“You double your intensity with your skill.”—Choreographer Twyla Tharp
Attention all prospective female entrepreneurs! Are you ready to finally shrug off that corporate job and strike out on your own? All you need is a solid business concept, financing and nerves of steel.
Fear not, you don’t have to embark on this odyssey alone. Emergent women entrepreneurs can choose from a wide range of virtual and bricks and mortar programs and services aimed directly at their unique needs.
By 2025, the federal government has ambitiously vowed to double the number of female majority-owned businesses. At the regional level, that translates into generous federal funds dedicated to Saskatchewan organizations in service to women entrepreneurs. It makes good economic sense to assist women to overcome systemic obstacles—like equal access to venture capital—in their bid to start or scale up an existing business.
Since 1995, Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan has been helping women to sign on to their passionate mission of: Start, Scale, Soar! WESK provides loans up to $150,000, unlimited coaching, access to expert legal and accounting advisors, monthly and annual networking events, training programs and inclusion in their membership directory.
WESK’s great services and programs are available for the modest annual membership fee of $125. Saskatchewan residents over 18 are eligible and men can join as associate members. With offices in Saskatoon and Regina, aspiring entrepreneurs can tap into a broader network and launch their dream venture with support. Joining WESK will ensure that new business owners are on the fast track to achieving their goals. Specialized programs, like Matchstick, target Indigenous women entrepreneurs.
If you like to learn independently, Lynn Frank’s The Seed Handbook: The Feminine Way to Create Business offers great grassroots advice outlining the feminine principles of integrity, personal values and openness. (The London advertising guru on TV’s Absolutely Fabulous is loosely based on Franks.) American self-employment experts Sarah and Paul Edwards classic book, Secrets of Self-Employment: Surviving and Thriving on the Ups and Downs of Being Your Own Boss addresses key personal development issues like riding the emotional roller coaster of self-employment and overcoming uncertainty, fears and self-doubt.
Regina marketing maven Skylar Gerard says that her research demonstrates that women entrepreneurs need two things: confidence and contacts. The RaiseHER Community co-founder, whose credentials include a commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan, furnishes a friendly forum where Regina women can amplify their self-confidence and forge a dynamic network of like-minded business contacts.
In October 2019, RaiseHER debuted their organization with FEAR/LESS: Ignite Your Inner Leader at Regina’s Conexus Arts Centre. RaiseHER currently has 65 members. Its mission is to unleash the leadership potential of women through meaningful connections, professional growth and inspiring experiences. This community-building network aims to empower future leaders to follow in the footsteps of their foremothers.
Co-founders Talitha McCloskey and Skylar Gerard are old high school friends. When the young women identified a gap in leadership services in Regina, they wisely enlisted the help of their successful mothers, educator Gwen Keith and Dr. Marlene Smadu, to mastermind RaiseHER.
Members pay an annual $175 fee for insider access to RaiseHER’s events and resources. Subsidies are available for low-income women since RaiseHER has partnered with the YWCA, The United Way and Dress for Success.
RaiseHER coordinates monthly leadership and professional development workshops called LeadHER Circles. LeadHER Circles are facilitated by members and cover relevant themes like the art of negotiating, leading versus managing and how to navigate work life balance.
RaiseHER doesn’t want to duplicate the entrepreneurial services offered by WESK says Gerard. “We wanted to expand on it and include women from the professions who want to network. And many of our members are entrepreneurs, too.” Gerard says. If you want to learn more about RaiseHER you can visit their website raiseherco.com.
Startup Canada is a free service for entrepreneurs funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation. Startup Canada proffers a women entrepreneur program. Their aim is to support 10,000 women entrepreneurs to start and scale thriving businesses through education, training, support and resources. Startup Canada’s free live chats (you just have to register) include relevant topics like Funding for Your Business which covers the process, requirements and best practices behind finding capital for your project.
Since women are particularly challenged raising venture capital for their projects, Calgary’s The51 wants to show women entrepreneurs the money. The51’s co-founder Shelley Kuipers says the new feminist venture capital firm is a pragmatic response to the growing demand for start-up funding.
This new wave of economic capital joins a larger movement that has been dubbed Financial Feminism. “The existing system of venture capital is male-dominated,” says Kuipers. “We want to build a supportive community and create solutions specifically for women business owners.”
Kuipers has partnered in this unique venture capital project with Alice Reimer and Judy Fairburn. The group, which is privately operated, wants to generate economic value by unlocking women’s capital. The51 will generate wealth for investors and entrepreneurs.
The group is community-based and is actively exploring and researching the broader impact of women’s capital. “Our goal is to help women commercialize their businesses,” says Kuipers whose expertise encompasses fashion, finance and tech. “We plan to create corporate boot camps to foster feminist innovation.”
In March 2019, the fund hosted a successful fund-raising session matching up investors with new businesses. One entrepreneur walked away with $500,000 in new investment. “This is how we want it to work. Our aim is to curate cool investment opportunities for our investors.”
The added value the venture capital group brings to the table is superb mentorship. The51 expects to participate with the businesses they fund. “We want a voice at the table with our investment. That may mean we assume a board position so we can share our leadership and experience with other women.”
Kuipers says The51 offers a unique female perspective on women-operated businesses and their mission is to assist entrepreneurs as they build something from scratch. This fund is open to qualifying female Canadian business owners.