Women entrepreneurs hoping to get their businesses off the ground may want to apply for funding through the Government of Canada's $55-million Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund.

On August 15, the federal government announced that the Women's Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC), a Winnipeg-based association of organizations dedicated to working with women entrepreneurs, would be responsible for administering about $30 million in funding through the program.

"Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the Canadian economy, and now is an excellent time to provide resources that facilitate the growth of women-owned businesses," WEOC CEO Alison Kirkland said in a statement.

Other organizations administering the loan fund include the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, the Northumberland Business Development Assistance Corp and Coralus. The fund is part of the federal government's $6-billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, which also includes the Inclusive Women Venture Capital Initiative, the WES Ecosystem Fund and the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.

How the Program Works

The Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund provides microloans of up to $50,000 to women entrepreneurs - particularly startups, underrepresented groups and sole proprietorships. The loans come with terms of up to five years with a maximum interest rate of prime + 4% and a maximum loan management fee of 1%.

Eligible business must be more than 50% women-owned and cannot have more than $2 million in gross revenues annually. Eligible businesses must also have a business plan, including cash flow forecasts for a minimum of two years. To learn more about how to qualify for funding, as well as eligible and ineligible expenses for businesses that receive loans, see the eligibility requirements published by the WEOC.

Advancing Economic Opportunities for Women

A report published by the federal government noted that women-owned businesses are less likely to seek equity funding than male-owned businesses, and women are more likely to own smaller businesses than men. Speaking to reporters in Winnipeg earlier this week, Marcela Mandeville, chair of the WEOC, described the new federal funding for women entrepreneurs as a "game-changer."

The Government of Canada noted that only 17% of small- and medium- sized businesses in the country are owned by women. A study from McKinsey & Company has shown that advancing gender equality could add $150 billion to the Canadian economy - about $50 billion of which could be generated in Western Canada.

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