We have made good progress on fostering women’s entrepreneurship in Canada — in fact we are tied for the number two ranked country in the 2015 Global Women’s Entrepreneur Leader’s Scorecard.  And there is much more to be done.  According to the ‘Majority of Female-Owned Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises’ study by Industry Canada, just 15.5 per cent of small-medium businesses were majority owned by women in 2011. Where to go from here?

“To reduce the gender gap, entrepreneurs, support organizations, and community leaders, need to work together to improve access to and quality of programming that empowers women with equal opportunity for success, and champions them as the next great leaders in business,” says Startup Canada CEO Victoria Lennox.

Enter the Startup Canada Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund initiative, in partnership with Startup Canada and Dell Canada with several initiatives aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs across Canada under this initiative’s umbrella. Lennox adds, “the communities in Prince George, Halifax, and Toronto are coming together to catalyze this growth, and Startup Canada is proud to lend a helping hand.”

Here’s what will be happening across Canada in 2016:

In Prince George,

•   Startup Prince George, an official Startup Canada Community, will run a one-day women’s entrepreneurship conference in 2016. Shauna Harper, co-founder of Startup Prince George, says, “there is still a gap in the visibility of women-owned businesses….sharing those stories is important to inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs.” The Be the Change conference will feature a panel of women entrepreneurs and small group discussions that focus on five key themes: women entrepreneur partnerships, building an online community, retail entrepreneurship with social cause, risk-taking and thinking outside of box once you have a family.

In Halifax,

•    LinkWise, a mentorship program at the Sobey School Business Development Centre will use the funding to initiate a service to match female student entrepreneurs with women business owners in the community for mentorship and shadowing. “Providing female mentors for women entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business development can be critical for future success,” says Lianne Perry, senior project manager, Sobey School Business Development Centre. “It’s often difficult for women to know where to look for mentors and how to find someone whose experience fits with their needs and future goals. We are working to bridge mentorship gaps through the LinkWise program”

In Toronto,

•    Minority Women in Business (MWB) Inc, an organization that provides mentorship, education, community and financial support to minority women will organize a three-month workshop series called “Business Behind-the-Scenes” to connect budding minority female entrepreneurs with learning opportunities through partnerships with established female entrepreneurs. “A hands-on how-to guide for entrepreneurs that banishes the fear of the unknown… the initiative will showcase what it really means to be an entrepreneur,” says ​Pamela Ogang, founder and president, Minority Women in Business (MWB) Inc.

•   MarketStart, a business plan writing, start-up and growth training service, will host business bootcamps called OWN IT!, where attendees will learn to create a scalable business model through market validation. Michelle Lochan, lead business advisor, MarketStart advised, “the goal is to assist (women) entrepreneurs to validate a business idea that can lead to the improved conditions in our communities starting with her.”

•   PinkFolio, a personal trainer for women’s financial health, will teach women entrepreneurs the basics of balancing personal and business finances through a hands-on, interactive workshop. “We hope our content and tools will foster sustainable growth for our fellow entrepreneurs’ personal and business finance,” says Julie Hyunjoo Lee, founder of PinkFolio.

I’ve raised some of the challenges of scaling women’s businesses previously in this blog before and technology has a key role to play. “Dell is committed to enabling women-led companies in Canada to thrive and reach their full potential domestically and globally,” says Kevin Peesker, president, Dell Canada Inc. Funding startup support and ecosystem for women entrepreneurs is a stepping stone toward growth.

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