FREDERICTON – HotSpot’s Erin Flood knew the startup world was where she belonged.
“I think it was something about finding your own rules and doing things your own way that kind of attracted me,” Flood says. “You have the ability to start something new rather than being a cog in a wheel.”
It was a scene she knew well. Her father founded New Brunswick-based IT and marketing company T4G, and Flood jumped at any chance she could to meet people in the tech sector.
“I was constantly bugging him to attend different events surrounding tech in the province,” she says. “Just to meet people and find out what everyone was up to.”
One of these events was the 2013 KIRA Awards, where she happened to be sitting next to Philip Curley, CEO of HotSpot. Not for any strategic reason, they were just the youngest people in the room.
“Basically because we were just two kids for the most part. So we started talking there,” Flood says. “I taught him some table manners and he asked me to do his social media and that’s how it started.”
At the time, Flood was the third person to join HotSpot Merchant Solutions. Now she’s the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
Like many startups, HotSpot has seen peaks and valleys. Overcoming the rollercoaster experience of the startup world has been one of Flood’s biggest challenges. She gets through the hair-pulling moments by looking at each setback as a learning experience, and seeking advice from the supportive community around her.
“I’m immersing myself into the community as much as possible. There’s a long list of not only female, but male role models and entrepreneurs who started their own companies in New Brunswick,” Flood says. “The coolest part is they’re in my province, they’re literally fingertips away from me and they’re all more than willing to offer tips. Just listening and constantly learning, reiterating and changing.”
The support is plentiful, but like the rest North America, the startup scene on the East Coast of Canada is largely male dominated. Being a female executive has its own set of challenges. Flood says these are mostly created by the world we live in.
“I think in some cases, female entrepreneurs or female executives make believe and create our own worst enemies in the boardroom. . . We’re constantly worried about how we’ll be perceived,” she says. “We’re excellent bankers of worries and that comes from societal expectations and pressures that we feel the world will think of us if we step outside of those guidelines as females.”
Her advice? Screw those guidelines. Follow your own.
“I think it’s about gaining confidence in your own guidelines and playing by your own rules,” Flood says. “Blocking out the internal enemy, believe in your own strength. Those strengths stem directly from your own passion.”
New Brunswick’s startup community has been growing, yet it’s still more men than women taking the plunge. Flood says this is due in part to the timidness women may feel, but also because they don’t know all the resources and support available to them.
“The glass ceiling is still there and in New Brunswick for sure, but the difference is that strong women are continuously punching their way through. I think a lot of the time people fail to realize the resources that we do have in the community,” Flood says.
“Someone has to reach out to say ‘You can do this, you just have to start.'”