For women entrepreneurs looking to scale or expand their business into a new international market, establishing strategic networks is vital to success.

Tapping into the right contacts in the right markets at the right time not only increases your knowledge and ability to grow your company, but can help you reach your business goals faster and with greater confidence.

“Working and supporting women entrepreneurs for many years, I’ve seen firsthand the difference it can make in their business growth trajectory when women have a deliberate network strategy,” says Jennifer Cooke, EDC’s director of Inclusive Trade. 

“Part of the strategy is being clear on what you need, surrounding yourself with the right advisors and asking for the help you need to grow and succeed,” she says. 

But let’s face it: Expanding into a global market can be daunting, especially for women entrepreneurs. Access to trade information and capital to grow their business are among their top challenges. 

Studies have shown that women-owned businesses contribute $150 billion to the Canadian economy and employ more than 1.5 million people. But only 16% of Canadian small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are majority-owned by women and 11% of these businesses currently sell their products and services internationally. That means, there’s still vast untapped opportunity overseas for women entrepreneurs.

So, what’s holding them back? The truth is women tend to be more risk aware—not more risk averse. They want to fully understand risks and how to mitigate them before making a decision to move forward. 

But many women entrepreneurs lack the proper networks to make connections and they often don’t know where to turn for advice. That’s where strategic networks come in. They’re an effective tool to help women foster relationships with other like-minded business women and gather insightful advice and market intelligence to help them navigate every stage of their export journey.

3 benefits of global networks

1. Fosters connections and partnerships: To achieve global growth, business networks are incredibly important. They can help you navigate the unique challenges and opportunities of exporting and the market you’re entering. But you need to be deliberate, intentional and strategic about building networks that address your specific business needs, sector and target markets.

Establishing strong networks with key advisors, partners and experts will enable you to meet new customers, suppliers, and manufacturers to help you break into your target markets, increase sales and accelerate growth.

It’s also a good idea to have on-the-ground partners or agents to help you better understand the local business culture and overcome language barriers. To further extend your global reach and create brand loyalty, social media networks are also instrumental, especially during our economic recovery from COVID-19.

2. Opens doors to opportunities: Networking is all about helping each other by sharing information, experiences and resources. But you don’t have to look too far. Start by tapping into your existing customers or suppliers for advice and connections, which could lead to new opportunities.

The next step would be to make connections and partnerships with other like-minded businesses, trade associations and consumer groups, to name a few, to enable you to access widespread opportunities that you may not have been able to on your own.

Of course, always do your due diligence before signing contracts with any new partners. EDC Company Insight—a free online tool that allows you to search and vet more than 100,000 companies—provides reliable data to help you assess potential risks before entering a professional relationship. 

3. Builds confidence and trust:
With a diverse community of trade experts, experienced businesses and industry advisors offering you support, you’ll be more confident making informed decisions about your business. Knowledge is power and fostering and leveraging relationships with people you can trust to provide valuable insights and advice will help you avoid costly mistakes and grow with confidence.

But remember: It takes time, resources, and a sustained effort to build the right network. Participating in trade missions or trade shows and conferences are an effective way to make connections and build relationships. 

At EDC, we can also help you make business connections anywhere in the world. As international risk experts, we’re dedicated to helping Canadian companies of all sizes and sectors succeed globally by providing the tools you need—trade knowledge, financial solutions, equity, insurance, and connections—to grow and scale your business.