Championing for Women Entrepreneurs
PayPal Small Business Growth Council members Julie Yoo of I Miss You Vintage and Michelle Germain of Shopgirls share highlights from ‘Scaling Women’s Entrepreneurship’, a PayPal Canada and Ryerson Digital Media Zone hosted event. 
“We need to stop downgrading ourselves to a tropical storm; we have to be a hurricane.” – Arlene Dickinson. This rally cry goes out to all women entrepreneurs fighting against self-doubt, external pressure and systemic issues that threaten our success in business and entrepreneurship. In Canada we often think we’re at the forefront of the gender equity movement. The truth is we still have work to do right here on home soil, especially in the small business landscape where only one in five Canadian small businesses are owned by women and women-led startups secure just 12% of venture capital funding
Photo highlights from 'Scaling Women's Entrepreneurship'
Creating a platform to champion women entrepreneurs, PayPal teamed up with the Ryerson Digital Media Zone to host ‘Scaling Women’s Entrepreneurship,’ an event focused on helping women start, innovate and scale their businesses. The room was a hive of energy as a diverse mix of over 200 innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders gathered for a fireside chat between Paul Parisi, President of PayPal Canada, and Arlene Dickinson. We also heard from founders and entrepreneurs – Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro founder of My African Corner, Karen Lau CTO of Furnishr, and Andrew Graham CEO and co-founder of Borrowell who shared stories of their entrepreneurial journey and some great tips.
Reflecting on the evening, we’ve shared some of our memorable moments.
Arlene kept it real
Most Canadians know Arlene Dickinson as a sophisticated, whip-smart investor, author and TV personality best known for her role on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. After hearing Arlene speak, we can confirm that she was all of that and more, much more. She was refreshingly honest about the challenges she faced, and continues to face as an entrepreneur.
Arlene didn’t grow up thinking she would run her own business. A single mother of four children, Arlene lost her job when she 31 and had to find a way to support her family. She decided to start her own company –  not out of passion but out of necessity. With seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way, she had to rely on her inner drive and ambition to keep moving forward. For a lot of women, this story sounds all too familiar. That same drive, rooted in necessity, has kept us going from day one.
At times, it can be hard to keep the fires stoked, admitted Arlene. Her advice was to embrace the peaks and valleys of small business ownership. “Obstacles never go away. I’ve faced everything from a flood to being turned down for financing,” said Arlene. “In times of adversity – draw on your strengths. For women, that means finding the right collaborators, approaching a challenging situation with empathy and never forgetting your greatest asset – unrelenting perseverance.”
Arlene Dickinson
Role models and mentors
The need for role models and mentors was a reoccurring theme. During the panel discussion, Chioma, founder of My African Corner spoke about the importance of having ‘people like you’ as role models. As a black woman in technology who immigrated from Nigeria to study at the University of Guelph, she acutely felt the lack of available role models and mentors from a similar background. Because of that gap, Chioma cultivated a network of mentors and role models through My African Corner.
This was a great reminder that as fierce female business owner—we have a responsibility to act as mentors and role models to women in our communities. Being more conscious of how you set an example to those around you, whether they are your employees, peers or customers, could help inspire the next generation of female leaders.
Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro
Sell ourselves short
Panelists were asked to comment on why women are underrepresented in business and why women reported making less than their male peers. Karen Lau, CTO of Furnishr shared that many women suffer from impostor syndrome – a thought pattern where people, especially women, doubt their abilities and accomplishments.
Women tend to undervalue their abilities or disqualify themselves from starting a business because they fall into a cycle of self-doubt, even if they are equally, if not more qualified than their male peers. This was a great reminder to all the women in the audience to command themselves with confidence and to demand equitable pay based on the facts, not fear. Or as Arlene put it, “business is about perseverance to overcome any obstacle – even if those obstacles are in our own mind. Whether you’re a man, or a woman, you have to get people to care about what you’re doing. You can’t get caught up in the challenges because there will always be people in your way. And remember that what makes you an entrepreneur is the same, whether you’re a male or a female.”
Paul Parisi & Arlene Dickinson
We all have a role to play
It’s inspiring to see leaders like PayPal and the DMZ coming together to create a forum focused on helping women start or grow their business. Both companies are champions of inclusion and diversity and strong advocates for helping entrepreneurs and women from all backgrounds make a livelihood.
As women and business owners — it’s also our collective responsibility to think how we can invest our time and effort to help lift other women in business. Whether that’s becoming a mentor, volunteering our time, hiring or supporting more women or challenging our own thinking when self doubt creeps in –
even the subtlest shift can create a wave of change.
“Women, we need to stop downgrading ourselves to a tropical storm when we are a hurricane. No one owes you anything as an entrepreneur, you simply have to find a way to make it work. Demand the room. Dream so damn big and know that just by being in this room, by building your ideas and businesses, you’re already paving the way.” – Arlene Dickinson 

Julie Yoo, I Miss You Vintage , Michelle Germain, Shopgirls

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