By Nancy Saunders
The Elleiance Network Embraces the Benefits of Mentoring
Erin Sisko has a wealth of experience from the corporate world, having worked for close to 10 years as a senior account manager with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Her role involved commercial lending and supporting small and medium enterprises in accessing financing to grow their businesses. Sisko credits working closely with entrepreneurs for igniting her passion for finding additional ways to support female entrepreneurs. “I noticed in my portfolio of clients at the BDC, it was around 90% male run and owned. I wanted to figure out why that was. I learned a few things about additional roadblocks and challenges that women face, and that’s where I wanted to focus my energy going forward,” Sisko explains.
“I got to know their challenges and what was standing in the way of them growing their businesses the way they wanted to. Although money is one aspect, there’s a lot more that goes into growing a business. Through my time and experience, I always thought that I was really fortunate that I got to go behind the scenes of hundreds of local businesses, and really understand what makes them tick. What their challenges and opportunities are, what strategies work and which ones don’t, why some grow really fast and some don’t. I took all that knowledge and I’m harnessing it right now to really wanting to support women.”
The Ellieiance Network is Sisko’s first foray into entrepreneurship. The business’s mission is to support women in building the business of their dreams by properly connecting them to capital. Services include small monthly group mastermind meetings with 10-12 women entrepreneurs per group, where women talk about all things business and support each other in growing their businesses. There are currently around 60 women involved in the mastermind groups. In addition, The Elleiance Network holds monthly events and workshops, as well as weekly networking lunches. Other services include advisory board support, accountability coaching, a private LinkedIn group and an Angel Network of investors.
During Covid-19, Sisko adapted to providing all of her services online. She sees great benefits in connecting women entrepreneurs and wanted to ensure she was able to continue providing space for these meaningful interactions. “As much as my audience loves the in-person aspect of networking and connecting with other people, the desire to connect with people in any way was so strong. We were able to meet virtually through the pandemic, and over the last two years it was critical to the women involved. They at least had that way to connect,” she says. “While I thought it was going to be taking away, and be a Band-Aid and not be great, looking back, I just got so much positive feedback.”
In order to continue building The Elleiance Network’s online presence, Sisko accessed mentoring services through Digital TBay. Her first meeting was with squad member Dylan Uurainen and their session focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how to be more easily found by the ideal customer. Uurainen walked Sisko through setting up a free Google Business Profile. “[Dylan] set me up where now when you Google The Elleiance Network, it comes up with my address and my hours of operation. I had no idea about any of that, and now I look way more legit. He got me set up also on Google, where now I can go in and I have an account, and I can see the analytics: how many people went to my page, how long they stayed on each page. So I can start to build some data from that, and find areas on how I can maybe improve the web experience of the people who are interested. Those are the two main things that I got from my meeting with Dylan,” shares Sisko.
Sisko then met with squad member Palash Bakshi to access his expertise in videography and photography. She was pleasantly surprised at the support and progress achieved through their session. “I have a goal to start showing up on more video online. I have a lot to learn. [Palash] guided me through, and on the call we launched my first reel! He showed me how, every step of the way. To be supported through that—it sounds silly, but I don’t feel comfortable with it. So to have an expert showing me where to find the music, how to time it properly, ‘This is where you go and the buttons you press’ … I just put it out there, with him on the call!”
Palash also provided advice on apps to edit video and to optimize photos. “I now use the app for all of my photos, to make photos look cohesive, and it aligns with the brand a little bit more. He showed me how to use it and what it can do,” says Sisko.
Sisko shares some inspiring and practical words of advice to people thinking of starting a new business. “I started my business as a free side hustle, and as I went along it gave me the courage. I proved my concept to myself while I still had the security of my job and its paycheque. My advice is, that if you have a dream and you can, in any small way, launch something on the side, go slowly until you know you can do it. It will build your confidence, and you’ll know that there is a market.”
Sisko also recommends that local business owners access the free mentoring services provided by Digital TBay. “I would definitely use it again. I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t use it. I’ve used it twice, and I keep meaning to sign up again. I’m going to sign up for social media stuff next, on how to boost my social skills because I have a lot to learn,” she says. “Covid has obviously been a challenge for many businesses, but it has also created varying sizes of opportunities depending on what industry you are in. Digital is a huge opportunity. I launched in October 2019, and in March 2020, the world shut down and went virtual. It was during that time that three more groups launched, and it’s because I was able to move my meetings to a virtual platform.” – Erin Sisko, The Elliance Network
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