Over forty years ago when I was first a mom, I wanted to start a small business from home. Armed with several contracts, I went to the bank to get a loan so I could purchase a typewriter. (Yes, it was that long ago.) And this IBM typewriter cost $3,000.
The loan was approved – with one stipulation – my husband had to co-sign. I remember being furious at the time, but reluctantly agreed.
Fast forward to the SheEO Global Summit, and I learnt that in forty years, sadly not much has changed. This time, it wasn’t just prejudice against women, but women of colour.
Concerned about BPA in baby bottles, Nita Tandon, a new mother at the time, decided there had to be a better and safer way and went on to develop a line of stainless steel containers that contained no hormone-disrupting chemicals. Like many women, her business started through a need she had identified, and she started from her basement.
As Dalcini Stainless grew and the products became more popular, she was looking for a warehouse as her venture had long outgrown the basement. And here is where it got tricky. She would go to visit space with her husband, who is Caucasian and automatically the landlords would go to him first and when he would explain the space was actually for his wife’s business, the response would be negative.
Eventually she found space and was asked to provide references and all the background information for a credit check. She didn’t hear from the landlord and on questioning further, found he hadn’t even bothered to take up her references. Why? She believes because they were all women.
Based in Ottawa, she reached out to a funding group there, to be told that “her community were doing well in the city, and she should ask them for money.” After all these rejections, Nita was getting fired up and it was then that she spoke up at a SheEO meeting and got the help and space she needed. She made the ask.
But it shouldn’t be this way, not in this day and age. And that is why organizations like SheEO are so important. They level the playing field. It is women helping women, with all of us pitching in with what we have – be it money, expertise, resources or connections, to move the needle forward.
As Vicki Saunders said at the summit, this isn’t about winning, it is about transforming, transforming the way we do business.
Company of Women
I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.