CEO, Startup Canada
We often think of large organizations as the most impactful players within a certain sector or subject area. With this notion often comes the “umbrella approach” – the idea that the biggest organizations should widen their scope to serve all demographics within said community due to established connections and ample capital.
Within Canada’s entrepreneurial support ecosystem, our strength truly lies in our thoughtful partnerships and the value we collectively place on the diverse perspectives of specialized, smaller scale support organizations who work with specific demographics – namely founders who identify as LGBTQ2+, POC, Indigenous, rural-based, and women. This approach relies on the country’s largest support organizations to reallocate resources to these highly specialized organizations; helping them to share, support, and amplify their efforts in the process.
Founded by Mary Doyle, Rural on Purpose is an entrepreneurial support organization specializing in collaboration projects with rural communities. Current Rural on Purpose programs include the monthly networking event E2XCHANGE, the themed Twitter-based ROP Chat, and a membership website offering easily accessible resources, tools, and events.
Startup Canada and Rural on Purpose recently teamed up to establish Startup Communities in rural areas. These communities, receiving resources and training through the Startup Community Empowerment Fund, will support and connect grassroots networks to fuel entrepreneurship ecosystems at a hyperlocal level.
With over 50% of women classifying access to mentorship as a key barrier for their businesses, tailored women’s mentorship programs are vital avenues for the support ecosystem to address. Unfortunately, the problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19. According to Startup Canada’s unreleased 2020 census, 56% of respondents deem mentorship critical to the growth of their business – a 14% increase from 2019.
As a response to these shifts, Startup Canada has launched a free mentorship program for women founders running throughout the month of March – including one-on-one mentorship and industry-specific mentorship circles.
Systemic discrimination has, and continues, to create unique barriers for Indigenous founders. To appropriately address these inequalities, the collective support ecosystem needs to come together to offer support, help maintain, and amplify resources and networks created by and for Indigenous people.
Founded by Shyra Barberstock, Okwaho Equal Source is an Indigenous-led social purpose enterprise specializing in human-centred design, innovation, and Indigenous-led research as tools to fuel social impact. The National Aboriginal Corporations Association (NACCA) is a network of over 50 Aboriginal Financial Institutions dedicated to stimulating economic growth for all Indigenous peoples in Canada. Startup Canada has now partnered with both organizations to support their vital missions.
Canada’s Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is an organization using knowledge and resource sharing to create an environment in which LGBTQ2+ businesses and professionals can thrive. Pride at Work Canada empowers employers to build workplaces that are safe and inclusive to employees of all gender expressions, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
Find further resources, via the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, here.
Exporting and International Growth
According to a study by BDC, viewing exporting as necessary to success gives a company 278% greater odds of high-growth sales. With the majority of potential customers residing outside of Canada, bridging our startup community into the global marketplace is essential.
Despite offering a world of possibilities, exporting can be a daunting task. You need to consider everything from e-commerce to international marketing, and from relationship building to optimal shipping practices. Each year the Canadian Export Challenge (CXC), now the Startup Global program, brings together the country’s leading experts, support organizations, and government agencies to help entrepreneurs connect with the global growth ecosystem and become export-ready.
Canada’s entrepreneurship support ecosystem is dedicated and inspiring – but we can make it even better, together.
Kayla Isabelle is the Chief Executive Officer of Startup Canada, the national rallying community supporting and giving a voice to Canada’s 3.5 million entrepreneurs. Kayla has dedicated her career to supporting entrepreneurs, both in Canada and internationally. Kayla is an award-winning strategic communications consultant and change management facilitator, and is passionate about leveraging the power of storytelling in the entrepreneurial community.