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Strength in numbers

New provincial mentoring program helps women help each other



By Vivian Moreau

It’s almost midnight and you’re trying to complete your staff’s payroll. Your son has a fever, your teenager has taken the car, your husband is out of town and not only payroll has to get done but you have to submit a GST return to the feds before midnight. On top of all this you have this nagging feeling that you’re destined to fail, that you don’t have what it takes to succeed in business.

“Women suffer from the imposter syndrome a lot,” says Laurel Douglas, CEO of the federally-funded Women’s Enterprise Centre. “They don’t believe that they deserve to be succeeding and they feel like somebody is going to find them out and burst their balloon.”

Douglas said the 12-year-old centre, with offices in Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria, is changing that perception. Under the auspices of the ministry of community services the centre guides women entrepreneurs through the risky first two years in which many small businesses fail by providing start-up loans, advice, and now, mentorship. In five areas of the province nine successful businesswomen will lead a group of six-eight women who sign up for the program.

Douglas said women in business who work with the centre are already succeeding at rates almost double the provincial average and the free six-session mentor groups should keep even more B.C. women in business past the five-year mark.

Whistler businesswoman Sue Adams recently completed a one-day training workshop so that she may facilitate a mentoring group for local businesswomen. Adams said she won’t be a coach or teacher but will be able to share with other women lessons learned from her 35 years in business. Adams said although women have some advantages over men in business, such as being better at networking and more willing to share ideas and problems, they still face discrimination in the workplace and it’s still not as easy for women as men to land business loans.

To be announced next week at Women of Whistler’s Dazzle and Deliver business conference, the opportunity to join a local mentoring group led by Adams that will start this summer will be a chance to think through issues and share ideas, she said.

Whether it’s to determine if they should continue in their business, how to deal with a difficult partner or how to work through their financial situation, by working with both web and printed materials, participants will support each other through brainstorming solutions.

The centre’s top executive said spotting a weakness in your business savvy doesn’t mean you won’t succeed.

“If you identify you’re weak in one of these aspects (problem solving, persistence, self-confidence) it doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur, it means you’re going to have to work harder… but your peer mentoring group can help you build yourself up,” Douglas said.

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