#TradeElite chat recap: Women entrepreneurs share their secrets of success


Notebooks and Girl Boss name plate on a white desk


Notebooks and Girl Boss name plate on a white desk

Starting or growing your own business is tough. For women, there are even more challenges that come into play. The numbers tell the story about the challenges women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses face.

  • Approximately 16% of small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada are majority women-owned
  • Only 10% of high-growth firms are owned by women
  • Globally, women are less likely to be entrepreneurs and face more disadvantages starting businesses: In 40% of economies, women’s early stage entrepreneurial activity is half or less than half of that of men’s.

And yet, awareness is growing that when women succeed, everyone succeeds. It’s estimated that promoting gender equality could add $150 billion to Canada’s GDP.

Now is a good time to focus on supporting the advancement of women in business

With a growing understanding across the globe that a balanced world is a better world, International Women’s Day 2019 generated new heights of conversation, inspiration and celebration. We decided to join the conversation and asked ourselves, how do we advance the success of women-led business and women’s entrepreneurship?

One way is by helping others, of course. So we challenged a panel of successful women entrepreneurs and women in business to answer your questions in this month’s live #TradeElite Twitter chat, Ask a Woman Entrepreneur Anything!

The result? Lots of useful business advice, interesting insights and inspiration! Highlights of the chat are below, and you can scroll through the #TradeElite hashtag to follow the entire chat.

What are some of the biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make?

  • Common mistakes: not researching properly and understanding the target market, its size, trends, customer habits, competition. Also not being specific in the entrepreneurs’ value proposition and the distinctive benefits and gaps you are trying to solve/address.
  • Not understanding the market or need, insufficient market research, an unclear value proposition, not having enough capital to start, launching too early, trying to do too much alone (burnout/anxiety)

Top tip

How do I know if I’m ready to start a business?

  • If you have something to sell or a problem to solve and know how to price it, you are ready.  Starting a business is not hard, maintaining it might be, and it takes resilience.
  • The best business ideas happen in the convergence of events/things, when it aligns with your passion – that keeps you moving through the tough times.

Top tip

Can you start a business with less than $10K?

  • There is not a fixed amount to open a business. It all depends on your product or service. You can sell online with hardly any start-up costs.
  • It depends on what the business is and what the start-up costs are. It’s definitely possible. Always good to check out what grants and financing options are available. There’s also crowdfunding which tends to show higher success rates for women entrepreneurs.
  • One of the key discouragements for women is they know they don’t fit the traditional finance model and think they can’t get started until they do. Banks don’t always know best.
  • Some lenders that will match what the entrepreneur puts in, so check that out before you go spending. A side note on grants is that most want to see revenue or companies to have already been in business for 1 year.

Top tip

What’s the best way to build industry contacts?

  • Attending industry events and later on connecting in social media with those new contacts is a great way to expand your industry contacts.
  • Network. Use Meetup, Eventbrite, Twitter and Facebook to look for events. Join groups and follow people. They will share other events you may be interested in.

  • Export Development Canada has contacts in many industries in Canada and around the world and can help with business connections. Organizations like OWIT and the Trade Commissioner Service are also great resources.
  • OWIT International has many chapters worldwide, and puts on great events. They are volunteers in the industry all committed to helping other women meet other women, set up deals, and actually do business with each other.

  • Chamber of commerce or sector-specific events, social media, LinkedIn, targeted networking, alumni associations, and community business groups are just some examples.

Top tip

As a new entrepreneur, should I look for a mentor?

  • Mentors are important but you really need to know the value you that you will bring to them and show that value before you ask. The people you might be reaching out to could get asked a lot, so be mindful of their time.
  • Mentorship has evolved, you won’t have 1 mentor. Build relationships and learn from the experience of others. Find someone you can ask for specific questions.

  • In whatever we do, it takes a village. And in business, the same goes! A mentor can help with asking the right questions, guiding your thinking, preparing you and introducing you to key contacts!

Top tip

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Top tip 

Meet the panelists

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, CITP|FIBP (@bevictoryus) is the CEO of Shipz Inc, as well as founder and host of the “Let’s Talk Supply Chain” podcast. Sarah stands at the forefront of international trade with expertise in the global logistics industry, and has worked with the private sector to build, develop and increase efficiencies in their supply chains.  In 2018, Sarah was named one of the Top 100 Influential Women in Canadian Supply Chain.

Audrey Ross, CITP (@tresaudrey) is an expert on global shipping, supply chain operations, customs compliance, free trade agreements and international tax at Orchard Custom Beauty, Audrey elegantly translates mundane details into beautiful results. With more than a decade of experience in a privately held global business based in Canada, she is often asked to contribute as a subject matter expert to interviews, white papers and event panels. Audrey is the Board Member for Social Media & Communications for Fashion Group International Toronto.

Pernille Fischer Boulter, CITP (@pfb6): As the founder, President and CEO of her own company, Kisserup International Trade Roots, Pernille’s trajectory to the heights of global business success has been a fascinating one.  From landed immigrant to entrepreneur and community leader, Pernille has built not only a company but a legacy over the past 25 years, having worked on projects in over 90 countries and six continents in over 25 sectors.

It would be impossible to name all of the companies, individuals, development organizations, non-profits and communities Pernille and her Kisserup teams have influenced and impacted through her work worldwide. Through her work with SMEs, charities and mentorships she has made a difference in people’s personal and professional lives, just as she always dreamed of doing from a young age.

Shannon Pestun (@shannonpestun): As the Director of Women’s Entrepreneurship with ATB, Shannon is an advocate for women, passionately working to advance the success of female entrepreneurs in Alberta and help them overcome the barriers that stand in their way of starting or growing their business.  “​For many women entrepreneurs, banks are seen as a barrier, instead of a catalyst to success and we want to change that,” she says. “​ATB is committed to listening and understanding the barriers women are facing and reimagining how we can change their banking experience​”.

Shannon is at the forefront of that change, creating more opportunities for women entrepreneurs, not only by influencing how financial institutions serve the needs of their female customers, but also as an active mentor and business advisor.

Tamaïka Jumelle (@TamJumelle) is the Program Manager, Trade Acceleration Programs at Export Development Canada (EDC). She manages EDC’s participation in governmental and private sector initiatives aimed at supporting high-potential firms. Since joining EDC in 2014, Ms. Jumelle worked as a Public Affairs Advisor as well as a Trade Advisor where she recommended financial solutions to Canadian exporting firms.

Ms. Jumelle was previously a private consultant, providing recommendations on international strategy and investments, and developing legal viability studies for Canadian companies seeking to invest abroad. She started her career at the Québec Government office in Paris and later took on the role of Trade Commissioner at the Embassy of Canada in Paris.

About the author

Author: Nicole Chevrier

I am a digital media writer and a Content Marketing Specialist with the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT). My background is in digital marketing and communications. Creating content that inspires, informs or delivers on results is my passion.

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