Fredericton – The federal government will invest around $2 billion in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are women-owned or led, with $10 million going to those in Atlantic Canada.
The Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, Mary Ng, announced the investment in Fredericton Monday afternoon.
The funding is part of the first Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a program that aims to double the number of women-owned businesses across the country by 2025. It aims to improve access to financing, talent, networks, and expertise.
The $10 million investment for women entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada will be administered by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). This includes an investment of $1,796,595 in women entrepreneurs and organizations supporting them in Fredericton and New Brunswick.
As part of this, five New Brunswick-based companies will receive a non-repayable amount of $100,000 for 12 months each through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. They are SomaDetect, iTactic, Edmundston Truck Stop – which is Indigenous-led, South Ridge Maple Co. Ltd., and MASITEK Instruments.
“Whether it is in tech, whether it is in agri-foods, whether it is in tourism, whether it is in accommodations, whether it is in services, we truly are supporting many women entrepreneurs in many sectors across the economy, and I’m also very pleased that we’ve placed particular emphasis to support Indigenous women and business owners and leaders,” Ng said.
In an interview with Huddle, Ng said the program had been in the works since the government was elected.
“Right from the get-go, we have made a commitment to make sure that we are empowering women and, in particular, creating more opportunities to grow the number of female entrepreneurs in this country,” she said.
In Canada, 16 per cent of SMEs are women-owned and women earn 88 cents to the dollar compared to men. In its 2018 budget, the government initially allocated $20 million to the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, which seeks to help women grow their businesses across the country and expand their presence in international markets.
A call for applications was held in 2018, where ACOA received over 3,000 applications. The initial $20 million investment funded 200 of them. Ng says demand was so high the government decided to support approximately 100 more projects by investing $10 million more in the Women Entrepreneurship Fund – from which $2.5 million is going to Indigenous women entrepreneurs.
Out of the final $30 million country-wide investment, one third is allocated to Atlantic Canadian women entrepreneurs.
“The quality of the applications [country-wide] was just extraordinary,” she said.
She also said advancing gender equality, one of the government’s goals, has the potential to add $150 billion in incremental GDP to the Canadian economy by 2026.
“That means jobs, that means helping communities grow and develop, that means improvement to Canadian society, just by simply adding women into the economy,” she said.
Ng also announced that the Moncton-based Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick as a WES Ecosystem Fund (Regional Stream) recipient. It will receive $1,211,595 over five years to develop and implement entrepreneurship support programs for women from Francophone communities, including Francophone immigrant women. The project will give priority to women from under-represented groups.
CBDC Restigouche, a non-profit organization that assists in the creation and expansion of small businesses by providing financial and technical services to entrepreneurs, has also been designated a WES Ecosystem Fund, but on the National Stream. It will receive $2,170,000 to launch a pan-Canadian, bilingual project that will help the government’s goal of strengthening capacity within the entrepreneurship ecosystem and close gaps in service for women entrepreneurs.
“I often say that we have done the work of being able to select who the recipients are, but now the hard work is theirs. Their work is to put the programs together, put the supports in place…they are on the ground providing those supports and those services to the women directly,” she said.
A panel discussion with Ng, MP Matt DeCourcey, Krista Ross from the Chamber of Commerce, and some of the recipient women entrepreneurs followed the announcement.
The panelists agreed on the importance of not giving up even when the odds are against them, and getting involved with the community.
“Go for it, you are not alone. In this journey, keep using the tools and resources, like the CBDC, the Chamber of Commerce, the Government of Canada,” said Melissa Levesque, project manager at CBDC Restigouche.
Banner Photo: Minister Mary Ng (centre), with MP Matt DeCourcey, Krista Ross, Mayor Mike O’Brien, and some of the recipient women entrepreneurs. Image: Diana Chávez/Huddle.