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Nicole Maunder and son Adam

Newfoundlanders Abroad.Com

Article written by Stephanie Porter (St. John's) for The Independent Newspaper - Sunday, April 23, 2006

Somewhere between her home in Toronto and adventures in Australia, Asia and Europe, Nicole Maunder realized something many do when abroad: there are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians “in absolutely every nook and cranny in the world.”

Maunder, a St. John’s-native, was on an around-the-world trip by herself.

“As I went from country to country, I’d run into Newfoundlanders everywhere who would hook me up with other Newfoundlanders,” she says. The network she accidentally came across became an important and driving part of her time overseas — and something she wanted to formalize when she returned.

The result is Newfoundlandersabroad.com, a one-stop site for tracking down familiar faces, professional networking, and general checking in to see what fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are up to.

“I had a lot of time to think about what was important while I travelled,” says Maunder. “Toronto is such a rat race; leaving it gives you time to sit back and think about what you value, and to rethink what’s important.

“You know, all of my friends here (in Toronto) are Newfoundlanders, or my closest friends are. We just have an immediate bond and connection. It’s an instant bond, no matter what part of the province you’re from … I just thought it would be cool to have a place where everyone could connect online.”

Maunder graduated from Memorial with a bachelor of commerce in 1994, and moved to Toronto immediately — as did most of her graduating class — for employment.
She worked in marketing and advertising as a brand manager in both Toronto and Calgary. After five years full-tilt into professional life, she decided it was time to see the world.

When she returned, she used her marketing and product-development skills to put together the plan for her website. She hired a company to take care of the technical aspects of web design and maintenance.

“I had the idea and I had the time off,” she says. “I figured, I’ll launch this because it’s a great idea and I’ll figure out a way to pay for it later.”

The website launched five years ago to significant media attention. There are more than 5,000 Newfoundlanders living elsewhere in Canada and the world listed in the database — searchable by name, location, or profession. The site still receives more than 5,000 unique visitors, registering half a million hits a month.

Maunder’s site did attract a small amount of advertising, but has come nowhere close to recouping here $10,000 initial investment.

“It’s definitely not a money-maker, it was never meant to be,” she says. “I’d love to break even but I just think there’s a real need for the site and I love it.”

As a businessperson in Toronto, Maunder says she also saw there was room for an on-line professional network.

“If you’re coming up from Newfoundland it can be really difficult to find connections here … so now, if you come up to Toronto as a (commerce) student and you want to get into marketing, you can search through the website and find other Newfoundlanders in marketing.

“It’s also for Newfoundlanders at home,” she continues. “If you’ve got a business trip coming up to Boston, you can do a search and see what Newfoundlanders are living there. You may have some old friends there, or at least you’ll find someone to go out for a beer with.”

There are also places on the site to list events, post messages, and advertise job openings. And there’s one more important purpose Maunder wanted to serve.

“I really wanted to celebrate the success of Newfoundlanders living abroad, which is why I feature a monthly profile,” she says. Dozens of feature stories are now on the site, on figures from Seamus O’Regan to Natasha Henstridge to the Designer Guys.

Maunder’s happy with the activity the site’s getting — but admits it’s time to “freshen it up, more features updated more frequently.” In early May, she plans a re-launch — again, out of her own pocket — but this time she plans to learn enough to take care of updates and maintenance herself.

The planning and training is happening as well as she can manage, in fits and starts. Maunder, on maternity leave from her current job as a focus group moderator, is at home with her eight-month-old son Adam.

“People should know this is not for profit. I invest my time, energy and money to keep it going. I really rely on the audience to use it, enjoy it, and keep coming back.

“I believe in the bond of Newfoundlanders.”

 

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