Being a woman in business often comes with unique challenges. While there are specific barriers women in business face, there are also funding opportunities designed to support women in their entrepreneurial endeavours. Having access to these financial resources is an essential catalyst for their business to grow and thrive.
When you are applying for any business funding, having a solid business plan helps funders know you have a solid business case, and that you have a plan for how you will distribute funds. A solid business plan demonstrates you’ve done your homework and are ready to take your business to the next level.
Here are some Canadian funding programs that support women-led organizations:
SheEO is described as “a global community of radically generous women.” They have a program to support organizations addressing sustainability goals through funding and mentorship. Their Venture program gives access to a 0% interest loan and coaching to help women entrepreneurs grow. Their funds are supplied through their network of “activators,” women who contribute to the lending pool and network together. SheEO is working to build a large fund for women all over the world to access in perpetuity.
The Women’s Enterprise Centre Loan Program offers funding up to $150,000 with 30% security. To access the funds, women entrepreneurs must provide a strong business concept and plan, have management knowledge and experience, provide proof of cash/equity contribution, and have good credit history. The loans are for women-owned and women-led businesses, by Canadian citizens or permanent residents residing in BC, and at least 19 years of age.
The Equal Access to Capital (EAC) fund offers up to $50,000 if your credit score is over 650. It is also administered by the Women’s Enterprise Center and is available to qualified women business owners. It’s a specialty program that provides options for lenders who don’t have security to offer for their lending needs. It was created for BC women in business who are citizens or permanent residents over 19 years of age.
Vancity Unity Women Entrepreneur Loans are available for startups and businesses that have been open for at least a year. The program includes networking, mentorship, and advice in addition to funding. Up to $20,000 is available for startup businesses and $100,000 for firms in the growth phase. The loans are available as a partnership between Vancity and Women’s Enterprise Centre. The loans are specifically for women and businesses in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley (up to and including Hope), Victoria, and the Sea to Sky region. Companies in other areas will be considered based on merit.
The BDC Capital Women in Technology (WIT) Venture Fund invests in tech companies with at least one woman partner and provides support and mentorship. Their mandate is to impact the tech ecosystem and deliver a return on investment (ROI) through direct and indirect investments. This fund is described as “one of the world’s largest venture capital funds dedicated to investing in women-led technology companies.” Every case is evaluated on its individual merit, and fund amounts vary.
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PARO – Peer Lending Circles – A Microfinance Program for Women (2021) is a program where four to seven women gather, provide mentoring and support to each other. Members provide access to lending support between $500 and $5,000 and matching grants available. Peer loans between $1000 and $5000 are also available. This program is an excellent option for people with past credit challenges, business owners who lack equity, have small borrowing needs, want to avoid credit card debt, or aren’t comfortable with traditional lenders.
Pitch for the Purse is a competitive process where women entrepreneurs compete for a $50,000 cash investment, personal mentorship opportunities, and the support of a community as they pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. The competition is open to all Canadian women entrepreneurs, no matter what industry, business size, or stage of business. As long as they want to grow their business and need capital and community support to do it. The first step is to submit a video of their pitch. Then selected entrants go through 6 levels of competition where they slowly refine their pitch until they give their final pitch to a live audience. The winner is determined by a live vote of investors, supporters, entrepreneurs and investors.
Women Entrepreneur Program – Farm Credit Canada is for women in agriculture, agribusiness and food industries. In addition to the loan, you also receive up to $1,000 to invest in a skill development opportunity. Under this program, this organization has earmarked $500 million to lend to women entrepreneurs and to create supportive resources and events aimed at business growth or startup.
The Women’s Enterprise Centre also distributes for the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund for women in BC who struggle to meet working capital needs due to the pandemic. This relief funding is available for a limited time and provides up to $60,000 for sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations. The funding can be used towards salaries and employee benefits, property taxes, rent, utilities, cleaning supplies, bank interest/charges, office supplies, vehicle operating expenses, lease payments for existing equipment and machinery, professional fees, insurances and other eligible expenses associated with retooling, rethinking workflows, automation, robotics, and developing new markets.
Another option for women business owners is the Youth Business Loan, administered by Women’s Enterprise Centre in partnership with Futurpreneur Canada. These loans provide up to $70,000 in unsecured loans. Youth business loans offer flexible repayment plans and can include up to six months of interest, and you can repay the loan at any time without penalty. In addition to this funding, business owners have free access to business advice from their own business advisor, as well as mentoring and skills training. Up to $50,000 of the funds come from Women’s Enterprise Centre, and up to $20,000 come from Futurpreneur Canada.
With a well-researched and thoughtfully crafted business plan, women entrepreneurs have access to many funding resources. Every business owner deserves access to funding and community support to help them grow their businesses. These programs enable Canadian women-led organizations to thrive, grow, and get the mentorship, networking, and business advice they need.
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