There’s no denying that the number of Canadian female entrepreneurs is growing and there are more supports and initiatives to help level the entrepreneurial playing field.
But the reality is that women still face more barriers and challenges than their male counterparts.
One St. John’s woman is making a progressive effort to help break down those barriers and turn challenges into opportunities with the creation of “Extrapreneurs,” a new locally produced television show and web series set to debut next week on Rogers Television and online.
“Women contribute a significant amount to the Canadian economy, but there’s still a skill set and economic impact that’s untapped,” explains Ronnie Walsh, the show’s executive producer, researcher, writer, host and co-owner of Nine Island Communications along with her husband and business partner, Peter Walsh.
“So how do we have that conversation and how do we introduce people to each other to start doing business together and also provide some solutions?” she says.
“There are many challenges that many people in businesses feel, so I wanted to let people know by first showcasing some of these businesses, identify the challenges and opportunities, and the similarities because many people are experiencing those things.”
Walsh says because the show features local busineses, it could spark some much-needed economic growth this province.
“You can’t say that a television show is going to be a panacea, but a television show can introduce or re-introduce you to people in businesses that you might want to do business with, which then in turn keeps the money in our province and drives our province.”
The first season of the show, with presentation sponsorship from the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, features five 30-minute episodes and covers a vast array of interesting and valuable topics through a combination of one-on-one interviews, panel discussions and pre-produced pieces.
“We’re shot in NL and LAB, but the topics we cover could apply to anyone in business across the country because we talk about various issues,” says Walsh.
The show will tackle the #MeToo movement and how people can deal with gender discrimination and workplace harassment; narrowing the supply chain access gap; financial advice; women in technology and its impact on the global economy; the importance of continuing education and training; and how social media and online marketing strategies are driving small- and medium-sized enterprises.
It will also dive into the often-unexplored topic of mental health for the entrepreneur.
“Mental health from a general perspective is an important issue that we all should be paying closer attention to, but through the entrepreneurial lens there’s some significant statistics that should be raising flags for people,” says Walsh.
“Entrepreneurs have some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety compared to the general public, but we’re not talking about this issue.
But there’s also topics on the lighter side, like the benefits of office yoga and some healthy meal tips.
“I’m hoping people find it interesting and informative and (that it) sparks a discussion that either prompts them to pick up the phone and do business with somebody or to be more aware of something that women in business are facing.”
All of the Season 1 guests are women, but Walsh says invitations to male guests resulted either in schedule conflicts or the invitee sending a female designate on their behalf.
Looking ahead to Season 2, Walsh says there will be more male involvement.
“I’m acutely aware of the importance of individuals from all genders to be mentors to women in business. It’s about having everyone involved in this conversation, because that’s what’s going to be another driver of change,” she says.
A second season, however, is predicated on sponsorship dollars unless the show gets picked up by a major network, and Walsh believes the show has network potential as there’s nothing comparable within the Canadian media landscape.
“There are lots of podcasts and Facebook videos and Facebook Live sessions, which are all great and really support that conversation and that change in momentum that you’re seeing publicly around how people are viewing women in business and the impact that they can have, but as far as I can tell, based on the research I’ve done, there isn’t really a television show focused on just women now.”
For Walsh, “Extrapreneur” represents a return to the screen and to her roots as a journalist and broadcast personality. Before moving to St. John’s in 2007, she had spent more than a decade as a reporter, anchor and producer for local and network radio and television in both Winnipeg and Toronto.
“It simplified things as well because I’m an entrepreneur myself. I have relationships within the business community. There’s interview skills that I have to help people be more comfortable on camera. It made perfect sense for me to throw my hat back in the ring and mic up again.”
Walsh says she has been working on the idea for the last two years, and while nailing down sponsorship proved challenging, her persistence paid off.
“Did I have doubts? Yes. Did I believe it? Absolutely. Was I going to move heaven and earth to make it happen? Damn right I was. It was too important and there’s so much potential.”
The first episode of “Extrapreneurs” airs at 8 p.m. on Rogers Television in St. John’s and will be available online at extrapreneurs.ca thereafter.