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Annie Nadeau: Championing women entrepreneurs

Posted on Tuesday March 08, 2022


Annie Nadeau: Championing women entrepreneurs

In our series profiling women entrepreneurs, we introduce you to exceptional Acadian women and their allies who are having a positive impact in their communities. Read on to discover their inspiring stories!

Annie Nadeau, regional vice president at UNI Business, is passionate about finance and has been dedicated to championing entrepreneurs in her community since 2002. In addition to her role at UNI, she works with organizations dedicated to supporting New Brunswick business people, particularly women entrepreneurs. Her primary focus is regional economic development.

Financial analysis: Looking beyond the numbers

From an early age, Ms. Nadeau knew she wanted to work at a financial institution. That led her to study business administration at Université de Moncton, where she graduated in 2001. A year later, she joined the UNI family as an account manager on the business side of the cooperative. “I really like analysis, and there’s a lot of it in my work. Once I got a taste of the business side, there was no way I was going to do anything else!”

Because she is fascinated by numbers and dedicated to helping her clients achieve their goals, she decided to round out her education by adding an accounting designation to her resume. “When I looked at financial statements, I wanted to understand more about what was behind the numbers, to be able to talk about what they meant so that I could better advise my entrepreneurial members and come up with concrete solutions.”

Entrepreneurship key to regional vitality

A big believer in SMEs as drivers of regional economic development, Annie Nadeau’s top priority is making sure entrepreneurs can thrive and bring their dreams to life. “If we didn’t have SMEs, our regions would dry up. Small and medium-sized businesses generate activity, create jobs that help keep our young people here and ensure that money is reinvested in the community. It’s a big lever for our economy.”

That’s why she’s on the board of the Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce and is the UNI representative on Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, where she champions francophone entrepreneurs throughout the province. Aware of the challenges faced by women wanting to start a business, she is also a member of the National Advisory Committee of Leading Lenders, an organization dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs.

Women in business: Striving for greater equity

Despite the growing presence of women in business, entrepreneurship is often perceived as being typically male. Leading Lenders responds to a critical need by working with women entrepreneurs and financial institutions.

“Our actions aim to facilitate women’s access to financing and dispel myths that may persist among lenders. Every project should have an equal chance, regardless of whether it is led by a man or a woman. So we act on two fronts, supporting both women and lenders and helping to build bridges between the two.”

Empowering women entrepreneurs to face challenges

What needs does the organization meet? “What we’ve found is that women are generally less well equipped than men. There are fewer networks available specifically for them, so they have to take the time to develop their own, and that’s far from easy because of the lack of time. Women are often still disproportionately responsible for their families, their children’s extracurricular activities and for managing schedules. So we give them tools to develop their financial literacy and make it easier for them to access financing.”

Encouraging lenders to adapt to the realities of women entrepreneurs

And what about the lenders? How does the organization support them? “We help demystify stereotypes and prejudices. We encourage them to really listen and study each project fairly. It’s important not only to judge by the numbers, but also to consider the ability of the person behind the scenes. They are also encouraged to have flexible hours to accommodate the schedules of those juggling family-related responsibilities.”

Small details can make a big difference in making entrepreneurship more accessible to women.

New business models

The growing number of women business managers is breathing new life into management practices. While men can also be sensitive and empathetic, women entrepreneurs generally bring a different human quality to their leadership.

“Maybe we take more time to listen, to show empathy toward our employees. It’s neither better nor worse, but it brings a nice diversity to management practices.”

Have a solid business plan, but remain flexible

What advice does Ms. Nadeau have for young women who want to start a business? “It’s all in the planning. You have to take the time to write everything down, articulate your ideas and have a strong business plan and a good overview of your project.” However, while solid preparation is a strength, you have to be sure to involve your financial institution early on in the process. The advice you’ll get is critical.

“It starts with goodwill, but sometimes when women come to us, they’re so ready, they want to have thought of everything, a lawyer and an accountant are already involved in the project and the funding structure is set. In those cases, if some adjustments need to be made for funding to be granted, it’s a lot harder to do. It’s best to work together proactively from the outset.”

A financial institution that encourages women to take the reins

As a woman manager, Annie Nadeau understands the reality of women entrepreneurs. “On the business side, there are three of us in the province in a similar position, and I’m the only woman. A large percentage of my employees are men. I think that in our world, you can’t be afraid to take the reins. It takes a certain strength of character, but you also need to be respectful.”

Working in a cooperative that cares about its community, regional development and the well-being of its employees is a great fit for Nadeau. “UNI encourages women to become managers. Our values can be seen in both our relationships with clients and internally. It was actually my former boss who introduced me to Leading Lenders and suggested I get involved.”

Annie Nadeau truly inspires many women who cross her path to take the reins and believe in their dreams, both through her position at UNI and her dedication to women entrepreneurs.

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