Where Do Women Stand In Small Business Ownership ~ When It Comes To Canada’s High Potential For Growth In E-commerce?

According to the Federal government SME research and statistics (2012-2016)  Canadians are among the most wired in the world with Internet access available to 87% of the population. Some of the northern and rural areas do not have the same service as the urban areas do. Within Canada, BC and Alberta are the biggest users (according to 2012 stats).

As far as small to medium businesses in Canada, more than half are located in Ontario and Quebec. The average number of people owning SME’s is 45.2 per 1000 population nationwide. Western Canada has consistently demonstrated a robust growth in small business development. The majority of small businesses (78%) offer services. The highest percentage of small business is made up of micro-entrepreneurs consisting of businesses with one to four employees.

Small businesses have a revolving door element. Out of 13,820 start-ups, there were 12,590 deaths. A high percentage of those are in the professional, scientific and technical service sectors. BC and Alberta combined, contribute more than the national average in SME according to GDP measurements.

How do women fare in the participation surrounding business ownership? Unfortunately, we do not fare that well. According to stats from 2014 – small businesses with the majority of male ownership was 64.7% while the majority of female owned businesses was 15.7% The female owned businesses tend to be concentrated in the service sector, mostly in information, administration, aesthetician services, decorating, daycare, health care and recreation. Outside of these service areas, the business ownership by women drops to around 8%

The average educational levels for SME owners is a Bachelors or Masters degree for 30-60% of them. This comes as no surprise since Canada already has a high percentage of tertiary level education among its population. Since women tend to be more cautious when it comes to business, we are also inclined to do more research. The reality of it is that only 4.5% of the population establishes a successful small business. It doesn’t take much math comprehension to see what a minuscule representation women have in the bigger picture. But women do tend to be strong in semantics at a time when there is value in being able to write semantic HTML. Many women also have a good eye when it comes to colours, layout and design.

What are the barriers for women in business? It cannot be denied there are many barriers, when there is such a dramatic gender difference in business ownership. Whatever the reasons, women do face an uphill battle. The most obvious barrier and lack of support pertains to financing. But the gender barriers are far more complex, longstanding – and much more deep-rooted than money alone. They surround us. Maybe even engulf us, in the amount of disdain we have to endure.

E-commerce provides an opportunity for female owned micro-enterprises to gain some ground in developing and owning businesses. Ten years ago, a website could not be developed without learning how to write code. Five years ago you had to take hours and hours of computer instruction just to be able put a blog and online store together on the same website. And if not done correctly from a technical perspective – it would slow your site to less than a crawl.

Another valuable tip for E-commerce start-ups is to ignore all advice (advertising and hype) telling you it is possible to set up an online store in minutes. No such concept (of instant gratification or results) exists when it comes to building something with lasting value. Businesses do not get built in minutes. You need to have a long-term commitment to task, combined with some clear day to day directives. I set mini mottos and foundational criteria in my head for almost everything. Otherwise I get sidetracked.

Before they started doing automatic file compressions and cloud computing, you would be charged bandwidth on images. In some cases, they took your credit card number and titrated it according to some non-identifiable bandwidth usage. It was very limiting in the number of pictures you could upload, as well as in trying to estimate what the bandwidth would cost overall. Plus every single image had to have several captions, alt tags etc. which made it tedious and prohibitive if your site relies on showing multiple images on thousands of products. Now you can upload as many pictures as you want to. The one thing to note is that once uploaded, they are lossy images and cannot be photo edited. In looking back at some of the bad pictures I took, I thought maybe I could use a photo editing plug in to make improvements. But the photo editing has to be done before uploading – due to the loss of resolution in the compressions.

Web developer costs range between 65-100 dollars an hour. Don’t be taken in by the cheap outsourcing costs you read about. For 35-50 dollars an hour you get a language barrier, which is not conducive to developing anything. You have to learn how to do things on your website without hiring a web developer. There are too many changes and tweaks to make, never mind allowing someone you don’t know onto the admin panel of your site. There is nothing worse than a bunch of cluttered up code. It can break your site. Whoever made up the slogan “Code is Poetry” must have different neuronal pathways than I do!

Just a few years ago you could not set up payment gateways without going through rigorous and complex settings that required you to store all credit card data on your site. It put a huge burden of responsibility on the web developer or business owner because of the threat of hacking and phishing. In an effort to overcome that hurdle, they set it up so when the customer paid they were re-directed to the secure payment gateway. But it was only a partial solution as it had the disadvantage of taking the person away from your website at the critical point of conversion, and disrupted the continuity of your branding.

The technical advances now are such that the purchase goes to the secure payment gateway using screen shots so that it gives the impression of staying on the site while the payment is being made. This means the website does not need to store any credit card data or a customer’s personal banking information on the site. In addition, the newer platforms are connected to QuickBooks. All of the parameters surrounding taxation, shipping etc. can be entered and tracked on one site. As they streamline these attributes, they improve them. For instance, they recently added a feature to enable an E-commerce business to give partial refunds. Such features permit compromises to be made between the business and customer, without losing customer satisfaction or losing the sale.

As a micro-enterprise, I have not launched the online store yet. But, as I have been doing the research and photography – working quietly on getting product listed, I have also noticed that advances in technology have already passed many of the concerns I had. Once the store is launched and up and running – I hope to be able to encourage other women to look toward E-commerce as something that can be achieved, without facing such astronomical hurdles. After all – we have a lot of catching up to do!

Valerie Hayes

Quiet West Vintage represents a private vintage and designer collection that has been gathered and stored over a thirty-five year period. I now look forward to sharing this collection and promoting the "Other Look" - a totally individualistic approach to style.