Executive Director, Startup Canada
Canadian entrepreneurs are a major artery of the national economic system, generating scalable and sustainable businesses that foster financial growth and social development. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Startup Canada has been a fierce supporter of startups and small businesses.
As a result of social distancing measures, entrepreneurs have been forced to largely adopt remote work practices across the country. This new work-from-home model has brought on a number of new challenges, including difficulty accessing support networks and struggling to stay connected.
Programming for all startups, big and small
Startup Canada is combating this loss of connectivity through its 2020–2021 Startup Community Program — an initiative that aims to connect entrepreneurs within their community or industry, advocate for regional needs to government and private sector organizations, and share resources across all available platforms. Since 2012, Startup Canada has supported the growth of over 50 startup communities, and these support systems are more important than ever.
This nimble non-profit has also shifted the conversation in its weekly digital programming, including the Startup Canada Podcast, the THRIVE Podcast for Women Entrepreneurs, and Twitter-based Startup Chats, to directly address the unique challenges surrounding the pandemic and provide helpful digital resources that can immediately benefit entrepreneurs.
Additionally, the Social Impact Program, in partnership with the federal government’s Investment Readiness Program supports current and aspiring social entrepreneurs with access to training, mentorship, funding, and additional resources necessary to scale up their social impact.
Supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs
Every sector has been faced with unprecedented challenges since the onset of COVID-19, but certain demographics have been disproportionately impacted. As Canada’s entrepreneurship organization, Startup Canada is committed to continuing its mandate of supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs, namely women, throughout the current crisis.
As of July, Startup Canada has partnered with the Montreal Founder Institute to launch the Startup Canada Women in STEM Fellowship — a program aimed at empowering women tech entrepreneurs through free enrollment in the Founder Institute’s Virtual 2020 Semester. In March, Startup Canada launched the Women Entrepreneur Program in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation. This program includes webinars and demographic-specific resource guides to help women entrepreneurs learn new skills and build their networks.
For fall and winter programming, relevant initiatives will continue to empower entrepreneurs throughout and after the pandemic, including the Canadian Export Challenge (CXC) — a series of digital events powered by Google that will help every entrepreneur start and scale their businesses globally. #CXC2020 will provide every entrepreneur across Canada with tangible tools and resources to help them stay afloat and navigate this uncharted global territory. In addition to the flagship program, a series of Go Global Bootcamps have also provided entrepreneurs with expert knowledge and actionable take-aways that allow them to connect to the global market as the pandemic continues to evolve.
Resilience in entrepreneurship
While immediate educational tools for small businesses are vital, Startup Canada also recognizes the need for a larger-scale study that can support Canadian entrepreneurs in mitigating risks and pivoting during these challenging times. Startup Canada and Sovereign Insurance have joined forces to launch the Resilience in Entrepreneurship Survey — a study that aims to consolidate the challenges, strategies and post-pandemic recovery plans of Canadian small businesses.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial to champion small businesses and recognize the resilience and innovation of Canadian entrepreneurs. On October 20th, the CANIE Awards Grand Finale, launched by The Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation (IEF) in collaboration with Startup Canada, Sovereign Insurance, UPS, Mastercard, and Scotiabank, will showcase the stories of leading entrepreneurs from across the country.