Gemstones 2 – PARO Circle of the Year


THUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – Are you looking to make a change in our life and career? PARO here in Thunder Bay offers a path forward for women.

One of the PARO Peer lending Circles, Gemstones 2 has been recognized. Gemstones 2 is is the Paro Circle of the Year.

Gemstones 2 members are Kelli Carr of Switzer Floral, Jamie Collins of J & G Southside Eats, Lori-Anne Frost Perala, Kathleen Collins of Collins Thrift, Denise Atkinson of Tea Horse Teas, Paula Shedden of TUIT:Tech, and Lori Paras of The Hub Bazaar.

NetNewsLedger spoke with Denise Atkinson and Lori Paras on this exciting win for the Circle.

So, just what is a PARO Circle?

Peer lending circles are small groups of like-minded women who meet regularly to share their experiences, offer advice to each other and expand their individual and shared contact networks. Circles are small groups of 4 to 7 women, who are over the age of 18, each of whom currently operates their own business, wishes to start their own business, or believes in women helping women. PARO Peer Circles help women to connect and network with other enterprising women. Today PARO is one of the strongest peer lenders of small business loans in North America (Impact- A Social Enterprise Strategy for Ontario, 2013).

There are a great number of benefits of being a PARO Circle member, including but not limited to: 

  • Access to and sharing of business knowledge
  • Peer mentoring, support, & encouragement
  • Access to peer loans from $1000 to $5000
  • With matching grants of $500 and $1000 (if meet criteria)
  • Access to a variety of perspectives and experiences
  • Reduced rates for PARO events and equipment rentals

One of the key elements of a Peer Circle is that members also provide access to lending support of between $500.00 and $5,000.00. Members of the Peer Circle are involved in the review and approval of a member’s PARO loan application before it is approved. Peer lending has helped many Circle members to grow their businesses and set new goals for the future.

Why Apply for a Peer Loan?

A Peer Loan is so much more than a small business loan. It comes with peer support, training and increased control, to name just a few benefits. A Peer Loan may be the right for solution for you if:

  • You have no or poor credit history
  • You have no cash or other source of equity
  • The loan amount you need is too small for a bank to consider
  • You lack trust in typical financial institutions
  • You want to avoid credit card debt
  • You want to leverage additional funds.

PARO is built upon the strength and participation of women who are Circle members. PARO is led by a Board of Directors that is made up of elected Circle Members.  In addition, a number of Circle members participate in each year’s strategic planning.

The membership of the circles is self-selecting, but cannot include immediate family members. This means that members have the opportunity to choose one another. Circle members meet on a regular basis to provide support and advice for one another’s businesses, as well as to examine and ultimately approve one another’s peer loans. Prior to the Board of Director’s approval of the loan process, the circle members review and approve the circle loan applications. The Circle Coordinator or Loans Officer, with the supervision and support of the Executive Director, provides assistance to the circle member with the loan applications and cash flow statements before presenting to the circle for approval. The CFDC in the borrower’s area provides the loan upon circle approval.

Women from diverse backgrounds and with mixed expertise are encouraged to form their own Peer Circles. Connect with like-minded women in your community and ask us about starting a new Peer Circle today.

Contact us today to learn more about joining a Circle of dedicated, motivated women who can support you in making the changes you want to make in your life.

The PARO Centre was founded by Rosalind Lockyer. In 1995, Lockyer founded PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, channelling her experience, passion, and determination to continue to work for positive change locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

Today, PARO is recognized as the “largest peer lending network in North America’ supporting its unique form of women-centred Community Economic Development with 150+ PARO Circles located across Ontario.

In 2005, Northern Ontario Business awarded her the prestigious Influential Women of Northern Ontario Award-Public Sector recognizing her leadership in building PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise into the dynamic organization that it is today, serving women entrepreneurs living in rural, urban and remote communities of Ontario.

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