Women in Business – Powering Northern Ontario’s Economy

Growing her business

Photo of Donna Nordstrom, CEO of Northstream Safety and Rehab, with Rosalind Lockyer, Founder and CEO of the PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise, at an exhibitor’s booth.

Donna Nordstrom (left), CEO of Northstream Safety and Rehab, is joined by Rosalind Lockyer, Founder and CEO of the PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise, at a business function.

Donna Nordstrom recalls the game-changing moment that helped transform her one-woman operation into a successful company that now counts 34 employees in Northern Ontario.

Five years ago, as the Chief Executive Officer of Northstream Safety and Rehab, Nordstrom was looking to take her fledgling business to the next level when she decided to take part in the first trade mission organized by the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise. PARO, a FedNor-funded organization that delivers programs and services to women entrepreneurs across Northern Ontario, worked with a handful of businesswomen from the region to prepare them for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) conference in Baltimore in 2019.

“I had no real expectations, but I came out of that conference with a different mindset and a renewed confidence in the potential of my business,” Nordstrom says. “What I learned at that conference proved to be transformational for me as an individual and for my business, which has since seen exponential growth.”

Through its BizGrowth program, PARO works with women like Nordstrom to help them get export-ready as they prepare to pitch their businesses at conferences and trade shows, also offering financial support to offset travel costs.

Nordstrom has now built a growing company that provides complete medical assessment services related to occupational health and safety for companies in Canada and across North America.

“Donna’s story is a great example of how our partnership with the Government of Canada and FedNor is helping women across Northern Ontario start up or take their business to the next level,” says Rosalind Lockyer, Founder & CEO, PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise.

Headquartered in Thunder Bay, PARO is one of Canada's most successful business support and networking organizations, boasting the largest peer-lending network in North America. It offers a holistic range of programs and services, including peer-lending circles, business counseling, networking, skills development and financial support, and also provides specific services to Indigenous women in business.

Recognizing the value of PARO’s early work, FedNor has over the years provided financial support to help the organization provide these offerings to women entrepreneurs across Northern Ontario.

Connecting to opportunity

Group photo of Northern Ontario women participating in a 2022 trade mission to Florida.

The PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise brought more than 30 Northern Ontario women on a trade mission to Florida in 2022.

“These investments help us connect with more women entrepreneurs who are ready to start or expand their business, creating new opportunities for their communities and the whole region,” Lockyer says. “FedNor’s long-time support for PARO’s programs and services has been instrumental in our success and that of our clients.”

As of today, PARO has supported nearly 30,000 women, with over $4.9 million provided in grants from PARO programs, and over $10 million in total grants and loans to clients. In recent years, PARO’s focus has increasingly shifted to the scale-up of businesses looking to bolster export opportunities.

“Since the first mission Donna attended in 2019, we’ve expanded our focus on these activities – in fact, we just brought 30 women entrepreneurs from Northern Ontario to the WBENC conference in Colorado,” Lockyer says. “The return on investment of trade missions has been incredible.”

Considering Nordstrom is now having to carefully manage the rapid growth of Northstream Safety and Rehab, the results speak for themselves.

Learn more about PARO and their programs and services.