Six ways to support and empower Alberta’s women entrepreneurs
Learn how you can help Alberta’s women-owned businesses grow.
By ATB Financial 9 March 2023 4 min read
The presence of women entrepreneurship in Canada is growing, with a 30% increase in women-owned businesses in the last ten years. However, female business ownership still lags significantly behind that of men, especially as the size of the company increases. A report by the Women Entrepreneur Knowledge Hub reveals that 18.2% of businesses with 1-4 employees were majority owned by women, compared to 63.7% majority owned by men. Once the employee count reaches 20-99 employees, it drops to 10.5%, then 9.5% at 100-499 employees.
“Women tend to own much smaller companies, and that's the bigger differentiating factor,” shares Justine Barber, co-founder of Poppy Barley. “So it's not just [about] starting [a business], it's growing [the business]. I’d love to see more women grow large businesses and more support to help them do so.”
Let’s help our province’s female entrepreneurs narrow the gap and grow their businesses. Here are a few ways that you can show your support.
1. Shop from them
Turning to big box stores and major online retailers that offer free shipping, low prices and steep discounts seems like a natural choice to save money, especially during tough economic times. However, seeking out local woman-owned businesses to buy from has incredible benefits for you, the business owner and our province.
Many local businesses provide high quality, uniqueness and customization that you can’t find in mass produced offerings. Your support allows female business owners to grow and scale their operations, which sets the tone for the cultural fabric of our province. Local businesses preserve culture and tradition. Through craftsmanship and quality, we can keep our communities rooted in traditional skills, cultural arts and storytelling that keeps Alberta’s ancestral heritage alive.
2. Support them on social media
Engaging with your favourite women-owned businesses’ content on social media can improve their brand’s visibility and reach.
A simple like, comment or share can go a long way. Engaging with social media posts often makes their businesses more discoverable, which can lead to their next customer and fuel their next step towards growth.
3. Offer support in your area expertise
If you’re a business owner or have relevant industry knowledge or expertise—like marketing, accounting or operations management—you can offer to share what’s helped you build your business.
Check out events, meetups and programs offered through Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), BusinessLink and the ATB Entrepreneur Centre to build connections with other entrepreneurs and find opportunities to share your expertise.
4. Be a champion for women-owned businesses
Once you find a business, product or service that you love, share it with your community. Recommend them, write a review, talk about them and let people know why you’re a loyal customer.
5. Seek out and support businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, women of colour and LGBTIAQ2S+ community members.
Many marginalized business owners lack generational wealth and access to funding due to systemic racism or discrimination and oppression.
These kinds of additional barriers to growth can make it extremely difficult to grow from a small business, to midsize and beyond.
The first five tips in this list are a great start in supporting businesses owned by women of colour and LGBTIAQ2S+ community members, but the intent is much greater than supporting in the short term—it’s building and supporting belonging and community, and amplifying voices.
“If you have the capacity to purchase from somewhere that is local, that is woman-owned, that is Black-owned or minority-owned, spending your money and your resources into your community is something that everybody should do,” shares Sara Awatta, owner of Oonsie Boutique.
“We have to think of ourselves as a bigger community. Don’t think of it as just supporting a Black-owned business—you’re supporting people within your community who have a lesser network of support.”
6. Host or attend an event run by or for women entrepreneurs
Women’s entrepreneur organizations like AWE host regular events that share tools and resources for female business owners. Topics can include leadership, marketing ideas, cash flows and budgets, as well as resources for BIPOC entrepreneurs.
If you’re a small business owner, you may be able to create opportunities to bring female entrepreneurs together. You could host digital or in-person workshops that allow you and other entrepreneurs to build connections and share experiences. Or you could get involved with organizations like AWE and volunteer your time or expertise.
Where can I find women-owned Alberta businesses?
The first step in supporting Alberta’s women-owned businesses is to seek them out. Here are a few ways to find your next favourite business.
Explore your area
Start supporting local businesses by looking in your neighborhood. Who’s making and selling near you? When we start getting curious about what’s around us, we’ll likely discover local makers and build community while we’re at it.
Makers markets are the perfect place to find small businesses creating local, artisan products. A quick online search will bring up the many markets that pop up year round in the province, especially around the holidays—they typically have a high ratio of women-owned businesses. Royal Bison, BOM YEG, Market Collective and Black-owned Marketplace are four markets you can explore in Edmonton or Calgary.
You can also check out online resources, like Afrobiz, a digital directory for Black-owned businesses, professionals and services across the country.
Social media hashtags
Hashtags can allow you to discover local, women-owned businesses— #AlbertaWomenEntrepreneurs is a great place to start.
Try a few hashtag combinations of what you’re looking for and where—like #BlackOwnedYYC—and discover the exceptional talent our province has to offer.