Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Brandle-McCall’

Denver: A mile high…& growing

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Our travel itinerary had our time in Denver for the most days compared to the other cities on our 3 week IVLP tour. None of us had ever visited the city, except for touching down at the airport enroute to somewhere else.  The borders of this Midwest state are perfectly square, yet during the 5 days we were here, we found that they are pushing the boundaries with everything they do in this vibrant city.

If I were to pick one word to describe Denver, it would be ACTIVE.  From the meetings, events, dinners in peoples homes, networking functions and even at the Women’s Film Festival, it appeared that every level Denver-ites were actively involved in their city.

Actively promoting their uniqueness

As if perfectly timed, we excited to learn that we arrived just in time to take in the last 2 days of Denver Restaurant Week.  Over 300 restaurants across the city showcase a set multicourse menu of their signature dishes for a price of $58.20 per couple.  A strange number for a marketing promotion, I thought.

It was later explained to me that 5820 refers to the number of feet above sea level that Denver is located….aka a mile high…up.  This unique geographical position with the Colorado Rockies Mountain range in the not too far distance (less than 1 hour drive from the city centre) coupled with the fact that it is in a dry desert-like climate area boasting 300 days of sunshine, this city we found takes advantage of its unique altitude that no other city in the US can hold claim to.

We had delicious discoveries in downtown Denver at Restaurant 1515 and inmearby Boulder where we enjoyed lunch at Kitchen [next door].  We learned that there is a growing trend for chef/owners to start their restaurant in a small location amongst a neighbourhood such as Highlands providing lower overhead costs & rent than a downtown address. This is similar in concept to the business incubator spaces that we have visited in other cities as the location offers low overhead & operational costs as the restaurant grows its reputation and eventually moves downtown. We went to Corner House and Old Major (on its 15th day in business as they were still ironing out their kinks).  Surprisingly, the restaurants were jam packed – even on Monday & Tuesday nights! Other restaurants we were tipped of as ‘must dos’ were: Squeaky Bean, Vesta’s Dipping Grill and Ace.  All the more reasons to return to Denver!

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Our first day of activities in Denver could have taken place anywhere.  Back to back events to celebrate International Woman’s Day where we were the guest of honour along with keynote motivational speaker Deedee Corradini, whose list of accomplishments is outstanding.

Inhale… Deedee began her career working on Capitol Hill (while being a single mom of two kids under the age of 8), first and only female mayor of Salt Lake City, UT (where she spearheaded the winning bid to host the Olympics), President of US Women’s Ski Jumping Team (leading the charge & recently winning a controversial law suit against Vancouver Olympic Games – with the Canadian women’s ski jumping team in tow) and now she’s President of International Women’s Foundation.  Exhale…

I have one question –  How does she do it ALL?

Both Jennifer & I wrote separate blogs about our experience during this single day as our Denver blog would be far too long.  Click to read mine and Jennifer’s article: You can’t BE what you can’t SEE– that appeared in Prince George Citizen.

Time to unwind

By Saturday, we all desperately needed a break from our tightly scheduled itinerary.  Waiting at airports & the times in between meetings or traveling on our bus was really the only time we had to catch up on work or call our friends and family back home.  And even this time was peppered with questions about our meetings and sharing of ideas.  When Denver began to brace itself for a ‘big’ snow storm, I have to admit that I was relieved to wake up to a cold rain-mixed-with-snow Saturday. While usually a perfect day to go to explore the city or visit a museum, I opted to relax & tackle my work to do list with a vengeance.  Turns out that the others did exactly the same!

Denver’s active lifestyle

Sunday was carved out to be 100% ‘me time’.  With new snow, and the Rocky Mountains just an hour away, what do you think I did? Absolutely! I treated myself by leaving my name badge and laptop behind to break away from our tightly knit group for a day of skiing on 13 inches of fresh powder at Breckenridge.  As you could imagine, it seemed that every Denver-ite was doing the same thing!

Going from 5820 feet to 13,000 feet in a matter of a few hours took my breath away – literally. It was perfect conditions with not-a-cloud-in-the-blue-sky day, no wind, ‘fresh pow’ and the ultimate – ‘fat skis’ made my ‘me day’ absolutely heavenly in the above the treeline playground.  It certainly revitalized me for the last week of our trip ahead.

This day was a turning point for me, and perhaps for the other 5 women with whom I have become fast friends. We all did our own thing on this day – not spending every waking minute with each other, which is completely different from the past 2 weeks.  While I was in my element on the ski slopes, I was looking forward to seeing them to share my adventures and to hear about their day too.  The 6 of us have grown an incredible bond.  We have started planning our ‘reunion’ and figuring out when we will be visiting each other’s city.  One thing is for certain, I have a new board of advisors for my business as they know more about Savvy Company from our meetings and discussions. I am very grateful for this unexpected connection through participating in IVLP.

‘ACTIVE-ating’ the downtown core

Since we arrived, we all commented on the positive energy and great vibe in Denver.  The Denver International Airport is growing into an Airport City, there were loads of funky looking housing developments & old brownstone warehouses cleaned up transformed into offices or loft living.  Construction and cranes seemed to be everywhere. There was a blend of modern, historic buildings and some that were revitalized similar to what we saw in Kansas City. Ken Schroeppel was once an urban planner, now Instructor of Planning and Design at University of Colorado Denver and highly regarded blogger on Denver’s development Urban Infill –  gave us a walk through of the development plans for the city’s Union Station revitalization.  He explained that residents are active in the decision making process of major developments in City Hall.

We couldn’t believe it when he explained that residents vote on all aspects of developments of their city.  Yes, vote! “Denver is civic minded.  They haven’t met a tax increase they didn’t like”, quips Ken with a smile. Actively engaging Joe Public in the decision making process of improvements and changes in their city was impressive.  And Ken explained that the City immediately undertakes the approved change/project with a timeline to have it completed within 4 years. Mind boggling when I think how long City of Ottawa has debated the pros and cons of installing Light Rail Transit.  In Denver, the Union Station revitalization and development project is already breaking ground and Francisco Alonzo – Director of Innovation at the Airport proudly reported that the first train running from downtown to the airport will be in 2016 along with a network of other lines, hotels, office buildings, active spaces for fountains, farmers markets, restaurant, retail and rental apartments.

We stayed at Brown Palace Hotel – Denver’s historic hotel. In contrast, a few blocks away was the 16th Street Mall – a pedestrianized street with free modern shuttle service that is directly connected to the city’s main bus lines providing a quick way to jump on and off at each street corner in order to make it easy to shop & dine at the various retail & restaurants lining this street. In the summer, 16th street is the heart of the city where on World Music Day, anyone with an instrument are welcome to perform on stages that the City of Denver has built.  Beyond this one day activity, the Keys of the City is an innovative way to keep 16th  Street Mall active with pianos of all kinds colourfully painted by local artists throughout the spring & summer months. “It started several years ago with a couple of pianos, and this summer, we figure that we will have 30+ pianos donated and painted for anyone to sit down and play or simply tinker on”, proudly commented Brittany Morris Saunders, VP Public Affairs of Downtown Denver Partnerships.


Oh, there is so much more to tell you about Denver that I will leave you with this for now
& be back with part 2 of the blog – stay tuned!

What is our combined Shoe & Luggage Count?

Since we had Sunday ‘off’, while I was skiing, the others did some ‘retail damage’ in Denver.  Amina bought another suitcase, all the while the others bought new outfits (we were getting bored with our packed luggage) and new shoes & boots! At our Monday meetings, we had a whole new and refreshed look!

Here’s the latest count…

Total number of luggage: 11 pieces that we checked in…don’t even ask how many we carried on!

Total number of shoes & boots between the 6 of us: 42 pairs (up from last count of 38)

We are women after all! 🙂


Follow us on Twitter

For in the moment tweets about our tour, follow our group on #IVLP and

  • @savvydebbie (Debbie Trenholm)
  • @Halifax_Gateway (Nancy Phillips)
  • @JenniferBrandle (Jennifer Brandle)
  • @PillPak (Fiona Webster Mourant)
  • @amigerba (Amina Gerba)



You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Did you see me at the hockey game in Denver where Edmonton Oilers had a shut out on Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche? I was the one with a red maple leaf painted on my face, a Canadian flag held high, getting tackled by a group of dedicated Avalanche fans. Perhaps you didn’t catch that game and maybe I’m overindulging in my description of the evening, but it certainly was a thrill to be in Denver enjoying our Canadian national past time. (Proud Canadian gals in photo on left from front to back: Amina, Debbie, Fiona, Jennifer, Stephanie & Nancy)

It is my final week, of the three-week International Visitor Leadership Program, as a guest of the U.S. Department of State, with only days remaining in Denver before heading to San Francisco for the final stop. Washington, D.C.; Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas, and now Denver: my experiences in these cities have taught me priceless lessons about Women in Business and the spirit of entrepreneurship. The inspiration I’ve received to dream big, lead boldly, and speak proudly will certainly affect my personal resolve and future contributions to Prince George and northern B.C.

Denver is known for many things: the mile high city existing 5,280 feet above sea-level, the world-class skiing in the nearby southern Rocky Mountains, and the wild blue mustang sculpture with glowing eyes greeting passengers at the Denver airport. Ironically, none of the things I knew about Denver have made much of an impression on me. Rather, I’ve spent the past three days here being inspired by women in business and by a civic-minded entrepreneurial city that has written its own story. But March 8, International Women’s Day, was a difficult paradox for me.

As guests of honour, our travelling group of six Canadian women attended the Denver World Affairs presentation of The Gender Agenda Gaining Momentum with guest speaker Deedee Corradini (in centre of photo), former mayor of Salt Lake City and president of the board of directors of the International Women’s Forum. I felt torn and conflicted as Corradini implored women to consider running for elected office. She spoke passionately of the need to increase the number of women in government, in decision-making positions as she was as the first and only female mayor of Salt Lake City. Then, fast forward to later in the day as I watched part of the movie Game Change in my hotel room, documenting the political life of Sarah Palin. While on one hand I believe women should consider politics as a career option, I wonder how attractive a political career is for anyone with a desire to make a difference.

And finally, part of our Denver program was to attend the Women + Film VOICES Film Festival in order to view the movie GIRL RISING, a new feature film about the power of education to change a girl and the world. This movie demonstrates that there is so much work to be done in helping women contribute fully and equally within all parts of life, work and community. These goals are supported by a strong business case too. Various studies, including those by the Reibey Institute, McKinsey & Co., and others, demonstrate a direct, positive relationship between the percentage of women on corporate boards and the company’s fiscal performance. Whether women choose to go directly into business or into politics, it is absolutely necessary for men and women alike to work towards achieving gender balance in every arena of life, it just makes sense at every level.

We are certainly making headway in women’s corporate and political representation in Prince George. With examples including women holding high ranking positions as mayor, newspaper publisher, minister of justice and attorney general of British Columbia, president and CEO of Northern Health, and CEO of Northern Development Initiatives Trust, as well as hundreds of business owners and managers, Prince George is no garden of shrinking violets. Our future is bright, but brighter still with the contributions and sacrifices of so many strong women.


This post was written by Jennifer Brandle-McCall (in photo left).  Jennifer is the CEO of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce and one of the dynamic women selected to participate in the IVLP tour across the US. Jennifer wrote this article for her weekly business column “Business in the Black” that appeared in the Prince George Citizen newspaper on March 14th, 2013. Jennifer also has a blog about her experience & discoveries while ‘on tour’. Her blog can be found at:


The Whirlwind of Washington

Posted by Debbie

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

This week has been a whirlwind…and it began with the start of a 3 week tour across the United States.  First stop: Washington DC where I was immersed in all aspects – political, culture, site seeing, music…and wine & food too!  The last time I visited this city, was in grade 8 – a while ago!  Memories of that school trip were few but impressionable including the inclusion of sign language in Lincoln’s hands at the infamous memorial & somberness of the hourly changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington Cemetery.

This time, my trip to Washington DC is far different.  I was nominated and selected by the U.S. Embassy in Canada to be one of six Canadian women to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) focusing on Women in Trade and Entrepreneurship.  This is a huge honour as over 30 Canadian women were nominated and I was one of six who were hand selected to be part of IVLP tour & to be involved in the post-tour benefits of being part of the worldwide alumni.

During our 3 week tour, we are stopping in at Washington DC, Kansas City MO, Austin TX, Denver CO and San Francisco CA. Our days are fully packed of meetings with American women business owners who are recognized as innovative and outstanding in their fields.  In addition, we are learning from the feds about the resources & programs initiated by the US that are available to women entrepreneurs. This as a phenomenal opportunity to soak it all up, have my mind open to all kinds of ideas & have great discussions with the other 5 women in the group along with those who we meet along the way. Already on Day 3, my mind is buzzing!

3 weeks, 5 cities, 6 women & 8 suitcases….

As if we had known each other for years before, I instantly felt a strong bond within the 6 of us.  Since Saturday when most of us arrived in DC, there have been lots of laughs along with many questions about each other’s business. I know that I am amongst a dynamic group of women who I will call friends for a long time to come.  Joining me are:

Jennifer Brandle-McCall – CEO, Prince George Chamber of Commerce (British Columbia)

Stephanie Jecrois – President, Young Haitian Chamber of Commerce (Montreal, Quebec)

Amina Gerba – President & Founder, Afrique Expansion (Montreal, Quebec)

Nancy Phillips – Director of Investment and Trade, Greater Halifax Partnership (Nova Scotia)

Fiona Webster Mourant – President & Co-owner, Manrex Ltd.


What is the trip all about?

Since 1940 when it began, the IVLP has given hundred of thousands of emerging leaders – including thousands of Canadians – the opportunity to experience first-hand American culture and business society on a personal level. As explained by our hosts in the pre-trip briefings and in our first meeting in Washington, the IVLP recognizes Canadians who are emerging leaders and invite them to participate in the delegation to observe U.S. institutions and culture, and meet with professional counterparts to explore issues of common interest.  Some twenty Canadians travel each year under this program on different themed trips.

To get a feel of the lay of the land – of Washington that is – we were invited to come early to Washington for a private tour of the city.  We were definitely in for a treat as our guide – Jeannie Fogle – is a highly recognized historian and has authored many historic guide books of the city.  A woman entrepreneur herself, she started – A Tour de Force – and I would highly recommend for anyone to call on Jeannie when you are next in Washington.  She definitely knows her city!   During the unseasonably warm Sunday, we wound our way through the historical sites by stopping in at the White House (of course!),  Capitol Hill, The Mall, monuments galore – Grant, Lincoln, Jefferson, the new Martin Luther King and the impressive black wall paying tribute to those who fought in the Vietnam War.  Jeannie had fantastic stories to share.  Eager to learn more, I spent the afternoon wandering through Smithsonian museums including the National Portrait Gallery, Space and Aviation Museum, National Art Gallery and finished this whirlwind day enjoying an after hours chamber music once the National Art Gallery had closed.

Let’s get down to work!

Our meeting itinerary for Monday & Tuesday was built to provide us familiarity of the inner workings of the US federal government at all levels, the who’s who to contact for resources to grow our businesses in the US and to leverage resources of existing programs.  We stepped outside of government office buildings to meet with Professor Clyde Wilcox of Georgetown University & learn about federalism and the various levels of government.  Then were whisked off to meet Dr George Solomon from the Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence at George Washington University.  Every last minute – including a to die for lunch at Vidalia Restaurant was organized by the Institute of International Education and the Department of State.

After the full day and with our heads exploding with information, the 6 of us celebrated ‘day one done’ with a fantastic meal at The Source – Wolfgang Puck.

Tuesday started with high security meetings with a large group of people involved in Canada-US relations and global womens’ programs at the US Department of State followed by a meeting and lunch in the US House of Representatives.  Here, the hallways were chaotic with anyone who came to meet or lobby various government officials. And on the TV screens  in every office were abuzz about the Dow Jones plummeting 200 points and the wild winter storm in the Midwest – especially Kansas City – our next stop!

Before I left Washington, I went to one of the hippest wine bars in town – Proof.  This night was all about sampling great wines with my long time friend Mark Chandler from Lodi.  I thought I would be seeing Mark at the end of the tour when we visit Napa, however as luck had it, he had just started working for Wine America as their new CEO only 2 weeks ago…and was in Washington the same week I was visiting.

Next stop…a 4 day visit to America’s heartland (and Dorothy’s home) – Kansas City.

Follow us on Twitter!

For in the moment tweets about our tour, follow our group on #IVLP and

  • @savvydebbie (Debbie Trenholm)
  • @Halifax_Gateway (Nancy Phillips)
  • @JenniferBrandle (Jennifer Brandle)
  • @PillPak (Fiona Webster Mourant)
  • @amigerba (Amina Gerba)




NEWS: Debbie selected to participate in Women in Trade & Entrepreneurship IVLP

Posted by Debbie

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Re-posted from the Embassy of the United States Ottawa 

Six business women from across Canada are visiting Washington, D.C. and several other U.S. cities this week as participants in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) focusing on Women in Trade and Entrepreneurship. The visit began on February 24 and concludes on March 15. The program is organized by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Our guests were personally invited by U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, for whom innovation and entrepreneurship are key themes.

“Innovation has been the engine of economic growth for millennia. It is our hope for a better tomorrow. It allows us to learn faster, reach farther, work better, dream bigger, and live longer,” said Ambassador Jacobson. “In order to pass a strong North America into the hands of future generations, we need to seize the opportunity to innovate, create, and discover. Programs like this one provide leaders with the tools to do just that.”

The program participants are CEOs, presidents, and founders of Chambers of Commerce, consulting firms and other companies that facilitate global trade. During the program, they will examine entrepreneurial efforts initiated by women in the U.S. and the factors that influenced their success. Participants in this program are:

  • Ms. Jennifer Dawn Brandle-McCall of Vancouver, CEO of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce
  • Ms. Stephanie Jecrois of Montreal, President of the Young Haitian Chamber of Commerce
  • Ms. Amina Gerba of Montreal, President and Founder of Afrique Expansion
  • Ms. Nancy Phillips of Halifax, Director of Investment and Trade at the Greater Halifax Partnership
  • Ms. Deborah Trenholm of Ottawa, President and Founder of Savvy Company Inc.
  • and Mrs. Fiona Webster Mourant of Winnipeg, President and Co-Owner of Manrex Ltd.

The IVLP enables Canadians who are emerging leaders in their professional field to observe first-hand U.S. institutions and culture, and to meet with professional counterparts to explore issues of common interest. Some forty Canadians travel each year under this program on three-week study tours as guests of the U.S. government. Their visits better inform their views of the United States, link them with American colleagues, and influence public opinion or policy in Canada for mutual benefit. Founded in 1940, the IVLP has given hundreds of thousands of emerging leaders — including hundreds of Canadians — the opportunity to observe and interact with American culture and society on a personal level. For more information, please visit

More information on the program will be available on the U.S. Embassy website following the participants’ return to Canada.

Media wishing to speak with the participants when they return can contact the Embassy press office at  One of our participants, Deborah Trenholm, will be blogging occasionally during the trip; anyone interested in hearing about her experience as it happens can follow her on Twitter at @savvydebbie or follow her blog at