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Women Entrepreneurs in Newfoundlandand Labrador: Then & Now

NLOWE recently completed a research project on female entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador, comparing present data with data collected in 2008. The goal of this project was to identify trends and changes in the ecosystem and ultimately to create an up-to-date profile of women business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In both 2008 and 2018, NLOWE collected information about the experience, education, and perceptions of woman business owners, as well as characteristics of businesses.

Here’s what we discovered.

In 2008, businesswomen in Newfoundland and Labrador were more likely to

  • be between the ages of 40 and 60 (72%)

  • live in a rural area or small town (50%)

  • own a sole proprietorship (70%)

  • operate in the retail trade or in the accommodation and food services industries (50%)

  • have one and five employees (65%)

  • rent or lease a commercial space (46%)

  • have been in business between six and fifteen years (47%)

Ten years later, in 2018, a women business owner in Newfoundland and Labrador is likely to

  • be between the ages of 40 and 60 (51%)

  • live in an urban area (46%)

  • own a sole proprietorship (60%)

  • operate in the professional/business services or health and wellness industries (30%)

  • have no permanent employees (53%)

  • work from a home-based office (53%)

  • have been in business for five years or less (67%)

Comparing the data above reveals a few items of note.

Increasing number of young entrepreneurs

The largest growth observed was in the number of women under 40 years old, which surged from 12 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2018. This included 10 percent of women under 30 years old.

Move from rural to urban living

There appears to be a trend among women business owners that is consistent with overall trends in Newfoundland and Labrador, where fewer people live in rural areas and small towns. Half of women business owners lived in rural areas in 2008, but that number decreased to only 23 percent in 2018.

Growth in home-based operations

During the past decade, there also appears to be a major shift from renting, leasing, or owning commercial property to operating from a home base. The share of women business owners who reported that the base of their business was at home increased dramatically by 32 percentage points, from 21 percent in 2008, to 53 percent in 2018.

Shift from permanent employees to contract workers

When it comes to employees, the trend seems to move towards increased flexibility with employment, with contractors doing more of the work and permanent employees doing less. In 2008, only 5 percent of women entrepreneurs did not employ people, whereas in 2018 more than half, 53 percent, did not have permanent employees. Couple this with the fact that in 2008 only 17 percent of women surveyed hired contractors, while in 2018, that number rose dramatically to more than half of women, with 55 percent using contractors for core elements of their business.

Some results of this research were expected, and others made us jump for joy.

The expected

Not surprisingly, many of the challenges identified by participants were related to pressures and increasing demands on their time, such as balancing work and family life. These challenges include the scarcity of reasonably priced child care, as well as a lack of supports that are common in employment—health and dental insurance, matched contributions to pension funds, vacation pay, and parental leave.

Jumping for joy

In 2018, female entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador are more educated, better prepared for the future, and investing more in training for themselves and for their staff.

  • 59 percent of female entrepreneurs have a university degree and 97 percent have some post-secondary education, up from 21 percent and 77 percent respectively.

  • 50 percent have a business plan in place, a 10 percent increase since 2008.

  • 76 percent of women entrepreneurs invest in training for themselves, up from 44 percent in 2008.

  • 59 percent invest in training for staff, an increase of 12 points from 2008.

  • 96 percent of women reported that they are most likely to approach a business support organization, a business or professional association or a government agency or department if they need advice or guidance.

They are also twice as likely to be exporting goods and services.

  • Exporting has more than doubled since 2008, up from 11 percent to 24 percent in 2018.

The majority of women entrepreneurs are focused on business growth.

  • 78 percent of businesses intend to expand or grow within three years, compared to 43 percent in 2008.

Having an accurate, up-to-date profile of women entrepreneurs in this province helps us understand the challenges and needs of women entrepreneurs. This information enables policy-makers to implement more informed decisions, and supportive organizations such as NLOWE can provide assistance and programming to meet these needs.

The overall research paints an optimistic picture of female entrepreneurship in Newfoundland and Labrador. Women want to grow their businesses and sell products and services to an increasingly global market, and they are investing in themselves and their staff. NLOWE will use the data collected to evaluate current programs and services and develop new, innovative strategies to ensure the appropriate supports are in place to assist women in starting and growing successful businesses.

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