How is Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba helping women entrepreneurs grow their business?
We grow our business in several ways. We have our core services: Our basics of business advising, training (sales courses, social marketing, and business development) and loans. Loans are up to $150,000. We have sister organizations in BC, Saskatchewan, Alberta and we all have loan funds which differentiate us from Women Loans organizations in Canada. Our national organization has created a partnership with Business Development Canada which gives our member organizations opportunities to lend at favourable rates. Those are our core pieces.
We do other programs as well:
“My Gold Mine”- based on the idea that your financial statements are a gold mine of information and should used to help you develop a growth strategy for your business. It’s a consulting service for women to increase their financial acumen and ultimately profitability.
We participate in a program called Peer Spark – it’s an 8 month program geared to women who are growing their businesses and consists of business curriculum and coaching. We’re in our third year cohort in Manitoba and it’s been very successful
As CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, what are some of the things that you are hoping to achieve?
3 major things:
1) Increase our competencies and ability to serve our client base- strategically and technically.
2) Increase awareness to level playing field for women entrepreneurs. If you read a McKinsey report from 2017 titled “The Power of Parity: Advancing women’s equality in Canada” – It could take up to 180 years to level the playing field.
3) Develop our own staff and their abilities of engagement to helping our clients to achieve their dreams. We want to help the world be aware, and our focus is on a regional level – where our internal staff and support are so dedicated to our client base.
Can you talk about some of the accomplishments that Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba has had?
All the training that we do has created amazing results. We are constantly outperforming our own metrics and this is with shrinking budget. We have such a dedicated group and we’re working to meet and exceed our numbers. We won the regional award for the Entrepreneurial Support Startup Canada award.
Stat Canada did a report in 2016 that spoke about the Women’s enterprise initiatives in Western Canada’s measures. In almost every measure, we statistically are higher than any comparative organization that is not specifically geared towards entrepreneurship development. It proves without question, that the specific women’s business related intervention has results that are significantly greater than lending programs.
We’ve had staff go to Ukraine, Vietnam, and all over the world – and similar organizations overseas feel that the results we’ve had in 25 years are so significant and impressive, that they have modeled their strategies based on our success.
Women’s Enterprise Centre was established in 1994 to help women entrepreneurs. At that time, it was the first of its kind in Canada. Why do you think that is? Why wasn’t something like this initiated earlier?
I was not part of the organization at that time. I think there was a political will and people recognized the need. And we’re very happy that they did. In fact, recently, the contribution of women owned businesses has been so significant to our economy – which is why you see the Canadian budget of 2018 include support to women’s entrepreneurship. It is just good economic principle. And we’re seeing it happening globally. Business programs for women are finally gaining some momentum because of the huge contribution that women make to global GDP.
Can you talk about the gender-specific programs that are offered by Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba? How do you believe these will help women entrepreneurs in the long run?
All our programs that we run are gender specific. Women run businesses different than men. And women are just inherently different than men and have other skills that have a large positive impact on global GDP.
Do you believe that as the years go by and the gap between men and women entrepreneurs closes, there will always be a need for organizations like Women’s Enterprise Centre?
To be honest, I hope 5, 10 years from now, I hope there’s no longer a need for us. I hope that I’m out of a job. I hope that there will be equal access to capital, equal opportunity, no bias or prejudice, and no assumptions of inferiority at any level. Things surprise me every day. I think we are on the right path to achieving this goal. If we could shorten that time span, I would be happy to find a different line of work.
Can you talk about some of the challenges you face as CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba?
Trying to do so much on small budget. We are very grateful to Western Economic Diversification Canada for the budget. There are so many more things we would like to do and so many ways we could meet our client base beyond what we do now. It’s challenging. Prices go up but our budget does not. I want to keep this amazing team we have now. We’re 12 people with jobs for 30. It’s a challenge to keep our team together even though non profit wages are not as tempting as the private sector. But the work we do is so satisfying and the team culture we have here is very compelling.
We have a national organization. It’s challenging to dedicate the time to work with the national organization which is so important. We see support coming in the next few months that will enable us to meet the needs of our members at the national level and meet the needs of our clients at the regional level.
On another note, how do you believe your past experience has helped you in your current role as CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba?
I have had 10 or 12 jobs before this. Each one of those has contributed to my ability to do this job. I have been an entrepreneur for many years. I have had 2 different businesses. I have been a writer, worked in sales, and worked for government in policy development. All of those things have contributed to my understanding of the entrepreneurial condition and understanding what happens at a government and policy level to enable supports to be brought forward and understanding what advocacy can do and what impetus it can provide to meet the goals of its citizens. I think life experience and recognition has been key. No matter what business it is it always comes down to people. Trying as much as possible in our world to be genuine and supportive. In essence that’s what the Women’s Enterprise Centre strives to be.