G. E. Barbour
Spotlight on Women Entrepreneurs
For Sylvia MacVey, President and CEO of G.E. Barbour, located in Sussex, New Brunswick, there has never been a better time to be a woman entrepreneur.
Specializing in tea, nut butters, and spices, Barbours is a New Brunswick-based manufacturer as old as Canada itself. When MacVey consolidated the ownership of the 151-year old company seven-years ago, her focus was to change the company’s direction to allow it to take advantage of emerging global trends.
While MacVey admits that she’s witnessed the challenges of being a woman throughout her career, she hasn’t let it stop her. She says that for women, now may be the time to consider owning their own business.
“There’s so much support being offered to female entrepreneurs through both government and non-government support systems,” says MacVey.
Since taking the helm, MacVey has led the company forward into new products and new market opportunities. Their latest success has been an entry into the Japanese market with new formulations of nut butters.
And while she says being a woman in the traditionally male dominated world of manufacturing has been challenging, her biggest issues have not been related to gender.
“There are certain things that everyone needs to do and they aren’t gender specific,” says MacVey. “The first is building the team and getting the right people. This is absolutely critical to success.”
MacVey also says that the timing over the past three or four years has been pro-women.
“Everyone wants to have a female portfolio,” says MacVey. “People have woken up to the fact that if they’re not recognizing the potential of women then they’re walking away from potential, period. There has been a real wave of media attention to the fact that the opportunities that women bring with them are real and should be part of any company’s success plan.”
In terms of her own success, MacVey credits three things. First, she was born into a family business. Second, she spent a lot of her life in the not-for-profit world where she learned from incredible mentors on the importance of implementing a long-term view. Third, MacVey is a self-described risk taker.
“I applied this vision of what I believe the company can and should be, and recognized the trap [companies can get into] of being too comfortable.”
MacVey has seen a lot more women enter into the manufacturing world, and many of the future leaders within her own company are women. She acknowledges that there remain inequities within some of the more traditional sectors, calling it “a hangover from the past that will require more work to combat.”
“I think the philosophy being supported right now by government institutions and different partners has come a long, long, long way, and I can’t think of a better time in history to be a woman entrepreneur.”
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