International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Courage to Make Change

On International Women’s Day, DHL Canada would like to recognize and honour all the great impact women have made to our small business communities. This year’s theme, Women Inspiring Women, is richly appropriate, as we take a moment to celebrate their huge and extraordinary accomplishments.

Opening a small business is no small feat. It’s a huge one.

Operating a small business over the pandemic? That’s massive.

The best way to celebrate a community is to be a part of it. 

In Canada, women own about 15.6 percent of this country’s small- to medium-sized businesses with one or more employees. It’s a number we’d like to see grow, but women continue to face long-standing barriers to access, such as lack of access to connections — and more critically — funding and financing. It’s one of the main motivators as to why we partner with female small business experts and heroines, such as Coach Carey and Jam Gamble, and many others to help lead the communications of our small business initiatives.

Through our Mentorship, Handle With Care, and Discover Your Next initiatives, we’ve worked with lots of small businesses — predominantly those that are woman-owned businesses who all have their own inspiring stories to share. Like DogDog Goose, a woman-owned business that made room for her passion in her home studio and managed to turn it into a full-grown business. Or Milk Jar Co.,  a company with a philanthropic mission that provides employment opportunities to those living with disabilities. The women and women-identifying owned businesses that we’ve had the great fortune to work with have always kept their mission, vision and values front-and-centre under an intensely difficult past couple years.

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(Mary of Mary’s Brigaderio)

We need to stand up for what’s right

It’s a particularly important time to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, as we know it’s mainly women who’ve shouldered the disproportionate brunt of the economic hardships of the past few years. Studies show that women-owned and -led companies are likely going to take nearly twice as long to recover from the pandemic than their male counterparts.

We recognize that many female small business owners all across Canada have had to take on additional caregiving responsibilities for family members and their children, and yet they’ve continued to persevere, making many sacrifices — their safety, their health and their livelihood — along the way to keep their employees and customers safe.

In fact, nearly half of all Canadian small businesses had to lay off staff over the pandemic; however, women-owned businesses had a more substantial share of laying off 80 percent or more of their staff. This is why it’s so vital that DHL Express Canada and other organizations collaborate, partner and provide opportunities to small businesses owned by women.

International Women’s Day is a day of celebration — but it’s also a day of action. A reminder to ourselves that there’s still work to do, change to fight for and progress to achieve. This is why DHL Express Canada makes a conscious effort to lift up women and women-identifying owned businesses where possible in our small business initiatives.

“By advancing gender equality, we know we can add $150 billion to the Canadian economy – and if the world follows suit, $12 trillion to the global economy. This is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do for our economy.” –Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development.

Handle with Care

The task list for a small business owner is endless — and oftentimes — their own personal wellness never makes it on there. We took this opportunity to partner with Coach Carey, life coach, wellness consultant and powerful advocate of gender and racial equity to help build a customized wellness program for the winners (sibling-owned creator of gender-neutral clothing Os & Oakes and Indigenous-owned small-batch skincare Sḵwálwen Botanicals) of our Handle With Care contest and their employees.

We also worked with small businesses to assemble self-care packages that included items like chocolate confectionary from Mary’s Brigadiero, candles from Milk Jar Co., and calming scents from Lohn.

These bags were distributed to small businesses across Canada, which were received resoundingly well as a reminder to entrepreneurs that prioritizing their wellness is the first step to building a better business. We’d like to thank all the women-owned businesses who helped us with this initiative:

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(Teri & Sarah of Females Who Side Hustle)

Mentorship

We’ve heard from many small business owners that the road to entrepreneurship is a very lonely road — especially those owned by women. If small businesses are the heart of our communities — why should starting, navigating and growing a small business be difficult and one without a community? To help small business entrepreneurs, we created Mentorship, an always-evolving, online resource hub for small businesses to access advice, tips and insight from other small business owners and experts.

We partnered with small businesses and asked them, in their own words, what did you wish an entrepreneur could’ve told you as you were starting out? To no surprise, there was a wealth of untapped information. We heard from Makeway, a business owned and operated by two women with the mission to make male-dominated sneaker-culture more inclusive who also opened their retail store in the middle of the pandemic; an honest story of the ‘get-it-done’ mentality and struggle and success found by Lam Beverages, an instant coffee company started by an East Asian woman and child of refugees from Vietnam; and the inspiring story of Fatso, a woman-owned business who bought a languishing brand and transformed it to the North American sensation it is today.

We also had the pleasure of working with Females Who Side Hustle for the second time, two women entrepreneurs who’ve built a community of resources from the ground up for women entrepreneurs — and the hosts of the Save Her Seat Podcast where they have real discussions about the success and struggles of modern-day entrepreneurship amongst each other and their episode’s guest.

We’d also want to highlight and thank Dani Roche, an incredibly talented Creative Director and Designer who shared her integral knowledge of small business branding and identity; as well as Krystin Leigh Smith, owner of Shop Hacienda and master prop stylist who shared her expertise of how a small business can develop and tell their brand story. Their ‘been-there-done-that’ expertise was invaluable and helped contribute to the popular success of the Mentorship hub.

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(Christy of Lam Beverages)

Discover Your Next

Just when we thought the worst of the pandemic was over, we welcomed 2022 with more uncertainty of what the year was going to look like. A new year often means new plans, new goals and new nexts for small businesses — but what does that look like after two years of hardship?

So we launched the Discover Your Next contest and partnered with small business advocate and public speaker extraordinaire Jam Gamble, along with a diverse team of small business mentors: Kelsey Reidl, a business coach; Christine Lieu, a designer; Jaime Bell, a small business contracts lawyer; Sarah Huguet, a social media expert, and others. Together, they provide a wide array of expertise that two winners of the contest can tap into.

Jam will work directly with the winners to understand what their business requires and ensure they’re paired up with the right mentor or mentors to help them discover and achieve their next. We hope you’ll enter the contest — we’ll be accepting entries until April 18th.

 


This year’s celebrations at DHL Express Canada have a special place in our hearts to remind us of the ongoing work and programs that we need to continue to foster and facilitate. We know there’s so much to gain — in terms of economic development, pay and gender equity, and the share of women who want to pursue their own business ambitions — if we empower and make the roads to entrepreneurship that much more accessible.