More than a third of self-employed people in B.C. are women.
To help give female entrepreneurs support, the government is providing $100,000 in funding towards the Women’s Enterprise Centre’s (WEC) Taking the Leap to Entrepreneurship mentoring program.
“Women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian economy and represent a growing economic force. Getting started is the most important step, and through mentoring and sharing knowledge to help guide the success of each individual, we become more successful as a province as a whole,” said Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for small business.
“A $100,000 doesn’t last very long, it’s a start to the leap but in order for any program to be successful, there needs to be more resources put into programming,” said Paulette Flamond, the owner of Scoop Boutique in Fort St. John.
“It’s very important that as a women entrepreneur that we have other women that we can actually go to and be mentored by and get advice from because it’s very different for a women entrepreneur than it is for a man. Men usually have their big support systems and for women... it’s like you’re in the trenches alone.”
Even though 37 per cent of people who are self-employed are women, many female business owners still face prejudice in their professional lives.
“Lots of times women are judged on their gender rather than your qualifications,” said Justine Bouchard, manager of Cups, Tea and Cakes in Dawson Creek.
According to Laurel Douglas, the CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre, having options available such as the centre to help women has been a success.
“Over the last five years, with funding from the Province of British Columbia, the Women's Enterprise Centre, Taking the Leap to Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program has been able to develop a network of 150 women business mentors who have mentored more than 1,000 women business owners in communities all over the province - from Abbotsford to Ymir and Dawson Creek to Pender Island. We are thrilled to be able to continue this worthwhile program,” she said.
The program focuses on helping women by giving them the opportunity for one-on-one mentoring, peer mentoring groups and mentor advisory forms. In addition, the program provides business development skills and helps participants understand that a work and life balance is needed. Those who graduate end up with the tools they need to successfully handle the challenges of running a business.
“When a woman is her own boss, she has her own future in her hands and doesn’t really have to answer to anyone else that might have prejudices towards her so it’s always really good to support your local business owners especially if they’re ladies,” said Bouchard.
For those women who do own businesses, they feel that having support is an essential part of having a successful business.
“If you don’t have any kind of background with running a business it’s important to help you to actually get it up and running and do [well] at it. I would almost think a lot of people fail at their businesses because they don’t have support,” explained Debbie Busche, owner of CJ’s Java on Main.
Dawson Creek and Fort St. John do not have a Women’s Enterprise Centre, but that doesn’t mean that the centre is not able to help those who are far away.
“I love the women’s enterprise centre and I’ve visited their office in Kelowna,” said Flamond.
“I’ve been involved in some of the training that they’ve hosted in the province and they also have the webinars and training that entrepreneurs can participate in – they’re free of charge so you’re able to actually learn from the expertise and they have a phenomenal, phenomenal mentoring program.”
According to Busche it’s important that women have support through the process of starting and building a successful business.
“It can be very stressful and very involved and very trying – to have support whether it’s from family, friends, government whatever financially or otherwise, I think it’s really important.”