Reflections on Launching a Business Network

Life is about the relationships we make. Our lives are full of important ones. As children, we are defined by our relationships with our parents, siblings and our extended family. As we grow up, school and our peers become our focal points and many of us later identify closely with our university. Through our adult lives, family, friends and our work relationships are central. Some are transitory; many are part of us forever. With each relationship, there is an opportunity to share part of us and to learn and grow from each other. The sharing that occurs through these relationships shapes who we are and who we will become.

We have a relationship with our country too. And it becomes a little more complicated when you leave your home country to make a home in a new one. You are attracted to the opportunities of a new destination to make your home but you don’t want to forget your roots. As an expatriate, you bring with you the experiences of another culture that is a gift that you share with friends in your new country and something you celebrate together with fellow expatriates. But your focus can change over time. When we first moved to Minneapolis from Toronto in 1989, our focus was building my marketing career and creating our family. Canada was in the rear view mirror increasingly the longer we lived in the U.S. Opportunities in Southeast Asia and Mexico at different times put more miles between home and Canada.

I am now quickly reaching the point in my life when I will have lived longer in the United States than in Canada. I’ve already become a United States citizen, our children were born and raised in the U.S. and our home has been in California for the past 15 years. We love it here. And yet in the past year I have never felt more connected to Canada and my Canadian roots too. And the exciting dimension of it is that having roots elsewhere is accretive to being an American citizen.  As an immigrant, what I bring to relationships professionally and personally is a product of my life, experiences and perspectives in two great nations. That these nations are also neighbours, friends, allies and trading partners makes the opportunity to bridge my relationship with each country so much better.

So when my co-founder, Robert Kelle, shared with me that he wanted to create a business networking group that would fulfill our original vision when founding Canadians in Orange County in 2010 to promote business connections between Southern California and Canada, the vision struck a chord with me. Here is an opportunity to create a new relationship with both my home and native land and my home in Southern California by bridging themtogether. Now with the support of our board, our member organizations and our friends, we have created a vibrant new organization…MAPLE Business Council. 

It has been seven months since we launched MAPLE. With an exciting new brand, five networking meetings in three cities, 13 organizations represented in our membership, 15 presentations, and hundreds of new friends, MAPLE is establishing itself in the Southern California communities we serve with our own unique voice. Thank you to everyone who shares our excitement and commitment to bridging the Canadian and Southern California business communities to create and accelerate new opportunities on both sides of the border. We invite you to join MAPLE and look forward to serving you in 2016 and beyond.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting trade and investment betweenCanada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit