By Glenn Alderson
VANCOUVER – It makes sense that the inaugural year of the Re/Form Conference would be held in the heart of the Squamish Valley under the roof of the stunning architecture of the Cheakamus Centre, surrounded by trees, just steps away from the flowing Squamish River. Re/Form is branded as a conference for creative people and ideas were most definitely flowing as more than 100 individuals from all different walks of life converged to partake in the two days of activities on March 28 and 29. With a thoughtfully curated program of presentations, creative and business-focused panels and breakout sessions, Re/Form covered topics ranging from gender diversity in the workplace, how to activate brands through social media and public relations strategies in a digital world.
“We haven’t seen anything out there that is a conference focused on small businesses,” says co-founder Shannon Lorenz. “Usually they are quite focused at a corporate level. Myself, personally, I just try to do my own personal growth and I’ve always struggled with finding the right fit for that.”
Re/Form was born out of the Refresh market in the Squamish Valley, a farmers market/flea market hybrid which was started seven years ago and consists of vendors of independent brands, small business owners, makers and artisans. Through the success of that, the founders decided to take it to the next level with the community they established by creating a space for people to connect in another environment to learn and be inspired.
The first day of Re/Form was focused on building businesses through networking with breakout sessions that consisted of yoga, breathing exercises and a guided forest walk that brought the attention back to nature and the indigenous lands that the conference was inhabiting.
Day two started out on an inspirational high note with guest speaker Paulina Cameron talking about the evolution of leadership. A genuine role model for entrepreneurs looking to get their footing in the world, Cameron commanded the attention of everyone in the room as she shared her stories of how she incorporates her entrepreneurial spirit while also juggling the life stresses of being a mother and a wife and, at the same time, striving for equality amongst her peers in the workplace. Connor published a book in November 2017 called Canada 150 Women: Conversations with Leaders, Champions, and Luminaries, which shines a light on 150 outstanding women in our country who have persevered and continue to shine in leadership roles, inspiring future generations to continue tipping the scale while breaking the mold of the perpetually male dominated business environment of the past.
Almost 95 per cent of the people who attended the conference were women, which wasn’t exactly intentional according to Lorenz, as she would like to see a healthy mix of both men and women actively engaged and talking about issues in the business landscape together, working towards creative solutions. However, it’s undeniable that Re/Form has created a safe space to focus on equality and diversity in entrepreneurship.
“I think right now there is a trend in female entrepreneurs and maybe they are just looking for that extra outlet of motivating themselves and taking their business to the levels,” says Lorenz. “This isn’t just for entrepreneurs though. So many of us work for small businesses. So you might not be an entrepreneur but you might work for a small business and for you to understand that entire environment I think is really important.”
Inviting creative minds from Vancouver and surrounding areas, there were representatives from Small Business BC, independent copywriters, senior journalists, publicists and public relations specialists. All of these people were brought together to share their experience and ideas while inspiring new ways of thinking for the eager attendees who were looking to find a place for themselves in myriad aspects of the business world.
“I love creating community,” Lorenz says. “So I really hope we’ve created a new community of inspired business owners and employees within the small business sector. We are really hoping to continue growing and have people come year after year to cultivate new relationships while connecting with nature.”
For more information about Re/Form and how you can get involved in their next event, visit www.reformconference.ca