If you’re a Canadian woman in business who wants to export to Europe, there are a great many hurdles to overcome—but those hurdles aren’t insurmountable. In July 2021, a panel entitled Canadian Women doing Business with the European Union aimed to help Canadian women in business overcome obstacles to international trade and capitalize on opportunities abroad. In fact, the panel introduced a new toolkit from the Trade Commissioner Service to help Canadian women export to Europe. The moderator was Karen Kennedy, Commercial and Economic Counsellor and Senior Trade Commissioner, Mission of Canada to the EU, and she was joined by four other women in international trade who shared their stories and insights about exporting to Europe.
Why Canadian women in business should export to Europe
First up was Sara Wilshaw, Chief Trade Commissioner, Global Affairs Canada. Wilshaw noted that service-centred business is where the strength of trade with the EU lies. Wilshaw also made clear just what makes working with the EU—a vast and rapidly growing world trade hub—so vital: that is, the growth potential the European Union presents.
“Why would you not do business with the EU?” Wilshaw opened. Noting the 446 million consumers and CA$24 trillion in gross domestic product boasted by the European Union, Wilshaw emphasized the sheer scope of the EU’s business opportunities. Further, the Chief Trade Commissioner tied this directly to Canadian women in business. “The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc,” Wilshaw said. “It offers numerous business opportunities that play specifically to the strengths of Canadian women entrepreneurs, most notably in the services sector where Canadian women entrepreneurs are particularly strong.”
What Canadian women in business should export to Europe
This sentiment was echoed by Susan Baka, Vice President of the Organization for Women in International Trade. Her remarks focused on why the EU is such a viable market for Canadian women looking to expand their businesses. She explained: “During my research to write the toolkit, I discovered there are many opportunities to do business in the EU that match the strengths of Canadian women entrepreneurs, particularly those in niche markets.” For instance, Baka mentioned the high demand for organic and sustainable goods ranging from clothing and cosmetics to snack foods and environmental services.
Where Canadian women in business who export to Europe can find support
Baka went on to highlight the help available to women in business engaging with the European Union. “There is also a host of women’s networks and other business organizations in the EU to tap into that can be a landing point to find partners... not to mention a supportive group of Canada’s Trade Commissioners on the ground there who can help women navigate the landscape and identify opportunities and good contacts.”
Why Canadian women in business should take advantage of online networking
The importance of networking was a recurrent theme throughout the panel, notably championed by Karima-Catherine Goundiam, founder of Red Dot Digital and B2BeeMatch. Goundiam spoke to the challenges she faced when entering the European market, as well as the importance of forming long-lasting business relationships. She suggested that women in business should connect with companies in their target market before they ever set foot on an airplane.
Commenting on the rise of digital networking during COVID, Goundiam explained: “COVID helped break the barriers as people were more able and willing to connect without being in person.” This global shift caused an increase in online networking and online business development activities between international markets such as Canada and the EU, and an increased use of platforms such as B2BeeMatch that facilitate those online activities—essentially, it’s never been easier or more popular for women to build international business relationships from their home offices.
Goundiam closed with a few words of advice for her fellow women in business: “With the digital landscape, you’re international on day one, so take advantage of the resources to build a solid online business.”
What government organizations support Canadian women in business who export to Europe
Rounding out the panel was Shamira Jaffer, CEO of Signifi Solutions Inc. The export veteran shared stories of the obstacles she’s faced and commented on the efficacy of CanExport and Export Development Canada, citing them as helpful allies to her European expansion.