Michelle Lochan had the passion to be an entrepreneur, but raising five children on her own made it tricky. Then she got the right kind of help. As told to Diane Hill.
When you help a woman start her own business, you affect her children too. They want to mirror her independence and they learn to trust their own decisions. Improving her self-sufficiency also means she can leave an abusive husband if necessary, because she has her own income. That is the voice I speak from.
Growing up, I witnessed abuse. That’s how I learned to communicate in a marriage and why I accepted mistreatment. Many times my husband would make financial decisions without me. Whenever we had saved some money, it would go to support whatever impulsive decision he’d made. He would take my bank card without telling me and it was negatively affecting the credit I valued. This was causing too many arguments. When I realized it was frightening the children, I just stopped arguing. I had low self-esteem, I gained a lot of weight and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. It was extremely hard to get the courage to leave, but the relationship was just too difficult.
My family criticized my decision to leave and give up what looked like financial security, especially when I found out I was pregnant with twins.
So there I was, pregnant, going through a divorce and becoming a single parent. I had not envisioned this for my life. But inside, my sense of independence and strength was coming back. I even revisited a plan I’d had to start my own business.
My twins were born premature and had to spend two months in the hospital. When they came home, they needed constant attention and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain a business. I felt like I dropped the ball. It was a very hard time for me, mentally, emotionally and financially. I felt trapped.
When I got accepted into the Microskills program, I started to cry. It gave me just what I needed. It built up my self-esteem, empowered me, and put me back on track. I wrote a proper business plan and presented it to a panel of professionals who gave great feedback. I worked one-on-one with an inspiring coach. After graduating, I provided progress reports. Being self-employed has given me the freedom to heal while doing what I love. Building on my education and skills developed in the private sector, I have now launched a business development service for female entrepreneurs, which focuses on business and marketing planning.
Many women, including those living on a low-income, think self-employment isn’t an option for them because it takes a lot of investment. But I show them the techniques that worked for me. When they get that ‘ah–ha’ moment and realize: “Okay, I see how this can happen,” that really makes me happy.
It’s not easy. But my passion is to work with women entrepreneurs to strengthen their power and choices and when you have a passion like that inside, it won’t go away.
The Women’s Opportunities in Business, Trades and Technology program is delivered by MicroSkills Community Development Centre and is funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
This story was originally published in the Spring 2014 edition of SHE magazine.
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