If you are a woman and interested in starting or growing a business to take advantage of new economic opportunities in the North, you will be joining thousands of other Canadian women.
- There are over 821,000 women entrepreneurs in Canada who contribute more than $18 billion to the economy each year.
- Companies owned by women represent 47% of all small and medium-sized companies and provide jobs to 1.7 million Canadians.
- Women-owned businesses create new jobs at four times the rate of the average firm.
- Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.
Over the next five to 10 years, there will be considerable new activity in the mining sector in Canada’s North, with new and existing mines contributing to growth in many communities and regions. However, the timeline to develop a mine is a long one and many of the supply needs for mining will be filled by large industrial companies. So for women developing or expanding their businesses, it makes sense to think about smaller business opportunities in the wider economy, while also keeping sales and services to mining companies in mind.
Developing a Long-term Plan
There are many options, paths and time frames for developing a northern business. Many women start planning to open their own business up to five years ahead of time, maybe once their children are older or they have saved some start-up money. Here are some ways to begin the journey to business ownership.
- Enroll in community college or distance education to get a diploma in business, take courses in specific areas (such as financial management or marketing) or get credentials in your field (cooking, graphic arts, tourism).
- Work in your chosen field or for a business in your sales area to get experience.
- Form a group with other women and start a small business together, sharing the labour, costs and profits.
- Develop a social enterprise to take advantage of government grants, get management experience and support the community. A social enterprise is a for-profit program in a community organization that provides job experience and produces goods or services.
- Approach a potential buyer, such as the government or large corporation, and ask for help in establishing an Aboriginal-owned business. Many corporations want and need to give back to the community and support local economic development.
- Partner with an established business to create a new product or service, tapping in to its markets and using a business structure already in place.
- Once you are established, consider developing a formal joint venture with another company to explore a new market or business opportunity. A joint venture is an agreement where different companies agree to develop a new business and new products/services together for a specific period of time. They share control over the new business, its costs and profits.
From Home-Based Baking to Storefront and Beyond
When the Inuit Women in Business Network published a profile of member Sadie Vincent-Wolfe’s business, I Like Cake (http://pauktuutit.ca/iwbn/featured-profiles/sadie-vincent-wolfe), she was baking cakes for special occasions from her home, but knew she wanted to expand. Soon after, she opened her bakery-café in Iqaluit, providing tasty lunches Monday to Friday, as well as cakes and cupcakes for sale. Now, her event catering service is also taking off. In 2014, Sadie won Best New Business at Up Here Magazine’s Frozen Globe Awards for northern businesses.
Sadie began buying bakery equipment while she was working from home and still had a salaried job. When she expanded, she was able to get both a grant and loan for the rest. Expansion has meant some hard work, with more regulations and inspections to deal with, but it has been worth it. While she hasn’t yet thought about how she might supply the mining companies that will be coming to Nunavut, she can imagine continuing to grow her business. As she says, “When it’s your own, you want to grow it and grow it.”
Her advice to others includes making sure you have a high quality product or service and you are reliable and personable (and don’t get defensive about criticism). Stay on top of the finances and the bookkeeping, even if it isn’t your favorite activity. Sadie has no regrets about leaving her job behind and her business allows her to have her children with her at work. Having your own business “is going to be more work than you think, but you are doing the work for yourself.”
Business Challenges and Solutions
All new businesses face challenges. Here are a few of the challenges that other businesswomen have experienced and how they addressed them.
|“How will I know if my business idea can succeed?”||
|New businesses can lack expertise and capital to expand||
|The economy can have ups and downs||
Balance is dynamic… and ever changing… Focus on what matters to you and also track when during the day [and the week, month and year] you have the most energy… Be there in the moment… Do what is right for you, you don’t have to explain that to others.
How to Get Started
You can gather a lot of information on the Internet, attend conferences and meetings and talk to both Inuit and non-Inuit women in business and in the mining industry. Likely what you will hear them say is… get out there and pursue your dream!
Join the Inuit Women in Business Network. http://pauktuutit.ca/iwbn
Connect with other Aboriginal businesses in your province/territory or in a similar field across Canada by searching these directories and calling or messaging them:
- Nunatsiavut Business Directory
- Nunavik Business Directory (2012)
- Inuit Firm Registry Database
- Inuvialuit Business List
- Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business member directory
- Aboriginal Business Directory
Visit or Call your community or regional economic development officer to find out what resources are available and to get leads on business opportunities, funding, information resources and possible business partners.
Learn more about the mining industry and economic development in the North, the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in your business area and how to develop your idea into a viable business.
Get Out and Get Noticed!
- Speak out at community economic development events and other local meetings.
- Join or lead committees and networks.
- Attend workshops and events.
- Meet with mining representatives and their suppliers to discuss their needs.
Read guides such as A Guide for Inuit Women Interested in Building Their Own Business – http://pauktuutit.ca/guidebook
Suzette Amaya, owner of Samaya Entertainment and a motivational speaker, provided this advice at the 2015 Aboriginal Women’s Business Entrepreneurship Network Conference:
“It takes confidence to achieve your goals. Loving yourself is essential to becoming confident.”
“To live is to follow your dreams and to commit to making your goals a priority.”
“Don’t be afraid of change. Ask yourself: “What areas would I like to grow in?” “What kind of life do I want?”
“Choose to be around positive people… Hang out with people who inspire you.”
For More Information
Aboriginal Women’s Business Entrepreneurship Network.
Canada Business Network, Market research and statistics.
Economic development agencies in the four Inuit regions and Canada-wide.
Inuit Women in Business Network.
Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs.
Information, Tools and Resources
Business Checklist, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2014.
Entrepreneurship Self-Assessment Checklist, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2014.
A Guide for Inuit Women Interested in Building Their Own Business, by the Inuit Women in Business Network, 2013.
Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Practices in Entrepreneurship, by Rhoda Cunningham, final research paper for Master’s of Education, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE, 2013.
Journey to Success: Aboriginal Women’s Planning Guide, by Mary Jamieson, Native Management Services, no date.
Seven Steps to Help You Start Your Business, Government of Nunavut, no date.
Taking the Leap to Entrepreneurship: A Guide to Help BC Women Make the Transition, Women’s Enterprise Centre, Revised 2013.
Up Here Business Magazine.