Lesley Lawrence, Senior Vice President, Ontario Region at BDC and National Champion for the Bank’s Women Entrepreneur Initiative

At the end of February of this year, the Federal Budget came out and had a strong focus on gender equality and supporting women entrepreneurs – for details see #GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds.

One of the major players in supporting women entrepreneurs is Canada’s Business Development Bank (BDC), the only financial institution in Canada devoted entirely to entrepreneurs.

After hearing her speak at the Women in Business Conference, I knew I wanted to Interview Lesley Lawrence, Senior Vice President of the Ontario Region at BDC and the National Champion for the bank’s Women Entrepreneur Initiative.

Paolina: As National Champion for the Bank’s Women Entrepreneur initiative, I’m sure you’ve worked with/interacted with a lot of female entrepreneurs what is the most common finance issue you see with female entrepreneurs?

Lesley:

Female entrepreneurs are less likely to use debt, opting to grow organically. Understanding how risk in finance can help them grow their business is an issue.

Paolina: What are three things that every female entrepreneur should know/learn/understand about finance?

Lesley:

  1. Risk goes hand in hand with finance, taking on an acceptable amount of risk can help grow your business
  2. When it comes to your finances, you don’t have to go it alone – you can access all kinds of advice and look to your banker as a business partner and support system to grow your business and help overcome obstacles
  3. Take advantage to capitalize on opportunities – take advantage of financing options and borrowing to help you take advantage of opportunities that come up that you might not otherwise be able to

Paolina:  In the 2018 Budget there’s reference to how BDC will coordinate bootcamps that focus on enhancing business skills and financial literacy for women. How important do you think financial literacy is for female entrepreneurs?

Lesley:

Financial literacy is the foundation and building block of your business; it’s a core area that all entrepreneurs need to build an understanding of and confidence in as it’s critical. That’s why BDC has and will continue to invest in financial literacy tools through our partnership with CPA to provide financial literacy sessions in rural areas, through enhancing our online content, and developing bootcamps to enhance business and financial literacy skills. For a list of events near your area, visit the page for women entrepreneurs – it lists upcoming bootcamps.

Paolina:  Can you tell me anymore (high level) about how the additional $1.4 billion over three years in new financing for women entrepreneurs as well as the additional $130 million for investments in women-led technology firms over five years through the BDC’s Women in Technology Fund, will be invested? Are there any specific programs to the Ontario/Ottawa area?

Lesley:

There are essentially three areas where we’d like to invest the additional funding:

  1. Do more of what we’re already doing by getting more capital into the hands of women entrepreneurs
  2. Help women entrepreneurs Scale Up
  3. Work with partners/collaborators and develop new partnerships that help increase the awareness of BDC to entrepreneurs, for example, our recent partnership with Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC), which will allow us to better support women entrepreneurs

Paolina: What are some tools/resources, provided by BDC, that female entrepreneurs can start using today to take a step forward toward improving their financial literacy?

Lesley:

Our website is a fantastic resource; we have a page specifically for women entrepreneurs. We have an entrepreneurial self-assessment for people considering taking the entrepreneurial path; we have the Master Your Cash Flow e-book, among others, and all kinds of other articles and tools to help you Manage your Finances and how to improve your chances of getting financing. We also have events that we host.

In addition to the website, where we will be investing in further enhancing online content, you can reach out to someone at BDC for advice or guidance, whether it’s with us or someone else, we can provide the assistance you need.

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