Women-led businesses play an important role in Canada’s economy. While only 16 percent of Canadian SMBs are owned by women, these businesses contribute an estimated $117 billion dollars to the country’s economy.
There is a wide range of local and national programs that offer support for women in business in Canada, ranging from government grants and online training to networking and mentoring opportunities. These useful resources can help you get inspired, connect with like-minded professionals, and advance your career.
According to a 2019 study conducted by VISA, only 14 percent of women entrepreneurs take advantage of business loans, and raising funds is one of the top three issues women in business face. Government grants and financial assistance programs can help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses and reach new markets.
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) supports women in business through advisory services and capital investment. The Crown corporation has pledged $1.4 billion in financing for majority women-owned business by 2021, including a $200 million Women in Technology (WIT) venture fund. BDC’s flexible loans and financing options are designed to cover all sorts of business needs whether you’re just starting out or you’re an established company looking to grow.
Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TSC) provides regional funding and business loans for women in Eastern, Western and Central Canada. If you want to expand your business overseas, TCS also offers CanExport funding that helps SMBs break into international markets.
Joining a professional organization for women in business is a great way to enhance your skills, reach new customers, expand your network, and feel empowered in your career.
- Lean in Canada has more than 6,000 members with local chapters in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. The national organization hosts women in business events and panel discussions on a variety of topics throughout the year, in addition to intimate networking Circles.
- Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) is an umbrella network of organizations that support women in business through financing, training, events, and networking opportunities.
- Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) works with corporate and government procurement agencies to connect women-owned companies with new business opportunities. The advocacy group also offers certification programs and hosts an annual conference.
Virtual networking opportunities
Digital platforms can help women in business network online and forge new connections with potential customers, suppliers, colleagues, and friends.
- Bumble Bizz facilitates professional business interactions. An offshoot of the popular women-first dating platform, Bumble’s business-focused mobile app connects users based on their geographic area.
- Meetup.com is a popular site for professional and social networking. Whether you want to advance your career or expand your network, the site allows you to search for business-focused virtual events and peer groups in your local area.
Working with a mentor can be a mutually beneficial relationship for women in business. An experienced coach will provide feedback on your business, brainstorm solutions to problems, and share advice on advancing your career goals.
- Futurpreneur offers a robust mentoring program that matches aspiring entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39 with experts from a pool of more than 3,000 volunteers, with dedicated programs for Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs.
- Women in Biz Network helps professionals connect, share and grow their businesses. Their mentorship program provides members with both virtual and in-person opportunities to connect with like-minded women in business.
Whether you’re seeking a business loan, want to broaden your expertise, or enhance your collaboration with other female entrepreneurs, there are many support resources designed for women in business in Canada.
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