Her Own Boss!

In 2018, we connected with a group of racialized immigrant women who are entrepreneurs or aspiring to be entrepreneurs, to better understand their needs and how they can be supported. The meetings resulted in our report “Her Own Boss: Exploring the Challenges and Barriers of Entrepreneurship for Racialized Newcomer Women in Canada.” 

For citation: Women’s Economic Council (2022). Her Own Boss: Exploring the challenges and barriers of entrepreneurship for racialized newcomer women in Canada

About Her Own Boss! (HOB)

Her Own Boss! is a participatory research project funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The design and execution processes of the HOB program followed the same track, objectives, and anticipated outcomes across the three cities of Ottawa, Metro Vancouver and St.John’s. That said, slight differences arose, mostly in response to the participants’ particular needs as well as region-specific circumstances.

Moreover, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 almost coincided with the start of the project’s second year; as a result, all three regions adjusted to the limitations caused by the new situation.


At each location, the HOB project worked with partner organizations to conduct outreach, recruit participants, and provide a location for the training sessions for the first year. The training sessions at each location incorporated the following:

  1. Guest speakers who administered business-related training and mentoring;
  2. Field trips to local service providers (only in the first year);
  3. A participatory research component where participants were invited to reflect on their entrepreneurial experience to suggest recommendations for the current and future programing and policies; and
  4. One-on-one mentoring sessions, as well as training sessions, were run in each region.


  • the program provided referrals to other available services (both business and/or wrap-around) in the community.
  • Continuous needs assessment with the participants throughout the program were performed through various methods, including individual mentoring sessions, feedback forms, and informal conversations with the program’s practitioners and volunteers.
  • HOB workshops constituted the main component of the program (with local community organizations) in order to provide women with networking opportunities and build their business plans.
  • Direct teaching (i.e., lecture, presentation, demonstration) to indirect teaching methods (i.e., facilitation, discussion) or interactive instruction (i.e., problem-solving tasks, reporting back, creative tasks such as making business-related videos or visioning boards)

Concluding Remarks

Racialized newcomer women (RNW) are gradually looking at entrepreneurship as a sustainable way of economic integration (Azmat, 2013), and our cross-country study has led to a better awareness of several steps that must be taken to improve RNW’s opportunities of becoming an entrepreneur. These steps, or recommendations, were based on a comprehensive study of HOB training sessions offered over two years in Ottawa, Metro Vancouver, and St, Johns. This study revealed the many challenges and barriers RNW face in attempting to start their own business, and the challenges local service providers face in delivering adequate services and programs to RNW.

One size does not fit all. Involving RNW in the process of program design and implementation contributes to maintaining cognizance of their existing and evolving challenges towards starting new enterprises. Additionally, applying a gender and intersectionality lens on policies would impact the management of similar projects towards further holistic, inclusive, and equitable services.

Communities and government agencies wishing to start or continue to serve RNW can do so by considering both the regional and national recommendations made in this report and shifting towards initiatives that are unique to RNW’s needs and economic prosperity. Our findings highlighted the significance of a participatory approach as well as the flexibility to support the changing needs of programs and their participants living in different regions and towns across the country.