By Sandra Sperounes

Kinia Romanowska thinks she has a winning business idea.

Her grassroots initiative, Pros & Babes, offers weekly sessions for working moms to connect and talk about professional or motherhood issues. There’s also a mentorship program for moms at any stage of their careers or lives.

She developed Pros & Babes while pregnant with her son, Jan. “I heard career-driven moms say ‘I really missed the intellectual conversations when I was on maternity leave,’ and I thought I’d miss them too,” says Romanowska, who works in communications.

“I’m somebody who’s very connected and I enjoy my work. I thought that if I go from a stimulating work environment to being home with a little baby, I’d be a little bit lonely. That’s why I founded Pros & Babes — because I didn’t see any resources for career-driven moms.”

Romanowska is hoping to win about $2,000 for her start-up at NextGen’s next event. She’s one of seven women pitching their businesses at MEAET powered by Pecha Kucha Night on June 20 at Kingsway Mall.

“My vision for Pros & Babes and for Edmonton is that it becomes the best city for career-driven moms in Canada or even North America,” she says. “I would like this to be available in many cities. I would like to be a part of working culture … so all companies would give their employees access to such programs.”

MEAET is a micro-funding, networking and food-sampling forum. Think of it as Dragon’s Den meets American Idol meets Taste of Edmonton. Entrepreneurs pitch their ideas, audience members vote for their favourites, and the winner receives a portion of ticket sales. There are no losers, though — everyone gets to sample dishes by local chefs and companies.

For this edition of MEAET, presenters will follow the Pecha Kucha format. Each entrepreneur will get six minutes and 40 seconds — 20 slides x 20 seconds per slide — to pitch her start-up.

This is the first time MEAET and PKN are teaming up. Both are initiatives of NextGen, a group dedicated to sharing new ideas and engaging Edmontonians between 18 and 40 years old.

“MEAET is usually pretty lax, we say: ‘Pitch your idea, however you like,’” says Jenny Albers, co-chair of the NextGen committee behind MEAET.

“We give (presenters) a couple of minutes. For a lot of them, it’s more of an elevator pitch. They don’t even have a presentation or slides. So I think (by using the Pecha Kucha style), there will be more of an even playing ground for everyone.”

For the first MEAET/PKN collaboration, organizers wanted all the presenters to be female entrepreneurs from non-profit, for-profit and social enterprises. All the food will be provided by women, too — including Lindsay Porter of London Local and Kelsey Johnson of Cafe Linnea.

“With the rise of the #MeToo movement and female empowerment, we talked about lifting each other up and we thought we’d give the stage to female entrepreneurs to share their ideas,” says Anika Gee, co-chair of NextGen’s Pecha Kucha Nights committee.

“We also wanted to bring the two groups of participants together. There are diehards who come to every Pecha Kucha Night and we have a select group of people who come to all the MEAET events, so it will be neat to bring them all into one room.”

There are diehards who come to every Pecha Kucha Night and we have a select group of people who come to all the MEAET events, so it will be neat to bring them all into one room.

She says the winner will receive at least $10 of every ticket sold. (Tickets are $25 on Eventbrite.) “We’re hoping to sell 200 tickets, so (the prize) would be around $2,000, which is really great for some people, depending where they’re at in their development phase,” says Gee.

KeeKee Elgersma, who owns Growing Empowered, is one of MEAET/PKN’s seven presenters. She teaches gardening workshops to help people and communities grow their own fruits and vegetables.

“The (prize) money is friggin’ rad,” she says. “But just to even get the exposure so that people know there is something like this here would be awesome.”

MEAET and PKN will be hosting separate events in the fall, but organizers say more collaborations are planned.