The best way for women-owned or women-led businesses to grow internationally and increase revenues is by working together. 

Business collaboration speeds up and multiplies your ability to expand and reach new markets. Whether you are looking for a partner to distribute or promote your product or service, manufacture your product or technology, or finance your research and development, working together is the most effective way to find customers and increase your revenues.

Sectors where women-owned or women-led businesses are leveraging the power of collaboration today include:

  • life sciences;
  • information and communication technology (ICT);
  • artificial intelligence;
  • agriculture and agri-food;
  • construction;
  • energy;
  • consumer products;
  • financial services;
  • transport;
  • tourism; and
  • professional and business services.

Collaboration is such an effective strategy because business women typically possess personal qualities that make it work. These include open mindedness, the desire to make things work and try new things, business development and management skills.

How to attract business partners

Simply put, you need to shine with a good value proposition. Start by:

  • Leveraging the Canadian brand. Canadians have a positive image as international partners. We’re known as trustworthy business people with good quality products and services. We’re seen to be open to different cultures and easy to interact with. These are all good qualities that business partners want.
  • Making a pitch. It’s important to prepare a pitch for your potential partners and let them know who you are, why they should partner with you, what you can do together, and what's in it for them. Be prepared to inform them about your current clients and partners to build trust.
  • Sharing personal details. You can also gain trust by informing potential partners about your credentials, standards certification, and membership in professional and industry associations.

Best practices for establishing business collaborations:

  1. Find partners who have good synergy and complement your business.
  2. Establish a list of criteria to select the right partners.
  3. Set goals and objectives, and a partnership strategy.
  4. Develop an operational plan with your partner.
  5. Establish roles and responsibilities for each partner.
  6. Develop a joint value proposition if you are selling together.
  7. Establish communications and be aware of cultural differences in working together.
  8. Negotiate with the goal to establish a “win-win” collaboration. 
  9. Monitor and measure activities against goals and objectives.
  10. Develop a trusting relationship for a successful collaboration.
  11. Use a lawyer and business professionals to get advice for the legal agreements and protect your intellectual property. 
  12. Plan an exit strategy.

Where can you find business partners?

  • Leverage women-owned and women-led organizations. 
  • Attend industry fair shows and conferences.
  • Participate in trade missions.
  • Attend large companies’ partner/supplier events.
  • Join professional associations where other business owners or business representatives are members.
  • Leverage the membership of industry and professional associations.
  • Use the Trade Commissioner Service and Export Development Canada’s network of offices around the world, which can refer you to partners in your target market.
  • Reach out to other suppliers of large companies you supply.

How to collaborate with another business

Leverage supply chains in Canada with global ties. By becoming a supplier to Canadian companies that have an international presence, you gain exposure to international markets. You can also leverage foreign subsidiaries in Canada that export to international markets to take your product or service global.

Collaborate with small- to medium-sized enterprizes (SMEs) already in an international market and that can promote your product, distribute or resell your product or service. You can also find a SME partner who has complementary expertise or offerings, and approach customers together in a given market. An established SME partner in your target market who is already a supplier of a large company can help you gain access to supply chains.

Strengthen the relationship with your current clients who have an international presence or are interested in expanding in new markets. Package your product or service together for international clients. 

Open your market to international partners who will in turn give you access to their markets. Add an international partner product or service in your offering for your Canadian customers, and also propose to your international partner that they add your product or service in their offering to their customers.

Find a research and development partner to improve or develop a new product to innovate and stay competitive. This could be the fastest and most cost-effective way for you to turn your ideas or early prototypes into market-ready innovations.

Find a supplier in Canada or abroad to add a product, technology or service to your company’s offerings by buying a license for a specific geographic area that will make your company more innovative and competitive. 

Find a manufacturing partner to reduce your manufacturing cost and be near your customers in a targeted market.

Find a financial partner to finance your company’s activities such as developing a new product. You can also find investment partners such as venture capitalists to invest in your company expansion and take a stake in your company.