The number of women entrepreneurs is growing across Canada, which is good news for the country, as companies led by women create jobs four times faster than the national average. Unfortunately, it can be hard for women to access small business funding. Nevertheless, there are a range of special loans and grants to foster the growth of female-led businesses.
Provincial Organizations Offering Loans for Women Entrepreneurs
Organizations such as Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, Femmessor in Québec, the Women’s Enterprise Centre and others offer a range of services for women entrepreneurs. Although each organization has different programs and criteria, most offer loans worth up to $150,000 to companies owned or operated by women. Working with a local program can be easier than trying to obtain funding through a traditional bank loan, and in many cases, these organizations pair mentorships and networking opportunities along with funding. This helps with the capital as well as the education that a good business owner needs in order to thrive.
Microloans for Women
Microloans are small loans, often for people from disadvantaged communities, to start businesses. There are a range of microlending programs for women throughout Canada, and the programs tend to focus on specific groups of women. For example, the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise in Northeastern Ontario offers microloans to Aboriginal, Francophone and rural women, while the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office of Toronto helps newcomers in the neighbourhood to start home-based businesses. If you can qualify for a microloan, these loans can be an effective way to gather start-up capital, especially if you have been turned down from traditional lenders. For women in many communities, these loans can make a dream a reality, however they are typically worth less than $10,000, so they may not be right for every situation.
Grants for Female Entrepreneurs
Many small business grants in Canada are not earmarked for women in particular, but instead, a wide range of grants are distributed based on the type of work your company does.For instance, there are grants for artists, farmers or residents of Nunavut. There are also grants for businesses focused on book publishing, fur harvesting or lobster fishing. In other cases, grants are designed to help entrepreneurs in certain situations or business owners who are ready to grow in a specific direction. For example, if you’ve recently collected Employment Insurance, the Community Futures Self-Employment Programs in British Columbia may be able to give you a grant to start or buy your own business, regardless of whether you are male or female. Other grants help you branch into exporting, protect your intellectual property or commercialize new products. If you need more employees but cannot afford training, the Canada Job Grant can offer your business up to $10,000 per employee for training expenses.Although grants tend to be very specific, it can be worth the investment to research and apply for them. The money doesn’t need to be repaid, making it the perfect risk-free source of business funding.