Just over two months ago, I made the difficult decision to leave my corporate job as director of brand partnerships at a distribution company and stepped into the next chapter of my professional life. At first, in a rush of new found freedom, I tried to convince myself that I’d start my job hunt and work for someone else. I’d continue to be an intrapreneur. It would make sense for me to stick with the stability of corporate life. My five-year-old daughter Charlotte is in Montessori school (with expensive fees) until she heads off to public school kindergarten this September, and then there’s the small fact of my mortgage, which I carry as a single mother running a household solo. I had to stay corporate. I couldn’t start my own company, could I?
But for the next two weeks, as I sat down with folks to speak about my transition, I found myself fumbling over the facts of my future. I choked when a leadership coach asked if I actually wanted to work for someone else and I caught myself guilty in a lie when I replied, sure I do. I didn’t. Not really. I was answering out of my fear, not my faith. And as people caught wind that I was out of work, they started asking me to tuck in with them on brands and projects, organically.
Then I got on a plane with Charlotte to go on a vacation in Naples, Florida that had been months in the making, to visit family. I considered cancelling it but figured there’d never be a better time to hit the reset button. We spent ten days days lounging in the pool, collecting shells at the beach, making memories, and feeling the sun on our (vitamin D deprived) faces. The night before we returned home to cold weather in Toronto it was my 35th birthday. We ate supper together out in the open with the warm ocean air and I felt more relaxed and happy than I had in ages. After we devoured cupcakes and I opened a couple of presents, I tucked my daughter in for the evening and went to sit on the edge of my bed. I decided that I wanted one more gift, so I opened my laptop and started the process to register my business. Happy birthday to me.
There’s no limit to the joy I feel with the fact my official incorporation date will forever be March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day. The theme this year was ‘Balance for Better’, which is a polite way of saying, for fuck sakes everyone*, we will never move forward if half of us are held back.
The fact is starting a business isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially hard for women. Did you know that only 36% of businesses in Canada are women-owned, and we capture an anemic 4% of generated revenue with fewer than 2% of us making it to a million? I don’t want to get you down, but it gets worse. Journalist Catherine McIntyre recently reported that nearly 90% of Canadian investment deals since 2014 went to companies founded exclusively by men. That’s VC crumbs for women. And for every $23 invested in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), only $1 is going to SMEs owned by women. That makes me want to cry my feminist eyes out and type the rest of this blog in capital letters so you can hear how angry that injustice makes me!
Once you know this you can’t not know it. Truth is power. And it made me realize that all women building a business in an entrepreneurial ecosystem historically designed by and for men aren’t just entrepreneurs. They’re much more. They’re magicians. They’re miracle makers. They’re megastars. Essentially, any woman who has ever scaled a business is a hero, and we should recognize how she’s overcome stupidly sexist odds.
So starting my business is the worst best idea I’ve ever had. Because it will be hard. When it feels especially hard, I’ll hold on to my goal to partner with a gaggle of female founders to help them build brave brands for a better world, in the face of difficulties that should dissuade us all. It’ll take courage. Thankfully, I know women have courage in spades. We have courage to spare. And we’re fighting for a new world, one that’s fair.
Here’s to fearless female founders, everywhere.
*I’ll swear selectively in these blogs as it’s in keeping with my character, and I’ve heard people appreciate when Canadians curse. Just a little. I’ll be as polite as expected otherwise. Wink.