For this edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to Interview Doina Oncel, Founder & CEO of hEr VOLUTION.
Based in Toronto, Canada, hEr VOLUTION is the go to place for youth, particularly young women from under-served communities to come to in order to advance in 21st Century Skills. They exist to create opportunities for the next generation of women in STEM connecting them with leaders in the industry for career support. They listen to the needs of the community and that of the STEM industry to better help the next generation of under-served youth, with a focus on young women to enter STEM.
hEr VOLUTION was founded by Doina Oncel based on personal experience as well as research with the belief that once we accept diversity, opportunities for women in STEM fields will rise. Doina Oncel knows firsthand what it is like to be an immigrant woman, living in a low-income household, a youth at risk, having to overcome domestic violence, homelessness, and now a single mother of two daughters. While surrounding herself with people who encouraged her to become a better self, she learned that she must be the change she wants to see in the world and while she creates opportunities for her daughters she wants to make the world a better place by encouraging parents to do the same for their daughters. Someone believed in her enough to give her the opportunities she has today and now she wants to do the same for the next generation to follow.
hEr VOLUTION is here to inspire and revolutionize the STEM industry and change the world, by encouraging girls and young women to pursue STEM-based careers and promotes stakeholder’s involvement in the support of STEM education in Canada.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
For me, starting a business – a non-profit that supports young women from under served communities getting into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), while new to the industry and with very little savings, has been a challenge that I am still striving to overcome 5 years in.
I find that, before getting in business, there isn’t much out there that tells you the REAL challenges that a business owner and an entrepreneur should expect once they start a business. That was the case for me. I thought that if I had enough passion for a cause then it would be easier but that wasn’t the case. It still takes money to build a non-profit, and, ultimately, if you want to make a greater impact, you need money to hire the right people to develop the best possible outcome. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way. People in general think that since we help disadvantaged people we should do it for free all the time. It’s hard to create change without resources and being able to invest in people. As much as I appreciate and am grateful for all of the volunteers who give their time to help hEr VOLUTION grow, I wish I knew of a way to bring in more money so that I can hire them. I have lost some amazing volunteers because they had to pay their bills. I do not blame them, as some of them I helped to get those jobs, all I am saying is that I learned how important it is to have the financial resources to be able to hire people with great skills in order to make a great impact in the lives of the people we serve.
What I’ve learned from running a business is that even if it is a non-profit designed to support the community, it takes money to make money, and, unfortunately, female run businesses do not get as much support as men in business do. We have to work twice as hard for half the credit.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
I wish people would stop talking about following one’s passion so much and be real. At least from my experience, I wish I would have known how hard it would be getting into this –then I could have prepared better. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change this for the world, and would still be doing what I am doing now; but, knowing what it takes and the resources I would need, I could’ve come into it more prepared. As I mentioned above, it takes money to make money and knowing about the lack of financial support to women would’ve helped me prepare for it mentally and financially.
Paolina: What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
Because I am a woman run business, and a non-profit at that, I would love to learn more about opportunities for businesses such as mine. How do I get funding, other than grants, to run programs and help bring diversity to the forefront of STEM?