Women entrepreneurs in Canada will now have access to $20-million in federal cash, thanks to a new fund announced by the government late last week.
The Women Entrepreneurship Fund, part of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy announced with the 2018 budget, is intended to help female business owners of small- and medium-sized businesses grow their companies and increase access to international markets.
“Women still face unique and significant barriers when it comes to starting their own business,” Mary Ng, minister of small business and export promotion, said at the announcement in Delta on Friday, Oct. 19.
“Women are called upon to do more domestic work, they’re more likely to be shut out of investment opportunities and they struggle to find the mentors … for the support and advice that they need,” she continued.
The $20-million Women Entrepreneurship Fund is one way to help solve those inequalities, she said.
The fund will be available on an application basis for the next two years. Each applicant will be able to request up to $100,000 in non-repayable contribution funding.
Applications by diverse women (including Indigenous women, women with disabilities, recent immigrants, visible minorities and women in rural or remote regions), businesses that deal with Canada’s key economic strategy sectors (advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and resources of the future), or businesses looking to pursue international markets will be given priority.
These programs are a big step forward for business owners looking to scale up their businesses, Delta MP and Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough, said.
“There’s such strong female leadership across sectors in Delta,” Qualtrough said. “This fund will directly help — especially the fund announced today — will directly help businesses scale up.”
“Maybe it’s a $1-million company to a $25-million company. It will backstop access to capital, access to diversification, access to export markets. Whatever your business needs to get you to the next level,” she continued. “And I think that’s really exciting for Delta.”
The Women Entrepreneurship Fund follows an $85-million federal announcement in September for an “ecosystem fund,” another portion of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy that is intended to close gaps in service for female entrepreneurs.
Both of these programs are part of Canada’s plan to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025. Currently, less than 16 per cent of Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises are majority women-owned or operated.
“Women make up 51 per cent of our population. So let’s face it,” Ng said. “We’re smart. More of us have higher education degrees. We’re adaptive. We’re resilient. And we’re recognized collaborators.”
“So while I would like to feign shock — why is this happening? — I know why,” she continued. “And I’ll bet those 88 cents on the dollar that you know why too.”