We know the statistics. Only 16% of small and medium-sized businesses are majority women-owned. They also tend to be smaller and earn less than male-owned businesses. At first glance, these numbers seem disappointing but they are changing — fast. In fact, about half of all new businesses are started by women and the earnings gap is steadily closing.
But we can’t ignore the numbers, especially because they reinforce what most women entrepreneurs already know: it’s harder to find capital which makes it harder to hire and grow. Most lack female mentors and role models to look up to and learn from, and we are usually the main caregiver which makes it harder to balance work and family life.
I speak with dozens of women entrepreneurs… They can all agree that our problems are greatly reduced when women make connections with other female entrepreneurs.
We are stronger together
In any given week I speak with dozens of women entrepreneurs about how they can best achieve their business goals. Regardless of the type of entrepreneur they are: creator, builder, leader, or founder and the type of business they own, the stage of their company, or their revenue, the thing they can all agree on is that our problems are greatly reduced when women make connections with other female entrepreneurs.
This may seem obvious, but it takes a lot of time to run a business. You have to support the day-to-day business and try to be strategic to meet your longer-term business objectives. It’s hard to do both at once but more often than not, there is someone who has already been in your shoes and can provide invaluable advice, tips, or an introduction to help you meet your goals and save you tons of time and energy.
This past January, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) hosted a WE Talk Business Bootcamp for over 100 women entrepreneurs in Vancouver to help them learn how to grow their business. Following the event, we created a LinkedIn group so these women could stay connected, one of the key pain points identified during the session. Four days after the page went live, almost all of the women who attended our event had joined the group, exchanging both ideas and encouragement.
Imagine finding your own tribe of advocates, collaborators, and allies. Imagine building relationships that help you drive growth in your business, build your confidence and skills, and help you tap into other entrepreneurs. It’s possible. In fact, there are many simple ways women entrepreneurs can help themselves and others to be stronger together.
We created a LinkedIn group so these women could stay connected. Four days after the page went live, almost all of the women who attended our event had joined the group.
1. Ask the question
Success always starts with asking a question. More often than not, someone has been in your shoes, solved the problem you are facing, dealt with the problem client causing you to lose sleep, or knows someone who has. All you need to do is ask. Find an event, conference, association, or online group that brings together like-minded entrepreneurs and keep them in your network. Exchange an email, connect on LinkedIn, or schedule a coffee. You don’t always need to stay in touch with these people but knowing you have them when you need them (or they need you) is a powerful tool.
2. Pay it forward
Don’t just ask for advice, offer it freely as well. Growing up, my mom taught me the importance of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Take the time to listen, offer your insights, advice, and learnings to help others. Genuine advice is more likely to be returned when you need it too.
3. Be a cheerleader
Women are less likely to promote their accomplishments, so help other women by shouting their successes. Brag about the women in your life landing new clients, exceeding their revenue targets, or winning awards. The more you do it for others, the more likely they are to do the same for you. And don’t forget that it is absolutely okay to be proud of your accomplishments and pound your own chest. An easy, and relatively cost-effective way to do this is using social media. It will help build your brand, and promote your own and other women’s, achievements.
4. The ripple effect
The problems we face as entrepreneurs are greatly reduced when we connect with other women. It takes time to build a trusted group of advisors, mentors, and supporters but over the years your circle will continue to grow and eventually you will see the ripple effect it has on all the women around you. By working together and supporting one another you can strengthen your business and set a great example for future entrepreneurs.
National Lead, Women Entrepreneurs, BDC