Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards – Celebrate the Extraordinary
Canadian women are fighting against the odds to become a force in today’s entrepreneurial marketplace
BY MICHELLE SINGERMAN| PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM SANDLER | DOWNLOAD
In November 2011, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards (the “RBC CWEAs”) honoured outstanding women for their excellence in business. Coming from diverse walks of life, and from across the country, these women are making their mark as entrepreneurs.
After years of studying and training, Dr. Munira Jivraj graduated from dental school and passed the required exams. She moved from England to Canada, only to learn she was not qualified to practice in this country. And so began a year and a half of studying for new exams, while simultaneously flying back and forth between England and Edmonton to maintain her training and practice where licensed. Now more than 20 years later, she is running her second multi-million dollar dental practice.
Kim Rudd was a stay-at-home mom. Often asked to watch others’ children during the day, Rudd and a friend realized the need for local childcare. Together they launched a small business daycare that eventually grew to employ 35 workers and nurture 170 children.
Betty Anne Latrace-Henderson, daughter of an innovative hotel mogul, began her work life as a schoolteacher. Losing her enthusiasm for the job after 15 years, she spent the next 10 years building and selling a successful retail store. However, when her dad became ill and needed a hand running his company, she found herself stepping into his role and ultimately discovering her own stride and natural talent for business.
These women have overcome obstacles and adversity to make it to the top. Through running their own businesses they have become influential entrepreneurs.
Despite ongoing economic uncertainty, two out of three (66 per cent) Canadian business owners are planning on investing in the their company over the next two years, according to the 2011 RBC Small Business Survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid.
And, according to a TD Economics observation from January 2012 titled The Venus vs. Mars Approach to Entrepreneurial Success in Canada, entrepreneurship is a catalyst for economic growth and competitiveness, and Canada enjoys an above-average rate of entrepreneurship overall.
While their presence in the market place may not be as prominent as their male counterparts, female entrepreneurs are an expanding sector making a noticeable dent on the economy.
Reflecting on the “entrepreneurship gap” between men and women, Rudd, the 2011 recipient of the HKMB Hub Impact Award at the 2011 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards gala in November, sees self employment as the next step in the gender’s evolution. “Women have always been entrepreneurs, they have always been the creator of solutions,” she says. “And over this period of time, the independence of women has, like everything else, morphed itself to the point that they continue to push the envelope.”
She credits programs and supports, such as childcare, as methods that allow women more opportunities to be risk-takers and seek unconventional employment opportunities. According to the RBC Small Business Survey,
WOMEN HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ENTREPRENEURS, THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE CREATOR OF SOLUTIONS. AND OVER THIS PERIOD OF TIME, THE INDEPENDENCE OF WOMEN HAS MORPHED ITSELF TO THE POINT THAT THEY CONTINUE TO PUSH THE ENVELOPE.- KIM RUDD, OWNER, WILLIS COLLEGE – COBOURG
the number of women entrepreneurs is increasing. The percentage of respondents that were women has increased since 2007 from 44 percent to 53% in 2011.
For entrepreneurs unsure about investing in their company because of economic conditions or other circumstances, speaking with their business advisor can help them weigh their options, suggests Mike Michell, national director, Small Business, RBC.
“It’s okay for a woman to go into a bank now and say, ‘I need a loan because I’m starting a business.’ Twenty years ago I’m not sure how that would have been taken. It just wasn’t as widely accepted,” says Rudd, acknowledging that in the past there have been societal restrictions on women even accessing financing to become entrepreneurs.
That is a truth that Dr. Jivraj knows personally. In 1988, she sought a loan to open her first dental practice. Although a qualified professional, the bank demanded that her husband co-sign the agreement if she wanted to secure the loan.
But no matter what roadblocks she was presented with, whether it was a business partner having second thoughts about their plans one month into a new practice or having trouble securing that first loan, Dr. Jivraj always followed her heart.
“I feel that if you have a dream, follow it with gusto, never second-guess yourself,” she says of setting out on your own path. And for her, nothing beats running your own business.
Dentistry is Dr. Jivraj’s passion and her values are evident in the way she practices. “I think that everybody needs to be respected for who they are. So you have to respect their wants and needs,” she says, referring to treatment of both her team and her patients.
Over the past several years, she has worked pro-bono to set up a well functioning clinic in Nairobi, Kenya, that now has four working dentists, trained local hygienists and has served around 10,000 patients in a now self-sustaining clinic.
Dr. Jivraj was awarded the RBC Momentum Award of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, which recognizes a female entrepreneur for overcoming obstacles and capitalizing on opportunities. This neuromuscular dental specialist turned her struggles into a successful business that gives back to her community, too.
Through her Calgary practice, Millennium Dental, she donates mouth guards to local sports teams and will donate free treatments, such as teeth whitening, to silent auctions raising funds for local social needs as well. “I think if you do things for the right reasons, success follows,” she says.
Rudd, honoured for her impact on the local economy, agrees.
“Certainly one of the things that I feel very fortunate about is [having] the support of both my business and personal family to allow me to be involved in the community to the extent that I have been,” she says.
The current owner of Willis College’s Cobourg campus, Rudd’s initial business, a daycare, led her to being an advocate for childcare, which led her run a business that trained adults in childcare. “We ran programs for women, primarily, to become entrepreneurs and self-employed, by providing licensed home childcare [throughout] the region in rural areas,” she explains of her evolving career path. “Each opportunity was an exciting next step, but it wasn’t any particular laid out path.”
Though each business idea developed organically, Rudd always had the intention of bettering people’s lives. As a child, her family struggled to make ends meet. Yet no matter the hardship, Rudd’s mother taught her there were always people in more dire situations. “I feel very fortunate that I have a life where I can give back, where I can provide well for my family and do what I can for my community,” she says. “My value is really about finding a way to make a difference.”
Women entrepreneurs often have a different set of values compared to men in their choice to start a business, observes TD Economics, such as “occupational choices made early in their careers, greater risk aversion and a stronger emphasis on work-life balance.”
Twenty-five percent of Canadian women entrepreneurs started their own businesses because entrepreneurship fulfills a desire towards greater work life balance.
“The most rewarding [thing] has been the flexibility it’s created in my life,” Rudd says of her experience, also acknowledging that not all
I FEEL THAT IF YOU HAVE A DREAM, FOLLOW IT WITH GUSTO, NEVER SECOND-GUESS YOURSELF. IF YOU DO THINGS FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, SUCCESS FOLLOWS.- DR. MUNIRA JIVRAJ, PRINCIPAL DENTIST, MILLENNIUM DENTAL
[THE RBC CANADIAN WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR AWARDS] RAISES YOUR OWN SELF-WORTH, THEN YOUR TEAM’S BELIEF IN THEIR LEADER. THIS IS AS MUCH THEIR RECOGNITION AS MINE, AND THEY FEEL PROUD AND PLEASED WITH [IT].- BETTY ANNE LATRACE- HENDERSON, PRESIDENT, AIRLINE HOTELS
entrepreneurs do take time for their personal lives. “But to me, the advantage of being an entrepreneur is that I can make those choices, and I am at a point in my life where there are things I want to do and they’re important to me, mostly around family and some personal time.”
Although entrepreneurship typically entails putting in long hours to ensure success, for many entrepreneurs – both male and female – this encourages the adoption of flexible schedules and approaches. Integrating work into their whole lives, not just between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, is something entrepreneurs thrive on.
Latrace-Henderson, president of Saskatoon’s Airline Hotels, propelled her father’s company to six hotels and a multi-million dollar annual revenue, while maintaining balance. “I never know what my day is going to bring, which is awesome,” she says.
Recognized in November 2011 with the RBC CWEAs highest honour, the PROFIT Award for Excellence, Latrace-Henderson insists it’s her whole company’s award. “It raises your own self-worth, then your team’s belief in their leader,” she says. “This is as much their recognition as mine, and they feel proud and pleased with [it].”
She attributes much of the company’s success to her non-micromanagement method and allows her associates to bring their own creativity and inspiration to their work each day. She has also instilled the values-based mantra of “R.I.T.E.” within her company, which stands for Respect, Integrity, Teamwork and Entrepreneurship.
She credits her business approach with the values instilled in her as a young child, which was that family meant being in an environment where you know you are appreciated and can be an individual. And that is what Latrace-Henderson brings to her hotel empire each day.
It is these unique approaches that women entrepreneurs bring to the marketplace on a whole. And their involvement in entrepreneurship, while not yet equal to men’s, does have a bright outlook.
According to results of the 2011 RBC Small Business Survey, Canadian entrepreneurs say the most important pieces of advice that they would give to other entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses are to develop an effective business plan, manage your time well and engage in networking.
The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is a great vehicle for creating a community of highly successful entrepreneurs who can encourage and support the growth of professional women everywhere.
Rudd, who began her own entrepreneurial career with daycare and ended up running for public office, advises that the bumps in the road that women face will still lead to the end goal. “[Some rewards] take longer than others,” she says. “You can’t be afraid to fail, because if you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never succeed.”