Entrepreneurship and Canadian women: encouraged to rise

Samantha Armstrong outside her first house flip on Sunnyside Avenue, in Ottawa. Photo provided by Armstrong.

With a wake-up call like 5:10 a.m., Samantha Armstrong doesn’t linger in limbo.

Between coaching personal training clients and meeting potential contractors for her latest house flip, the thirty-one year old has it all planned out: from travel time, to getting her three kids on the bus and even taking the dog for a walk.

“I always knew I probably wouldn’t work for anybody else, just because of my personality,” Armstrong laughed, sipping from her Bridgehead coffee.

“I don’t follow rules very well, so I need to make up my own as I go along.”

It seems to be her motto: defying the odds, and just for kicks.

With only a yoga teacher and personal training certification, Armstrong opened the doors to Iron North in 2015, a fitness studio in Hintonburg, a neighbourhood in Ottawa. Somewhere along the way, she enrolled in a private design school based in New York and created North and Nash, a house flipping business.

To top it off, in September 2017, Armstrong sold her shares in the studio and dove full-time into her real passion for design. Her income for this fiscal year is approximately $107,000 before tax.

“There are days where you think, ‘man, should I really be doing this, or should I go get a nine to five?’” Armstrong said sarcastically. “But every time, entrepreneurship wins.”

With just under three million individuals self-employed in Canada in 2017, one million of those are female, according to an analysis of Statistic Canada’s Labour Force Survey estimates.

In Ontario alone, the survey estimates 393,800 female entrepreneurs— making up almost 40 per cent of the Canadian female total.

“There’s never been a better time to be a female entrepreneur,” said Sonya Shorey, the vice president for marketing and communications at InvestOttawa, a local business consulting and mentorship company. “I truly mean that, especially when you look across all the exciting developments of what’s happening.”


In July 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the backing of women entrepreneurs around the world, dedicating 20 million dollars toward the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.

“There’s a lot of political force and will behind the female entrepreneur,” Shorey said, noting the media attention as of late.

Investment opportunities, like the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) well-exceeded goal to give 700 million dollars-worth of loans in three years until March 2018 provides women with practical financial tools.

“We want to fill a gap in the marketplace,” said Cora-Lee Ratcliffe, the BDC’s Business Centre Manager location in Ottawa.

“Women entrepreneurs make business decisions differently— they take different things into consideration.”

The Ontario city with highest employment income for females was Ottawa, totaling $36,799 before taxes, according to Statistics Canada’s 2015 data. That’s 10 thousand dollars short of meeting the hallway point of the combined household income in Ottawa of $81,450.

Regardless of income numbers, when it comes to security, women are more risk-averse and are less likely to take advantage of investment and financial opportunities, Ratcliffe explained.

“When we look at being a part of changing that, and how we encourage the advancement of women in business, or in any other place,” Ratcliffe said. “Then we’re contributing to the overall course of our GDP and our success of Canada.”

Armstrong believes self-employment isn’t a risk, but an intentional mindset.

“It’s in your own hands, and if you don’t work, you won’t get paid,” Armstrong said matter-of-factly. “It’s not a risk, it’s a fact– you either do it or you don’t.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *