Small businesses are a driving force of employment opportunities in Niagara. And women are starting or running many of these businesses. They are a diverse group, but generally, their businesses tend to be smaller than others, with most working as solo entrepreneurs or employing fewer than 20 people. Just because their businesses are small doesn’t mean they aren’t mighty though. They offer employment and economic growth to the region, and perhaps, more importantly, they offer many of us the flexibility and creativity we need to balance our lives and find satisfaction. As Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce president, Mishka Balsom, notes, “Women start businesses that align with personal values and offer freedom, flexibility and control.”
One Woman’s Story Just ask Valerie Fyke, owner of the Atrium Spa in Fort Erie. Val was raising two children when the owner of the Atrium Spa approached her to manage his business in 2004. Val declined because she had recently closed a family business and needed time to recharge and reconnect with her family. A few months later, she agreed to work as a receptionist at the spa because it fit her life. In 2007, when she was ready, Val offered to buy the spa. For her,
owning a business wasn’t all about making a profit, though.
“Most business owners aren’t driven by money. One of the great”
“things about owning your own business is that it can give you the flexibility you need to find balance in your life. I have always structured my work days to allow time for my family. Running my own business allows me to do that. It lets me be more present and with my children.”
“Women often open their own businesses out of necessity and passion. Like Val, we often prioritize work-life balance and need the flexibility to create our own schedules to make that work. Many of us also prioritize living out our passions. For Val, that meant building a dynamic, creative, business and a team of strong, professional women to work with: “With the spa, I have been able to build and live in an amazing atmosphere of support and creativity.” The women that work at the Atrium Spa are like a second family, and together they satisfy the needs of their clients, and their own need to feel fulfilled through work. That supportive atmosphere has also drawn together an amazing community of clients that have supported Val and Atrium Spa on its journey to evolve and improve.” This sisterhood of supportive women extends beyond the business for Val, and for many other female entrepreneurs. In building her business, Val was very active in the community and she wasn’t afraid to reach out for advice or support in her community as she navigated the ups and downs of running her spa business.
The Future is Ours “For Val Fyke, drawing on the support of other women has been the cornerstone of her business.” “Women are great networkers and we get encouragement and support from women working together in sisterhood. Women aren’t afraid to be vulnerable and take chances. So there are great opportunities for women. I see a surge in women entrepreneurs and I can’t see it going anywhere but up. We are caring, smart, and resourceful; we are amazing multi-taskers and great time managers; and most importantly, we are not afraid to open our arms and ask for help.”If you are a woman thinking of running a small business in Niagara – or if you already do – you are lucky. You have a chance to be creative and flexible. You have a chance to create a life that fits your priorities. And you aren’t alone. You have a strong community of support. Together we are awesome. Together we will succeed. TM