Female entrepreneurs are becoming an increasingly powerful and vocal group of influencers within Canada’s business community. A growing number of women are becoming entrepreneurs – 950,000 women were self-employed as of 2012, accounting for nearly 36% of all entrepreneurs in Canada.
Still, two main challenges face women who are starting and growing their own business. Often it’s difficult to locate a mentor who can provide inspiration and guidance through the process. Equally challenging is obtaining funding to grow the business. These obstacles continue to hinder the growth of female-owned businesses and stunt the growth of Canada’s startup scene.
Luckily new resources are available to women entrepreneurs that help to address these barriers.
Fierce Founders Accelerator for Women Tech Entrepreneurs
Communitech is a Waterloo, Ontario-based technology innovation centre that provides support services for startups and early-stage businesses. Since 1997 the group has been providing mentorship and supporting the collaboration of entrepreneurs in Ontario’s technology industry. Their 50,000 square foot facility hosts a variety of businesses and researchers that are dedicated to growing businesses through innovative research and development.
The ‘Fierce Founders Accelerator’ is a new Communitech-led initiative that seeks to close the opportunity gap experienced by female entrepreneurs in the province’s tech industry. By providing mentorship and funding support for women, the program will help women entrepreneurs to establish a sound business model.
“Through Fierce Founders, women entrepreneurs have the opportunity to turn their business ideas into a reality, and then accelerate it into a scalable business”
– Danielle Graham, Women in Tech Program Manager, Communitech
Mentoring for Women Entrepreneurs
Being able to consult an expert that has gone through similar challenges is a huge asset for entrepreneurs. It is especially difficult for women in the tech industry to find a mentor since businesses are mostly led by men. Through the Fierce Founders Accelerator, women may access mentors that will:
- Help you build and execute a business plan;
- Assist with market research;
- Business training from Communitech’s resident executives;
- Provide a critical connection to investors, advisors, and service providers.
Small Business Funding and Business Expansion Resources
Communitech’s two-part approach also seeks to provide funding and other valuable resources that speed up the time it takes for women-led businesses to grow. This includes:
- Small business funding valued at up to $30,000;
- Up to $100,000 in Google Cloud Platform credits;
- A user experience (UX) review of your project by Google Developer Experts;
- A complimentary 1-year Firebase Bonfire plan; and
- User Testing credits for 10 full user tests and 5 mini-tests.
Does Your Business Qualify for the Fierce Founders Accelerator?
In order to access the great small business funding, mentorship, and resources mentioned above, businesses must have:
- At least one female founder or C-suite executive;
- Initial funding that can be matched up to $30,000; and
- A minimum viable product (MVP) that solves a significant problem and has the potential to impact millions of people.
How to Apply for Ontario Tech Business Funding and Mentorship
The Fierce Founders Accelerator program will accept 5 applications on a bi-annual basis. Interested women entrepreneurs must prepare an application form and submit it to Communitech by a defined intake deadline in order to be considered.
The first round of applications are due by July 29, 2016 and entrepreneurs may begin the program on September 19, 2016. Subsequent intakes and program start times will be announced every 6 months.
Additional Resources for Women Entrepreneurs
Female entrepreneurs may benefit from reading more about resources that can help grow their business. Learn more about funding and mentorship opportunities by accessing the articles below:
- The Top 3 Financial Resources for Women Entrepreneurs: There are a variety of small business funding programs that are directly aimed at funding female-led businesses. These three financial resources may help your tech business access increased funding to expand and develop new products.
- Overcoming Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs: Women are often faced with tough choices when starting their own business. This article, written by Women in Biz Network founder Leigh Mitchell, frames some of the struggles facing women entrepreneurs and how to overcome them.
- New Business Exchange/ Incubator for Women Entrepreneurs in Southern Ontario: The Ember Business Exchange is an accelerator similar to Communitech, however focuses on businesses located predominantly in the Greater Toronto Area. Use this blog to discover the resources your business may be able to access with Ember.