Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but local women are rolling up their sleeves and making a name for themselves in Manitoba’s buzzing business landscape.
We spoke to three successful female business owners in Winnipeg, to share their advice and insights on breaking out into the business world.
Louise Blanchard: Never underestimate your own abilities
Louise Blanchard is the founder of Birch Wellness Center in Winnipeg, a professional center comprised of independent private practitioners with extensive expertise in clinical psychology, counselling, psychotherapy, clinical social work and psychiatry. While being a woman in the business world seemed daunting at first, Louise credits having a solid support system in the early stages as the catalyst to her success.
“My greatest success has been largely due to the many people who supported me and believed in my vision for Birch Wellness Center. Of course, I had the vision and the personal will to make it happen, but I could not have realized my dream without a team of people behind me.”
Louise, who is also a counsellor at Birch Wellness Center, notes that believing in herself, her abilities and her vision was crucial in keeping herself motivated.
“I think the biggest challenge for female entrepreneurs is their own perceptions of their abilities. Most women don’t identify themselves as having the skills and competencies to ‘compete’ in a largely male-dominated domain. Societal perceptions still need to change regarding female entrepreneurs,” she said.
Louise stresses the importance of the practical side when building a business. “Once you have a vision, you need to make it operational by seeking information on setting up a business model and writing a coherent and financially feasible plan. Although it may not be as much ‘fun,’ it will give you the solid base that you need to fully realize your dream.”
Chantelle Harder: Seeking help is a positive, not a negative
Chantelle Harder, franchise owner of Plato’s Closet Winnipeg St. James and Once Upon A Child Winnipeg East, says to expect high start-up costs and a strict rulebook when opening a franchise, as well as being adaptable when it comes to various areas of business development.
“Following the business model provided to you is a key part of your success. If you’re not prepared to do things the way that the franchisor instructs you to, owning a franchise is definitely not right for you. You also need to become an expert in everything. From marketing and social media, to human resource management, to financial analysis. These are just a few examples of all the areas you need to become an expert in.”
Chantelle says she wishes that she didn’t try to do everything on her own when first starting out, and says seeking help is a positive, not a negative.
“I wish I had known that I should hire my weaknesses. I tried to do everything myself and I wish I knew it would have been okay to hire people to do the jobs that were not in my wheelhouse. I worked extremely hard in my first year of business.”
“I always felt guilty if I wasn’t physically in my stores and I wish I knew that if I worked smarter and hired a few more staff to work in my business, that I could have been working on my business from behind the scenes,” she said.
Like Louise, Chantelle owes much of her success to her team.
“My business would not be where it is today if I had not hired the right people at the right time in the right positions. They are the day-to-day faces of my business and their attitudes, personalities and work ethic have a huge impact on my success,” she said.
“I would tell any budding female entrepreneur to make a list of what is important to you and keep that at the forefront of all your business decisions. To learn from your mistakes and move forward with a positive outlook. To lead by example, because your staff will take all of their cues from you. To ask for help if you need it. There’s nothing wrong with asking people to support you and help out when you are struggling. It’s a sign of immense courage, not failure.”
Michelle Leclair: Set goals to avoid burnout
Michelle Leclair, owner of Wolseley Kombucha, says she’s learned that it’s important to set weekly and monthly goals to avoid burnout.
“Taking it one step at a time makes climbing a huge mountain much more attainable,” Michelle explained. For her, the people around her are the foundation of Wolseley Kombucha.
“I’ve built my business on community. Since the beginning of this journey, I have made so many new friends and connections, and I have personally met the large majority of my customers,” Michelle described, pointing out the importance of networking for local businesses.
“I try to make each interaction personal and important for each person. Brewing a quality kombucha is my way of contributing to the community.”
Both Michelle and Louise went on to praise Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba as an invaluable resource for support, information, events and networking.
“Entrepreneurship can be lonely and emotionally taxing, so find people who can support and guide you as you move through the process,” Louise advised. “The Women’s Enterprise Centre is a great resource for women who are thinking of starting a business.”