The phrase “Rise of the Female Entrepreneur” has been catching on with great fervor as of late; especially in Silicon Valley where start-up culture has been traditionally dominated by men. However in Canada, the good news is that the number of women starting businesses has been rising steadily for the better part of a decade. Industry Canada says that from 2001 to 2011, the number of self-employed women grew by 23 percent compared with 14-percent growth in male self-employment.
What are some of the industries and sectors your members are starting businesses in?
I see a great deal of women-owned businesses that are knowledge-based, with services where women are using their expertise to help others. The service offerings include everything from health and wellness, to business services like virtual assistants, marketing and communications consulting, writing, accounting, bookkeeping, and more. There is also a high demand for personal services with all of the two-income families. Women have found a market for home services, such as personal chefs, organizing, home cleaning and other tasks that busy people want taken off their plates. Retail businesses – online, as well as brick and mortar – are common businesses for women as well. There is a lot of variety in what women business owners are doing.
How is the WBN helping their businesses grow?
We believe that career success is tied to the size of your network. Networking among businesswomen – entrepreneurs and professionals alike – meets the unique needs that women have for support in their endeavours.
WBN offers programs that help develop business skills. We provide opportunities for women to meet and get to know each other, building relationships that last. For members interested in public speaking, we have a speaker’s bureau. We’re always looking for ways to offer more and enhanced benefits to our members.
In your opinion who are some of the all-stars in Ottawa?
It would be impossible to narrow the list down enough to list them all here. A look through the Ottawa Women’s Business Network’s member directory will give you quite a few all-stars. All the finalists for WBN’s Businesswoman of the Year Awards are exceptionally talented with impressive resumes. Beyond the WBN, Ottawa has a vibrant and active community of women who run businesses.
Are there any industries, which historically have lacked diversity, now experiencing a sea change?
Women are still starting businesses in traditionally “feminine” roles for the most part, but it will take some time to see the numbers shift significantly in those areas. I do think small shifts are happening in some traditionally male-dominated industries. Women are interested inworking in these areas and they aren’t being intimidated out of going for what they want just because they’re the minority gender. However, the breakdowns of different industries by gender still show a typical divide by gender.
How can the ecosystem do a better job of supporting and developing more female entrepreneurs?
First and foremost, women who go into business, need education about what resources are out there. Groups like WBN, the Chambers of Commerce, and other business networking groups can help all entrepreneurs learn about what’s available. We need to take the lead on connecting our members and the business community at large.
I would like to encourage women business owners to research programs that are available to them, such as:
• At the municipal level, we have BIAs and Invest Ottawa,
• Provincially, we have Employment Ontario and OSEB,
• And at the Federal level, there are resources with Industry Canada, and Service Canada.
As much as there is out there – and there is a lot – it doesn’t meet all the needs of small business owners. Some are taking the initiative to create their own solutions through collaboration with other business owners. This kind of cooperation requires trust and openness. It’s refreshing to see that it’s happening more and more. If our local business community supports each other, we will all benefit.