Women are the True Portrait of the Canadian Startup

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By KARA MORGAN  |  Startup Canada Women’s Initiative Manager

For many entrepreneurs, starting their business part-time instead of full-time is a safe and effective route the sustainability and eventual financial independence.

Studies show part-time work remains considerably higher among women than men. According to a study done by Intuit Canada, more than half (53%) of all new startups in Canada are run by part-time entrepreneurs; the majority of whom are women with full-time jobs.

According to Intuit “The true portrait of a Canadian startup is the woman down the street who is working through nights and weekends in pursuit of her great new idea, while spending her days working for someone else.” Susan Ward writes, “The best time to start being self-employed is when you’re already employed” in her article Got a Job? Start a New Business!

It goes without saying that there are many challenges to running a business part-time such as working long days, spreading yourself too thin, lack of health benefits, difficulty balancing work and family commitments and your business being perceived as a ‘hobby’.

Benefits of Starting a Business Part-time

So if having a part-time job is riddled with all of these challenges, why is it such a prominent option for many women entrepreneurs? Well, there are several valid reasons:

  • Test the waters: It allows you to see if there is a market for your products or services while you still have the security of paid employment.
  • Build your client base: It allows you to get people interested so you have clients ‘in waiting’ when you do launch.
  • Earn extra income: This may be the most obvious reason. If your business is also a hobby that you love or a cause that you’re passionate about, making some extra cash is a bonus.

Karen Hughes of the University of Alberta drawing on evidence from the 2000 Survey of Self-Employment in Canada (SSE), the 2000 Changing Employment Relationships survey, and an in-depth study of 61 Alberta women, noted that self-employed women scored high on intrinsic job satisfaction, work commitment and work–family balance even with the challenges that come with self-employment.

In Canada, the number of self-employed women has surged 50% since the early 1990s…and the number of women-owned businesses is growing 60% faster than those run by men, according to CIBC Bank (Women Entrepreneurs: Leading the Charge, 2005). Yet one-third of all women-run enterprises generate less than C$50,000 in annual revenue.

How to Reduce the Risk and Go Full-time

Although there are more challenges for women entrepreneurs transitioning from part-time to full-time, many of the pitfalls are avoidable with the right support and information. Here are just a few resources that women can use to encourage a smoother transition:

  • Get Help: Don’t try to do it all yourself; very few people are ‘good’ at everything. Outsource or on board the services that you don’t have the capacity and/or skills for. Typical areas include bookkeeping, accounting, legal, marketing and web services. This could also mean getting a care giver or renting a space for a few hours a day so you can work without interruption.
  • Monetize your time: If it costs you $50/hr. to get someone to do your invoicing vs. you taking two hours to do it yourself and your hourly rate is $100, you’ve lost $150.
  • Be Visible: Get your business in front of your customers perhaps by putting up a website, getting free publicity, hosting a meet-up or being a guest speaker for example.
  • Network: Join industry associations, Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce and share your skills through volunteering or sitting on committees.
  • Consider joint ventures: This would involve working with another business that offers a service that complements or supports your service. So a Realtor may pair up with a Broker or an Artist with a framer.

The most popular platforms for part-time business are online, direct sales, mobile work, home based and franchising. With the exception of owning a franchise, what most of these options have in common is that they are relatively inexpensive to start, flexible, relatively easy to set up and can be done at a time that is convenient for you.

So whether you choose to start your business part-time while you’re employed for someone else or you decide to test the market first before going all in, there are many factors to consider. But with a little planning and creativity, starting a business out on a part-time basis is definitely worth considering.

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