Happy International Women’s Day. Every year, people around the world mark this day as a way to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. This year, the theme for the day is “being bold for change.”
Starting a business is one of the boldest career moves you can make. Taking that first step to turn your business idea into a reality can be an intimidating leap for anyone. But for female entrepreneurs, the road can be especially challenging. Among the many barriers to entry faced by women, access to startup funds can be a major obstacle.
Last year, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC Capital) pledged $50 million towards helping female entrepreneurs in the technology industry who are creating jobs, starting a company or expanding a current business. This initiative is designed to help create an ecosystem of support for female tech entrepreneurs to encouraging more women to enter the industry and helping existing businesses expand. Women working in tech can also take advantage of community programs aimed at bringing together like-minded women to collaborate, network, develop skills and brainstorm ideas. Providing strong mentorship and addressing HR concerns are two areas where women are helping other women in the industry.
Funding for female entrepreneurs comes via various sources, from microlenders that offer small amounts of capital, to larger organizations that can provide full start-up funds. Funding is often distributed at a provincial level and the criteria for application may depend on where you live. Female-friendly business loans are also available for companies that are majority owned (over 50 percent) by women. And while traditional bank loans may be statistically harder for women to secure, there are foundations and programs available through the government and private organizations that are designed to boost female-fronted businesses.
There are also a number of support groups available, such as the Paro Centre for Women’s Enterprises in Thunder Bay. Women in these groups meet to exchange ideas, offer advice and act as guarantors for each other’s loans. Organizations such as Alberta Women Entrepreneurs and the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba offer business loans up to $10,000, and the Women’s Economic Initiative (WEI) in Western Canada provides debt financing of up to $150,000. In Ontario the government also offers microlending to women opening home businesses.
In additional to offering us a chance to promote initiatives like these, International Women’s Day is a great excuse to celebrate women’s contributions around the globe. Across Canada, women will be coming together at concerts, coworking parties, charity drives and seminars. See the full list of events here and join the conversation about what it means to be bold for change!