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Small Business, Big Impact: Women-Owned SMBs Continue to Grow

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Discover how women-owned businesses are thriving in Canada with the help of technology and government investment.

You see them appearing more often on the keynote stages of industry events. They’re increasingly standing among those competing in pitch competitions like Dragon’s Den. But there are also an entire cadre of women launching and running successful small businesses who might go unrecognized were it not for the latest data.

According to the State of Women Entrepreneurship in Canada Report, for example, an estimated 18% of businesses here – including small, medium and even large businesses – are majority owned by women. The vast majority of Canadian female entrepreneurs (90%) are self-employed.

The same research also found that between 2021 and 2022, Canadian women entrepreneurs showed a greater increase in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) compared to men. That means they were busy writing business plans, testing for product-market fit and connecting with investors looking for promising new ventures.

Part of the surge in women-owned businesses stems from Canadian public sector initiatives such as the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) launched by the federal government in 2018. WES represents nearly $7 billion that’s going into programs such as business loans, as well as resources to help women business leaders connect with mentors and other ecosystem partners. Business Development Bank Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) have also launched financing and insurance solutions for women-owned SMBs.

Another contributor to the rise of female business owners is a greater effort to recognize the success stories in our midst. This includes the 2023 inaugural Canadian Women Entrepreneur Gala, which celebrated dozens of inspiring leaders who are spearheading the development of a more diverse workplace ecosystem. Organizations like RBC are doing something similar with its RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.

However there’s a third, and possibly overlooked, factor that is helping drive more women in Canada to start and grow their own businesses. Advancements in automation and technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are opening up new opportunities for women to scale companies faster and easier than ever before. They can be more productive, efficient and customer-centric using the right digital channels and tools without the kind of overhead that would have been the norm even a few years ago.

Technology is also allowing women to run companies wherever they are in Canada. This not only includes a specific province or city but locations that span the office, their home or somewhere in between. For those who need to balance entrepreneurship with parenting or caregiving, technology is allowing women business owners to thrive.

If you’re a Canadian woman considering making the leap from employee to business owner, here are some essential steps you should take to help get your vision off the ground:

Make your marketing scroll-worthy

Most small businesses, women-owned or otherwise, don’t start off with budgets that allow them to commission 30-second TV spots or billboard campaigns. Instead, you need to be strategic, making use of digital channels where your target market is likely to visit and ensuring you have a presence there. Social media is the obvious example.

This still means coming up with social posts and social ads that will resonate with a wide variety of customer types, and managing campaigns effectively. Marketing automation takes care of the latter, allowing women to track clicks and other engagement metrics from the convenience of their smartphone.

Generative AI, meanwhile, allows them to iterate multiple versions of the same concept or idea based on a relevant prompt. This can accelerate and streamline the process of content creation.

You don’t just have to be scroll-worthy on social media. The same creative approach needs to inform your mobile website or mobile app. Automation and AI not only makes it easy to develop marketing assets for these channels but to continually refine and improve them as you get to know your customers better.

Take a one-to-one approach for landing your first customers

It can be hard to win over buyers when you’re a relatively unknown entity, which is why you shouldn’t sell like an entity. You should sell like a person who has something of value to offer another person.

This is only possible when you base your sales processes around a CRM that lets you collect, store, and manage all the specific details about each of your customers and prospects. Every time you connect, you can use your CRM data to stand out from the crowd by making a pitch or responding to questions in a personalized manner.

Of course, you’re only one woman, and drafting sales outreach and follow-up emails can take up a lot of time. That’s why the most advanced CRMs now incorporate generative AI capabilities to tailor sales emails and conversations based on your real-time data. The result is that you become more trustworthy, which is the best way for any entrepreneur to establish strong relationships with their first customers.

Build a reputation as a women-owned SMB with best-in-class customer service

“I love her company because they’re so responsive.” That’s the kind of comment you want your customers to be making to their peers, friends and family.

This comes by using automation to ensure you’re ready to deal with troubleshooting issues or questions the moment someone comes forward. An automated customer service platform brings all the right information into a unified view so you can also treat everyone in a way that makes them feel recognized.

You can also make use of chatbots on your website and mobile app to provide customer service round the clock, which can be essential for women who are not only leading businesses but are juggling multiple responsibilities in their personal lives.

We still have work to do to help remove some of the historical barriers that have prevented women from realizing their entrepreneurial dreams. As Canada creates better programs and policies, however, coupled with powerful technologies that anyone can use, the outlook for women-owned businesses is getting brighter every day.

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