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How the TCS is supporting the growing number of women entrepreneurs in e‑commerce

Since March 2020, many Canadian entrepreneurs have been struggling to stay afloat.

While it is true that women entrepreneurs are the fastest growing SME segment thanks to their savvy adoption of e‑commerce, it is a disservice to celebrate the projected growth of women‑owned businesses without addressing why they represent only a small portion of SMEs. The reality is that the small percentage of female SMEs is a direct indicator of the persisting issues of gender inequality and barriers to entry that women face, including access to capital; exposure to talent networks; finding mentors; and social and psychological biases, to name only a few.

“The stakes are too high,” says Michael Mancini, the TCS Deputy Director of e‑commerce and intellectual property. “Closing the gender gap in Canada could add $150 billion to our economy by 2026. The more we can get women active in the international trade space, the better off the Canadian economy will be. The better off Canada will be.”

Michael Mancini
Michael Mancini, TCS Deputy Director of e‑commerce and intellectual property

The Trade Commissioner Service is a free service, helping companies to navigate the complexities of International markets and make better business decision and has to help female entrepreneurs improve their chances of achieving success.

How to supports women‑owned SMEs

Through experience from the Business Women in International Trade initiative, the TCS helps open doors and create opportunities for Canadian women‑owned and women‑led businesses to successfully expand into global markets. The TCS gives Canadian businesses women opportunities to join business delegations and events where they can enter markets that otherwise would have been more difficult to pursue.

“We want to be as active as possible in any market that gives Canadian entrepreneurs the right opportunities,” says Cindie‑Eve Bourassa, Director of the TCS Engagement Division. “Business delegations can give women entrepreneurs access to large Corporations and foreign buyers, including Fortune 500 companies, it can get them in the door. At the end of the day, our job is to connect the capacity of Canadian businesses with the opportunities abroad.”

TCS‑organized business delegations place an emphasis on educating entrepreneurs on the benefits of Canada’s free trade agreements, which provide preferential access to key markets around the world.

CanExport funding for SMEs

As entrepreneurs have evolved their international business strategies to include a greater focus on e‑commerce, so has TCS funding.

CanExport SMEs helps cover the costs of:

Apply for funding to grow in new markets.

“The TCS focuses on the support that gets women‑owned, and women‑led, businesses to market; it’s become a hub where women can find the right resources for their unique needs,” Bourassa says.

How the TCS can help SMEs with e‑commerce

While Canadian companies had historically been slow in adapting e‑commerce as a tool for internationalization, the COVID‑19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of online selling, especially with women‑owned SMEs.

In fact, women‑owned companies are more likely to have a digital presence than their male counterparts; they are more likely to have set up online payments; and they generally tend to be more sophisticated in this space. This means that typically women‑owned companies are well‑placed to find international success online, and can benefit from the support of the TCS.

According to Mancini, TCS e‑commerce support can be summarized into four main areas:

  1. We help SMEs access an online channel, such as an online retailer or marketplace, or we can guide them on how to create their own sales portal.
  2. We increase the number of Canadian products on targeted platforms in international markets.
  3. We build global awareness of Canadian brands online. The TCS does Canada‑branded events to help Canadian companies gain traction in foreign markets.
  4. We address critical marketing intelligence gaps that exist in the e‑commerce ecosystem across TCS markets. For example, we may introduce a company to a local contact working for a major online marketplace, or help the company to better understand how to tackle shipping and logistics to that market.

“Part of our role is to promote Canadian brands in markets that present good opportunities,” says Mancini. “The markets where we’ve seen uptick in the last year—especially in the e‑commerce space—are China, the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. But each of these markets are unique. An e‑commerce approach that will work in Germany, for instance, probably won’t work in France, and definitely won’t be the same as China. We can help companies understand what’s needed in each of these viable markets.”

Ideally, a new SME or entrepreneur looking to work with the TCS is already selling their product(s) online; and bring a certain level of preparedness. They should have an e‑commerce strategy in place, and should have invested in protecting their intellectual property both in Canada and in their target markets.

That said, according to Mancini the most important thing is to get started. “Take the leap! We can help you along the way.”

TCS Support and resources

The Trade Commissioner Service helps Canadian businesses grow by connecting them with its funding and support programs, international opportunities, and its network of trade commissioners in more than 160 cities worldwide.

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