Credit union Vancity and the Women’s Enterprise Centre have launched the Unity Women Entrepreneurs Program to offer loans to women entrepreneurs in British Columbia who have been impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have designed this program with gender inclusivity at the fore.”
– Tamara Vrooman, Vancity
The program is available to women who have been in business for at least two years and is open to those who are not yet members of Vancity. The organizations’ collective aim is to better position women entrepreneurs to manage their businesses amid the current crisis, while “counteracting the gender-regressive patterns” of traditional lending.
The Unity loans program offers up to $150,000 with no payment required or interest charged during the first six months, in addition to professional business support and connections with other women business owners across the province.
“As the economy reopens and the effects become clearer, we’ve identified a gap in support for women entrepreneurs,” said Tamara Vrooman, Vancity’s president and CEO. “Due to this imbalanced impact, we have designed this program with gender inclusivity at the fore and we’ll continue to monitor the effects of the pandemic on others as restrictions ease.”
Based in Vancouver, Vancity primarily offers retail and business banking, as well as mortgage lending. Through its subsidiaries, Vancity also operates foreign exchange, life insurance, Visa credit cards, real estate development, and investment advisory services.
In addition to loans and business support, the Unity loans program will provide women with free online education and resources on financial management, leadership, and marketing, and preferred entry to the Women’s Enterprise Centre mentoring program for six months. There, applicants will receive mentorship from an experienced entrepreneur.
Women’s Enterprise Centre is a non-profit organization that aims to help BC women start and grow their own businesses. The centre provides business loans up to $150,000, as well as business advice, skills training, mentoring, and practical resources for women entrepreneurs.
“Women entrepreneurs approach financing differently,” said Jill Earthy, interim CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre. “This partnership builds on the lending foundation of Vancity combined with the added support of mentoring, education and business advisory services offered by Women’s Enterprise Centre. This combination will help women entrepreneurs to traverse this challenging time.”
The Unity loans are one of several measures Vancity has taken during the pandemic. Vancity has also reduced interest rates on credit cards to zero percent for those impacted by COVID-19 and has a six-month loan deferral program in place. The company has also temporarily waived some fees to help people access services remotely, including for Interac e-Transfers in Canada.
The federal government has committed capital to support women entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis. In May, the government announced $15 million would go to select organizations that are already receiving support from its Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund.
Image source Unsplash. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com.