Published On: Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Women in business face unique challenges

Women in business face unique challenges
Natalie Appleton of Read Head Copywriting

After working as a journalist for 15 years, Natalie Appleton decided to begin writing the next chapter of her story.

After taking the Community Futures Self Employment Program in 2012, she learned to form a business plan and other business basics. Most importantly, she formed strategic relationships that gave her the confidence and connections she needed to strike out on her own.

Based in Vernon, she launched Read Head Copywriting where she offers an array of services from blog writing, press releases to web content. “I was surprised at the success of the business. Every month I got busier and busier,” said Appleton.

She describes herself as a ‘brand journalist’ and has received the accolades of businesses as international as Kal Tire and as close to home as Vero Health Naturopathic Care and Okanagan College. She also manages clients in Ottawa. A key to her success was forming strategic relationships early on, especially working with complementary businesses and contractors.

Transitioning to successful businesswoman with toddlers is the next chapter in her story. She describes the adjustments of feeling spread too thinly, a messy house and staying focused. There is “always something”, Natalie comments, but adds she enjoys the satisfaction of feeling in charge of her own career.

The Women’s Enterprise Centre in Kelowna has been helping women succeed in business for 18 years. Funded primarily by the federal government, the non-profit organization assists women entrepreneurs who are just starting out as well as those who want to expand their businesses. CEO Laurel Douglas notes that the government established the organization because it recognized that women face challenges that men generally do not.

“We do research every few years to validate whether that’s true or not,” she said. “If we managed to change society so that it wouldn’t be true anymore, we wouldn't need to be here. And we’re actually working towards the day when we don't need to be here and we can just be an entrepreneurship centre that helps all small business owners.”

What makes women in business succeed? Douglas says it’s not very different from what makes men do well. Women need to believe in themselves, be optimistic, have good problem solving skills, good networking skills and functional knowledge – the latter is where the Women’s Enterprise Centre comes in. Douglas also points out that women tend to measure success differently than men. Men see money as a top achievement indicator. Women care about flexibility and balancing their personal and professional lives. Douglas says that if women want to do well, then in addition to personal attributes, they need to have a good business idea and focus on their market research.

“And one of the things that women do consistently – which is a problem for them – is that they undercapitalize their businesses. So they may not feel as confident as they should. We work a lot in that area because women actually have a very high loan repayment rate.”

For women in business in the Okanagan, the BC Women Lead will be holding a Big Steps, Big Vision conference being held March 26-27 in Kelowna at the Four Points Sheraton. “We’re really excited about this year’s line-up of speakers,” said founder Deb Leroux. “We have a few favourite’s returning from last year and new this year we have a brand expert from Mountain Equipment Co-op and a financial expert. We will be asking the women to come prepared to take steps out of their comfort zone.”

Last year’s inaugural year for BCWL was a tremendous success with a full venue of attendees from all over the Okanagan. “The Buzz in the room at the end of the day was electric. The level of honesty and professional integrity that each woman brought to the event, was inspiring in and of itself. Great ideas were exchanged and new business alliances formed.  We hope to build upon that.”

Why have an event for women only? Leroux said, “We function, think and excel in our work in significantly different ways than men do. It’s not a ‘boys out’ club. I admire and work with a lot of really talented men and have a lot of really wonderful men in my work and personal life. Women take up information, process it and manifest it in different ways. The temperature of the event is designed specially to make that magic happen.”

Her advice to young women entering the workforce is to ask questions and to believe in themselves.

“I would advise her to believe in herself, perhaps more than others around her will. She’s got to have a really fierce drive to succeed. That’s going to carry her farther than a certificate or a bank loan signature. It’s not going to go well all the time and it’s not going to go the way you think it will. Your business plan is a living object and it will morph and change before your eyes. If you listen carefully, your client will tell you who you are and what they need from you – and that’s the most important person to be listening to.”

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