Words by Barb MacDonald

In 2009, just when Odette Laurie was launching her second business, Woman on Top, everything in her life was falling apart: she lost both her parents, went through a divorce, and moved out of her marital home to start a new life with her daughters. To make matters worse, she had a health scare and temporarily lost the mobility in her arms. Yet in spite of these challenges, by year’s end, Laurie’s coaching business was making six figures, thanks to generous help from friends and family, and sheer determination on her part.

Now, some folks—take me for example—would look at these stressful events as a sign that it’s a good time to put one’s dreams on the backburner. Not Odette Laurie.

“Excuses will kill dreams,” she says. “[I think] most business owners are not successful because they are paralyzed by their life circumstances.”

Based in Mississauga, Laurie provides one-on-one and group coaching to individuals who are motivated and committed to their goals. She believes that women have the passion to start and run successful businesses, but too often settle for the practical. “It’s just easier to take a job that suits the family,” she says.

Yet with the accessibility of technology and the rise in mentors and women’s networks, more women are entertaining the idea of launching their own business. You will still find more men at the helm of small- and medium-sized businesses, but according to Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census Report, between 1997 and 2001, women launched businesses at twice the rate of men. The number of self-employed women in Canada increased by 23 percent between 2001 and 2011, while male self-employment only grew by 14 percent in that time. And according to StatsCan’s Labour Force Survey, there were 950,000 selfemployed women in the country in 2011—that’s one third of all entrepreneurs.

The networking organization Mompreneurs has been in the business of championing and supporting female entrepreneurs since 2010. Maria Locker, a mother of two, founded Mompreneurs after starting her own business and struggling to find a networking group that understood the demands of raising children and running a business. Today, with 18 chapters in Ontario, and most recently a chapter in Calgary, Mompreneurs is gaining momentum by offering female entrepreneurs opportunities to connect, promote their business, meet business leaders, share experiences, mentor and teach each other skills.

One reason for its success is that Mompreneurs goes a long way in addressing the loneliness that can permeate both motherhood and entrepreneurship. Crystal Lengua, a small business consultant whose experience spans marketing and event management, corporate communication, and social media marketing, launched Broccoli Consulting offering branding, marketing, social media and event planning solutions to small businesses.

“I like feeling as though I’m part of something bigger,” says Lengua. For some women starting up new businesses, meeting deadlines and working solo for long hours is par for the course. For many women, the networking group serves as a safe and ideal place to share one’s dreams and receive much-needed feedback.

When the Mississauga chapter of Mompreneurs opened last year, Laurie was one of 500 women to sign up. Now a seasoned coach, she is in the enviable position of sharing her success story with those just starting out.

When women ask of her dreams growing up, Laurie admits to not having a particular dream. But she knew she wanted something: “I wanted my time as my own,” she says. Today her typical day can last 12 hours, but she doesn’t mind. Why? “Because it’s mine.”

Photo Credits:
Top: Photography by Stephanie Beeley, John Goldstein Professional Photography and Video Production
Bottom: Photography by Cathy Longo, Sono Photography