With COVID-19, small business owners are facing increased financial and operational stress. The situation may be even more critical for women, as the pressures of caring for family members and homeschooling children have pulled many women entrepreneurs away from their businesses. The challenge is compounded in rural areas with the lack of reliable internet access, small customer bases, and limited local resources. 

The realities faced by many rural business owners are stark. How will they avoid bankruptcy? How will they change their business model – going from in-person retail to online, for instance? If they are fortunate enough to have continued operating through the pandemic, how will they continue to adjust to the new normal? In addition to the business realities, how will rural women entrepreneurs balance the increased demands at home? These questions loom large in many rural communities across Canada.

Photo credit: Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash.

That’s why I am dedicating my Master’s Thesis research to find out what affects the entrepreneurial resilience of rural women business owners in this time of crisis?

Hi. My name is Doreen Ashton Wagner.

I am a 56 year-old woman living, working and studying in Alexandria, ON. I have been an entrepreneur since 1998 and you can read a little more about my background HERE.

I have been curious about how rural business owners – women especially – run many of the enterprises that make our small towns so special. Two years ago I made the decision to go back to school to study entrepreneurship so I could better understand what makes them “tick”.

I’d always aimed to do this to help rural business owners. Then COVID hit. Now the need to uncover strategies and develop resources that promote entrepreneurial resilience is more urgent than ever. I also hope my research will assist policy-makers create programs that are better suited to support women-led rural businesses, not just during this pandemic, but far beyond.

Looking for Participants

The focus of my research is women (or women-identifying individuals) from the rural area of Prescott-Russell and Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry (SDG), the area where I have spent most of my adult life. I am looking for study participants who had already established businesses when the COVID-19 shutdown was declared by the Canadian federal government in March 2020. Participants should be engaged in their business on a full-time basis, as a sole owner or in partnership with others, with or without employees. Their business can be in any industry sector.


This will pull up my calendar and the times available for us to have a short preliminary call. After that call, if we both feel comfortable, we can schedule a mutually-convenient time for our first interview.
How the study will be done

Participants will be interviewed twice over a three month period, roughly between October and December 2020. Interviews will take place in English, just between the participant and me, as the interviewer. Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, all interviews will be on Zoom, a video platform. A computer or smartphone, headphones and internet access is all that is required. 

Interviews will be recorded so they can be transcribed. Participants will have the opportunity to review the interview transcripts prior to my analysis, as well as the research report before it is submitted. 

Each of the two interviews will last about one hour. Everything shared during the interview will be kept strictly confidential. The contents will be used for my thesis and possibly for the development of resources for entrepreneurs. And as I mentioned earlier, it might even help policy-makers create programs that are better suited to support women-led rural businesses.

What’s in it for the participant?

There is no material incentive to participate. Other than my deep gratitude, and the opportunity to contribute to knowledge about entrepreneurial practices, participation may help study participants to reflect on their situation and to learn from the study’s analysis and findings. This may benefit their confidence as business owners. Participants may also feel satisfaction from knowing they can help other rural business owners with new tools, resources and better policies.

What are the risks?

Although minimal, there are risks to participation. Since the study entails sharing thoughts and feelings about stressful times, this may trigger emotions that cause some to feel minor discomfort. In case feelings are more intense, I’ve gathered a number of resources to assist participants should they need additional emotional support. 

Every effort will be made to minimize risks. For instance, participants may request a copy of sample questions prior to interviews. Participants will be extended as much time to answer as they need. They may also review interview transcripts and choose to remove or alter parts. Finally, participants may stop the interview process at any time.

Consent Form

If you decide to participate, I will send you a form to review and sign. In compliance with Royal Roads University’s ethics protocols, it is a requirement of this research project that all participants review and sign this Consent Form.

This Consent Form outlines the purpose, risks, and benefits of the study, and all the precautions described on this page regarding confidentiality, security of data and retention of data.

Confidentiality, security of data & retention period

I promise to work hard to protect your privacy throughout this study. All information will be kept in strictest confidence. At no time will any specific information or insights be attributed to any individual. Electronic data will be stored on portable hard drive, with password protection and two-factor authentication. Hard copies of interview transcripts will be stored in a locked, fireproof cabinet in my home office. All data will be deleted one year after I graduate. My expected graduation date is June 2021.

Sharing results

In addition to submitting my final report to Royal Roads University for a Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, I will be sharing my research findings in the form of a final report to agencies that support women entrepreneurs throughout the study area, including but not limited to: 

  • Prescott and Russell Economic Development and Tourism
  • Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation
  • United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
  • Cornwall & the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation
  • Eastern Ontario Training Board.

It is possible that the results of this research may be part of an article, a conference presentation, or another kind of knowledge product in the future. 

The final report will also be posted on this website after it is presented to my university and the support organizations mentioned above. 

I will happily share the report with all participants.

Procedure for withdrawing from the study

If, for whatever reason, a participant wishes to withdraw from the study, they may do so anytime before the final interview is approved. After the final interview is approved, analysis will be well underway, and it will be too late to withdraw. Withdrawal may be done by notifying me by email or by phone. I will then confirm that all of the participant’s data has been deleted from the study.

Interested? Let’s chat.

© 2020 Doreen Ashton Wagner