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How Women are Dismantling Barriers and Growing Their Business, Even During a Global Pandemic

It’s tough to believe that it’s almost been a year since COVID-19 changed everything.

While we continue to find our new normal, businesses, big and small, have suffered substantially. Restaurants that rely on in-person customers are struggling as the country fluctuates between different lockdown zones and retail stores with minimal online presence had to shift their business models to a more virtual one. 

And the demographic being hit the hardest? Female-owned businesses. A recent study has found that in comparison to male-owned businesses, those that are female-owned are taking twice as long to recover from the financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. While male-owned businesses began their recovery five weeks after COVID-19 initially hit, female-owned businesses only started at ten weeks. As well, it took male businesses three weeks to reach their historical average, while it took women 13 weeks to do the same.

FreshBooks, a Toronto accounting software company, analyzed small business performance indicators, such as new clients added, new revenue, and new invoices generated, from January 2020 to November 2021. Aside from learning that on average, women-owned businesses are suffering more than their male counterparts, they also found:

Industries that are typically female-dominant are seeing male-owned businesses recover faster. These industries include healthcare and social assistance.

Industries that were greatly impacted by social distancing measures are female dominant. These industries include education and social assistance. 

Industries that have rebounded quickly, such as the construction field, have seen a vast difference between self-employed women and self-employed men, the latter rebounding much quicker. 

“Doesn’t matter the sector, if it’s a business led by a woman it’s struggling,” Levi Cooperman, Freshbooks Co-Founder, told Global News. 

Why Are Women Struggling?

There are a few reasons for this, one of them being that women have become caregivers for children and the elderly during lockdown, resulting in their businesses no longer being their top priority. Another reason is that female dominated industries tend to be the ones that were the first to close because of COVID-19, like education and healthcare, and, in some cases, the last to reopen. 

Resources Available

There are many resources available to help women-owned businesses succeed in Canada. In an effort to unite small business owners, FreshBooks created #imakealiving. This Facebook group provides an environment for people to share advice and resources.

The Canadian government also has a handful of resources to help small businesses. The Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) is an interest-free loan offered to small businesses and not-for-profits. To see if your business qualifies, check out their website. If you are not eligible for Employment Insurance because you are self-employed, it is worth checking out the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). The CRB eligibility period limits were recently extended to further help Canadians. Visit their website to see if you qualify and how to apply. 

A full list of government resources can be found here.

Female-Owned, Small Businesses That We Love

Bread & Better started as a hobby for Patrice Pollack. At the beginning of February, she began selling her sourdough loaves for $15 each, with proceeds from each loaf going to SickKids Hospital. DM Bread & Better on Instagram to try your own (it will not disappoint). 

Roses Are Rez creates resin art products that encapsulate gorgeous flowers in a clear resin. She sells letter keychains that make the perfect customizable gift, letting you choose the flower type and colour, and shade of metallic flakes. You can shop her full collection on her Etsy store.

Stemz, a Toronto-based floral, wedding, and event designer, creates the most beautiful floral arrangements that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face during these lonely times. Originally from Scotland, Fiona Liston started Stemz when she moved to Toronto. You can see her gorgeous arrangements on her Instagram.

Heatless Babe Waves, created by Notable Life writer Brittany Johnson, is a silky cushion that creates effortless waves with no heat. Made by hand in Toronto, you can order your own on their website

Mimi & August will be your one-stop-shop for everything from swimwear, jewellery, and candles. This Montreal-based company’s motto is “exclusive and affordable products without compromising the quality and the living conditions of the people who produce them.” Visit their website to see their wide range of products.

Thigh Society originated from the founder, Marnie, suffering from the dreaded “chub rub.” This Canadian-made, stretchy, long underwear lets you wear the flowy dresses you love without the pain of chafing. Shop their three different styles here.

Kozy Koats is located just outside of Vancouver, offering clothes for everyone from babies to adults. Joyce sells a variety of prints and styles. You can see what she has to offer on her Facebook page.

Megan Seligman