Celebrating McGill Dobson Women Founders

It is not easy to build a startup, you are creating something from nothing. From finessing your business plan, building your MVP, scaling with minimal means, attempting to raise funding: starting a business is not easy. Being a women founder does not make it easier, in many ways, the venture and startup ecosystem is still a boys’ club. However, with a strong support system, access to resources and mentorship, women-run startups have proven to produce more revenue.

According to a recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge, a US-based global network of accelerators, startups founded or cofounded by women performed better than male-founded startups over time. Despite being comparatively underfunded—and by a large margin—these businesses generated 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five-year period: $730,000, compared with $662,000 for the average male-led startup.

To mark and celebrate, International Women’s Day (March 8), we asked some of the most successful Dobson women founders to share their best advice for women seeking to launch their own venture.

You are the Expert in the Room
Being a woman entrepreneur is a challenge but if you really believe in your company’s potential to have a major impact or contribution to the society, you can overcome it! The beginning is always hard and unpredictable, so my best advice is to surround yourself with people with more experience than you that can help you to find the best path to the success. Do not get intimidated to pitch in a room full of men! You know your technology more than anyone else, be confident and always listen and learn from successful entrepreneurs! Accept criticisms and recommendations and is the only way to improve your company and yourself as entrepreneur!
Claudia Penafuerte-Diaz, CEO, CURA Therapeutics

Trust Yourself
If I would have to tell one advice to my colleagues women founders, it would be to trust yourself. Entrepreneurship is a learning journey and it is fine not to know everything. If you believe in your project, go out there, get surrounded by persons who share your vision and be persistant.
Anne-Julie Tessier, CEO, Keenoa

Nothing will work until you do
You get what you give. As an entrepreneur, you hold yourself accountable and are solely responsible for everything you do. It’s normal to not stay motivated 100% of the time. BUT, remind yourself that the more you do, the more you will get. Maya Angelou once said, “Nothing will work until you do”. I can choose to sit for three hours scrolling through social media, wondering why I am progressing so slow, or, I can spend the same three hours making cold calls and hit a potential partner.
Jamie Lee, Co-founder, reMIXed

On the importance of a clearly defined vision
Commit to a single, clearly defined vision. Defining what you are going to do is just as important as what you aren’t going to be doing (yet). A common mistake first-time founders make is that they try to invest in optionality (e.g. we are offering features A, B and C to see what resonates). It’s instinctive to cast a wide net when uncertain, however, this approach will drain your resources. It’s much more efficient to double down on single, clear vision (we are starting with feature A) and edit or pivot that vision as you get more feedback until you reach product-market fit.
Natasha Saviuk, CEO, Will + Zack

Look for that extra 20%
Shoot for the stars, land on the moon. Shoot for the moon, land on the ground. The idea is to always strive for more. I was always told to be hungry, look for that extra 20% and don’t be afraid of taking calculated risks to get there. While you may not always make it to the stars you’ll usually end up ahead of where you planned to be.
Amanda Riva, CEO, THP Creates

Assert yourself
The ball is almost always in your court. If you want something, make it happen. Assert yourself and don’t worry too much about appearing aggressive or audacious – these are generally favorable features in entrepreneurs anyway. I’ve noticed many women will prematurely negotiate against themselves in fear of offending another party. I think historical gender norms have pushed self-moderation and shyness as a positive female trait – but that’s just not good for business.
Sonia Israel, Co-Founder & Chief Business Development Officer, Aifred Health

Entrepreneurship Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
Do not try to fit the typical founder’s persona. Maybe you aren’t 20, maybe you have kids, maybe you need to pay your bills and can’t take a big financial risk by launching full-force into your venture with no back-up plan. Adapt your start-up to your reality. This will ensure that your journey will be steady and solid, and protect you from burning out.
Myriam Fournier-Tombs, Co-founder, Haven Hub

Secure the bag
“Go after women-founder grants and awards!”
Zoey Li – CEO, Co-Founder YUMi ORGANICS

Strength in diversity
Every person is different; they have a strength. Highlight that and use it to benefit the world.
Dr. Margaret Magdesian, CEO & Founder at ANANDA Devices

Ultimately, entrepreneurship is a leap of faith. In the wise words of Isabel Galiana, CEO of Saccade Analytics: Do not back down, trust your gut, get it done and be true to yourself. We have come a long way ladies, and while there is a lot more to be done in order to achieve gender equality; we are certainly heading in the right direction.

Jihane El Atifi

Jihane El Atifi

Jihane El Atifi is a Program Manager at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship.