Emboldened by growth

Emboldened by growth

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This is a guest post from RBC Centre for Women in Business
(Member since 2012)

Contributors:

Tanya Priske, Executive Director, Centre for Women in Business, Mount Saint Vincent University

Women accelerating business growth

This year, I’m celebrating 15 years at the Centre for Women in Business.

As I flipped the calendar, I reflected on the incredible changes I have seen at the centre, and one thing I can tell you is that women entrepreneurs are making bold investments in Nova Scotia, and the results are unlike anything we have seen before.

Let me set the scene.

In 2003, a decision to move to Pictou County resulted in an unforeseen opportunity — a chance to use my background in economic development and entrepreneurship to work exclusively with women business owners in northeastern Nova Scotia on behalf of the centre.

I spent the next four years travelling from the New Brunswick border to the Canso Causeway. I visited entrepreneurs in their homes and businesses. Many worked in isolation and we often talked about challenges and opportunities over a cup of tea. I created bonds with clients that still exist today.

Fast-forward to 2018. I am now the Executive Director of the centre. It’s an entirely different organization, with a new team, a new look and a new home in RBC Centre for Women in Business at the MSVU’s Margaret Norrie McCain Centre. Our membership has tripled and we’ve received national recognition for our work on inclusion and diversity.

Our goal remains the same — to boost the growth of women-owned businesses in our region and to help them grow wisely. The unfailing support of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and MSVU allowed the centre to open its doors back in 1992 and has propelled us forward through the decades. The result is a huge spike in the presence of women in the Nova Scotia labour market. It’s one of the most significant economic events to have occurred in this province in recent history.

How significant? Forty years ago there were 98,000 women in the work force in this province and there are now in excess of 213,000. In terms of self-employed women, Stats Canada says four decades have taken us from 8,800 women entrepreneurs to a little more than 21,300.

Yet women entrepreneurs still do not make as much money as male entrepreneurs.

The gap appears to be closing, but recent research by the government of Canada indicates otherwise, noting that majority-owned female SMEs had lower sales per employee and fewer employees than majority-male owned SMEs in 2011 and 2014. Women are more likely to operate a business in the service sector, rather than in knowledge and manufacturing industries, which traditionally enjoy higher growth potential and profitability.

So the question we’re asking is what can we do now to ensure we close that gap?

Increasingly, we’re engaging with clients to identify opportunities to build their markets beyond our Canadian borders. As a team, we’ve made it a point to learn everything we can about the benefits of supplier diversity. It’s been a game-changer for hundreds of women-owned businesses in Canada, and will continue to be a focus of the centre, as a way of helping women increase their revenue as business owners.

Scaling your business for growth and profitability is a focus at the centre, and our Advanced Management and Mentoring Program (AMMP) has been an effective tool to do just that. Service providers in the program have proven the stats wrong by growing their revenues by more than 50 percent.

Six years ago, the centre helped launch a chapter of the Women President’s Organization (WPO), the ultimate affiliation for successful women entrepreneurs of privately held multi-million-dollar companies. At the time, we weren’t sure how many women-owned businesses in this region would qualify. Today there are four chapters in Atlantic Canada representing more than 50 companies, with more chapters to come.

These women are proof of what is possible here. They’re accelerating business growth and providing economic security to their communities. And whether they’re at the podium or seated around a boardroom table, they’re not afraid to tell you about it: the triumphs, the trials, the twists in the road.

Neither are we. We are the organization for women entrepreneurs at any stage of business and we understand how business changes with growth. We’re living proof! We work with women who push the limits, stare down risks, and refuse to take no for an answer. We’ve witnessed big changes and more are on the way. I have no doubt that in another 15 years we’ll look back on these numbers in amazement at how far we’ve come.

But until then, we’ll be here working behind the scenes to provide the business tools and resources women need to shake things up and excel in entrepreneurship.

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