A growing number of Canadian women are leaving the traditional workforce to join the emerging trend of female home-based entrepreneurs. Statistics Canada reports 951,600 self-employed women in Canada as of July 2012, up from 790,400 10 years ago. The agency says self-employment in Canada has grown as fast among women as it has among men in the past 20 years. Even more recently in times of economic uncertainty, the rate of self-employed women has grown faster than men. In 2009, a year of downturn for the labour market, the number of self-employed women rose 5.4 percent from the year before, while the number of female employees overall fell 1.1 percent.
“Women entrepreneurs are a driving force behind small business in Canada,” said Ruth Todd, Partner, KPMG Enterprise™. “From new mothers to young professionals who faced difficulty breaking into the workforce, Canadian women are turning to innovative self-employment opportunities to support themselves and their families.”
With the cost of starting a business at an all-time low, combined with cost-saving opportunities such as social media marketing just a click away, these entrepreneurs are embracing self-employment to satisfy their busy schedules and personal values.
“Building my own company has allowed me to spend time doing what I believe in – affecting change and inspiring other women to live their best lives,” said Barb Stegemann, CEO of The 7 Virtues, best-selling author, and mother of two. “As an entrepreneur, I have the ability to do this while pursuing new ventures and most importantly, spending time with my family.”
Top Tips for Women Entrepreneurs
Canadian women face unique self employment challenges every step of the way.
KPMG Enterprise identifies key challenges and recommendations for women entrepreneurs as they establish and expand their businesses:
- Launching an idea – Before investing time and money, careful thought and intensive research is essential. Test your idea or the product, and with an audience that is broader than good friends and family. In starting companies, friends often tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.
- Growing your business – If your product or service is not meeting performance levels, step back and reassess your business model. You may have to refresh your business plan; be sure to consider your strengths and weaknesses. You may want to look for a new partner that compensates for what you might lack.
- Getting outside advice – Advisory boards are a support system and sounding board. Small businesses usually lack this kind of support and feel isolated and unsure about who to ask for advice and feedback. Be strategic and selective when you establish your advisory board. If you are not ready to establish an advisory board, consider joining a local association or trade group that offer peer discussion and feedback as regular agenda items.
- Learning from mistakes – If your business is struggling, learn from your mistakes. Understand objectively why you are struggling and as a leader, drive the necessary change. Communicate honestly with your funders (especially family and friends). After looking at why you are struggling, identify two or three things your company does well and build around them. Discontinue, sell, or outsource anything else.
- Managing cash flow – Manage cash very closely and reduce the need for cash when re-financing. Step up your cash collection and closely monitor credit worthiness of both customers and suppliers. Get counsel from professionals that understand the small business landscape. Build a strong relationship with your banker. There is long term value in keeping your banker informed and engaged in your business goals and objectives.
- Assessing risks – Regularly assess and reposition to manage your key risks. If you are too close to the business, you can’t objectively see the risks. You may even find ways to refute the possibility of risk. Get an outside viewpoint. Work with a trusted adviser that brings specific industry insight aligned to your business.