The federal government is calling for proposals for new projects under the Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund, one of the initiatives of the $6 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES).
Mary Ng, minister of international trade, export promotion, small business and economic development, announced the call for proposals in Ottawa this morning.
Under this new call for proposals, $25 million (promised in the last budget) is available for projects that aim to remove systemic barriers and create more equal access to the resources that help diverse and underserved women in business.
To be considered, projects must be led by non-profit organizations, be national or multi-regional in scope, and be focused on diverse and/or underserved women entrepreneurs.
Projects must also include a mentoring and networking component and should provide business development or capacity building and skills development to support startups, scale-ups, supplier diversity, and recovery planning and adaptation.
Consideration will also be given to projects that will contribute to strengthening the network of women entrepreneurship organizations in Canada.
To date, the WES Ecosystem Fund has invested $100 million in 52 projects that are helping close service gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women, particularly in areas such as mentorship, networking and skills development. From 2020 to 2021, the Ecosystem Fund has helped over 5,000 women start a new business and over 7,000 women grow their existing businesses.
The $25 million for new projects follows past investments the federal government has made to support women since 2015. These include legislating pay equity and enhancing the Canada Child Benefit to provide special funding to support women entrepreneurs during the pandemic.
The Ecosystem Fund is part of a $2 billion federal strategy to double the number of women-led businesses by the year 2025. The fund aims to strengthen capacity within the entrepreneurship ecosystem and close gaps in service for women entrepreneurs, and is one of two within the strategy. The other is the Women Entrepreneurship Fund (WEF), offering grants of up to $10,000 to women-led companies.
In 2020, the Government of Canada committed $15 million in new capital to the WES fund amid the ongoing economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. The funding went directly to select organizations that are currently WES Ecosystem Fund recipients.
Founded in 2018, the fund began making its first investments in 2019, announcing that year the first 15 companies of 200 companies that would receive funding.