How on develop a Female-led Enterprise

Small Business Canada

Andrea Oh, CEO at MOVE Improve

As the Chief Executive Officer, Andrea is responsible for leading the development and execution of short- and long-term strategies, assessing, monitoring, and minimizing risks to the company, to increase shareholder value. She is the primary voice of the company, communicating with shareholders, government entities, potential investors, and the public. As a social enterprise, she is focused on maintaining integrity to social responsibility in all business activities. With a passion for getting more people moving, more often, for a healthier world, Andrea has spent the last 20 years of her career using technology to solve problems in the health, fitness, and wellness industries. Companies include STOTT Pilates, Microsoft, iTECH Fitness, The Ride to Conquer Cancer, and Power Plate. Outside of her role as a career professional, she is community-focused and an active contributor with her time and efforts in creating a positive impact in a wide variety of ways. She also loves the outdoors, lacing up her running shoes, and getting miles under her feet.


What are your thoughts on using a business growth platform to help take your business forward?

Founding a company and turning a startup into a viable business is not as sexy as everyone makes it out to be. I remember watching “Working Girl” and “The Secret of My Success” when I was young and dreaming about what it would be like to run my own company. I would think about the problems I would help solve and the team that I would build. Unfortunately, the journey is more like what Tom Hanks goes through in “Outcast”!! Alone on an island, feeling stranded, delirious (some days), but always believing it will all work out in the end.

Now that I’m on my next startup, working with a business growth platform makes the journey feel a lot more like “A League of Their Own”, where I’ve got a coach on the sidelines who’s been through the same struggles before and who can help me navigate through the “stuff” that you can’t read about in textbooks or business workshops. Granted, I’ve had experience with several business accelerators and accredited programs and have walked away from each as a better Founder and CEO but finding the right platform is important … one that meets you where you are at and guides you along the zigzag path ahead.


What are the barriers to women entrepreneurs? Have you faced any struggles or barriers in your pursuits of success throughout your career?

As a “serial” entrepreneur, leading technology-focused companies for the last twenty years, I’ve faced many barriers along the way. Many of them (I believe) is consistent with what all entrepreneurs face, regardless of gender. But there are definitely struggles that come to mind that I don’t believe would have occurred if I wasn’t a woman.

The struggles that hindered the advancement of my career or the progress of the companies I’ve led I feel have centred around the lack of women on the other side of most decision-making conversations. Few companies with women in a position of authority to make key decisions. Few women investors to pitch to. Few women-led accelerator programs or groups.

I have met and spoken with so many women over the years who ended their entrepreneurial journey far too soon … because they didn’t feel supported, understood, heard, or respected. Although I share in their frustrations and echo similar experiences … I’ve endured to keep my company alive and inching forward.


What is the power of building a network? Do you have any success stories about finding new business through your networking?

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how important and invaluable the “right” network can be … and that it begins with me. For so many years, I hindered my ability to connect with like-minded business acquaintances because I was too proud to accept help and support from others. I felt like I had to do it on my own to be respected by my peers.

Over the past year, my growing business network has been really helpful in providing valuable perspective and honest feedback. I am confident that, as my network continues to evolve, success stories about finding new business will come. Currently, my network has created leads for pilots with high-profile organizations, including lululemon, with the goal of converting these pilots to paying customers.

I am currently in the work of surrounding myself with the right people to make me the most well-rounded Founder and CEO for this business.


How can women entrepreneurs maintain wellness and achieve work/life balance?

Entrepreneurs can’t be successful if they build their businesses in a silo or bubble. A new business is essentially a child … and entrepreneurs are the proud parents. And it takes a village to raise a child. It takes people and outsiders to help provide support, insight, feedback, perspective, recommendations, and even capital to help grow a startup into a self-sustaining, viable business. For women entrepreneurs, who are often afraid to show vulnerability and weakness amongst their peers (like I was), the first thing to do is to be okay with asking (and receiving) help from others. This was the biggest shift for me in creating more self-awareness, putting the focus on self-care, and prioritizing balance between my personal and professional life. I got out of my own way, I put my pride and fear of “social failure” aside, and really began to breathe life into my startup … to help it grow and mature.


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