Sandra Altner, the transplanted New Yorker, is stepping down from her role as the CEO of Womens Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, leaving the WECM in the capable hands of Maxine Kashton.
Over the past 15 years, Altner has played a pivotal role in raising the profile of women entrepreneurs, growing the WECM into a much larger organization. Even though the core funding from PrairiesCan (formerly Western Economic Diversification) has not changed over the years, the organizations budget has grown significantly with additional project funding and a suite of fee-for-service offerings.
Altners successor was most recently the chief operating officer of the Canadian Lutheran World Relief organization and prior to that Kashton was the chief financial officer of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, a position she held for 10 years.
Kashton will take over an organization that has grown into a mature, vital part of the womens entrepreneur ecosystem.
Im very proud of the legacy Im leaving, said Altner, who is embarking on her next career as an executive coach. Maxine is coming into a wonderful culture and really strong organization.
WECM has grown in terms of the number of clients it serves as well as the size of its loan program. Altner helped form the Womens Enterprise Organizations of Canada, which is based in Winnipeg and played a key role in the fabulously successful SHEDay events that the WECM has organized.
The pandemic may not be over but Altner feels that the organization and its clients have weathered the storm in good shape, so far.
The resilience that we have seen in women that we are working with now is incredible, she said. I think this is the time for me to step away to do something else at another level and to work with people in leadership positions not just with women entrepreneurs who can really use help in illuminating the path forward.
Kashton brings a wide breadth of experience that the WECM will benefit from.
Janice Gair, WECMs board chairwoman said, We are very pleased to have Maxine joining the Centre team. She brings both entrepreneurial experience as a former small business owner, a deep understanding of the finance, human resource and information technology requirements facing the sector, as well as a well-developed set of community and business relationships.
Among other things, Kashton said recent client surveys have shown that women entrepreneurs are looking for more detailed and specific guidance around things like technology and the prevalence of digital technology in the operation of all businesses.
She said she believes her role with the Canadian Lutheran World Relief organization will be able to inform her work with the WECM.
The main purpose of our work was to help marginalized women and girls, doing vocational training, bringing women in to learn new skills in non-traditional roles, providing seed capital for businesses she said, activities that the WECM is very familiar with.
The WECM was founded in 1994 to create a community of supports and services for women entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs.
It delivers three core services: business advising, training and skill development, and financing.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.