For Women Entrepreneurship Day, Overlap’s Co-Founder Lisa Grogan participated in a Twitter chat with Startups Canada that got other Canadian leaders talking about women in entrepreneurship.
You can view the full chat on Storify and continue reading for Lisa’s chat answers as she shares her experiences running a women-led company as well as her advice for women in entrepreneurship.
Q1. Which Canadian women entrepreneur or women business owner inspires you most?
Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonfiy, is one of my favourite people!
Carol is a serial entrepreneur and a visionary leader working in the tech space. We’ve watched Carol build Axonify—a software platform—and while she wins awards for business performance, it’s the culture that she’s created that’s highly impressive and inspirational.
She’s been a huge source of inspiration and encouraged us to start Overlap when it was just an idea. I’ll never forget her saying ‘Put your shingle out and go for it.’ And we did! I appreciate how Carol has given us guidance and shared her wisdom as we’ve developed Overlap from a startup to where we are today.
Q2. How does empowering and investing in women entrepreneurs benefit communities & society?
At Women’s Forum Mexico 2017, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said:
“We have an asset that is undervalued. Emotional Leadership. Women have that.”
Women have an Emotional Intelligence that helps us to understand how decisions impact our teams and our communities. We understand work/life balance and are able to make ‘human-friendly’ choices that have positive social impacts.
Co-founding Overlap gave me the opportunity to become an active philanthropist with UNICEF Canada’s 25th Team: a unique partnership that brought together 60 Canadian women to help women and children in need in 5 developing countries around the world.
At Overlap, we’re approaching philanthropy with an entrepreneurial mindset: think of it as ‘Philanthrepreneurship’. We feel this is an incredible frame for entrepreneurs to consider their role in making the world a better place and setting targets (just like we do for our business growth)!
Q3. We know that the proportion of SMEs entirely owned by women in Canada is increasing. But not fast enough. How can we speed up the process?
We need to get more women in leadership roles and balance leadership teams overall—and this cuts across enterprise and small to medium size businesses.
In terms of women-owned SME’s, I think we have a long way to go but am excited by some of the initiatives in place that are supporting business growth. For example, with Business Women in International Trade (BWIT), our government is actively supporting women to successfully export and win work outside of Canada.
Q4. What’s your advice for women looking to start a business, and do not necessarily know where to begin?
Get good advice. Talk to other women and surround yourself with exceptional people who have ‘been there, done that’ ahead of you. Learn from their mistakes. Find the best pieces of advice, adapt them to your situation and put them into place. Fast.
Build a great relationship with your bank from the very beginning. Bring them into your story and where you are going. Our first Banking Manager at Scotiabank has been with us every step of the way, and we view our bank as a key partner in our growth.
Exceptional Experiences from the inside out. Treat your own people exceptionally well—
they’re your biggest asset. If your people are well-supported, they’ll deliver great work. Your clients will be delighted, and they’ll become your sales force.
Q5. Women-owned businesses are growing fast. What systems are being created to help them scale up?
I am a fan of WEConnect International and the work they do globally to partner enterprise firms with Women-Led businesses. I also think there are some incredible forums out there that bring together thought-leaders from around the world to amplify the voices and experiences of women leading in business.
I recently returned from Mexico City where I attended a Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society Conference which brought together many different perspectives and challenges. (The Forum is coming to Toronto in May 2018. I’d encourage entrepreneurs to attend!)
I also encourage women entrepreneurs to tap into Global Affairs Canada BWIT team and make connections with our Trade Commissioners.
Q6. Diversity Matters. What can we do to get more women on boards or for women to gain more leadership roles?
Set targets, not quotas. We’re all good at hitting targets—so set targets for women on Boards and Senior Leadership teams and make it happen.
Q7. Access to funding for emerging women entrepreneurs can be scarce. How can we fix this? Where can they go?
Women need to invest in women. Women entrepreneurs need to pay it forward—myself included. Access to capital in the early days is one of the biggest hurdles entrepreneurs face and this is a huge area that needs re-thinking, especially by our banks.
Vickie Saunders of SheEO envisions a ‘perpetual fund of $1 Billion’ to support women entrepreneurs. It’s an innovative concept, and she’s now expanding into multiple countries. This is about creating a global community that supports women-led ventures, providing capital when entrepreneurs need it most.
Q8. What are the top three things you want women entrepreneurs to take away?
- You don’t have to have all the answers to get started. Surround yourself with exceptional people and get going.
- The world needs more businesses run by women who support our communities. The time is now, and it’s taking hold across many countries.
- Confidence! So much is about having confidence and resilience. No more feeling ‘who am I to do this?’ Switch your mindset around and work on being brave and confident! You are the one to do this!
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