Women entrepreneurs have a history of being underfunded and that remains to be a core issue, says Sarah Steele, senior director of small business products at Visa Canada.

This often leaves a majority of motivated, entrepreneurial women with no choice but to use more of their own money to fund their business. It’s one of the main reasons why women-owned businesses are taking nearly twice as long to recover from financial setbacks brought up by COVID-19 compared to businesses owned by men, Steele pointed out.  

In recognition of that hardship and to help women-owned small businesses survive and thrive, Visa Canada is partnering with IFundWomen, a marketplace for women-owned businesses, to provide women entrepreneurs in Canada the chance to apply for ten grants of CAD$10,000 each and receive one-year mentorship opportunities to support their business journey. 

“A part of the package with this particular program is that winners will get access to the IFundWomen annual coaching membership which means they will get one-on-one coaching a couple of times a month with experts based on what their business needs,” Steele told ITBusiness.ca. “If one of the winners, for example, was specifically looking for help with creating a digital presence, then an expert will be brought in to help them with that specific topic. They have a wealth of partners and coaches that they can lean on to bring that customized one-to-one support to the winners of the grant,” explained Steele.

According to a recent Visa survey, 48 per cent of women small business owners indicated a grant would be helpful for near-term survival or growth. Furthermore, a $10,000 grant would cover at least half of the financing needs for over 60 per cent of these women-owned small businesses. This finding is a part of the January 2021 Visa Canada Small Business Outlook Spring survey, in which the company surveyed 1,010 Canadian business owners and business decision-makers from various sectors. The actual survey took place between Jan 20. and Jan 29. of this year.

Arriving in Canada

The IFundWomen partnership with Visa launched back in April 2020. “A couple of programs have been run in the U.S. market, and one program was launched and completed recently in India, and we’re just thrilled to be bringing these ten valuable grants to the Canadian market,” said Steele. 

Wanona Satcher is a winner of the first round of IFundWomen grants from April 2020. Satcher is the founder of Makhers Studio, a small business based in Atlanta, Georgia. Satcher and her team customize shipping containers into residential, commercial, community, retail and anchor service spaces. Through COVID, she has supported local, regional, state and federal needs by building MedPods, modular container clinics and housing units. With key healthcare partners they have built and rapidly deployed multiple clinics, micro-hospital Pods and “on-demand” housing.

“Receiving this grant allowed us to grow exponentially, expanding our audience digitally, virtually, and in print. The consistent small business coaching and financial resources have been amazing, and have helped me gain confidence as a female entrepreneur – putting myself out there to speak with other entrepreneurs and feeling confident in taking risks and being disruptive. Visa’s support has been phenomenal and continues to be a huge positive snowball effect for the company. We’ve expanded our audience and network, which really is our net worth, and I’m very excited by that,” Satcher told ITBusiness.ca in an email.

An extension of Visa’s global grant program, the IFundWomen was launched in Canada on February 22, 2021 and applications will be accepted across all sectors until March 12. The company says it has already received hundreds of applications.

Applicants are asked to submit details about their business and online presence, along with a short video about their business to ifundwomen.com/visa-canada. The program criteria include the following:

  • The entrant is a legal resident of Canada.
  • The entrant is at least the age of majority of their province or territory of residence at the time of entry.
  • The entrant must own at least 51 per cent of their business and operate their business in Canada.
  • The entrant’s business must have a minimum annual revenue of $50000 or more.

 

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