Message from the CEO

Our way of living and working has been altered significantly over these past several months, however, this setback has also revealed opportunities and blessings for some. I have heard many inspiring stories of entrepreneurs pivoting and rebounding; entrepreneurs who developed new products and services as an innovative solution to address the impact of the pandemic. While the reality is harsh and painful, building momentum and a movement to support local businesses is essential and critical. 

While we are limited in the in-person interactions we can engage in with our community, the WESK team has been relentless in providing relevant resources to our entrepreneurs on starting, growing, scaling, pivoting, and rebounding their businesses. Although the board and team developed a new strategic plan in March 2020, we have been agile and nimble in adapting the strategy as warranted to address the current environment. We have commenced execution of some of the recommendations listed in the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee’s Final Report “Enabling Scale in Saskatchewan”. Stay tuned for more information as we advance this initiative further.

Despite our offices remaining closed to the public during these times, we continue to offer our regular programs and services virtually, including business advising, training, and events. As you may imagine, our business advisors have been busier than ever during these times. If you’re looking for business advice, I encourage you to book a virtual appointment with our team. We are here to help.

If you’re in need of financing, WESK continues to accept applications for the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), in addition to our longstanding financing program. The RRRF was announced by the Government of Canada to provide financial support directly to small and medium-sized women-owned businesses that have been unable to access other government support programs. Loans of up to $40,000 are available through WESK to address COVID-19 impacts on short-term stability. To date, we have approved 46 RRRF loans and disbursed approximately 80% of the fund.

Two of our signature programs, The Exchange and Founders Table, launched virtually in September with overwhelming success. We were thrilled to welcome over 70 female entrepreneurs from various industries into The Exchange for year one of the program, which was redesigned to help businesses be successful and adapt to the new challenges emerging from the pandemic. We are thankful to our seven cohort chairs, Janet Lee, Heather Adams, Candyce Fiessel, Karri Howlett, Alicia Soulier, Christine Hrudka, and Devon Fiddler, who have been working hard with their respective cohorts as they make their way through the program.

Founders Table, WESK’s women in tech program facilitated by Katrina German, was launched province-wide for its second year with a new intake of over 20 participants. Founders Table features sessions with industry experts and includes a focus on advancing tech-based businesses.

We pivoted our annual Small Business Conference, which took place from September 28 – October 2, offering an entire week of free virtual workshops and panel discussions to our Saskatchewan community. With over 800 attendees across 6 different events, we are proud to say that this year’s event was our biggest one yet. While virtual events are not ideal and optimal, it does provide increased accessibility throughout the province.

Until next time, stay safe and resilient. While it’s important to keep physically distanced, it’s equally important to stay emotionally connected. We will come out of these times stronger by staying together.

Regards,

Prabha Mitchell,

Chief Executive Officer, WESK

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WESK and FHQ Developments: Enhancing Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 19, 2020

Regina, SK – In collaboration with strategic partners, and feedback from Indigenous women entrepreneurs, WESK (Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan) developed the Matchstick program to support Indigenous women in their entrepreneurial journey. Matchstick offered business planning, mentoring, business advising, and financing to over 300 Indigenous women entrepreneurs (see Matchstick Backgrounder).

To advance the momentum achieved during the three-year pilot and move to the next phase of Matchstick, WESK and FHQ Developments Ltd. have committed to a long-term strategic partnership to enhance entrepreneurial capacity for Indigenous women entrepreneurs.

WESK CEO Prabha Mitchell said, “The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FHQ Developments is not only pivotal as FHQ was a member on the Advisory Council of the original Matchstick program; but it further strengthens our ability and capacity to support Indigenous women in an impactful way.”

WESK has incorporated Matchstick into its core programming and services. The MOU will not only support Matchstick but also include collaboratively seeking solutions to identify and address gaps and challenges and seize opportunities for Saskatchewan Indigenous women entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses. In addition, the two organizations will address strategies to enhance diversity in the supply chains and in procurement.

“This is an important alliance for FHQ Developments in the development of Indigenous women entrepreneurs within our territory and beyond. We are very proud of the work we have done together with WESK through Matchstick and look forward to adding more Indigenous entrepreneurs so that we can continue to diversify Saskatchewan’s economy”, said Thomas Benjoe, CEO and President of FHQ Developments. 

A report entitled Indigenous Women Entrepreneurship in Canada (July 2020), released by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, noted that though Indigenous women account for 51% of the Canadian Indigenous population, they make up only 41% of the self-employed Indigenous population.

Not unlike all women entrepreneurs, Indigenous women entrepreneurs encounter challenges in entrepreneurship related to their gender. The same report as above noted that the main barrier is access to financing, followed by balancing family responsibilities, lack of support within their communities and limited access to business training. These challenges were also conveyed in the Matchstick roundtable discussions with Saskatchewan Indigenous entrepreneurs, along with additional barriers including lack of mentoring and networking opportunities and limited business advising services.

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To learn more about the MOU contact:

Josie Fries, Marketing Advisor, WESK

P: 306-477-6286

Thomas Benjoe, President and CEO, FHQ Developments Ltd.

T: 306-790-2350

About WESK

WESK is a non-profit, membership-based organization that provides business advisory; start-up, purchase and expansion lending; mentoring and networking and learning opportunities. WESK is supported by Western Economic Diversification Canada.

About FHQ Developments

In 2010, the 11-member First Nation communities of File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council (FHQTC), representing over 16,000 First Nation citizens and 435,000 acres of reserve lands in Treaty 4 territory, formed FHQ Developments as a limited partnership agreement.

The mission of FHQ Developments is to contribute to the long-term economic independence and prosperity of our Limited Partners and our citizens by developing profitable business ventures and economic development opportunities while advancing employment and livelihood for our Nations and citizens in a manner consistent with the Nehiyaw (Cree), Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) Nations teachings.

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Call for Expression of Interest: Development of a Digital Entrepreneurship Hub for Women Entrepreneurs

Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) is calling for expression of interest to participate in the request for proposal (RFP) process. The call is open to web developers with a passion for the advancement of women entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan.

The Digital Entrepreneurship Hub was a recommendation that stemmed from the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee Report which was released September 2020.

One of the greatest challenges for all entrepreneurs is navigating the entrepreneurial ecosystem and leveraging relevant available resources. The entrepreneurial ecosystem includes educational institutions, banks, accountants, investors, regulators, and governmental agencies, to name a few. While support is vast, information and resources often lack coordination and can be overwhelming to navigate.

The Committee proposed the following recommendations:

  • Building on the current infrastructure and programs/services of WESK such as The Exchange, create a one-stop shop Digital Hub that eases navigation and access to: resources, programs and services, mentors, experts and peers; and
  • Create systems for real-time data collection regarding but not limited to program/service utilization, demographics on the business and degree to which businesses are achieving scale. The data gathered will also be valuable for analysis of trends and insights into identifying companies who may or may not be aware of their position for scaling.

This portal will enable women to access relevant resources in a timely manner. The digital nature of the hub eliminates barriers to access such as distance, accessibility to childcare, and financial resources.

This online hub will also link women to mentors and subject matter experts in a virtual environment.

To ensure you receive the RFP, please submit your expression of interest to Cara Cote (ccote@wesk.rbdemo.site)  no later than Oct 23, 2020 at 5:00pm.

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