Canada’s Labour Minister Dr. Kellie Leitch (pictured), listens to Yvonne Hogenes speaking at a round-table discussion last week in Cloverdale.
Leitch, who is also Minister of Status of Women, met with local businesswomen at the joint offices of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce and Cloverdale BIA. Hogenes, who owns Malary’s Fashion Network, a clothing boutique, says it can be frustrating for entrepreneurs trying to qualify for assistance in expanding their businesses.
The minister touched on several federal initiatives, including a new action plan for women entrepreneurs announced in this year’s budget. Leitch said the plan provides capital for women-owned firms to expand, encourages greater participation of women in international trade missions, and includes a mentorship program that asks successful businesspeople to pick a woman under 35 and become her champion for a year.
Leitch, who put herself through medical school by running a moving company, has become ‘very focused on women entrepreneurs’ since becoming Minister of Status of Women. ‘Fourteen to 15 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses are owned an operated by women like yourself,’ she said, adding those businesses generated over $140 billion in economic wealth in 2013 and employed 1.6 million Canadians.
‘So, you punch above your weight. You donate more back into your local communities in dollars and volunteer time.’
A 10 per cent increase in women running their own businesses each year represents a $50 billion increase to the Canadian economy, she added. ‘It’s a quantum leap.’