Have you ever asked yourself, am I ready to export? If the answer is always a ‘no’ — or you’re not even ready to consider the question of going global — you’re not alone. Only 11% of women-owned businesses in Canada are exporters.
The low participation can partially be attributed to the unique barriers that women entrepreneurs face when it comes to building a business — but there are factors you can control. And the first step is changing your mindset.
Here are four things to consider that just might change your view about taking your business international:
1. You’ve already got the mindset you need.
After all that’s happened over the last year, it’s normal not to be feeling particularly confident or courageous. But take a moment and think back to your first step into entrepreneurship. Reflect on all the big obstacles you’ve overcome, the opportunities you’ve gone after, and the ups and downs of the daily grind in between. All of that took confidence and courage — the same mindset you need to find success abroad.
2. You might be exporting already.
When you think about exporting, you probably picture a box being packaged and shipped around the world. That image misses all the service providers selling to an international market. Even when everything is done online, and you’re selling ideas, advice, or other intangible goods, you’re an exporter. The sooner you learn how to embrace the term, the better equipped you’ll be to manage exporting obstacles and to go after opportunities.
3. Success isn’t about size — you can export as a small business.
Yes, large enterprises account for a lot of the goods and services leaving Canada, but if you look at the landscape as a whole, the majority of exporters employ less than 50 people, and three-quarters sell less than $1 million abroad each year. Small businesses and even micro-businesses (making under $1 million in revenue total) can find their exporting niche, and along with it, the benefits — which may include growth. Between 2009 and 2011, one out of every 10 exporters grew at an annual rate of more than 20%, and small- and medium-sized companies that export average more than double the annual revenue of non-exporting companies, according to a 2015 report by Industry Canada.
4. You don’t have to go it alone.
Even if you’re feeling ready to export, or are dabbling in it already, you might have hit the roadblock of figuring out how to do it well. The good news: you don’t have to waste resources finding those answers on your own. There are supports available for women entrepreneurs who are interested in starting or growing their exporting efforts. From resources like EDC’s Export Help Hub to programs like EDC’s Women in Trade, you can find expert knowledge, targeted advice, inspirational stories, and even financial solutions designed to help you meet your global potential.
“While attending a tradeshow in Toronto, a friend of mine suggested I go to the New York NOW Gift Show directly after the Toronto show was over. I was terrified at the prospect of going to a show in the USA as I knew nothing about export, but I went anyway. After that show, I realized the opportunities for export were greater than I imagined, because export markets are incredibly interested in Canadian made, shelf stable products.”
Founder, Sweetsmith Candy Co.
“My co-founder, Connie Lo, and I have always had high aspirations for Three Ships. From Day 1 we knew that exporting to the US in particular would be critical for us to grow the brand to a significant following. After going through the TAP [Trade Accelerator Program] two years ago, our eyes were truly opened to the possibilities and support that there is in Canada to export.”
Co-Founder, Three Ships Beauty