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Samba-infused dinners great for networking

Jacquelyn Cyr, CEO of Espresso, at a conference in Rio de Janeiro.

For several days this week, I had the privilege of being part of the annual Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) summit, surrounded by the brightest and best female business owners from around the world.

And while the sessions themselves were exceptional and the quality of the speakers was among the best I've seen at any conference in the past several years, what stood out was undoubtedly the people.

Entrepreneurship can be an isolating path for those who choose to take it. You are creating something where nothing stood, and as someone whose gut took her in that direction, the intense drive for action makes it extremely difficult to stop pushing for the next great move. With any luck, you will have the good fortune to connect with exceptional team members and mentors and boards of directors, but it can be a challenge to connect with your peers.

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Bringing together more than 100 women who are driven to create change in their world is, quite simply, about building a necessary business community. The women in attendance this week in Rio de Janeiro represented a range of industries and they were consistently of a calibre that is difficult to describe: highly intelligent, extraordinarily ambitious, and deeply motivating.

(Not only did I connect with the founder of The Knot – one of my inspirations from my early days of entrepreneurship in the 1990s – but with one of the top 10 stem cell researchers in the world.)

But it is the humanity behind all of it that made the event unique. The attendees were people who want to build for the sake of building, people who want to disrupt their systems, and people who are seeking connections beyond the sales pitch, with warmth and interest and heart.

The programmed action was exceptional. The sessions run by Springboard – an innovative startup accelerator – were second to none, immersing attendees in lessons on how to refine your ask, critiqued by some of the best angel investors, private equity experts and venture capitalists in the world. (They jokingly called it The Dolphin Tank: "We swim with you!")

And yet, it was the poolside chats, the samba-infused dinners, and the sunny boat cruise where partnerships were created, deals proposed, and relationships built.

The bias for action – our own successes driven by this tendency – is what brought each of us to this destination. If this network continues to be built, it's hard to imagine what further action – and real change – it will inspire.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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Jacquelyn Cyr is chief executive officer at Espresso, an integrated brand agency that drives media-agnostic thinking in brand strategy, marcom, advertising, and custom technology products, and she has never met a business she didn't like.

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