The Odlum Brown Forum Pitch 2022-2023: Summary Report

The Odlum Brown Forum Pitch is unique in its focus on promoting and supporting women  entrepreneurship. Through this program, the Forum aims to address the gender gap in entrepreneurship in Canada. It provides a platform for women entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses and ideas, connect with potential investors and partners, and receive valuable feedback and support from experienced mentors and industry professionals. The program also raises awareness about the importance of supporting women entrepreneurship and the need to create more opportunities for women-owned businesses to thrive.

This report examines the application data provided by the Forum to the Diversity Institute. It focuses on understanding participants’ business visions and growth plans and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations. The analysis explores how the pandemic affected the businesses of women entrepreneurs, the adjustments made by applicants in response and their plans for future growth and development.

Applicants shared the effect of the pandemic on their businesses, including:

  • Decreased sales
  • Changes in clients’ behaviour due to closures, lockdowns or rising cases
  • Disrupted supply chains
  • Lack of daycare
  • Lack of affordable spaces
  • Lack of work space for employees, especially for those required to work from home 

Despite these challenges, many women entrepreneurs shifted their businesses online and were successful in launching new products and services, expanding their market and developing new business models.

In terms of growth plans and visions for their businesses, applicants shared their ambitions in two broad areas: growth and impact. Many women entrepreneurs showed strong but practical ambition for business growth, such as:

  • Franchising their business
  • Showcasing their work at events or conferences
  • Partnering with bigger brands
  • Launching new projects and services
  • Hiring more staff
  • Opening offices in other areas
  • Scaling across retailers
  • Increasing their client base in number as well as in domestic and international markets
  • Growing reviews

The research affirmed that the Forum should continue providing programs, workshops and resources that support and promote entrepreneurship across Canada, focusing on diverse business owners and sectors. 

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