March 8th marks International Women’s Day, and we thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to take a closer look at a few funding opportunities from government entities, not-for-profit organizations and accelerators focused on supporting women business founders nationwide. This article provides a summary of some significant funders and support organizations in Canada that women-owned businesses should be aware of, as well as a few specific details on some of the opportunities they offer.
BDC: Women in Technology (WIT) Fund
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) is a crown corporation that offers various resources for entrepreneurs looking to innovate in new and existing markets. It works with small and medium-sized businesses in various stages of growth with a focus on flexible financing, advisory services, and capital.
The BDC Capital Women in Technology (WIT) Fund is a venture capital fund entirely dedicated to investing in Canadian, women-led technology companies and helping to build a robust ecosystem to support women in tech today and in the future. This fund offers seed to series B investments to eligible businesses and provides venture partner networking and international growth opportunities. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis.
Export Development Canada (EDC): Women in Trade Investment Program
Export Development Canada (EDC) is a crown corporation that assists companies of all sizes with trade knowledge, financial solutions, equity, insurance, and developing connections. Its mission is to help Canadian businesses achieve success by offering financial solutions and international expertise.
The Women in Trade Investment Program offers export support to women-led and owned companies seeking to explore or already in international markets. This program provides resources for every stage of the exporting journey and helps participants manage risks and cashflow. EDC also offers Select Credit Insurance and access to expert advice to help exporting businesses stay competitive on the global market. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis.
The SheEO Canada Fund is a federally incorporated Canadian not-for-profit. The fund is also present in Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Their business model brings together women and non-binary individuals from different backgrounds and ages (called SheEO Activators), who contribute to a Perpetual Fund that is then in turn loaned out at zero percent interest to women or non-binary individual led ventures. The program also provides networking, coaching and mentoring to the selected ventures. SheEO is not currently seeking new applicants for its portfolio at this time, but there is at least one application round per year.
DMZ: Women Founders Bootcamp
Based in Toronto, The DMZ is an incubator that supports innovative tech startups by connecting them with customers, capital, experts, and a community of entrepreneurs and influencers.
The Women Founder Bootcamp is a six-week program that helps early-stage tech founders validate their business idea, establish a minimum viable product, and build a roadmap for implementation to launch a startup. The goal of the program is to help these founders increase their businesses potential and meet eligibility requirements for DMZ’s core programming.
McGill Dobson: McGill Dobson Entrepreneurial Women Lean Startup
The Dobson Centre is the hub for entrepreneurship at McGill University and brings together members of all faculties to create innovative startups in a variety of domains. Its accelerator programs are intended for McGill affiliated individuals that are currently students, alumni, faculty, or staff.
The McGill Dobson Entrepreneurial Women Lean Startup Program is a new version of Dobson’s existing Lean Startup Program specially designed for women innovators and aspiring business founders. The 8-week program offers participants the opportunity to learn from the experiences of successful female founders, training workshops, and coaching. The goal of the program is to equip aspiring founders with frameworks that will help them develop a business plan and set realistic goals for their projects.
At the time of publication, the deadline to apply for the next cohort of Women Lean Startup program is April 17, 2022.
Groupe 3737: Fempreneures
Founded in 2012, Groupe 3737 assists entrepreneurs from all backgrounds start and grow profitable business. Their services are mainly intended for immigrants and underrepresented entrepreneur groups.
The Fempreneures program is a continuation of the Elevation program, with an emphasis on female entrepreneurship. 3737 created this program specifically for women entrepreneurs in response to the many studies showing that women remain underrepresented in entrepreneurship and face distinct challenges.
This accelerator program mainly offers training and peer support.
EVOL: Business Startup Loan
Evol is supported by the Quebec Ministry of Economic Development and the Government of Canada. It supports the development, acquisition, and growth of diversified and inclusive businesses with positive impacts on society in accordance with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and seeks to contribute to the development of more diverse and sustainable businesses led by members of underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship. EVOL defines these underrepresented groups as those who identify as one or more of the following: women, racialized people, immigrants, First Nations, Inuit, LGBTQ2+ community members and people with disabilities.
EVOL offers business startups loans ranging from $20,000 to $75,000. Entrepreneurs applying for funding will have the opportunity to finance the acquisition of tangible and intangible assets, working capital, development and marketing of products, and more.
Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)
In 1995, Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) identified critical gaps in access to financing and services for women entrepreneurs. To fill these gaps, WD committed funds to create Women’s Enterprise Initiatives (WEI’s) in the four western provinces, including Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE).
Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a not-for-profit organization that enables women to develop successful businesses. Founded in 1995, it provides advising, financing, mentoring, and networking services to women at all stages of their business ventures.
AWE offers business loans for women-owned businesses in Alberta. It offers financing between $30 000 and $150 000 to start or grow a business, as well as business advising and access to networking with like-minded entrepreneurs. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis.
Similar to the Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), WeBC is also part of the Women’s Enterprise Initiatives (WEI’s). It is a not-for-profit organization that has supported women business owners across British Columbia for over 25 years. WeBC offers financing, as well as mentoring, webinars, business skills development, and advisory services.
WeBC offers business loans for women small business owners. It provides funding of up to $150 000 with various repayment options and terms of up to 5 years. Loans can be used for leasehold improvements, equipment, operating capital, and more. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis.