Pandemic becomes boon for local women entrepreneurs

Apr 23, 2022 | Biz/Tech

The pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns triggered major financial setbacks for local entrepreneurs. While some had to face mounting debts, others were forced to close their businesses.

Yet others, like Laura Jackson, were able to use technology to adapt their business to new realities governed more by a pandemic than any other factor.

The personal trainer from Toronto said she struggled to maintain her studio in the west-end.

Jackson said pivoting towards a new platform was important for her to survive.

Realizing many women were feeling lost without having access to the gym inspired her to think of a way to make fitness accessible online, she said.

Jackson said she began posting online challenges and started to virtually give members workout plans, nutrition plans, and recipes. This helped boost her business as clients could now use her services while being completely safe, she said.

The economic challenges brought on by COVID-19 inspired her to partner up with other small businesses and find ways to support them, she said.

She said this idea led her to conducting beauty and fitness challenge events with other businesses.

One of the first businesses Jackson partnered with was Sarah Sharratt’s Slurp.

Jackson said she partnered with Slurp for a Women’s Day event on March 9 in Distillery District in Toronto.

Sharratt said Slurp, a premium cocktail brand, is a “COVID baby,” as she founded the company last July. She started by selling cocktail mixes directly to customers from her home, she said.

What started as an experiment soon became a full-fledged business, as she now caters to parties, she said.

Melissa Austria, the founder and co-owner of retail brand Gotstyle, said being a woman entrepreneur is easier now.

Austria said opening a store in 2005 was challenging for her because of the prejudice against women entrepreneurs. She said getting business loans as a woman was difficult and rejections were constant.

She said things have changed for the better as people don’t need to own a store or wait around for a loan to begin a business.

The pandemic has redefined businesses, allowing anybody to sell their services online without the need for high investment, Austria said.

She said starting a business from home is a great way to ensure minimum risk while also gaining valuable experience.

Two women smiling at the camera.

Participants from Laura Jackson's March event. Photo credit: Courtesy/Gotstyle

Jackson said she partnered up with Austria and other local entrepreneurs regularly to host events encouraging women to set off on their entrepreneurship journey.

She said women need to support each other to grow stronger in the entrepreneurial world.

Jackson says her motivation behind hosting regular events and challenges is to empower women through fitness, fashion and beauty.

She said she plans to continue hosting regular events to support and celebrate women entrepreneurs although the restrictions have relaxed and the city returns to normal.