Resilience will help women entrepreneurs as the economy reopens
COVID-19 may be impacting everyone across the country, but its effects are not equal and women across the country are seeing a significant impact.
So much so that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has described the current economic situation as a “she-cession,” meaning that women were having a harder time returning to work due to childcare issues and they often work in the services sector, which generally requires face-to-face interaction.
The COVID-19 pandemic has just shone a light on issues that were already there.
Before COVID, the structural inequalities that faced women have been well documented, from the wage gap to the lack of capital and resources to start and grow businesses.
Navigating the road to recovery
Women entrepreneurs in particular are feeling the COVID pinch because in general they tend to run smaller businesses or be self-employed, are less capitalized, and tend to be concentrated in service sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
They are also carrying the bulk of the caregiving as a result of school closures and supporting aging parents through social distancing. This makes it near impossible to not only keep a business afloat but also think about a pivot to survive COVID when doors were shut.
The federal government has provided more than $52 billion in emergency relief support including programs for businesses but in many cases, the size and structure of women’s businesses made them ineligible. Statistics Canada confirms that the impact of COVID-19 has been highest on those with under 20 employees and in service sectors.
Running a business isn’t an easy task on a good day—let alone with the obstacles we are facing day-to-day now. After talking to hundreds of entrepreneurs across the country over the past few months, here are some tips and resources, I hope will be helpful as women navigate the road to recovery:
The one piece of advice every women entrepreneur I speak to can agree on is the value of their network, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek advice and support through friends, family and your social media channels. The worst someone can say is no and the upside potential is invaluable. Many of us are feeling webinar fatigue, so connect with other entrepreneurs through smaller groups or one-to-one. It’s always helpful to get someone else’s input and ideas.
Women are much more resilient than we think. Every day, I am amazed by the stories I hear of how women are shifting their businesses to adapt to COVID. Sheena Brady founder of Tease Tea is setting her sights on continued global expansion and a new marketing funnel. Tessa McLoughlin of KWENCH had to reimagine her business during the pandemic and launched “The Craic” a learning and engagement platform to keep her members connected while they couldn’t use her space. And Evelyne Nyairo launched not one, but three new products, two hand sanitizers and one serum, during COVID under her beauty brand, Ellie Bianca.
If there is one thing you don’t have, it’s time. Here’s a list of some of the most helpful resources I have seen to help point you in the right direction.
- BDC has a library of free tools you can access to improve everything from financial literacy and operations to marketing and sales, plus a section dedicated to women on our website.
- The Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) has a great list of resources and has partnered with FWE to launch an online Sharing Platform for women entrepreneurs in Canada (and those working to support them) to share expertise, services, and advice.
- A digital presence is more important than ever and Digital Main Street is offering a free digital how-to guide on how to help grow your business online.
- EDC has fantastic resources to help you establish an export strategy—or at least consider if it might be right for you.
- Obtain certification as a diverse supplier and then register as a diverse supplier with BDC, or one of the many certifying councils in Canada to help your business stand out.
Recovery won’t be easy but together, supporting one another, we will get through this. And BDC is here to support you at every step.