Feature: WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS HAVE RESOURCES
Ottawa has a number of women’s networking groups as well as numerous government and community-run programs to help women launch, grow and scale their businesses and expand their networks.
BY JENN CAMPBELL
Audrey Bond wishes there wasn’t a need for programs that help women entrepreneurs secure funding.
“As a mother to a daughter who is an entrepreneur herself — and I mentor a lot of other young women in technology — my hope is that when they are out there hustling and launching their startups and looking for funding that they’re not going to have to go through SheBoot programs and that we won’t have to have International Women’s Week and Day to bring awareness.”
But she concedes that at this point, there definitely is a need. Venture capital funding to women in 2020 was down by 27 percent and women’s share of dollars has gone from 2.8 percent — an already very small number — to 2.3 percent.
Given that, Bond was happy to have been selected as one of 10 participants in the 2020 SheBoot program, a six-week bootcamp that prepares founders to pitch their businesses and secure investment. Bond’s company — Vaultt — has an encrypted information-management and communication platform to help families, caregivers and home-care agencies securely store, manage and share vital information, updates, documents, schedules and tasks. She came up with the idea because she wanted to share her parents’ — both now her dependants — critical medical information with her brother and with her parents’ caregivers.
Bond won second prize in the competition, taking home $50,000 in non-diluted funding (meaning that she didn’t have to give up any equity in her company.) The program is a collaboration between Invest Ottawa and the Capital Angel Network.
“When you’re a startup, it doesn’t matter if you’re a male or a female, funding is essential to help move forward,” says Bond, whose company was just named startup of the year by Faces magazine. “There are so many companies out there that just don’t make it because they don’t have the funding.
With that money, we were able to revamp our signup and onboarding, which we knew was pretty friction-y. We were able to put that money into the technology and development as well as hiring a director of business development. He’s been out there and calling everyone he knows. It’s been fantastic for us.”
Part of that push has resulted in a significant contract with Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s largest pharmaceuticals.
Marie Pierre Faye, meanwhile, took part in Invest Ottawa’s Digital Main Street program, which is run by Invest Ottawa through the support of the federal government and FedDev Ontario through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. It was designed to help businesses pivot to online sales and better online presence during the pandemic.
“It’s allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge in digital marketing, how to make sales online and how to have [an online] presence,” says Faye, co-founder of Jogo Juice, which makes beverages from super-foods such as hibiscus flowers, many of which are sourced from her native Senegal. “It allowed me to scale my business online.”
She applied and three weeks later, she was given a transformation team made up of digital marketers, a graphic designer, a copy writer and programmers.
“They were all women and they were amazing,” she says. “They gave me advice about my website.”
The team redesigned her website, helped her rewrite content, gave her some marketing advice and helped her build a solid digital marketing strategy so that she now sees her business moving online more successfully.
“I have a solid marketing plan for the future and they helped me create content for my social media for the next year,” she says.
So far, she’s seen more uptake in online sales — they’ve already increased by five per cent in a few months — and she gets more response to her advertising.
“The team really listened to me and they knew exactly what I needed,” she says. “The communication between us was amazing.”
GOVERNMENT AND AFFILIATES
SheBoot: A six-week bootcamp for women entrepreneurs that culminates in a pitch competition with a total of $200,000 up for grabs. https://www.investottawa.ca/sheboot/
Invest Ottawa programs: Invest Ottawa has a number of programs for entrepreneurs, including an accelerator program and a pre-accelerator program. https://www.investottawa.ca/programs/
Digital Main Street: Participants in this Invest Ottawa program leave with a redesigned website, new content, social media campaigns and a digital marketing strategy. https://www.investottawa.ca/digital-main-street/
Capital Angel’s Network: This network of angel investors aims to build the region’s entrepreneurial community to make capital the best place to start a business. The network has grown its number of women angels from five per cent to 20 per cent and has funded 11 women-led companies over the same period. https://www.capitalangels.ca/
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: The government of Canada has several programs to help businesses facing hardship as a result of the pandemic. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response- plan.html#businesses
Provincial Pandemic Relief: The province has grants to help with the cost of personal protective equipment, property taxes, energy bills, among others. https://www.ontario.ca/page/businesses-get-help-covid-19-costs
Trade Accelerator Program: Export Development Canada offers in-depth workshop sessions for enhanced export knowledge. https://www.edc.ca/en/campaign/trade-accelerator-program.html
Women Immigrant Services Ottawa: A community-based agency helping immigrant and racialized women to integrate into Canadian society, rebuild their lives free of violence and achieve their personal goals. https://www.immigrantwomenservices.com/
Women’s Business Network: This 30-year-old network is for women in business. https://womensbusinessnetwork.ca/
Women in Communications and Technology: WCT is the only Canadian coast-to-coast non-profit organization that offers women in Canada’s digital economy professional development, mentorship, advocacy and research. https://www.wct-fct.com/en
Native Women’s Association of Canada: This national Indigenous organization represents the political voice of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. https://www.nwac.ca/bethedrum/
The Canadian Women’s Network (CWN): Based in San Francisco, it connects Canadian female founders with women leaders globally. https://www.cwnsv.com/about-us
Elevate International: This Ottawa-based organization exists to inspire, empower and elevate women and girls locally and globally. It aims to help women advance in leadership and economic growth and it offers mentoring programs for young women. https://www.elevateinternational.ca/
How She Hustles: This is one of Canada’s leading social networks for diverse professional women — from entrepreneurs who are making their mark in the startup ecosystem — to corporate professionals who are changing the leadership landscape. https://howshehustles.com/