How Canadian women entrepreneurs are proving themselves unstoppable in business

8 min read
Emma Wardill

Four out of five Canadian women entrepreneurs believe they would be better off owning their own business than working for someone else, a new survey shows.

GoDaddy’s Unstoppable Women research found a thirst for financial freedom and flexibility were the main desires driving women entrepreneurs to start their own business or side-hustle.

The research was conducted to shine a light on women entrepreneurs ahead of International Women’s Day in March.

It found time commitments and set up costs were the biggest perceived barriers to women in starting their own business.

However, the survey of 1,009 women, also found that aspiring women business owners tended to overestimate business start-up costs by an average of 56% or more.

When in fact:

  • Two-thirds of female business owners surveyed said it cost them less than $1,000 to launch their business
  • 15% said they had no start-up costs at all

Many women entrepreneurs are following their passion into business, crediting their confidence and self-belief as key factors in their successful entrepreneurial journey.

2024 UPDATE: GoDaddy's 2024 study revealed that 65.7% of female micro business owners surveyed said they ran their businesses solo. Get all the stats here.

Meet Sadaf Rahimi: one of Canada’s unstoppable women entrepreneurs

Sadaf Rahimi created mouth-watering business, Charcuterie Vancouver, in 2019. It sells everything from individual boxes to gift packs and tables for corporate gigs and events.

Sadaf Rahimi with charcuterie board
Charcuterie Vancouver founder Sadaf Rahimi with one of her charcuterie boards.

Her family were the inspiration behind her decision to start her own small business.

“My little brother Sadid always used to talk to me about wanting to be a business owner when he grew up and that inspired me to look outside the corporate life,” she says.

I was always looking for what I was good enough at to be able to sell it.

“I realized it was aesthetically pleasing food plates and got started right away and never looked back!”

Journey to business ownership

Sadaf’s family came to Canada, via a short stay in Russia, after leaving Afghanistan. This journey has been a powerful motivator for her business success.

Closeup of individual charcuterie servings

Seeing my parents go through the struggles that they went through to give us a better life here in Canada has motivated me to do everything I possibly can to succeed.

“I want to give back to my mom because she has sacrificed everything for us,’’ Sadaf says.

Similarly, 41% of Canadian businesswomen in the GoDaddy survey said they pursued their passion and started a small business for the potential financial gains.

A quarter of women surveyed said they wanted greater flexibility to work to their own schedule and 13% wanted the autonomy to be their own boss. Only 6% said their work had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: What no one tells you about starting a business

So, what’s getting in the way of women entrepreneurs?

For more than half of the aspiring women entrepreneurs surveyed, time and set up costs were seen as the biggest barriers to launching their own businesses.

Childcare costs were also a chief concern for 39% of aspiring entrepreneurs, with one in three women surveyed saying they were a primary caregiver to children under 18.

Eight in 10 of the women surveyed also said they were responsible for most of the household duties.

Almost the same number said they had experienced burnout at some point in their careers.

Sadaf says the COVID-19 pandemic was an initial hurdle for her small business and forced her to rethink her business plans, which centred around catering for events.

“The biggest barrier for us was that we started at the end of 2019, and shortly after we had to shut down all of our catered events due to COVID,’’ she says.

“We had to pivot and make our smaller individual charcuterie boxes an option. That really helped us stay afloat during the pandemic.”

Related: Best business ideas in Canada

Individual charcuterie boxes created in response to the pandemic
Sadaf began offering individual charcuterie boxes during the pandemic.

A business might cost less to start than you think

Despite the high proportion of women who indicated set up costs were a key business blocker, the survey also found women entrepreneurs may be overestimating start-up costs.

More than half of the aspiring women entrepreneurs surveyed said they expected to pay between $5,000 and $25,000 to start their business, with 7% expecting to need more than $25,000.

Only 18% of women business owners surveyed said their start-up costs were more than 1,000.

Likewise, when it came to estimating potential business earnings, there was a gap between expectations and actual results reported by the women entrepreneurs who responded to the survey.

On average, the current business owners said they earned $67,572 a year, while aspiring entrepreneurs expected to make an average of $36,028.

Related: How much does it cost to build a website in Canada?

Canadian women are backing themselves to succeed

Canadian women entrepreneurs may foresee a number of barriers to their start-up success, but many have proven themselves to be unstoppable in the face of these challenges.

GoDaddy’s research found 35% of Canadian women entrepreneurs credited their confidence and self-belief as the driving forces behind their business building success. This was closely followed by:

Sadaf says her passion has been a driving force in her business success so far.

Sadaf posing in front of Charcuterie Vancouver’s storefront
Sadaf posing in front of Charcuterie Vancouver’s first storefront.

“I love hosting events and bringing people together,’’ she says. “Food is a huge aspect of gatherings.

My passion here helped me bring my business to life and take it to the success it has today.

Sadaf at work

Sadaf’s website built with GoDaddy’s Website Builder has been a key part of her business success. In fact, it was her first business purchase in 2019 — before she had even shared she was starting a business.

“It has been the biggest reason for our growth and success,’’ she says.

“I am able to post all of our products online and have our clients purchase on our website seamlessly — with no human communication required.

“I truly believe every business owner needs a website at the start of their entrepreneurship journey to not only look more professional to their clients but to make their own lives easier.

“GoDaddy has many templates which are very user-friendly. Anyone can build their own website.”

Similarly, aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs also see the value in an online presence, with nine in 10 saying they plan to have a website for their business.

Of these, 43% are planning to build a website on their own, while 48% expect to need help.

Related: Digital transformation in small ventures

What women entrepreneurs think about the year ahead

With interest rates rising and the economy slowing, Canadian women in business are likely to face some tricky trading conditions this year.

Amid this bumpy economic environment, 45% of the women entrepreneurs surveyed said marketing and reaching new customers was their top challenge for the year ahead.

They also nominated the rising cost of living (42%) and turning a profit (40%).

Even as the economy is forecast to slow, women remain optimistic about the year ahead.

Almost a third said they were most excited to continue growing their brand and business.

One in five said they were most excited about their professional development or growing their skills, while 19% planned to expand their product or service offering.

For Sadaf, she is optimistic about what 2023 has in store for her business.

Sadaf celebrating two years in business
Sadaf celebrating two years in business.

“I am feeling excited as always, every year brings new challenges, growth, and new opportunities,’’ she says.”

She encourages other aspiring women entrepreneurs to remember that no matter the scale of what you want to achieve or how hard it seems, don’t give up.

“Some people might come to life with a head start, but there is so much opportunity on the web and all around you,’’ she says.

“Take advantage of it, learn and just do it.

If I, a young Afghan-Canadian immigrant, could grow my small charcuterie plates to a seven-figure business, you can too.

“Believe in yourself and don’t worry about people’s opinions. Just do it.”

With her passion and drive, Sadaf, like many other women entrepreneurs in Canada, is simply unstoppable.

Research methodology: Antenna, an independent consumer research agency on behalf of GoDaddy, conducted an online survey of n=1,009 female business leaders in Canada. The survey was conducted between 23/12/22 – 09/01/23. The survey data collection was national and respondents were sourced using an accredited online research access panel. Data was weighted for representation against country census data.