$4.2M in federal funding unveiled for London-region women-led businesses, Pillar Nonprofit Network

Andrew Graham/980 CFPL

Ottawa is lending a financial helping hand to the tune of more than $4.2 million for local women entrepreneurs.

The funding, which will be given to seven women-led southwestern Ontario businesses and the Pillar Nonprofit Network, comes as part of the federal government’s $2 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) which aims to double the number of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025.

As part of Friday’s announcement by Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of small business and export promotion, seven local women-owned or -led businesses will receive up to $100,000 from the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, administered through FedDev Ontario.

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All of the funding recipients, Ng said, have submitted business plans demonstrating how they plan to grow. They include Stiris Research in London, Shaw’s Ice Cream in St. Thomas, Ont., Borm Capital in Aylmer, Ont., and Reko International Group in Windsor, Ont.

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The businesses will utilize the funding in different ways. Shaw’s, for example, will create six new jobs, and create an innovation lab to develop new products.

“They need to have been in operation for at least a couple of years, because this money is to help them directly grow their business or grow them through exporting,” said Ng, who unveiled the funding plan at Innovation Works alongside local MPs Peter Fragiskatos and Kate Young.

“It’s going to help women grow their business. It’s going to help women own enterprises [and] grow by accessing the international marketplace.”

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Ng also announced that London’s Pillar Nonprofit Network will receive nearly $3.6 million to go toward the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network.

Some 150 women-led social enterprises will be supported through the network and 75 existing enterprises will be expanded, according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. Through the network, entrepreneurs will also have access to $3.5 million in capital through a separate investor network.

The government says the social enterprise network looks to “broaden and diversify” the ecosystem that supports women entrepreneurs through “inclusive design and Indigenous knowledge and practice.”

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“It’s not just about the money. The money’s a tool. A tool to change relationships,” said Andre Vashist, PIllar’s director of social innovation.

“We’re changing the way that the entrepreneurship business investment system is currently operating and shifting it towards being more, maybe, family-friendly, so we can have women access these in different places, different timelines.

“We’re in the area of truth and reconciliation, and someone once said reconciliaction, so what are we actually going to do, not just feel or talk about,” Vashist continued. “We’ve gone on that journey of understanding what colonization has felt like in this community. We know the pain and trauma that it’s created, and we have a responsibility to do something differently about that.”

Vashist said the amount of funding Pillar is receiving is substantial and prompted internal discussions.

“Even if we did the application, is this something we’re ready to commit to? And we were.”

WATCH: (May 16, 2019) Women in business gather at Lethbridge, Alta. conference

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Women in business gather at Lethbridge conference – May 16, 2019

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