As of 2019, women-owned businesses in Canada contributed $150 billion to the economy and employed over 1.5 million people. However, when it comes to small businesses, women-owned businesses only account for 16% of the total. As more women begin to view entrepreneurship as a potential career path, that number will continue to climb. Below, we’ve outlined three tips for women entrepreneurs as they enter the market.
Build Your Network
Networking is the practice of building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people around you. Networking can help you identify best practices within your industry, stay on top of new industry trends, generate business leads, as well as form connections that can lead to other opportunities. Networking can be done in person at events or conferences, but the age of social media has also opened doors for virtual networking. As a member of the SSFPA, your first and foremost networking opportunity is to use the SSFPA Listserve to connect with other members. Members are eager to help each other, and your ideas will be welcome as well. Platforms such as LinkedIn allow you to network with thousands of professionals across the world. Having such a wide network can be especially helpful if one has aspirations to expand their business beyond their local market. Of course, having a network is only helpful if you use it effectively. It is important to utilize this resource; asking questions and sharing stories will not only increase your knowledge as you learn from others, but also increase your confidence as you become a source of knowledge for others.
Find a Financial Partner You Trust
Having outside investments is an integral part of being able to grow and scale a small business. While many women are risk-averse, and therefore don’t seek out outside financing (the 2020 Scotiabank Initiative found that only 34% of women who need outside financing actually apply for a loan), women business owners are more likely to be approved for a loan over their male counterparts (88% compared to 77%). Part of securing outside financing is finding a financial institution you trust; you should think of a bank not only as a financier, but as an integral part of your team. They can provide knowledge, advice, and opinions on financial strategies; as such, the bank you partner with should be one that you trust and feel that you can have an open line of communication with. Having a business plan that clearly conveys your previous finances, as well as what you anticipate for the future, will help you and a bank come to a mutual agreement as to whether or not you will be a good fit for each other. There are also other options besides banks where capital can be found; there are women-focused capital funds, as well as informal suppliers such as crowdfunding. Refer to the bottom of this post for a list of resources specifically targeted at women business owners.
Harness the Power of Social Media
Social media is a great way for businesses to connect with their target audiences. According to Global Web Index, of the population on social media (which is just over 3.7 billion people worldwide) 54% of users use social media to research new brands and products/services. Specifically for small businesses, social media is a great way to build connections within your community. Business owners have a vision and deep understanding of their business, and social media is a great tool to convey that vision to consumers so that they understand what you offer. Furthermore, social media is a great form of market research; it’s a place to share stories and ideas and see what resonates with your target audience. It is important to not only connect with consumers, but also with other businesses within your industry. When you amplify others, they amplify you; and having connections with other industry professionals allows you to create a supportive network where you can share ideas, questions, and knowledge with one another. Be sure to join BuyBCfoodanddrink.com—this is a member-developed e-commerce site that also will connect you to other members and suppliers for ingredients, packaging, and other technical resources.
Listed below are financial and networking resources created specifically for women:
- Financial Alliance for Women: International organization that helps women gain access to capital, education, and market channels.
- SheEO: Networking community that helps women gain access to resources, capital, and connections.
- Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneur Program: Business toolkits and financial support specifically designed for indigenous women.
- We Connect International: Networking community that helps women entrepreneurs connect with international buyers.
- BMO for Women: access to financial education resources and toolkits specifically designed for women, as well as the BMO Celebrating Women Grant.
- BDC Women Entrepreneurs: access to advisory services, financing, and their Women in Tech Fund.
- FCC Women Entrepreneur Program: access to capital, business development programs, mentorship, and their FCC Women Entrepreneur Summit.