Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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AWE Edmonton: Helping Female Entrepreneurs Thrive in Alberta Chelsey Tattrie


In 2015, there were more female entrepreneurs in Alberta than their male counterparts. This growth is breathtaking for women in our province. With programs in Edmonton and Calgary, the goal of

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is to help women achieve parity in the business world, and they’ve had a strong hand helping to achieve that and more for Albertan women. 

There’s no question that female entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges in the business world. Even if you don’t believe in the wage gap, social experiments like this one demonstrate the prevalence of gender-based stereotypes in the workplace, which present real problems for women looking to start a business. Other factors, such as financial uncertainty and maintaining a work/family balance are also important considerations for females exploring new business ventures. Not-for-profit organizations like AWE work to alleviate some of these pressures, and help women succeed in obtaining their business goals. Admittedly, the end-goal for AWE is to work itself out of business; in other words, to reach a point where their services catering specifically to women aren’t needed, because full and stable parity has been reached. 

The primary focus at AWE is on education. Women are given plenty of opportunities to address potential challenges, both broad and specific in nature. AWE also values honesty; they are not afraid to ask the hard questions to be absolutely certain you are making the right choices for yourself and your business. They offer flexible programming, and cater to women in any stage of business development. The program is broken out based on whether you are in the “Start”, “Build”, or “Growth” phase of your business. 

The Start Phase

In the Start phase, workshops and activities are geared toward ensuring you are prepared to become an entrepreneur, and establishing business viability; in other words, do you have the market and the tools to be successful? This stage of the program is conducted primarily at a one-to-one level, and involves strategizing, conducting a basic market analysis, and rounding out your ideas. Direct mentorship programming can help you forecast your success, and prepare you for the often-unexpected challenges ahead, before you’ve taken the plunge into a new business venture. Anyone currently in this stage of development can check out AWE’s handy entrepreneurship questionnaire to help you determine if you’re ready to tackle the world of business on your own. 

Once you have decided you are ready to become an entrepreneur, AWE will walk you through constructing your business plan and setting up your business for success. A solid business plan is essential to obtaining initial funding, so for many women, this stage is integral to kicking off their businesses. AWE business experts will help you prepare, write, and review a business plan to ensure you get the funding you need. You may also be eligible to obtain funding directly through AWE’s financing options, for loans of up to $150,000.

An exciting new addition to the AWE Start phase is directed at helping Indigenous women enter the world of entrepreneurship through custom mentorship. In their NextStep to Success program, AWE has filled a gap in services specifically designed for Indigenous women. The series provides community-based guidance in a circle format to help Indigenous women navigate distinct challenges, and build up their families and communities through their business ventures.  

The Build Phase

In the Build phase of AWE, startup workshops are geared toward providing specific solutions to common business challenges you may be facing. You can learn more about E-commerce, understanding your financial statements, how to expand your company into new markets nationally and internationally, and how to create a detailed market analysis and growth plan. 

The Grow Phase

The Grow phase is the most intensive and in-depth of AWE’s offerings. Trade Missions help Albertan women expand their businesses beyond borders. Registrants attend conferences geared toward establishing international trade, with all details taken care of by AWE and coaching throughout, so you can focus on making an impact at the conference and expanding your business. An upcoming trade mission to Las Vegas from June 18-22 will see Albertan women attend the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business Fair, the world’s largest conference of its kind. 

For more advanced growth opportunities, the PeerSpark mentorship program meets once a month, and hosts bi-annual retreats featuring guest speakers to teach you specific skills and activities to grow and expand your business. 

Although the focus at AWE is on education and mentorship, there is a secondary – though no less useful – aspect to their programs. Entrepreneurs at AWE are given consistent opportunities for organic networking at events, courses, and meetings. This helps build confidence, stimulate growth through business referrals, and creates an ongoing toolkit of resources for you to lean on as you get started.

For more information about AWE’s courses and programs in Calgary and Edmonton, or to learn how they can help you kick off your dream business, visit their website at https://www.awebusiness.com, or contact them at 1-800-713-3558/info@awebusiness.com.  

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