Founder & Executive Director, Canadian Small Business Women
The state of small business as we once knew it is a story of the past. The level of uncertainty that entrepreneurs face is palpable. With brick-and-mortars in jeopardy, many entrepreneurs have had to figure out new ways to stay afloat. Especially micro-entrepreneurs, those classified as businesses that are remote, have no overhead, and are usually consultants, coaches, or have low start-up investment. These businesses have the ability to pivot quickly at very little or no cost and have the ability to convey their journey of change with their customers almost immediately. A large percentage of such businesses are also run by women.
Female entrepreneurs have been largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report released by The Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (2019), women account for only 37% of self-employed Canadians. The study also confirms that women are less likely to seek and receive funding than men, and that firms owned by men are more likely to receive funding from venture capitalists and angel investors. During the pandemic, women-owned businesses have been especially affected by high layoff and closure rates.
Women-owned businesses are uniquely affected by the pandemic due to the many “hats” they wear, as well as the fact that many of these businesses are considered “side hustles” and are used as added income for their households. The responsibilities of child-rearing and maintaining a household, coupled with the pressure of running a business, has made it that much more difficult for women entrepreneurs.
The challenges faced by racialized entrepreneurs
The pandemic’s negative impact on women-owned businesses can’t be properly managed without also doing a deep dive into its effects on racialized groups.
There are very few reports available on the pandemic’s effect on racialized groups and their livelihoods — and in those that do, the data combines all racialized groups. This approach makes it impossible to identify the level of assistance required by each group. They don’t take into consideration that these groups are affected by different social and economic barriers such as crime rates or health issues.
The same approach being used to identify the different affects on male versus female businesses should be used to identify the effects on all racialized female businesses. The few reports available place women entrepreneurs of colour into one bucket and this lack of data has a huge impact on the level of funding available to these groups.
As a Black female business owner in the micro-entrepreneurship space, I face different challenges than my other female entrepreneurs, constantly being concerned about how we present ourselves, how we’re being represented, and how the world perceives us. Until we can enter entrepreneurial spaces without these being a concern, there’s a need for information dissemination of our experience and how we operate in the entrepreneurship space. It’s only then that we’ll be able to receive the proper level of targeted funding required to save Main Street.
Dwania Peele is the Owner and Executive Director of Canadian Small Business Women. A lover of entrepreneurship, volunteering, and networking, Dwania strives to inspire aspiring and current entrepreneurs in Canada. In 2013, Canadian Small Business Women began serving as a platform for aspiring and current small business women of Canada. Dwania continues to make an impact by appearing as a guest speaker at various entrepreneur events and by guest appearances on panels across Ontario to provide valuable insight to those in need. Dwania also champions the success of immigrant entrepreneurs, which is reflected in her new book, The Power Within: Inspiring Stories of Female Immigrant Entrepreneurs.