboration with Deloitte Canada, today announced the continuation of its BMO Celebrating Women Grant Program pledging $150,000 in grants to support the high-level growth plans of 12 women-owned businesses across Canada.

    Among banks in Canada, BMO has led the way by establishing a dedicated bank-wide program for women. With a decades-long commitment to removing barriers to women's empowerment, championing the advancement of women, and promoting an inclusive market, BMO has taken a close look at women's unique needs and created programs and initiatives that are important to them. BMO understands that the future depends on empowering more women. 

    Through the longest-standing, bank-led recognition program for women in North America – BMO Celebrating Women – and inspired by our Purpose, to Boldly Grow the Good in business and in life, including our commitment to double support for women-led businesses, BMO is inviting women business owners to share their high-level business growth plans and apply for one of 12 grants:

    • one grant of $20,000 CAD
    • four grants of $15,000 CAD
    • seven grants of $10,000 CAD

    In addition to these grants, BMO offers a comprehensive package to all recipients that includes an exclusive webinar series focused on business growth, the opportunity to join certain organizations and/or advisory boards, a profile on bmoforwomen.com, and a BMO Celebrating Women Grant Recipient social badge.

    Applications open September 26, 2022 and close October 17, 2022.

    "Through the BMO Celebrating Women Grant Program, we continue to drive our commitment to close the funding gap and provide meaningful capital to women business owners," said Christine Cooper, Head, Canadian Commercial Banking. "This year, we are recognizing women-owned businesses that are boldly growing their businesses and, in turn, strengthening the Canadian economy. We are proud to offer these grants and remove barriers for women-owned businesses and help those already leading positive change in their communities to grow the good."

    "Women-owned businesses are a driving force of the Canadian economy, and by providing these entrepreneurs and leaders with access to capital today, we're ensuring the prosperity of their businesses and our global competitiveness," said Linda Blair, Chief Experience Officer, Deloitte Canada. "We're pleased to be working with BMO on this initiative, not only to support women in business, but to inspire others, and we look forward to its positive impact for generations to come."

    To assist with the grant recipient selection process, BMO is collaborating with strategic partners to form this year's Advisory Panel of Judges.

    BMO has a long history of programs and partnerships to support and empower women:

    • Earmarked $5 billion in capital over five years to women entrepreneurs in 2022, building on the commitment of $2 billion in 2014 and $3 billion in 2018.

    • Committed $1.2 million in funding to Coralus (formerly SheEO), a not-for-profit company which offers financial support to businesses led by women-identifying and non-binary people. BMO's financial commitment allowed Coralus to fund all 2021 venture applicant companies working to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

    • Launched a $750 million Women in Business Bond solution with proceeds being allocated toward women-owned enterprises as defined in BMO's Sustainable Financing Framework, including micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

    • Set new diversity goals for senior leader and executive roles through its Zero Barriers to Inclusion 2025 strategy, including maintaining its leadership in gender diversity with at least 40 per cent of senior leader roles filled by employees who identify as women.

    To learn more about the Canadian Grant Program, visit bmoforwomen.com.

  • Monday, September 19, 2022 4:30 PM | Anonymous

    The OWIT-Toronto and FITT partnership will further support women in acquiring practical skills and know-how on the complexities of doing business in respective international markets.

    Equally to building proficiency and skills in international trade, it provides the opportunity to tap into OWIT-Toronto’s global networks, resources and export education to support businesses going global. OWIT-Toronto and OWIT members can register to access the 40% off FITT online courses and workshops or contact info@owit-toronto.ca for more information.

    Non-members can sign up to be part of a dynamic world-wide organization advancing women in international trade and take advantage of the robust training offers. 

  • Wednesday, September 14, 2022 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    We are looking for two Co-VP Communications to join our volunteer Board. 

    This is an exciting opportunity to develop board governance skills for non-profit organizations.  You can draw on a range of experience and talents.

    As Co-VP Communications, you will coordinate our quarterly newsletter, manage event postings on our website, update our website, and manage social media. You will have a team to support you. 

    A listing of current board members can be viewed at: www.owit-toronto.ca/board_members

    Please contact Helen Hemmingsen for further information.

  • Friday, September 09, 2022 2:00 PM | Arsheen Kaur (Administrator)
    OWIT-Toronto is partnering with the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) to build and enhance women’s global business skills, expertise and knowledge. The partnership seeks to leverage existing resources, expertise and capabilities to empower women in global markets with key information, knowledge and up-to-date international issues on accessing global markets and advancing profitable competition.

    FITT is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing international business training, resources and professional certification to individuals and businesses. FITT’s international business training solutions have become the standard of excellence for global trade professionals across Canada and around the world. 

    Established in 1992 through a joint initiative of the Canadian government and private sector, FITT is now an authoritative standards body for international trade certification, accreditation and training. FITT’s Certified International Trade Professional - CITP® | FIBP® designation is the standard of excellence for global business practitioners worldwide. As part of the partnership with OWIT-Toronto, FITT is currently offering a 40% discount for OWIT members on all online courses and workshops

    “Cross-border business is complicated, even more-so following the onset of the pandemic and the related supply chain disruption and great resignation. For businesses making the leap into global markets, know-how is survival. Through this partnership, connecting women to the right training to properly address the risks, plan strategically, and avoid costly errors will empower them to become high-performers for their organizations and improve retention. And this is crucial for building export-capable businesses and people worldwide,” said Caroline Tompkins, CITP, President & CEO of FITT

    Helen Hemmingsen, Board Director and past President of OWIT-Toronto Chapter, warmly welcomed this collaboration. “OWIT-Toronto is very pleased to partner with FITT to upskill and advance women’s abilities in global trade. Recognizing that skills development is key to more inclusive international trade, this partnership advancing global business knowledge will support our members to more effectively integrate into global markets,” Helen said. “With the dynamism of global trade, upskilled women exporters and service providers will have the ability to reap more benefits from global trade”.

    The OWIT-Toronto and FITT partnership will further support women in acquiring practical skills and know-how on the complexities of doing business in respective international markets. Equally to building proficiency and skills in international trade, it provides the opportunity to tap into OWIT-Toronto’s global networks, resources and export education to support businesses going global. OWIT-Toronto and OWIT members can register to access the 40% off FITT online courses and workshops or contact info@owit-toronto.ca for more information. Non-members can sign up to be part of a dynamic world-wide organization advancing women in international trade and take advantage of the robust training offers. 

  • Thursday, August 25, 2022 11:28 AM | Anonymous

    A development communications and creative professional, Arsheen has experience in strategic communications and marketing, content strategy, social media management, and stakeholder relationships. Having worked with non-profits and think tanks over the last few years, she has been engaged in the conception and delivery of projects curated for diverse audiences and timelines, partnership building, and in driving engagement through various forms of traditional and digital communication tools.

    Arsheen is passionate about development communications and using the tool to advance conversations around gender equality and inclusion.

    She is currently working as Communications and Marketing Associate at the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization. Previously, she was engaged in different roles in outreach, project management, and stakeholder relationships, in Programs and Strategic Initiatives at Skills for Change.

    She is an independent writer and poet, and her work has been published in The Bombay Review, The Wire, Café Dissensus, Live Wire, and The Quint among others.

    She is a film studies and English literature (Hons) graduate from Jamia Millia Islamia, India.

  • Monday, August 22, 2022 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    Julie Bednarski is a dynamic and energetic entrepreneur with almost ten years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. She has always had a passion for food and wellness and believes that health and happiness all start in the kitchen. Julie’s education includes Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph and a Master of Health Science in Nutrition Communication at Ryerson University. Julie went on to complete her dietetic internship to become a Registered Dietitian with the College of Dietitians in Ontario.

    In 2012, Julie followed her passion for culinary arts, as she attended the Chef’s Training Program culinary in New York City at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Following her culinary training, Julie went on to work at various restaurants throughout North America to refine and further develop her culinary skills.

    In July 2014, Julie started Healthy Crunch – as a way to satisfy her craving for super crunchy kale chips that were BIG in size and BIG in flavor. She started recipe development in her home kitchen and within 1 year, Julie had expanded to own her own commercial snack food manufacturing facility. Healthy Crunch’s mission is to innovate everyday foods making them better for you, while still being super delicious. With Julie’s ambition for success Healthy Crunch grew to have over 25,000 points of distribution within Canada within the first 2 years in business. Healthy Crunch now distributes their products throughout the world including Canada, USA, Europe, and the Middle East. Since the start of her business, Julie continues to expand Healthy Crunch’s product lines to include coconut chips, trail mix, granola bars, rice crispy squares, chia jam, seed butter, instant lattes, kale chips, dark chocolate superfoods, and chocolate chips. Julie is proud to be a woman entrepreneur and a certified Women-Owned Business.


  • Friday, July 29, 2022 6:25 PM | Anonymous

    New chapters to expand your global network…virtual happy hours to connect with members around the world…a celebration of OWIT small businesses….this and more from OWIT International. Here are some highlights:

    • Welcome aboard to OWIT Ecuador and OWIT South Africa, two new chapters joining the OWIT International family this spring.

    • Virtual happy hours called Happy-Her-Hour for members are starting, which will be a great way to connect with other members around the world. Check events in the OWIT site in August for details on when and how to participate in the next one.

    • Washington, DC was the host city for the Spring board meeting that attracted chapter representatives from around the world.  The fall board meeting will take place in Geneva immediately following the WTO Public Forum the end of September. 

    • In honour of MSME Day, OWIT International hosted a virtual event in July that highlighted five selected SMEs from around the world. This event was the culmination of a month-long campaign throughout June aimed at recognizing and celebrating OWIT SME members from our 27 chapters in Africa, the Americas, and Europe.  The women honoured and featured included: Canada’s Barbara Mowat, President of GroYourBiz in B.C., Noreen Cesaro, Principal of Market Accents and President of the OWIT-UK chapter, Elizabeth Nwanko of Oakland Best in Nigeria and Leslie August, President of Fremont Peak Capitalin California.  

    • When asked by moderator Kezy Mukiri of Africa what role they foresaw OWIT playing in the future, the consensus was that OWIT can become the lead agency for entrepreneurs and policy for small business.  As Noreen put it, “There is great value in our power as a voice of women traders globally to put forward recommendations to our governments and the World Trade Organization. (WTO).  We are a huge resource that is underutilized. We need to look at programs where we can have impact.”  “International leadership is important for legislation and policy,” agreed Leslie.  “We can also help women anywhere learn and grow.  There is a wide swath of women on a continuum – from women with little access to resources and those who have access.  We can need to facilitate that transfer of knowledge across borders and connect to uplift all of us.”  Another key take-away summed up the value of OWIT membership: "There are great opportunities for linkages among us; we can form strategic alliances and collaborate," said Barbara. "Network with other chapters", added Elizabeth. "Your network is your net worth."

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