More and more women are deciding it's time to heed the BYOB call - Be Your Own Boss.
And the main item on their menu is what's for launch.
Aspiring female entrepreneurs are finding that it's no longer just a man's world when it comes to starting up a new business.
Although traditional business incubators - places to turn to for advice, assistance and support to set up a new business - remain an option, there's an escalating interest in the incubator's newer cousin, the all-female version.
|Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications Ltd.|
New York-based Ladies Who Launch now has four chapters across the country in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, and says interest in its services is growing.
"Our goal is to help you figure out what you want and need to move forward," says Nancy Mudford, leader and licensee of the Ladies Who Launch Greater Vancouver-area chapter.
"Demand is growing and there are a lot of 'aha!' moments. I think it's the tip of the iceberg. It's about getting the word out there that we're available."
The incubators are open to all woman, adds Mudford, regardless of whether they feel stuck in a rut, have hit a plateau in their existing business, or just want to figure out what's next.
The group also doesn't require would-be entrepreneurs to write a business plan.
"A business plan is critical when you need financing, but if you start very small and perhaps just part-time, there may not be so much a requirement for a business plan," says Mudford.
"I counsel you to make sure you have some business education, make sure you understand numbers and that you know how many customers it's going to take per month to make enough money."
Somewhat older, and with more than 14,000 women already served, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) assists up to 150 women a month.
"The women we're seeing now are choosing entrepreneurship for a variety of reasons, including the perceived flexibility of being self-employed, as well as to have more control over their career and their long-term future," says AWE CEO Tracey Scarlett.
"What's remarkable is that 50 per cent of these women are under the age of 35 and typically they're college educated or have a university education."
Like Ladies Who Launch, AWE provides a range of tools to help women succeed in business.
The organization is also linked to Women Enterprise Centres in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a network of groups supported in part by the federal government's Western Economic Diversification Canada.
"If the client moves between provinces (in our network), for example, they can access services in the new province they reside in and we basically offer the same type of programming: Loans, business advising, skills development - some have even more extensive mentoring as well," says Scarlett.
"If a woman is interested in opening up in another province or expanding into another province (in our network) then we can make those connections for them."
For specialized incubators such as AWE or Ladies Who Launch, their niche is also their strength, making a difference for women looking to enter or move forward in the business world.
"A lot of our clients will come to us because we have programs focused for women," says Scarlett.
"And we also see a lot of the same types of businesses, so we really have a depth of knowledge of what makes a business of that type viable," says Scarlett.
And there are even more options for women entrepreneurs.
Dallas-based eWomen Network Inc., with chapters across North America including five in B.C., three in Alberta and two in Ontario, is not a business incubator in the strict sense of the word.
But eWomen, a membership-based networking organization, is a good place to start for women interested in opening their own business, says Darla Campbell, managing director for eWomen's Greater Toronto Area (GTA) chapter.
"We're all about connecting women and their business and promoting them," says Campbell.
"We have a variety of women who come to the eWomen Network, and I believe that it's the variety which provides our defining feature. It is our strength."
One aspiring entrepreneur at a recent eWomen strategic business introduction session was so grateful for the feedback she received on her business idea that she's rewriting her business plan, says Campbell.
"She wasn't discouraged," she says. "She was encouraged to refocus her business."
The networking aspect is also key, says Campbell, as the group can connect entrepreneurs with or suggest services for starting a new business.
Meanwhile in Calgary, the Professional Women's Network (PWN) launched a local chapter earlier this month.
"Women generally have a more difficult time networking simply because we communicate and make business decisions differently than men," Katie Clayton, a partner in the commercial litigation practice group at Fasken Martineau, said in a news release.
The group says it will provide help to members seeking professional growth, networking and business development opportunities.
It will host guest speakers, as well as highlighting and celebrating the successes of women in business Unlike other women-only groups, PWN is open to men who conduct business with women and support women in business.
The group says this is integral to assisting the growth of female members and allowing male members to achieve a better understanding of how to succeed in business endeavours with women.
It wasn't always this easy for women to find somewhere to turn, says Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Calgary-based independent marketing firm Venture Communications Ltd.
"When I joined Venture it was 20 years ago ... I probably was less in tune with any of the areas of support and help. They weren't as visible as they are today," says Dickinson, who also is one of the Dragons on CBC-TV's Dragon's Den, a show where business moguls - the Dragons - put their own cash on the line if aspiring entrepreneurs can convince them with their business pitch.
"It was a definite struggle. There weren't as many women starting up a business as there are today."
Her advice for women is to be able to understand a balance sheet and realize that business has a language all of its own.
And she suggests that aspiring female entrepreneurs find a woman they respect in an industry similar to the one they want to enter, and ask for an hour of their time in order to get a better handle on the company they want to start.
"Today, I'm hoping that young women look at the generation before them that have proven their success and shown that we can be credible," she adds.
"The next generation should celebrate the fact that we're women and compete on our own capabilities.
"You need to understand who you are as a woman and then understand how to be a business person. It shouldn't be about your gender."
(Laura Severs can be reached at email@example.com)