Female entrepreneurs taking advantage of technology

Barbara Mowat recently returned to her Abbotsford, B.C., home-based business from a working trip to Slovenia.

The president of Impact Communications Ltd. and publisher of the Home Business Report was invited to the country to help determine ways in which small businesses there could grow and access the global market place using technology and e-commerce.

“I found out that in Slovenia, 67 per cent of their households have PCs,” Mowat said. “Desperate to access the global market place,” small business owners are on the verge of developing e-commerce, although presently they are still using the Internet mainly for e-mail.

“I’ll work with them over the next year just because I know the potential is there. And I can do that from Canada, that’s the exciting part,” Mowat said.

Like many female business owners in Canada, Mowat is focused on growing her business and does so with the help of technology and the Internet.

A recent study, entitled Women Business Owners of Canada: Entering the New Millennium, released by IBM Canada Ltd. and the Women Business Owners of Canada (WBOC), focuses on key issues facing Canadian female entrepreneurs. One of those issues is technology.

According to the study, 65 per cent of the women surveyed said gaining access to technology was one of their top five business issues and a major concern, following business profitability, managing cash flow and the state of the economy. By comparison, 44 per cent of the women cited access to capital for business growth as a major concern, making it eighth in overall importance.

Margret Kennedy, market relationship manager with the Small Business Division of IBM Canada, said the majority of women business owners are using computers, the Internet and Web sites to expand and grow their business.

“The use of technology and the appetite for technology is an important aspect for them and using that to leverage their business and make their businesses more competitive on a national and global scale,” Kennedy explained.

Conducted among nearly 3,000 WBOC members, who are likely to own larger, more established firms than the average woman business owner, the study indicates that 95 per cent of those surveyed use computers for work.

More than half of them use a single desktop PC. Another 23 per cent use several stand-alone computers, 16 per cent use several computers sharing printers and 21 per cent use a local area network or more sophisticated system.

And, among the women who use computers, one third have $15,000 or more invested in their systems.

In addition, 80 per cent use the Internet and 34 per cent have a home page for their business.

According to Mowat, technology is the great equalizer for women doing business, taking the emphasis away from size and replacing it with competency.

“It doesn’t matter the size of your company any more and it doesn’t matter where your location is. You could be doing multi-million dollar businesses from your home office.

“In the past, there seemed to be an equation between bricks and mortar and the size of your business, now that’s no longer the case,” Mowat said. “Now, it’s a matter of if you have a good product or a good service, you can market it internationally, globally, anywhere using the technology.”

Mowat, who runs her business in her Abbotsford home office almost two hours away from Vancouver, said “15 or 20 years ago I would have never thought that I could run my magazine as a virtual corporation.” Now, her quarterly publication has editors in Victoria and Toronto with writers from coast to coast.

In May, Mowat continued to use technology to expand her own business with the launch of a virtual retail catalogue “which helps micro-entrepreneurs in Canada access the global market place.”

With the help of the Internet, she said, “you can be in Fort St. John, B.C., you can be in Flin Flon, Man., or you can be in Labrador, Que. It doesn’t matter, you are able to connect with the world…and access the global market place, where before you could not.”