Photo: Kay Douglas, at her desk at Douglas Marketing Group (DMG), 4960 Walker Road, Unit 2, in Windsor, opened the agency with a partner in 1991. The agency also has offices in Detroit and Welland, Ontario and plans to expand to Grand Rapids, Michigan this spring. Photo by Dave Hall.
“I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!” – A Special Tribute To Female Entrepreneurs To Honour International Women’s Day 2019
Small business owners are the economic engines of Canada, employing thousands of people across all sectors. Women are making up an ever-increasing percentage of those entrepreneurs in sectors including personal services, retail, advertising and public relations, as well as real estate.
While many of the business surveys used by Statistics Canada to determine ownership of small to medium-sized enterprises across Canada are a few years old, there is no doubt that female entrepreneurs are the fastest growing segment of business owners (tying in nicely to the title to this story quoting a line from a song by Helen Reddy).
Women often face a different set of challenges than their male counterparts, according to Francine Schlosser, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Practice and Innovation Centre at the University of Windsor.
“Women can still be somewhat restricted by what they are taught in schools and by what they learn at home,” says Schlosser. “They can also face challenges accessing investment capital because they might not have access to the same network of investors as men.”
She continues by adding, “Finding mentors can sometimes be more difficult for women because the pool of successful female mentors is generally much smaller. There’s also the issue of work-life balance because in many instances women are still regarded as a family’s primary care-giver and as a result may not be able to take as much time to build a business.”
According to StatsCan, there were 308,700 female-owned businesses across Canada in 2013 compared to 232,800 in 2005. And women employed almost 900,000 people in their businesses compared to about 754,000 in 2005.
But, while that growth is encouraging for female entrepreneurs, men still own the vast majority of small to medium-sized businesses at 67 percent compared to 18 percent for women.
Generally, female entrepreneurs are younger, have fewer years of management experience and are more likely to launch businesses in the retail and service sectors, compared to their male counterparts.
“International Women’s Day” is a global day (March 8) to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. In recognition of this special day, Biz X magazine has prepared a short list of successful local women who have stepped up and opened their own businesses.
LC Platinum Realty: Maggie Chen
When Maggie Chen was told by other real estate brokers and agents that she was making a mistake in opening her own business, it just made her more determined to prove them wrong. And, almost eight years after launching LC Platinum Realty Inc. Brokerage with herself as the sole employee, Chen now has 60 agents working for what has become one of the fastest-growing real estate companies in Southwestern Ontario.
“It was the fire in my belly,” she says laughing. “I’d been in the business for seven years and I wanted another challenge. I was doing very well, but I was getting a little bored. So I started to think — what was more challenging than working for a brokerage? And I decided it was owning one.”
Chen comments that back then most Broker-of-Record individuals were white men, but the industry is slowly changing and she’s grateful to be part of that change.
“I am a minority and a single mom — a strong one — but still a single mom and I am very happy where I am today,” Chen expresses. “I was ridiculed at first and told it wouldn’t work, but here I am.”
Chen came to Windsor 20 years ago as an international student and after earning a master’s degree in education at the University of Windsor, she started working for a mortgage broker in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Then 9-11 happened and border crossing became more difficult, and after the birth of her first child in 2003, Chen decided her career future lay on this side of the border.
She began working at Deerbrook Realty in 2004 before launching LC Platinum, by investing her own money.
At first, Chen rented office space at 150 Ouellette Place in Windsor, but now owns her own building at 2518 Ouellette Avenue.
“I knew it would be difficult but, life is short and I decided I had to try it on my own,” she states. “If you work hard, have a good personality and persevere, you can achieve your goals.”
At 12 and 16, her children are largely self-sufficient, but Chen carves out enough family time to make it all work.
“I don’t believe in smothering them because smothering isn’t love,” she explains. “I want to help them grow into independent, loving people and I believe that when they see me working hard, they respect me.”
She wraps up by stating, “My work life and my home life are one big package and we all make it work.”
Anne’s On The Avenue: Anne Waters
Anne Waters, who opened Anne’s on the Avenue in 1989, is coming up on an impressive 30 years in business, which is a major milestone for any independent business.
“I started with $500 and a small business loan for $5,000 and I was so gung-ho about the idea that I was too naïve to recognize there were challenges with any small business,” recalls Waters.
When Waters opened up at 1395 Ouellette Avenue, the original plan was to use the location as storage space for her home fashion party business.
“I had worked for L’Oreal for many years and I was looking for something in Windsor,” explains Waters. “I had met some women who were doing in-home fashion parties and I thought I might as well try that as well.”But, she eventually decided to open a store instead and had to rent space just outside the downtown core because, back then, retail space was at a premium in a thriving downtown.
She added another store at 344 Manning Road in 1994 and eventually decided to consolidate her two locations into one store at 1695 Manning Road in 2014.
“I’ve been lobbying the Mayor (Gary McNamara) to change Manning Road to Manning Avenue, but I guess he has other issues to deal with,” says Waters laughing.
Over the years, Waters has transformed her store into a shopping destination with planned events and parties, as well as staging fundraisers for a number of local groups.
They include Street Help and the Alzheimer’s Society of Windsor & Essex County.
She is also on the board for Women’s Enterprise Skills Training and is part of an initiative to collect business attire to help women enter the workforce.
“Providing women with business clothing gives them the confidence to start new lives,” Waters believes. “It’s amazing what a difference it can make in people’s lives.”
Waters also realizes the importance of social media with Facebook, Instagram and the store’s website, all playing a major role in her marketing initiatives.
“Our website has helped us sell clothing to customers in Sweden, Ireland and Scotland, while our local customers use the website as a catalogue to see what we have in the store,” notes Waters.
Waters is still looking at ways to increase the store’s social media presence and is in the process of investing in new point-of-sale technology, which would link sales to the website.
“I never looked far enough ahead to think about being in business for 30 years, but I’ve enjoyed every day of it,” she states with great pride.
ONESource Moving Solutions: Danielle Carriere
After working in a number of family businesses over the years, Danielle Carriere decided it was time to strike out of her own.
Five years after starting up her own location for ONESource Moving Solutions, Carriere bought the company’s franchising rights in a deal that closed on January 31, 2019.
“I had been thinking about doing this for a number of years because it’s challenging, but ultimately rewarding when you realize how much you have helped people,” says Carriere.
The company’s services assist seniors, professionals and families with relocation needs including packing, moving, personal shopping, downsizing, set-up, home staging, snow-bird services, long-distance moves and personal organizing.
“We will do whatever a client needs to help them become comfortable in their new surroundings or even in their old space if it needs some re-organizing and downsizing,” comments Carriere.
Many of Carriere’s professional clients simply don’t have the time to organize a major move and many of her senior clients don’t have family close by to help them move into new accommodations, which often require downsizing.
“It can be traumatic for seniors to have to downsize and we try to help them along the way,” Carriere points out. “We talk people through their moves and help them make difficult decisions.”
Carriere and her team also offer personal organizing visits every three months to help people reduce the clutter around their home.
Married with three children — aged 20, 18 and 12 — she mentions everyone pitches in to help out at home.
“We’re a team, which is how we make it all work,” says Carriere. “I’m very energetic and my level of work enthusiasm is not normal, but when you own your own business, you have to put in the hours and dedication required.”
Carriere has two full-time employees and three part-timers and works with third-party contractors on the moving required to complete a relocation.
She is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers and attended its annual convention in early March in San Diego, which helped give her an insight into new trends in the industry.
“It’s like any other industry in that there’s ongoing education and you have to keep on top of it,” Carriere states.
Designs By Diane: Diane Spencler
A wedding and corporate party planning business, which started out as a hobby for Diane Spencler, has turned into a 30 year passion.
“My first client was a friend of mine and I organized the reception at her wedding and I realized I loved it,” says Spencler, Owner of Designs by Diane.
Spencler was working at St. Clair College at the time and started organizing and staging weddings and corporate events in her spare time.
“An event planner hired me to organize a large corporate event and I just put every dime I made back into the business,” she explains. “With every event, I just put the money back in and that’s how my inventory grew over the years.”
She continues: “It’s no different than any creative occupation, either you have it or you don’t. I’m lucky in that I’ve always been a creative person whether it’s fashion design or interior decorating and this business allows me to indulge those passions.”
Spencler stresses though she is a very humble person who counts her blessings every day.
Her business operates out of 5885 Huron Church Line in LaSalle, where she also has numerous buildings on site to house all her decorations, which includes trees, chandeliers and almost everything else she needs to stage large events.
When Spencler started, she was working two jobs while raising son Steven, who works in the marketing and advertising field running his own business, Spencler Creative Group.
After retiring 11 years ago from St. Clair, Spencler bought the expansive property, which also includes a stable where she and husband Jay Glover (her right hand man in all she does) keep their two horses.
“It all feeds into my second passion, which is animal rescue,” remarks Spencler. “I work with the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society in their animal rescue efforts and my business helps fund what I can do to help.”
Over the years, trends have changed and Spencler finds the wedding receptions she stages are largely about elegance while the corporate events are often tied to themes.
“We’ve done Beauty and the Beast, nautical themes, Gatsby, Phantom of the Opera,” she lists. “If they can imagine it, we can pull it off!”