by Gord McIntosh
Arif Virani, Member of Parliament for Parkdale – High Park; Heather Gamble, CEO, Women on the Move; The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion; Petra Kassun-Mutch, Publisher, Liisbeth at Women on the Move Entrepreneurial Forum, Roundtable with Minister Ng, November 13, 2018.
Helping women entrepreneurs scale their business to $1 million in annual revenue isn’t just a service offered by Heather Gamble’s Toronto company—it’s the prime mission.
This is likely why the business accelerator she started four years ago has a no-nonsense name — Women on the Move Inc. (WOM) (https://womenonthemove.club/), and a no-nonsense goal of helping 10,000 female business founders hit that all-important mark in revenue.
As a business professional climbing the corporate ladder at AT&T, Gamble learned something important: male executives get more opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship than their female counterparts.
So far WOM has trained, coached and advised more than 1,000 female business founders. But there are plenty more female founders to coach, which is why Gamble reached out to Digital Main Street (DMS) to apply for a Digital Transformation Grant (DTG), a partnership program between the Ontario government and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA).
DMS awards Digital Transformation Grants to qualifying main street small businesses across the province to help them take advantage of the latest developments in key areas such as search engine optimization, web site design, e-commerce, social media, and even back-office processing. It is based on a successful earlier project by the Toronto BIA Association and the City of Toronto.
Any ambitious entrepreneur looking at the WOM website will likely feel like a kid in a candy store with the volume of what is offered. There are courses on how to use artificial intelligence for sales coaching, various types of memberships, special events, and even something for women moving up in mining. Of course, there’s also training on how to reach that all-important $1 million revenue mark.
Ask any venture capitalist and they are likely to tell you that $1 million in annual revenue is more than a nice-to-have. It is a milestone that says the company is growing and the founder is committed. In other words, the company is more likely to succeed.
The number of women-owned businesses in Canada continues to grow. Unfortunately, just one percent ever reaches that important milestone.
“Women are starting their own businesses at record rates. However, if they are not able to scale these businesses it’s very, very difficult,” says Gamble. “We believe that $1-million in revenue is a pivotal index that shows that you truly are a sustainable business.”
She knows. She hit the $1 million milestone in under two years after setting out on her own.
Once entrepreneurs reach the $1 million milestone, there is still the job of continuing to grow, which is why Gamble reached out to DMS to help her get to the next stage.
Gamble and her team took stock of strengths like listings, website with blog, reviews and use of cloud technology. Check, check, check and check. But there was a weakness that stood out — creating content and getting it out to as many female entrepreneurs as possible to generate demand for WOM’s offerings.
“We needed to extend our reach and our value to women who are incorporated, professional and serious about scaling their business and taking it to the next level.”
Gamble realized that the answer was podcasting, which allows a marketer to target potential clients with high-value information, in turn creating real interest for WOM’s services.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media may be good for building awareness but they’re not ideal for longer content or for specific targeting. Facebook may be great for contests, quizzes and games, but it’s not brilliant for a thoughtful piece on winning investment, for example.
Podcasting and other long-form content marketing like YouTube, blogs or e-books permit much meatier content.
The WOM team is using their Digital Transformation Grant to develop podcasts, with the first one debuting in August of this year. Podcasts are booming in Canada and the US. A mammoth study by Ulster Media and The Globe and Mail in 2017 determined that between seven and ten million Canadians were listening to them.
That’s a huge pool with many entrepreneurs and potential clients.
“We believe it’s about audience, not just likes,” says Gamble. “This is a way to bring added value to our marketplace while tapping potential new clients.”
And Gamble is already looking beyond podcasting. YouTube videos seem like the natural next step for WOM in meeting their important goal: 10,000 Canadian women entrepreneurs reaching $1million in revenue. And thanks to Digital Main Street, WOM has another tool to make that happen.