Women entrepreneurs: Think big

Women entrepreneurs are becoming a driving force in the Canadian economy.

About 50 per cent of all businesses started today are started by women. However, small and medium-sized businesses owned by women earn less than half the revenue of comparable male-owned businesses, according to data from BDC client companies.

Part of this is a function of industry vertical—many women operate specialized consulting and service-oriented businesses that can be considered boutique in size.

But that’s not the whole story. Women tend to grow their businesses organically. They often have a higher awareness of risk which can impact their decisions to seek the capital they need to accelerate the growth of their businesses. Negative perceptions about dealing with banks and other institutions lead many to avoid looking for external sources of funding.

Risk is part of the job

But I would remind every single woman entrepreneur out there who is running a viable business that it took some measure of risk to get where they are. It’s never easy for anyone to start, grow and maintain a business.

I would encourage you to take a moment and consider how far you’ve already come as entrepreneurs, business owners and role models for other women, despite the bumps in the road. Trust in yourself and your ability to create value and you will succeed.

But you do need help. Gender is irrelevant—no entrepreneur achieves success without the support, coaching and belief of others.

It’s vital to connect and build relationships with the mentors, peers, professional advisors and others who can help you build a better business and become a stronger entrepreneur.

Relationships are key

Develop relationships before you need them. Connect with other women entrepreneurs and find mentors who will challenge you, guide you and invest their time with you. Seek out partners, organizations and associations that can support you and your business. They’re everywhere, if you know where to look.

Build a relationship with your banker, so you know what your bank needs from you to understand your business and see value in supporting your growth. Developing the right contacts, relationships and advice are all part of a solid business strategy.

At BDC, we’ve committed to increase our lending to majority women-owned businesses to at least $700 million over the next three years. We’ve also increased our sponsorship of programs and events focused on women entrepreneurs.

The time is now

Now is the time to invest in your future success by getting the growth capital you need to develop new services or new products, reach new markets, or to boost the productivity and profitability of your business.

Canada needs all the entrepreneurs it can get. Don’t be content with the status quo. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business with a local market, or a potential exporter of goods and services, now is the time to invest in your business. For the good of our economy, this isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.

Lesley Lawrence
Senior Vice President, Financing and Consulting, British Columbia & North, at Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)