The number of women owning businesses and holding major executive corporate positions remains small. For Blacks and other minorities, the quantity is infinitesimal.
It’s very significant that Jamaican-born Delores Lawrence is the only African-Canadian to have made the 14th annual Profit/Chatelaine Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs List released recently.
The owner of Nursing Health Care Inc. (NHI) has been in the exclusive company for nine years.
“I look at it beyond a Black person cracking the glass ceiling,” said Lawrence who last December was named one of the Top 20 Women to Watch by Women’s Post, which is Canada’s leading national publication for women in business. “This is a national honour and it’s quite rewarding to be ranked among the mainstream.”
Accredited by the Canadian Council of Health Services, NHI is also a four-time winner of the Consumer Choice Award for Business Excellence in Nursing.
“Our service is exceptional and exemplary and we are one of the best in the industry in terms of what we do and the home care service we offer,” said Lawrence, who migrated to Canada in 1969. “We have an attractive brand and track record.”
Lawrence was introduced to business at an early age by her mother, who owned a supermarket in Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coach. She went with her mother to business meetings with bank managers and grasped an understanding of the importance of presenting a professionally crafted plan that addressed the bank’s concerns as to how their loan would be repaid.
By the time she was set to launch her own business in 1985 after graduating from the University of Toronto with a nursing degree and the University of New Hampshire with a Master’s in Business Administration, Lawrence was confident she possessed the knowledge, business skills and collateral to secure a bank loan.
It wasn’t that easy as she found out.
Seeking a $25,000 line of credit to start NHI, the bank was willing to lend her just $5,000 – they demanded that her husband co-sign for the amount – even though she had over $100,000 in home equity and $5,000 in Canada Savings Bonds.
“In effect, the money the bank was going to lend me was covered by my bonds, so they were not assuming any risk,” she said.
Lawrence ran her business out of her Markham home for two years before being forced to find office space after being threatened with legal action.
“Most of the employees used to show up at my residence on Fridays for their paycheques which meant there was a steady of stream of cars and activity on the residential street,” she recalled. “That did not sit well with my neighbours and one afternoon a Town of Markham inspector showed up at my door and served me notice that I should cease doing business at home because I was violating the residential by-laws.”
Entrepreneurs for the Profit/Chatelaine listing are ranked by their company’s size, growth rate and profitability. Part of the requirements for nominated entrepreneurs is annual revenue of at least $200,000 and women must also be owners or significant stakeholders and have the responsibilities of making critical decisions within their companies.
NHI, whose annual revenues fall within the $5 to $10 million range, employs a staff of about 1,000, of which close to 285 work full-time. The company, which provides health care services to hospitals and nursing, retirement and private homes, has offices in downtown Toronto, Scarborough and Ajax. A fourth office will be opened early in the New Year in Mississauga.
By RON FANFAIR