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Women Business Owners Need Advocacy and Access to Capital

Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson

Founder & CEO, Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce


Why does Canada need a chamber of commerce for women?

The Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC) is Canada’s first and only chamber of commerce that explicitly represents and advocates for woman-identified and non-binary entrepreneurs and business owners. Launched in 2018, CanWCC is a national organization representing approximately 1.2 million business owners across the country.

About 205,000 women-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and one million women are self-employed in Canada. The research is clear, and the pandemic only proved that women-owned businesses face unique barriers and challenges. Therefore, it’s necessary to have an advocacy agent to represent the interests and speak for this group of business owners to effect change at the systemic level.


What is an example of a barrier or challenge for a woman business owner?

Woman-identified and non-binary business owners face numerous unique challenges. Intersections of race, status, sexual orientation, disability, etc., often amplify barriers. One of the most significant barriers is access to capital.

It’s standard advice for startups to engage in a “Friends and Family round” to finance early development. This round involves a business owner asking people in their
network for financial investment in the business. According to the Founder Institute, a Friends and Family round can raise between $10,000–$150,000.

The Friends and Family round model of early-stage financing assumes that the business owner has access to a network of individuals with sufficient income to invest. Women, racialized, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, and business owners from other marginalized groups often do not have access to this network. And it is just not possible to gain access to an alummi network or legacy family connection through hard work.


What is CanWCC doing to solve the problem?

CanWCC focuses its advocacy on economic equity and access to capital. We continuously gather information and insight from our members about their experiences and ideas, which we use to inform our advocacy activities and policy recommendations. CanWCC consults with the government on various issues, including early-stage and mid-stage funding for women-owned businesses.

CanWCC informs its members of grants and other funding opportunities as they become available. For example, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy recently launched a micro-loan program. We also make recommendations for new and alternative ways
for the government to provide direct and indirect funding. 


What can we expect from CanWCC in 2023?

We’re excited to launch new membership pricing that removes the financial barrier to full participation in the Chamber — it’s a pay-what-you-can model. Starting in
January 2023, woman-identified and non-binary business owners can join CanWCC by paying a membership fee that makes sense for them. Our new pricing is an example of how CanWCC addresses the issue of access to capital within our organization’s policies and practices.

We will also be working on the Economic Equity Alliance, a cross-sector group of organizations assembled to examine and provide recommendations on policy relating to self-employed Canadians. We have 10 organizations committed to the project, including some of Canada’s largest national not-for-profit and labour organizations.

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