Arlene Dickinson CBCAlberta Women Entrepreneurs is recognizing the progressive and impactful contributions of female business-owners with the creation of the prestigious new Celebration of Achievement award; the only award of its kind in Alberta. The first recipient is Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications and co-star of CBC’s Gemini award-winning Dragons’ Den. The award ceremony will take place on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at the Fairmont Hotel McDonald.

We established the Celebration of Achievement to honour the value of women entrepreneurs in Alberta,” says Tracey Scarlett, Chief Executive Officer of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. “There are some inspirational women leaders in the province, who have achieved commendable success.

Recipients of the Celebration of Achievement are chosen based on the impacts they have made to the economy, community and perception of business ownership for women by creating a successful entrepreneurial venture in Alberta.

After joining Venture Communications as a partner in 1988, Arlene Dickinson took over sole ownership in 1998. Her vision has driven Venture’s growth, successfully building it from a local firm into one of Canada’s largest independent marketing firms, with offices in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. In addition to her roles as CEO of Venture, Dragon, mother of four children and grandmother of three, Arlene lends her time, skills and leadership to benefit her industry and the community.

Celebration of Achievement runs from 5:30 – 8:30 PM on May 3. Tickets are $100 and are available at www.awebusiness.com.

At present, over 900,000 of the 2.6 million self-employed workers in Canada are women, with businesses that represent over $117 billion per annum of economic activity. Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a not-for-profit organization that provides unique programs and services to women at all stages of business through advising, skills development, financing and networking opportunities, ensuring women entrepreneurs are supported and continue to establish profitable businesses that contribute to the economy.

For more information on Alberta Women Entrepreneurs or the Celebration of Achievement, visit www.awebusiness.com.

A recent excerpt of an interview by CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos:

Most Canadians know of Arlene Dickinson as the strong but friendly dragon on CBC’s entrepreneurship reality show Dragons’ Den. She’s the head of a multi-million-dollar Calgary-based marketing company and has a net worth of $80 million, so she’s definitely in a position to offer business advice and investment.

But it wasn’t so long ago that Dickinson was a single mom with four kids struggling to make ends meet. After she divorced her husband at 31 (which got her excommunicated from her Mormon church), a family court judge told her she couldn’t gain custody of her children until she could prove she could look after them financially.

I just thought I’d lost it … this was the end of my world,” she told CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos recently. “And I could do one of two things: I could accept that or I could fight and do what I’ve done. And it was the best motivator in the world for me and my kids.

She’s documented her true rags-to-riches story in her new book Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds. She only had a high-school diploma, but her ability to work with people and offer new ideas got her a job with Venture Communications, a local marketing company. Within 10 years, she graduated from employee to partner to CEO.

Dickinson is now one of the most powerful and influential businesspeople in Canada, but she’s never forgotten where she started from, which is why social responsibility is important to her. She said the recent Occupy protest movements are signs that more people are now demanding a more responsible and accountable kind of capitalism, something she believes in.

“Somebody said to me [recently], is it capitalism that’s wrong? I actually don’t think it’s capitalism that’s wrong, it’s the form of capitalism that’s wrong,” she said. “There is capitalism that has a heart and a soul and has a social conscience.”

Right now, she’s putting her faith in a crop of young entrepreneurs to put things right.

I have full hope that there is a new type of business that’s being formed, and formulated by the next generation, that has the triple bottom-line mentality: that says you have to do what’s right financially, for the planet, for the people, and for the profit side, so I think that that’s changing, and I’m hopeful that people are starting to think differently about what success looks like.