How women can access the funds they need to grow their businesses

Colleen O’Connell-Campbell: It’s a good time to take action to get the support you need to succeed

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Small and medium-sized businesses are without a doubt part owners of the powerful engine that drives Canada’s economy, but they may be accidentally leaving themselves out of the growth that is possible during a recession.

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Small businesses employed 10.3 million people in Canada, accounting for nearly two-thirds of our total labor force, according to Statistics Canada in 2021. The “self-made nation” is a phrase I affectionately use as a reference to the CEO, founder, business owner community that makes this statistic possible.

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Within this community, we have a systematic diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) issue at incredibly foundational levels. Studies, including one by the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, shows that women-owned businesses are less likely to apply for loans from financial institutions than small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with no women ownership. This financing gap becomes even more pronounced when it comes to investment from angel investors and venture-capital firms.

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Here’s a framework I use as a guide when the statistics are not in our favor even though women entrepreneurs are a significant piece of the Canadian economic equation: awareness, reframing and community.


Let’s begin by becoming aware of the problem. The No. 1 barrier to growth for women entrepreneurs is access to the very fuel of entrepreneurship: capital. Women are four times less likely to access funds than men, therefore, women are more likely to rely on personal sources of financing, such as savings or a personal credit card, retained earnings from previous businesses and government support.

If you are relying on personal sources of financing to fund growth in your business, you can apply for loans suitable for your stage of business. If you are declining at first, continue to ask for more information about what you need to do to get approval and then focus on making the necessary changes to apply successfully.

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Your pitch for funding is very important because research suggests that bias exists in the interview process. Present your business idea from a promotional standard and ask for what you need by presenting your best-case-scenario numbers.

Always have your average figures at the ready, but don’t lead with those. Leave them in the parking lot just in case you need an alternative ride back home.

Also, reframe risk mitigation questions that come up into growth prospect discussions. Your finesse will develop as you continue stepping into your entrepreneurial power.


Surround yourself with a network of mentors, fellow business owners and professionals who can provide advice and support. I encourage business owners to define their budgets clearly and engage with paid professionals who can support them in the borrowing process such as an accountant or bookkeeper, and a banker.

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A network of mentors and peers that you can lean on is invaluable in the business building process.

As a long-time runner, here is one piece of life advice I believe to be a universal truth: If you leave yourself out of a race, you’ll never win. Even in today’s current market, it’s a good time to take action to get the support you need to succeed.

Colleen O’Connell-Campbell is a wealth advisor with RBC Dominion Securities Inc. and creator of the I’m a Millionaire. So, now what? podcasts.


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