The Power of Youth Women Entrepreneurs in partnership with Desjardins

“The full and equal participation of women in the economy is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.” (Canada Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy 2022)

17% of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are owned by women, yet according to Crunchbase, only 2.3% of venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs and 48% of women report lacking strategic advisors and mentors. It is clear that there is a gap in supporting women entrepreneurs and Startup Canada is determined to address it.

Startup Canada stands with women-identifying entrepreneurs to help support their growth and future goals. This year Startup Women, one of Startup Canada’s flagship programs, has been scaled into an annual program, providing longer lasting support to reach more women-identifying entrepreneurs than ever before. 

Through Startup Women, we have provided the tools, resources and content to woman-identifying entrepreneurs in the form of webinars, industry-specific advisory circles, and 1:1 mentorship. We have also introduced the Startup Women Advocacy Network, a collective of 13 woman-identifying entrepreneurs from each province and territory to champion the needs of women entrepreneurship across Canada. With Startup Women, the intention is to also curate a set of resources and partners for women founders, to connect them to resources that already exist across our Canadian entrepreneurial support ecosystem.

In addition to supporting women entrepreneurs more broadly, Startup Canada has a specific set of programs and resources dedicated to women youth entrepreneurs which are those that are under the age of 29. This group of individuals face a unique set of challenges including many being first time founders, limited personal savings to fund the growth of the business, a lack of access to debt financing given their limited credit history, a smaller network with fewer potential mentors, and less experience and skill development from the workforce. This is why we’re dedicated to providing curated support for these individuals through our youth stream of programming, powered by our partner Desjardins and their Together for our Youth Initiative. 

About Together for Our Youth

Desjardins’ Together for Our Youth is an important initiative that supports young people as they pursue their goals, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Through a series of partnerships, Desjardins is providing young people with resources and tools in the areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship, health and healthy lifestyles, and community involvement. The goal of the program is to support young people’s ambitions and empower them to reach their full potential. 

Through our partnership with Desjardins, we’ve reached a variety of youth with our programming including through mentorship, panels, workshops, dedicated podcast features, and leadership roles in our advocacy efforts. 

In this piece, we’ll be highlighting three specific areas of Startup Women youth programming along with profiles and testimonials from three youth that have participated in these programs.

About AmbiSHEous

One of our youth programming elements is our youth leadership event series. Facilitated in partnership with AmbiSHEous, this series walks aspiring youth women entrepreneurs through a design thinking session to develop business ideas that align with the UN’s sustainable development goals. Through these sessions, the youth women connect with Startup Canada community leaders, and members (seasoned entrepreneurs) who provide mentorship, and share their insights throughout the sessions.

Meet Vanessa Teran, AmbiSHEous participant 

Vanessa is a digital product advisor at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. She is also working with SFU Venture Labs on the development of their Diversity Assessment Tool and has completed the Finance Data and Technology certification at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about FinTech and social entrepreneurship.

Vanessa was also one of the participants in our AmbiSHEous programming that focuses on providing leadership training and career development for young women. AmbiSHEous is taking direct aim at the gender gap in leadership. Through unique programming and proprietary curriculum, they are empowering a new generation of beginner women to become leaders and entrepreneurs.

“The AmbiSHEous program allowed me to connect with industry experts and create a business plan for my idea,” said Teran. “As a newcomer and young woman entrepreneur, this program provided me with the skills to make good business decisions for my social enterprise. It also allowed me to connect with other young entrepreneurs and determine how we can turn our ideas into a reality”.

Startup Women Mentorship

Another one of our programming elements is 1:1 mentorship for youth women across a variety of topics including sales, marketing, fundraising, leadership, and more. As young women, these mentorship sessions are valuable skill development sessions and safe spaces to get their questions answered.

Meet Dallas Barnes, Startup Women Mentor

Dallas is the Founder and CEO of Reya Health, a digital platform for personalized contraceptive counselling that makes navigating birth control easy, effective and empowering for people with ovaries. She was featured as one of the top FemTech Personalities in North America and she sits on the board and steering committee for FemTech Canada, a government supported organization that supports women’s health innovation in Canada.

Dallas is also a mentor with our Startup Women program where she provides strategic advice on other young entrepreneurs’ business plans and go-to-market strategies.

“Startup Canada was first a stage for me to share my story and passion with the Canadian startup scene,” said Barnes. “I was given the opportunity to showcase my company in a safe space through their SDG Pitch Competition. Since then, I’ve had so much fun as a mentor with Startup Women, connecting with inspiring folks from across the country. As a Canadian tech founder myself, I believe in nurturing innovation at home and building community as we do it! It’s very rewarding to share what I’ve learned on my journey and be a supporter to other women on theirs.” 

About the Startup Women Advocacy Network

The Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN) is a collective of 13 woman-identifying entrepreneurs from each province and territory that champion the needs of women entrepreneurship across Canada. Representatives are given exclusive opportunities to have a seat at important government roundtables and other events to ultimately increase the visibility and voice of woman-identifying entrepreneurs. This year we have two youth members on SWAN who advocate for the youth perspective in these important discussions. 

Meet Nadia Ladak, Startup Women Advocacy Network member from Ontario

Nadia Ladak is the co-founder and CEO of Marlow, a menstrual wellness brand that has created the first-ever lubricated tampon for smoother and more comfortable insertion. Nadia is a Canadian delegate for the upcoming G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and a Canadian ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship Week.

She is also a member of our Startup Women Advocacy Network as the representative for Ontario. She has previously taken part in our Startup Global pitch competition, has attended several events, and was featured on one of our Startup Women Podcast episodes: Innovation in FemTech

“I first got involved with Startup Canada through the Startup Global pitch competition and it was then that I learned about all of the amazing resources and support that Startup Canada provides for early stage entrepreneurs”, said Ladak. “They are a convenor of the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem and have the support, resources, and network to help you grow your business. I am now a part of the Startup Women Advocacy Network where I meet with government representatives and private sector leaders to advocate for women entrepreneurs. These meetings have been critical in advocating for the changes required to allow women entrepreneurs to thrive. I am very grateful for all of the support that Startup Canada has provided to propel my business forward.”

If you’re interested in learning more about entrepreneurship or participating in any of our Startup Women initiatives, please visit here.