How to change the face of startups? Support female entrepreneurs
It can be tough out there for a female entrepreneur.
It’s a hot topic of conversation, but for Evolocity Financial Group, the gap became too obvious to ignore.
Evolocity decided to lend their support by partnering with Startup Canada, a non-profit lobbying and support organization for entrepreneurs, to create The Women Founders Fund, a program that would directly support women within the startup ecosystem.
“Typically we wait until a business has been around for at least a year, so this was a way to get in early and support some great business ideas, and in particular, female entrepreneurs because we know some of the additional challenges that they face,” said David Souaid, whose company provides established small and medium companies with access to capital.
The goal of the fund is to encourage more women to act on their business ideas, by providing micro-loans, mentorship and support – and by showing them that a career in entrepreneurship is actually possible.
“In the startup community in Canada, women entrepreneurs are not as represented as they should be,” said Victoria Lennox, the head of Startup Canada.
“Women don’t see enough role models that they can relate to, to encourage them to take the lead.”
To Lennox, the work of companies like Evolocity is an important step toward addressing systemic gaps in funding for female entrepreneurs, who receive less than five per cent of venture capital despite representing 47 per cent of Canadian business owners and contributing $148 billion in economic activity.
It’s also a way to begin to change the culture of startups and shift the focus away from a hustle-driven, face-time demanding, male-dominated environment to one where families aren’t a hindrance and women can thrive.
“It’s so systemic and deeply rooted: The people who are making the investment decisions are often men, and so part of the objective of what’s happening in the entrepreneurship landscape is getting more women investors, having more women involved in assessing loan applications, so that different businesses can be assessed based on their merits,” said Lennox.
That means understanding that women will often create different types of businesses, which may not always be tech-centric, but can be highly profitable if given the chance.
It also means acknowledging that someone can be a successful entrepreneur even if she can’t promote her company at as many speaking engagements as her male counterparts because of family obligations that may still fall on her.
“When you go to startup conferences and startup events and you don’t see other people like you, you feel like an outsider,” said Lennox of female entrepreneurs.
“As a new entrepreneur, it can be very intimidating, so having a friendlier or more welcoming environment with more diversity of people around definitely helps people to feel more open and supported in the community.”
She hopes the fund, and the success stories it helps to highlight, will encourage other women to make the jump into entrepreneurship, just like she did after hearing an inspiring story 10 years ago.
“Part of this fund is to support these women and to show them that Canada is behind them,” said Lennox.
“But the other part… is to celebrate what they’ve already achieved, because they’re already further ahead than those who are thinking about starting up, they can be inspiring role models to the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Evolocity. As seen on National Post.