Windsor-Essex lands $692,000 to boost women entrepreneurs

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross


Only three per cent of women in Windsor-Essex declare self-employment as their source of income compared to 17 per cent of women nationally.

It’s a woeful statistic showing this area has dramatically few women entrepreneurs. Local officials are aiming to remedy that with $692,000 in federal funds, just announced to help local women entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses in “emerging technology sectors,” like automation, automotive, mobility and agri-food.

“We’re excited about it and we’re hopeful we can change the narrative,” said Institute of Border Logistics and Security executive director Susan Anzolin, speaking on behalf of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, which is receiving the funding but working with numerous other organizations to move the needle.

“We all have programs that are available to support entrepreneurship, but if you look at the stats, it’s clear we have to do something different,” said Anzolin.

She said having a vibrant and dynamic entrepreneurial culture is crucial in achieving what this region has long wanted — a diversified economy. And while the number of local women entrepreneurs is really low, men aren’t doing great either. She said the percentage of men and women who are self employed is around seven per cent, meaning the percentage of men is just 11 per cent, well below the national percentage.

She said that when women aren’t part of the entrepreneurship picture, the local area is leaving all the potential in half the population untapped.

“We know for us to be prosperous we have to be innovative, but more than being innovative, we also need to have an inclusive economy,” said Anzolin, whose border institute is part of WEEDC.

The funding over four years is part $19 million for Ontario announced Thursday for by Small Business and Export Promotion Minister Mary Ng. This includes $6.9 million for a Women Entrepreneurship Fund providing up to $100,000 to 74 women-led businesses to help grow their businesses and reach new markets. The overall strategy aims to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025 by increasing their access to financing, networks and advice, Ng said in a statement.

“It’s a smart investment with an economic and social return.”

The news release, from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, says just 16 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada are women-owned.  The $2-billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy is aimed at “advancing gender equality,” which has the potential to add $150 billion in incremental gross domestic product to the Canadian ecomony by 2026, the release says.

Anzolin said the Windsor-Essex money will focus on women in technology, because technology is what’s going to grow the local economy. Among the initiatives planned: Looking for ways to encourage young women and girls to pursue a technology education; supporting women starting up businesses; lining up mentors to help women with their ventures; helping women with strategies and advice on growing their businesses; and encouraging women who work at local companies to become entrepreneurs.

A co-ordinator is going to be hired to run the program and reach out to women across the region.