Big expectations for small biz women

By Jasminee Sahoye

Metro Hall was buzzing with activities on Sunday with more than 30 exhibits, most by women entrepreneurs showcasing their unique businesses at the second-annual Immigrant Women’s Small Business Expo.

The event hosted several workshops designed to provide information for start-up and existing small business owners.

Among the areas examined were over coming start-up challenges, no dollar marketing, how to effectively compete with bigger businesses and stand out, social media beyond the basics, government programs and services for entrepreneurs and how to sell to the government of Canada.

The brainchild of Dwania Peele, herself an immigrant woman from Jamaican, the expo started as a result of her need to start her own small business when she needed help and didn’t know where to get it.

“There are a lot of immigrant women who face a lot of challenges who want to find ways to get additional incomes into their homes and what better way than to start their own business where they can have flexible hours, so I wanted to do something where I can bridge that gap because I do believe we’re an underserved group,” said Peele, executive director and founder, Canadian Small Business Women, (CSWB).

The expo, Peele told The Camera, will be held annually and caters to women of all industries which have a keen interest in the business-sector and entrepreneurship.

CSWB’s goal is to supply attendees with sufficient business tools that will translate into professional development opportunities and career growth for immigrant women who have chosen entrepreneurship as their passion.

Asked what are some popular small businesses that immigrant women are involved in, this networking guru, who also hosts small networking events, says, “the hot thing is anything direct sales because the business model is already made.

“So as long as you can get in on the ground floor when it comes to these direct sales companies, then there is a great potential to make money; and I think that is one of the best things I see going on with immigrant women. Other business would be service in terms of financial services or export businesses.”

According to Industry Canada and Statistics Canada, there were 950,000 self-employed women in Canada in 2011. That number grew by 23% between 2001 and 2011.

Of all Canadian small businesses, 9.3% are equal partnerships between male and female, while 17.1% are majority owned by females.

Peele understands the importance of networking and seeking advice from experienced professionals willing to share their insight when it comes to starting a small business.

“I started this organization because I wanted to be able to provide a platform for all women, but immigrant women specifically, who have a vested interest in learning more about starting a small business; how to take the steps to officially launch a start-up, and/or how to take their venture to the next level of success.”

For more information about Canadian Small Business Women, visit