THUNDER BAY - Helping women achieve a dream of owning a small business does not just help one individual, it helps build an entire community, a goal one local organization has been working toward for the past 25 years.
“Without the small business in Canada and in our community our economy would not be where it is today,” said Rosalind Lockyer, founder and CEO of the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise. “If we had more small business, it would be even better. I think women do business and community well. I think that is a talent they have and has been a huge part of Paro’s success, to not only build business but build community as well.”
This year, PARO is celebrating its 25th anniversary and on Sunday it handed out its annual Alumni Award to Perfect Fit Lingerie owner, Suzan Cooper Rochon.
“It’s really an honour to receive the PARO Alumni Award,” Cooper Rochon said. “It’s hard to believe our business has been in business for 12 years. It’s in large part due to the support that we’ve had from our community and the great people working with us and the support from family.”
Cooper Rochon said when she first had the idea of opening her own professional bra fitting store 12 years ago, she wasn’t sure how to start or where to turn to for help.
“So I walked into PARO and they helped me with a business plan and got my business going forward. After five years we were able to expand,” she said. “I think it’s amazing. All the women Paro has helped over the years. Its 25 years now. PARO helps women with support, with business plans, different programs that help with training, and supporting women and encouraging women and building them up. It’s wonderful.”
Over the years, PARO has helped 19,933 women in the region start or grow a business. Lockyer said she is very proud of the organizations accomplishments over the years, and it would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the women, the staff, the board, and supporters in the community.
“A business is about serving your community, serving your customers, we encourage women right from the beginning when they are doing their business plan,” Lockyer said. “We also encourage them how they can make an influence for the better in the community. I think our alumni winner this year demonstrates that really well in how she has worked with the waterfront district board to build this area and encourage more women businesses to open shops in the area.”
“It makes me very proud to have a relationship with all these women business owners and I’m so happy to be able to recognize them and therefore let the community recognize what they have achieved,” Lockyer continued.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, PARO will be hosting the PAROBiz25th Event and Awards Gala on Nov. 7 at the Valhalla Inn. The event will include a tradeshow, workshops, training sessions, and the Award Gala will feature Cree singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie. For more information and tickets, visit the PARO website.