Women-Owned Businesses Continue to Struggle: How Visa Canada is Looking to Change That with its ‘She’s Next Grant Program’


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It’s no secret that COVID-19 has affected small businesses across the country. A recent study by Visa Canada revealed that 54 percent of Canadian small businesses say this year has been a challenge and their businesses are still recovering. Women-led businesses have particularly struggled as a result of the pandemic, given their more limited access to funding, and the gender inequality they experience when building and growing a business. In response, Visa Canada has continued its commitment to small businesses by announcing ten new recipients of their She’s Next Grant Program. The program is specifically designed to help women entrepreneurs across the country gain access to the funding and mentorship they need to survive and thrive.

In collaboration with IFundWomen (a funding platform for women entrepreneurs), to date 20 Canadian women entrepreneurs have each received a grant of $10,000 CAD and a one-year mentorship to support growing and expanding their business. The first round of the grant program launched in early 2021 with Visa Canada selecting ten recipients. Last month, another ten were selected. 

This latest round of recipients offers innovative solutions spanning diverse industries such as apparel, food and beverage, home goods, professional services, and social good-for-profit. The recipients include: Toronto, ON-based Brave Soles, EarthPupMonday Girl, Kind Karma Company, and Toronto Womxn in Data Science; Oakville, ON-based Nuba and Our Ancestories Corporation; Markham, ON-based Remix Snacks; Vancouver, BC-based Employ to Empower; and Victoria, BC-based The Plot Market Garden

black and white photo of Lucy Cullen
EarthPup founder, Lucy Cullen

Many of these businesses through their products and services are aiming to solve a variety of social issues. Whether it’s designing footwear and accessories with upcycled materials, employing at-risk and homeless youth to handcraft jewelry, or combating food insecurity by sourcing healthy produce for locals—these are just a few of the ways these recipient small business owners are making an impact on wider society, ultimately creating potential opportunities for consumers to shop more consciously and align their values with their shopping behaviours.

“Like many small businesses in Canada, we experienced setbacks due to the pandemic,” said Lucy Cullen, founder of EarthPup. “Our supply chain and sales strategy were hit hard. We relied heavily on selling our all-natural and upcycled dog treats to pet stores, which had to shut down. Since being named a recipient of Visa Canada’s She’s Next Grant Program, we’ve had the opportunity thanks to additional funding and business coaching to pivot our supply chain model and are looking to re-launch EarthPup with new packaging and products later this year.”

Hand holding EarthPup bags

With small businesses accounting for more than 98 percent of Canadian businesses and nearly three-quarters of employment, they are truly the backbone of the Canadian economy. Now more than ever these organizations need the country’s support and it’s critical that they stay in business. 

“Canadian Small businesses, especially those run by women, continue to struggle in this pandemic-challenged world,” said Sarah Steele, Senior Director, Visa Small Business Products. “While one in three small businesses have been able to prosper with new opportunities, the majority say their business is still recovering. This is especially true for women entrepreneurs, who are taking nearly twice as long compared to their male counterparts to recover. Until all small businesses bounce back, the Canadian economy won’t bounce back. That’s why we have an ongoing commitment to them. We’re confident that with the right support and resources, they’ll not only recover but come back stronger.”

Fortunately, Canadians are excited by the prospect of shopping locally-owned businesses. A majority (52 percent) are reported by Visa Canada to shop locally-owned at least half of the time. Not only are they consciously shopping, many are actively recommending local businesses to family and friends (35 percent) and going out of their way to choose these locally-owned businesses (33 percent). 

Monday Girl team photo
Monday Girl team

Alongside consumers, Visa, both in Canada and globally, is doing its part to empower small businesses and equip them with the tools they need to succeed. Since the start of 2020, through the global She’s Next Grant Program, Visa has awarded over $1.5 million dollars in grants and coaching scholarships to women around the world. For Canadian small businesses looking for a way to boost growth and expansion, they can look forward to more Visa Canada She’s Next Grant Program opportunities in the future.

For women entrepreneurs seeking more opportunities beyond the She’s Next Grant Program, Visa Canada has a strong history of supporting the small business community through initiatives such as the #MySmallBizReco campaign that encouraged Canadians to recommend their favourite small business early in the pandemic, and the Visa Canada Small Business Hub which offers programs and solutions to enable small businesses to drive efficiency and sales through acceptance of digital payments and grow their online presence. During these challenging times, Visa Canada’s efforts are only getting stronger, as they seek to grow their support within the community and launch more impactful initiatives. 

To learn more about Visa Canada’s commitment to small businesses and women entrepreneurs, head online to Visa.ca/smallbusiness.

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