Build Your Business: Saskatchewan and Beyond

Written by Lori Jestin-Knaus, Business Advisor & Growth Initiatives Manager, WESK


On Feb 1, 2018, Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan (WESK) and Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) hosted a panel discussion, Build Your Business: Saskatchewan and Beyond. This event was an opportunity to learn about the business expansion and market access from the panelists, Angela Propp Schmitt, RedWillow Organics; Katherine Regnier, Coconut Software Corporation; Serese Selanders, Kasiel Solutions Inc.; along with moderator, Natasha Vandenhurk, Three Farmers Products.

Think BIG

Participation in export markets enables businesses to expand and grow their operations. Serese Selanders and Angela Propp Schmitt emphasized the need to ‘think big’ in your business. For Katherine Regnier, exporting was a natural step in the progression of her software business.

Serese’s mission is to be a world class company. When Serese was unable to find an appropriate alert device for her father in 2013, the ORA journey began. Kasiel Solutions Inc. develops innovative personal safety products. Kasiel’s first product, ORA, is designed specifically for seniors and lone workers. The ORA is lightweight, discreet, attractive, and leverages Bluetooth through a cellular app for extended range.


Angela Propp Schmitt ships her organic products to international suppliers.  RedWillow Organics is a 2,500-acre dedicated organic family farm near Carrot River. The farm produces and processes certified organic cereal grains, forages and oilseeds. An On-Farm Seed Cleaning Plant provides seed cleaning and packaging for the farm production as well as offering custom services.


Since 2011, Katherine’s Coconut Software Corporation has quickly become the leading appointment scheduling platform that modernizes the customer experience and increases business results. Coconut Software Corp. provides an enterprise appointment scheduling solution that redefines how customers interact with organizations, while maintaining unparalleled levels of security and compliance.


Fortuitous opportunities

As certified organic grower, Angela Propp recognized that the international markets were the only game in town for her operation. In 2012, Angela decided to phone STEP and before she knew it, she was on her way to Germany to attend a tradeshow. Subsequently, Angela attended two German tradeshows where she met potential buyers. Angela discovered that “tradeshows are key but don’t expect to go your first year and get orders.”

For Serese Selanders, she assumed an overseas hardware supplier was the way to go for the development of the components used in her ORA products. Often, the international suppliers can provide cheaper component parts for North American manufacturing companies. Serese found her solution to be Canadian and not international. Her hardware components are developed by a Quebec company.

In tech, Silicon Valley is where you eventually locate your business. Katherine Regnier went to the Silicon Valley to gain knowledge and make valuable connections. She can’t be persuaded to move to the Valley; she dug her heels in and she is committed to staying in Saskatoon. Katherine admits “she took a chance, got on a plane, and something amazing happened” and that is her advice for others. Take advantage of fortuitous opportunities to expand your markets and make those necessary connections. Then bring it back home.


Find Your Rockstar

Mentorship and networks are necessary for business development and growth. As a small business owner in Saskatchewan, Katherine found it easy to knock on doors. Approximately two years ago, Katherine expanded and set up an office in Toronto along with employees while maintaining an office in Saskatoon. Katherine soon discovered that management, culture and leadership was complicated and there wasn’t a playbook. Katherine sought out a rockstar in her industry and then asked for introductions. Katherine found her mentor in Toronto. “Mentors are the floodlight while you are fumbling in the dark. Find your market, find your leader and ask for help.”


Canadian, eh! Language, culture and business

As her business expands, Serese has found it difficult to build those relationships beyond Saskatchewan and she recognizes that there are cultural differences regionally in Canada and as one would expect, international business can be difficult to maneuver. Serese purposely sets out to make meaningful connections weekly in order to develop and cultivate her markets.

When dealing with international clients, Angela discovered that language and cultural values may contribute to miscommunication and misunderstandings that can impact your business. Angela affirms that relationships are paramount. Consumers are seeking organic products and they are looking for the farm to fork story.  Angela’s story is key to effectively brand her company and to market her product as genuinely Canadian.


Find your supports and leverage their knowledge and expertise

All three women agree. Seek the advice and support of organizations starting with the ones in your own backyard. Gather information from the necessary resources and then do your research. Find mentors and advisors.

WESK empowers business owners with opportunities, resources, and a community to scale up their business. With invaluable business advising, a unique financing program, revitalized training programs, and exciting events, WESK is dedicated to guiding you on your entrepreneurial journey.

STEP is a member-driven, non-profit corporation dedicated to increasing Saskatchewan’s export activities while raising awareness of our province’s distinct products and services. Linking Saskatchewan suppliers with the global marketplace – STEP is your direct connection to expertise, markets, and global networks.  STEP offers their members a variety of services and programs that can help diversify customer bases and grow business.

On May 8, 2018, WESK and STEP will host a second Build Your Business breakfast event in Regina featuring Brooke Longpre, Sound Solar Systems Inc.; Val Michaud, Gravelbourg Mustard; and Colleen Haussecker, Canadian Organic Spice & Herb Co. Inc. The event will be moderated by Janet Lee, The Story Co. Register here

Written by Lori Jestin-Knaus, Business Advisor & Growth Initiatives Manager, WESK

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WBENC 2018 in Detroit, Michigan is the place to be!

Written by: Nancy Brommell, Business Advisor, Women’s Enterprise Centre Manitoba


You will want to attend this year’s annual WBENC Conference and Business Fair if you are a woman business owner and you have:

1.    Visions of growing your business via export

2.    Interest in or already had experience selling B2B and/or

3.    Capacity to manufacture in larger volumes

The WBENC Conference and Business Fair is the perfect opportunity for women business owners in all industries to connect and talk with buyers and supplier diversity specialists of Fortune 500 companies about how your business could become one of their suppliers. Many U.S. corporations are interested in buying from women-owned companies. This year’s WBENC is being held in Detroit, Michigan. To take in all of the events, you will want to arrive in Detroit by late afternoon on Sunday June 17 and head out on Thursday June 21. The Business Fair is on Wednesday June 20th

To register for WBENC 2018, it’s as easy as 1…2…3.

1.    Get on with booking your hotel room and paying your WBENC registration. Hotel rooms book up fast and registration is limited so do it sooner rather than later. Here’s the link.

2.    Also sooner rather later, connect with BWIT. BWIT is the federal government’s Business Women in International Trade program. Let them know you will be attending WBENC 2018. For the 10th year in a row, BWIT and the provincial women’s enterprise centres (WEC-BC, AWE, WESK and WECM) are working collaboratively to provide you with opportunities to find potential export markets. The sooner they know you’re attending WBENC, the more connections they may be able to find for your business.

3.    Let your provincial women’s enterprise initiative (WEI) staff know you’re attending. If you’re in:

WEC – Women’s Enterprise Centre in British Columbia  

AWE – Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

WESK – Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan

WECM – Women’s Enterprise Centre Manitoba

You do not need to have supplier diversity certification to attend the WBENC Conference and Business Fair. However, it can be helpful to know what supplier diversity certification is before you go to this event as you will hear the term mentioned many times and you will probably be asked if you are a certified diverse supplier. Don’t know what that means, talk to your WEI staff; they will explain this “strange but true” opportunity. 

Finally, if you’re interested in growing your business via export but this whole blog post is super-confusing to you, start with point #3. Contact your provincial women’s enterprise centre; they will answer all your questions and help you decide what’s best for you and your business.

This blog post was written by Nancy Brommell, Business Advisor with the Women’s Enterprise Centre Manitoba. The western Canadian women’s enterprise initiative (WEI), funded by the federal government’s Western Diversification program, works collaboratively each other and the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) to support women business owners interested in growing their businesses via export.

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Interested in delivering training for WESK?

WESK is currently seeking presenters to offer one-of-a-kind, engaging workshops and webinars in various topics that will develop the competencies, knowledge and technical skills of women entrepreneurs who are starting and growing their businesses.

If you are interested in delivering a workshop and/or webinar with WESK, we invite you to submit a proposal.

Please note, due to the high volume of presentation proposals we receive, presentations are selected based upon the topic, relevance and demand.


Presentation Format and Time Frame


One hour in length, volunteered time, and delivered during the lunch hour (12:00 – 1:00 pm).


1-2 hours, ½ day, or full day in length. Sessions are delivered in the mornings, afternoons or evenings at the WESK offices (Saskatoon and/or Regina).

*1-2 hour workshops are provided on a volunteered basis only

Proposal Requirements

  • Professional biography
  • Presentation format: workshop and/or webinar
  • Title, description with learning objectives
  • Delivery time frame
  • Fees
  • Equipment and material requirements.

Proposal Submission

Please email your proposal submission to:

Diane SouilletTraining Coordinator,

*1-2 hour workshops are provided on a volunteered basis only

Suggested Training Topics


  • Business Tax
  • Cash flow
  • QuickBooks
  • Business Viability



  • Strategy & Planning
  • Branding
  • Advertising & Promotion
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Social Media
  • Advanced Social Media Strategy


Business Growth

  • Business Growth Strategy
  • Market Development & Expansion
  • Financial Management
  • Sales Strategy



  • Trademarks and Associated Issues
  • Enterprise Risk Management
  • Business Structure
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Connect Newsletter April 2017 Edition

Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan is pleased to present our new Newsletter with a refreshed look and content. To add value, each newsletter will feature a successful entrepreneur in our community and tips for business growth. Our newsletter gives you more insight into our Brand Launch and we look forward to seeing you at our Champagne Reception May 10th!

Inside This Edition…

  • Embracing the future with an exciting new brand
  • The Big Event
  • Conference at a Glance
  • Conference Speakers
  • Q&A with Rachel Mielke
  • Advertising Opportunities
  • Upcoming Events

Click here to read the full edition

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It’s Time to Close the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap

By Prabha Mitchell

A concept that needs more attention in Saskatchewan is: How women entrepreneurs can generate significant economic growth in the province.

It is an exciting time in Saskatchewan. Both the Saskatchewan Party and the New Democratic Party are in the middle of heated leadership campaigns. Come the spring sitting of Saskatchewan’s Legislative Assembly, there will be a new premier and leader of the Official Opposition.

There is a wealth of debate and discussion on many policy platforms, and initiatives amongst the candidates to ensure Saskatchewan remains strong into the future.

A great deal has been heard about how best to approach economic growth, fiscal policy, health care, even legalized marijuana. There is one concept, however, that needs more attention: How, under the right conditions, women entrepreneurs can generate significant economic growth in Saskatchewan.

Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan (WESK) wants to ensure that all Saskatchewan entrepreneurs have an equal opportunity to achieve success and contribute to the province’s economic development, employment, innovation, and equality.

In Saskatchewan, small business is BIG business — as small businesses account for almost 99 per cent of all business enterprises. In this province (and nationally), women own more than one-third of all small businesses.

Canadian women-owned businesses contribute $148 billion to the national economy, account for the fastest-growing segment of the small business sector, and outpace men when it comes to starting businesses.

While it is all positive news, there is a catch. Nearly two-thirds of women-owned small businesses are in industries characterized by slower growth and lower profitability. This discrepancy in representation in the entrepreneurship landscape is known as the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap. WESK believes the gap should be narrowed, if not closed entirely.

According to Closing the Gender Gap, a 2016 article in Municipal World, of all women-owned businesses, those that earn revenues between $100,000 and $1 million often grow the slowest. Comparatively, businesses owned by men are more than 3.5 times more likely to reach $1 million in revenue, according to a 2014 article in Women’s Entrepreneurship in B.C. and Canada. This disparity has created an economic gender gap.

Additionally, while women entrepreneurs are starting businesses faster and express growth intentions to the same extent or greater than their male counterparts, the reality is that their businesses are simply not growing to the same scale.

The segment of women-owned businesses with revenues between $100,000 and $1 million represents the greatest potential for economic growth.

A 2011 report from the Canadian Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth Action Strategies to Support Women’s Enterprise Development estimates that a 20-per-cent increase in total revenues of women-owned businesses would add $2 billion to the Canadian economy every year. Similarly, a 2013 RBC Economics article, Female Entrepreneurs Remain a Relatively Untapped Resource for Economic Growth, estimates that over the next decade, a 10-per-cent increase in the number of women-owned firms could result in an economic gain of $15 billion.

Accessing capital is the biggest barrier women entrepreneurs face — rejection rates for lending are significantly higher for female owners (66 per cent vs. 35 per cent for men). In 2013, men borrowed nearly 500 per cent more money than women. Other barriers include a lack of skills, knowledge and experience; not enough access to mentors; and women serving disproportionately as caretakers and having to square business growth decisions with family and personal responsibilities.

National and international studies have shown time and again that gender-based initiatives yield tremendous results and address many of the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs.

That is why WESK is calling for the creation of an Advisory Council to examine the economic gender gap in Saskatchewan. The provincial government needs to develop a Saskatchewan Economic Development Strategy for Women in Business that addresses barriers to growth and invests in strategic initiatives that help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Closing the economic gender gap does not just benefit women and girls, it will also enhance the economic productivity of Saskatchewan as a whole and make policies and institutions more representative.

All candidates in both leadership races are encouraged to consider both of WESK’s recommendations. When women succeed in business, everyone benefits and Saskatchewan will be stronger as a result.

Prabha Mitchell, CEO, WESK

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