Being only my second networking event ever, and being held at the exclusive Arbutus Club, I’ll admit I was a little nervous about attending the Ladies Who Lunch event. In fact, I must have gone through my entire closet about five times trying to choose what to wear!
When I arrived, I was greeted warmly by Joanna Kritikos, Maria’s sister, who presented me with my delightful goodie bag, and took my business card for the lucky door prize draw. As I wandered through the doors (trying not to seem too out of place) my nerves jumped up a level. The room was gorgeous with delicate pink floral arrangements adorning the table centres, familiar jazz tunes floating through the room courtesy of the talented Karla Sax and impeccably dressed women oozed power as they worked the room.
‘Obviously everyone here knows each other’, I thought, ‘How will I work my way into the conversation?’ Too daunted to try, I chose a seat at one of the tables and waited for the rosé to give my confidence a boost, which thankfully it did because once I made the decision to just get out there, say hello and offer my business card to complete strangers, I met some of the most amazing women I have ever come across.
I was expecting, as often happens when you throw a bunch of women into a room together and lock the doors, that there would be a certain level of judgement and scrutiny between us. As Maria shared with the room, her goal was to create an event that allowed the women of Vancouver to support, encourage and nurture each other’s dreams, and she succeeded.
The room was full of such a positive energy, open respect of each other as women striving to succeed and inspirational stories to motivate us all. The afternoon began with a grounding exercise led by mind, body and spirit coach Zain Saraswati Jamal. This aimed to prepare us for the knowledge that was about to be shared with the whole room joining in a short mediation focused on concentrating our feminie chakras. At the end of this, we were asked to consider two questions that I had certainly never been asked;
What is your dream?
And what are you truly committed to?
From left to right: Aya Primbetova, Zain Saraswati Jamal, Maria Kritikos, Carey Melnichuk Marina Shishkina, Kim Appelt
Then came the ice-breaker. A fantastic exercise where Maria opened the microphone to the room to share names, current career titles, and why we were there. This not only showcased the extreme diversity of the room (from Sexperts to Olympic athletes) but also gave you an idea of some of the people you may want to network with later.
The first guest speaker was Sabrina Meherally who, as a graduate of the Beedie School of Business, realised less than a year into what she thought was her dream career that something was still missing. So she jumped on a plane to volunteer in South Africa and there she found her missing piece, her dream, to help others realise and achieve their full potential. She then went on to hold a senior volunteer leadership role with InnovativeCommunities.org. She spoke to us about her own journey to follow her dreams (she is self-confessed as having many) and the fulfilment she has found. Her biggest lesson: Only you can stop yourself from doing what you want, so hold yourself responsible for that inaction, and just do it! ‘Dreams will stay dreams as long as you are sleeping’, she told us.
Next the charismatic mother-preneur, author and world traveller Christina Waschko, showed us that dreams can change and evolve as she shared her story of hoping to one day own a beach café in the Caribbean, which turned into a bakery café in the small snobbish town of Bussum. Despite being put down by her friends and clientele, Christina fought on, learning from mistakes like not knowing how to run a business and showing her customers that she had what they wanted, they just didn’t know it until they tasted it.
Our final speaker was a woman who had the entire room holding their breath. Calli D. Meister, a celebrity wellness consultant and master holistic practitioner, who has dedicated her life to developing the strength within following her triumph over paralysis, and the tragedy that caused it, at just twenty years old. Her lesson to the room was to work on banishing the negative impacts in your life (be it shame or anger over a failed relationship or pain from a tragic childhood) in order to live only in the positive. Her final tip had the room standing in a champion stance (hands in the air like you’ve just won gold!) which encourages a rush of positive energy, a great practice for right before that job interview!
At the end of the day, it was clear there was one lesson that resonated with all three guest speakers: Nothing changes until something changes. So ask yourself this question: What would you do, if you knew you could not fail? Now take the risk and go out and do it!