Recognized across the world, November 19th is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. It is a day to showcase innovative trailblazers, celebrate the contributions of women at all levels of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and to demand better for women founders.
Largely coordinated by the organization WEDO (the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization), the global theme this year is #CHOOSEWOMEN – the notion that supporting women worldwide needs to be a conscious decision that all of us buy into and act upon. Whether that’s choosing to read books by women authors or watch films by women directors, buying from women-owned ventures or supporting them as they start up, amplifying their voices or choosing women as our leaders, when we choose women we collectively crack the glass ceiling and empower nations!
At Startup Canada, every day of the year is about supporting women in their entrepreneurial journeys and helping to remove the unique barriers that stand in their way of success. A key piece of the puzzle on our mission to truly empower women founders across the country is tangible, impactful advocacy – to government, private and public sector ecosystem partners, financial institutions, and all stakeholders in between. As part of the Startup Women flagship program, the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN) was launched in 2022 as a vehicle for this advocacy, showcasing a cohort of early-stage women founders from each province and territory across Canada while giving them a seat at the table.
What is SWAN?
SWAN is a curated group of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs from each province and territory who advocate for women’s entrepreneurship across Canada through a number of mediums. Representatives for this initiative come from a breadth of industries and backgrounds. SWAN members can amplify their business through our platforms and are given exclusive opportunities to have a seat at important government roundtables and other events that are crucial to creating long term, substantial change.
Who are our Startup Women Advocacy Network members?
Yukon, Bobbi Rose Koe, Owner, Dinjii Zhuh Adventures
North West Territories, Jean Erasmus, Co-Founder, Dene Wellness Warriors
Nunavut, Bernice Kootoo Clarke, Founder of Uasau Soap
British Columbia, Sophia Yang, Founder & Executive Director, Threading Change
Alberta, Mallory Yawnghwe, Founder & CEO, Indigenous Box
Saskatchewan, Jessica McNaughton, Founder & CEO, Memory KPR
Manitoba, Lourdes Still, Founder, Masagana Flower Farm
Ontario, Nadia Ladak, Co-Founder & CEO, Marlow
Quebec, Jad Robitaille, Founder & President, Mini-Cycle
Newfoundland & Labrador, Cindy Purtill, Owner & Operator, Georges Town Inn
Prince Edward Island, Lesley Quinn, Founder, Stellar Somm Wine Experts
New Brunswick, Danielle Gauvin, Owner & Founder, The Wellness Exchange
Throughout 2022, the SWAN cohort was involved with various aspects of Startup Canada’s programming, including: access to free mentorship, numerous educational webinars, industry advisory circles, involvement with Startup Day, opportunities to be featured on Startup Canada’s content platforms (i.e. StartupChats, the Startup Canada Podcast Network, blog features, general amplification of cohort content) and exclusive access to government roundtables.
The Government Roundtables:
Various SWAN members were involved in closed door government roundtables which featured government representatives, entrepreneurs and key stakeholders. 2022 session topics included “Budget 2022”, “Government Funding Through ISED”, “Update on Women Entrepreneurs and Their Role in Economic Recovery”, and “Rural Entrepreneurship and the Role of Communities”. These sessions were created to provide a vehicle for Parliamentarians to hear directly from entrepreneurs so stronger understandings, partnerships and solutions can blossom at the grassroots.
Startup Day 2022:
All 13 SWAN representatives were invited to Startup Day 2022 and all that could attend were flown into Ottawa to join in on the celebration!. As this was the cohort’s first time meeting each other in person, they spent the day connecting with one another as well as attending the welcome dinner, participating in panel discussions, liaising with government officials and key support organizations, exploring the exhibit hall, and so much more.
Why are women’s advocacy networks vital? What are the biggest benefits?
Collective, resourced communities of women entrepreneurs who advocate for themselves and other women are vital to the Canadian startup ecosystem and for the future of women’s economic inclusion. The SWAN cohort agrees, and shared some of their thoughts with us:
“The biggest benefit of SWAN is definitely the connections and meeting intergenerational cohorts of women to ensure we’re all empowering each other. For me this program has been vital.”
– Sophia Yang, British Columbia SWAN Rep.
“Advocacy networks like SWAN empower women to take a chance on themselves, to believe in themselves, and to know that their vision is the right one.”
– Cindy Purtill, Newfoundland SWAN Rep.
“The biggest benefit of SWAN is how it provides mentorship to other women entrepreneurs to help them with becoming more successful.”
– Jean Erasmus, Northwest Territories SWAN Rep.
“The biggest benefit of SWAN, for me, has been increasing my visibility on the national level as a BIPOC woman business owner.”
– Lourdes Still, Manitoba SWAN Rep.
“There’s not a ton of people out there who understand our experience so having a group of people who understand what you’re going through, advocate on your behalf, and buy from you/support your business… it amplifies us all so much more than if we weren’t a collective.”
– Jessica McNaughton, Saskatchewan SWAN Rep.
“The biggest benefit has been this feeling of community – it’s vital to not feel so alone and to remind yourself that you do have resources because being an entrepreneur is hard.”
– Lesley Quinn, Prince Edward Island SWAN Rep.
“It’s hard to do business or to be taken seriously as a woman, especially as a minority Inuk woman like myself. We need support to show us that we matter and that we are safe.”
– Bernice Clarke, Nunavut SWAN Rep.
A heartfelt thank you and congratulations to the SWAN cohort of 2022!
Today and every day, Startup Canada chooses women and challenges our network to explore ways we can work to collaboratively rally around and support Canada’s powerful community of women-identifying entrepreneurs.