Women of color and their struggle in the world of business.

Ange Paye, 27, is an African Canadian businesswoman in Calgary, Alta. Paye co-founded VOTO, a digital engagement platform that helps businesses increase their conversion rates and call to action. VOTO also helps companies improve customer engagement through surveys, signups, sales and feedback. (Melodie Mutombo/ The Press)

Black women start businesses for survival rather than capital. Yet, according to J.P. Morgan, black women are the fastest-growing entrepreneurs.

The high rate of black women starting businesses reflects the lack of opportunities in the traditional workplace. A study by 19thNews.org concludes that for every 100 white men being promoted only 58 black women are getting promoted. And only a tiny percentage of them hold a senior leadership position.

Ange Paye, an African Canadian from the Ivory Coast, left her corporate job to co-find her tech business VOTO. She and her co-founder have self-funded their business from the day they launched.

“We are bootstrap—so all self-funded—me and my co-founder,” says Paye. “We’ve applied for a few grants and got rejected.”

Like many other black women, Paye faces extreme financial headwinds compared to different groups of women. They have a rejection rate that is three times higher when they apply for funding. This leaves many to self-fund their businesses, only counting for $24,000 to $75,000 in annual revenue. Moreover, most of the companies’ black women start do not reach maturity, as they tend to go out of business within five years.

“As a minority, you’re always trying to persevere and overcome challenges,” says Paye. “Getting into rooms with decision-makers that can make a big difference for your company is quite challenging. Often if you don’t have the connections, those doors don’t open for you.”

Paye’s company VOTO is a digital engagement platform that helps businesses increase customer engagement through surveys, signups and feedback.

Additionally, most minority women conduct their businesses in their basements and garages. However, Paye and her co-founder were fortunate enough to find a space at Platform Calgary where they meet daily to develop their website and meet clients. Luckily the growing presence of users on social media has also contributed significantly to helping expose their business to a broader clientele.

A study by SCORE has shown that 77 per cent of small businesses use social media to help build brand awareness, facilitate customer service and increase revenue.

Jennifer Aquino, an easthetician in Calgary, Alta., on Wed., Feb 1, 2023, at her home studio. Aquino is putting permanent lashes on one of her longtime clients while the client takes a three-hour nap. Aquino, who left her job to start her own beauty business four years ago, runs a company called Glamour Brow, which provides permanent makeup. (Melodie Mutombo/ The Press)

Jennifer Aquino is a Filipino female entrepreneur who relies on self-funding and family help to sustain her business.

Aquino left her job to start her own beauty business in the permanent makeup sector. She runs a company called Glamour Brow: which serves clients with their permanent makeup needs.

Getting into business was difficult for Aquino, as she needed to believe in herself and her skills. However, through the guidance and encouragement of her father, she finally decided to quit her job and get into business full-time.

“When I started a business, I was more encouraged because my dad said, ‘Oh, I’ll help you,'” says Aquino. “My dad kind of knows the ins and outs.”

Aquino’s parents play a significant role in the growth of her business. Without any external support through funding or grants, Aquino built her business only with her parents’ and sister’s help.

“Finding clientele for me was a little bit more challenging,” says Aquino. “My parents, they’ve been here for over 30 years. So, they know many people who helped me overcome that challenge.”

Her mother is a crucial asset in helping grow her client list. She would often refer Aquino to her friends and give out her business cards at the mall. In addition, her sister has joined her in the business by helping with clients’ lash needs. Her father also plays a role in her success. With a background in business, he can provide Aquino with valuable guidance and support in running her business successfully.

The Canadian federal government is offering a $2 billion support program to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025. This program aims to inspire women enterprises in Canada to build a more robust economy by increasing the estimated GDP to $150 billion. However, the acceptance rate for minority women remains low as women generally are very underrepresented in business.

About Melodie Mutombo 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Melodie Mutombo is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.