Federal government announces new program to support women in business
Saturday, July 18, 2020
The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell
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Ontario’s female business owners and entrepreneurs are eligible for up to $5,000 in non-repayable funding under a new federal program designed to help them restart operations and adjust to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation has received $2 million through FedDev Ontario to oversee the Rebuild, Re-Open, Revive programme for Southwestern Ontario up to including the Greater Toronto Area.
The Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation also received $2 million to service eastern Ontario.
“Women entrepreneurs face unique and systemic challenges amidst the COVID-19 crisis,” said Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng.
“Our government is committed to building on the work we’ve done to break down these long-standing barriers to success as we restart and rebuild our economy.
“The investments made today through FedDev Ontario will support women-led businesses with critical costs as they work to re-open their businesses.”
Obtaining personal protective equipment, alter workspaces to ensure social distancing, access better internet services and invest in software and hardware to enhance online presence and customer service are examples of expenses covered by the programme.
Applications can be found at: http://www.windsoressexsmallbusiness.com/re3.
“We’ll see 700 women-led businesses in both regions have access to financial support to rebuild their businesses in the months to come,” Ng said.
Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Rakesh Naidu welcomed the announcement as a key component of what businesses need to re-start and drive the region forward to economic recovery.
“It’ll reduce the overall costs of re-opening and that’s what’s needed,” Naidu said. “We’ve been facing a double whammy.
“Businesses openings were delayed longer here than the rest of the province creating larger debts. Now those business are facing added costs to meet the requirements to re-open.”
Naidu said women running their own businesses need extra supports because they face more barriers, such as childcare and frequently being the primary figure taking care of their families.
In addition, access to financial resources and high-speed internet in more rural areas where many women-led businesses are located are also hurdles to overcome.
Naidu added extra funding can help with investments in technology and training that can help ease the workload and improve efficiency.
“I think we take for granted how much more women are doing than many business owners,” Naidu said. “It adds up to a lot of extra effort.”
The government approached Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation to partner on the new programme about six weeks ago. The local agency already had a proven partnership with FedDev Ontario overseeing the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy in the region.
WEEDC and Northumberland will handle applications, review them and choose the successful applicants in partnership with other economic partners.
The program is aimed at women-led businesses in the small retail, sole proprietors and personal care/service sectors.
“This program is meant as a quick relief response,” said WEEDC executive director of the Small Business Centre Sabrina DeMarco. “We expect the fund to quickly turnaround and get businesses moving forward.
“We’re expecting a lot of interest in this program, so we could burn through the money in a hurry.”
The program’s website indicates that applicants should hear back on whether they’ve been successful in a week.
DeMarco called the new program an innovative compliment to the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy the federal government launched last year.
DeMarco added as part of overseeing the two programs, the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation has begun tracking data on female entrepreneurship.
“We don’t have enough data yet, but anecdotally we’re hearing of more women starting their own businesses,” DeMarco said. “Certainly there are more women coming through our doors.”