Authors: Jodi Wildeman, Haley Stearns – summer law student.
Women Entrepreneurs Week in Saskatchewan was commemorated this week to recognize the significant impact that women entrepreneurs have on Saskatchewan’s overall economy, labour market and communities.
The Saskatchewan government has reported that there are 33,300 female business owners in the province, meaning that one in every eight women employed in Saskatchewan runs her own business, putting female entrepreneurship in the province above the national average and fourth highest among the provinces.
In conjunction with Women’s Entrepreneurs Week, Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (“WESK”) released a report prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP titled “Women Entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan Economic Statistics”. The objective of the study was to identify and estimate metrics that would support WESK and the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee in their comprehensive overview of women entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan, with the ultimate aim to address the gender gap in entrepreneurship in the province.
In addition to this provincial focus, on May 16, 2020, the Federal Government announced that it will provide $15 million in additional funding to the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (“WES”) to support women entrepreneurs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will go directly to a number of organizations that are current recipients of the WES Ecosystem Fund.
Supporting women entrepreneurs and business leaders has been recognized as a critical component of rebuilding the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This article highlights some of the findings of the WESK Report and sheds light on some of the supports available to women entrepreneurs navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Findings of the WESK Report on Women Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan
The objective of the WESK Report was to “estimate economic statistics to understand women entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan.” The report looked at numerous factors to determine the activity levels of women entrepreneurs in the province including metrics such as revenues, number of employees, location, aggregate economic contribution, ownership type. These are some of the key findings from the report:
- In Saskatchewan, women-led businesses contributed $23.1 billion to the province’s GDP in 2019.
- 191,836 Saskatchewan people were employed by women-led businesses in 2019.
- Women-led businesses are generally less capital intensive and more labour intensive than men-led businesses.
- Women-led businesses are more often headquartered in Saskatchewan, meaning they tend not to be subsidiaries of international organizations.
- 88% of women-led business are incorporated, compared to 95% of men-led businesses. This means that women-led businesses are more likely to be a partnership, public-sector or non-profit organization, or unincorporated entity.
The report also identified that there is a gender gap in entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan. In particular, women are less likely to lead a business as the size of the business increases. As a result, the report concluded that scaling up women-led businesses should be a key initiative. Furthermore, the share of women-led businesses appears to be greater in certain sectors, including health care, social assistance and national security. In contrast, men-led businesses tend to be more concentrated in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and professional, scientific and technical services.
The report shows that women entrepreneurs are a key part of our economy. As such, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that women entrepreneurs have access to resources and support. Some of the supports that are directly targeted towards women-owned and women-led businesses are discussed below.
Federal resources and support
In addition to the recently announced WES funding, there are various other supports and resources available to women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses. For business owners unsure of where to start to access support and resources, the Federal Government has a useful tool on the Innovation Canada website. The tool creates a list of available funding unique to the situation based on the type of support sought, including the source of funding, business objectives, location, size of business and the sector operated in.
Export Development Canada’s Women in Trade Investment Program provides equity growth capital to women-owned and women-led companies. The Federal Government is also contributing to the Indigenous Innovation Initiative, which will provide up to $250,000 for seed funding to promote gender equality through social entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities. The initiative gives priority to Indigenous women and gender diverse-led projects and innovators.
Support from the western provinces
There are also numerous supports available to women entrepreneurs at the provincial level.
In Manitoba, The Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba (“WECM”) provides loans for Manitoba women entrepreneurs up to $150,000 for start-ups, expansion, and purchasing existing businesses. WECM also provides training and other supports for women entrepreneurs.
In Saskatchewan, WESK provides financing for women entrepreneurs, giving loans of up to $150,000 ($250,000 for partnerships) to help finance up to 80% of a business project. In addition to financing, WESK also provides small business resources for women entrepreneurs.
Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (“AWE”) offers loans for women-owned business in Alberta, offering repayable loans between $30,000 – $150,000. AWE also offers workshops and advisory services, business advising and mentorship opportunities.
In British Columbia, the Women’s Enterprise Centre offers business loans up to $150,000 for women-owned businesses. The organization also provides support through business advising, business skills training, and a mentorship program.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Week in Saskatchewan serves to recognize the essential role of women entrepreneurs in our economy. The WESK Report shows the significant impact of women entrepreneurs.
There are several resources available to support women entrepreneurs with navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. MLT Aikins LLP will continue to monitor opportunities for resources and support for entrepreneurs and provide updates as they become available.