How Canadian fempreneurs find success through curiosity and technology

Dorothy Chong | October 17, 2018

Women entrepreneurs share how they’re learning new tech, the struggles they face and what they still need

When the federal budget was announced earlier in the year, some big numbers (finally) came through to support women entrepreneurs and female representation in business ownership. All in all, it’s $1.65 billion in funding over the next three years, through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. The commitment also specifies investments in women-led technology firms and export businesses. Canadian women are also starting businesses at a higher rate than their counterparts in other G20 countries, according to the biennial Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship. But the world of fempreneurs is still far from its ideal state. As October celebrates Small Business and Women’s History month, TSheets commissioned a survey of 500 women across Canada to get their take on female entrepreneurship, the struggles they face and what they still need to be successful.*  

94% of tech-savvy fempreneurs are self-taught

Technology has been a powerful catalyst when it comes to productivity and efficiency for small businesses. Over a third of women in the TSheets survey say they find and adopt new applications and technology on their own. This corroborates with findings by Startup Canada on women entrepreneurs, wherein:
  • 94% are self-taught when it comes to digital tools and skills.
  • 93% consider technology to be extremely important to the success of their business.
Meanwhile, 1 in 10 respondents in the TSheets survey credits their support network for introducing them to new tech and business apps. But many women business owners admit they do not necessarily know where to go to learn more about such tech and business resources.  

New initiatives provide financial literacy resources

When it comes to the challenges of running a business, 37% of TSheets respondents cite cash flow as their greatest operational challenge, followed by payroll (32%), new technology (17%) and job costing (14%). In fact, Intuit Canada found that 4 in 10 business owners, regardless of gender, failed its financial literacy quiz, which featured questions on basic accounting principles. Yet the same study showed that 81% are handling their own finances. The data begs the question: Are business owners struggling with the most fundamental aspects of their business because they lack resources, they don’t know where to go for help or both? Thankfully, various organizations and business institutions have stepped up to address this. Intuit Canada partnered with Startup Canada and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada to launch the National Startup Finance Initiative, which provides thousands of entrepreneurs in 25 communities across the country ways to build more financially robust and sustainable businesses. The Canadian government also has dedicated directories to guide women entrepreneurs to the financial help and support organizations they need.  

Mentors matter for survival and success

Some 16% of fempreneurs wish they had a mentor when they were starting their business. In the case of Futurpreneur Canada members, all of whom are matched with a mentor, they report a 94% loan repayment rate. The ability to pay back their business loans means a better chance at survival and success. For women entrepreneurs, having a female mentor helps with both mental and behavioural synergy. While Heather Chapple, the founder of FlexHub found value participating in a tech accelerator program, it was also intimidating and male-dominated. “I would appreciate participating in a tech accelerator program just for women because being connected to female mentors could make a huge difference for my business,” she told Startup Canada. Patricia Crosscombe, founder and CEO or BoardSpace, recalls how some startup events were hard to navigate. “You have to be very aggressive in seeking out a team. This isn’t how women do things. We work more collaboratively,” she shared. Both women’s experiences support the longstanding fact that female business owners are more careful and conservative intentionally so they can control and manage growth successfully. This mitigates the risk of expanding too quickly, which can ensure the business’ longevity. This is also where the insight of a been-there-done-that mentor would be invaluable.  

Final Thoughts

Women-led businesses employ millions of Canadians and contribute billions to the Canadian economy annually. We know that Canadian women are very interested in starting their own businesses. We also know that where and when women lead, diversity and innovation follow. While female-led businesses tend to be smaller, they have higher survival rates and, thus, create more jobs in the long run. To support their entrepreneurial pursuits is to ensure an improved economy for all.
*Methodology: TSheets commissioned Pollfish to survey 500 Canadian women in October 2018 about entrepreneurial experiences and challenges. The respondents were all over the age of 18 and "employed for wages."
A little about Dorothy Chong

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