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.
Chief Executive Officer, WESK