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Professional business coach Jayne Huhtanen says women in business want to make a social impact.

She's ambitious and wants to grow her business. She makes decisions that require risk. She believes in networking and relationship-building. She may not be a technology expert, but she has a presence in the digital world. Work-life balance is important to her.

These are some of the defining characteristics of the new female entrepreneur in Canada, a growing force in the country's economy. In 2011, Statistics Canada reported 950,000 self-employed women in the country – and that number is increasing.

Why are so many women starting their own businesses? There are multiple reasons.

A new report by BMO Financial Group, Carleton University and The Beacon Agency, "A Force to Reckon With: Women, Entrepreneurship and Risk," found that most women start a business because they are passionate about something – not because they want to make a million dollars.

Many women launch a business so they can be in control, experience challenge, create a product or service, and gain financial independence. Many need to generate an income, and some take over their family business to better manage the operation.

Jayne Huhtanen is among these women. As a professional business coach and member of the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs, she advises and consults with many self-employed women. Her résumé includes 26 years at Procter & Gamble, before starting FocalPoint Coaching of Toronto and Wildly Successful Biz, a business accelerator.

"[Women] may choose to start their own business because they want a better work-life balance, they are tired of working for someone else or they want to do something they find fulfilling," says Huhtanen.

Most women-owned businesses are in the services area, Huhtanen points out. This includes everything from health care, real estate sales and mortgage brokerage, to graphic design and accounting. She believes this is because they're motivated by finances, but they also want to make a social impact. Women want to make the world a better place more than men do, and recognize the value of building relationships, she adds.

"When women network with women, they want to get to know each other on a personal level, and understand that business comes through those relationships," Huhtanen explains. "With men, the conversation tends to get right to what am I trying to sell you, and you trying to sell me?"

She says female-led businesses also tend to be smaller, have fewer employees and are more likely to be home-based than those fronted by men.

Who is she?

Here are some of the qualities that characterize the new Canadian female entrepreneur, Huhtanen finds:

  • She’s proficient in marketing, sales and finances. Women tend to be less comfortable dealing with numbers and don’t like to know if they’re doing badly, but successful women address these key areas of financial reality so they can make good decisions.
  • She’s good at networking. She recognizes the importance of relationships and attends networking events. She seeks out mentors and strategic partners. Before she joins an association, she “test drives” it to see if it’s the right fit.
  • She’s not afraid to ask for help. She asks for others’ opinions, seeks out a mentor when she needs to and outsources tasks that aren’t her strengths (like website building, for instance).
  • She has an online presence. She doesn’t need to be an expert, but she does need basic literacy in the digital world. She determines what’s appropriate for her business, who her target audience is and how to reach them. Customers in their 20s take a different approach than those in their 50s.
  • She has passion and energy. She knows if she is not passionate about her product or service, people won’t buy it. She knows she has the right solution for whomever she’s talking to, and comes across as confident and caring.
  • She follows up. If she doesn’t have time to follow up personally, she has an assistant or a template to do so within 24 hours. She makes regular contact with high-probability prospects.
  • She holds herself accountable. Or if she feels she can’t, she finds someone else to hold her accountable, such as a mentor, friend or partner who can serve as a sounding board and provide an outside perspective. She sets clear goals and establishes a timeline and action plan.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.