Message from the CEO

As restrictions continue to ease throughout Saskatchewan, we are excited about embracing a new post-pandemic environment and future. For over a year, we have endured the fatigue of virtual meetings and the loss of more personal, intimate face-to-face connections. We remain optimistic about the possibility of welcoming you all to our in-person events this fall. 

Our team has worked relentlessly to advance the recommendations outlined in the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee’s final report, “Enabling Scale in Saskatchewan”. This includes the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Hill and Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina. Through this partnership, both parties have committed to advancing initiatives critical to improving the representation of women in the investment sector. 

In addition to the MOU, we are pleased to have launched four new initiatives that stem from the Committee’s final report. These initiatives include the Saskatchewan Women Entrepreneurship Charter, the Women-Owned Saskatchewan Business & the Supporter of Women-Owned Saskatchewan Businesses brand identities, the Digital Entrepreneurship Hub (our new website), and a Women Entrepreneurship Wednesday campaign.

Further, in early April, we introduced three new membership packages that support women entrepreneurs throughout their entire entrepreneurial journey. Since the membership roll-out, we have seen great uptake in new members purchasing these packages. The new membership packages include:

The Pioneer – Ideal if you have an idea or are thinking about entrepreneurship.

The Trailblazer – Ideal if you are starting or have started a business and want continual support from WESK throughout your journey. 

The Changemaker – Ideal if you have an established business that you want to take to the next level.

We would like to thank the over 200 individuals who attended the WESK Summit and Gala, and those who participated in Women Entrepreneurship Week in May. We hope that the workshops, keynotes, and panel discussions left you feeling inspired and equipped with new knowledge to take your business skills to the next level.

During that same week, as a way to propel growth in the tech sector, Innovation Saskatchewan announced funding that enables WESK to offer Founders Table for a third year. This program is dedicated to Saskatchewan female founders or women in technology interested in elevating their business and management skills. The third year of the program is set to begin in September.

Just last week, we held the first virtual WESK Charter Champion Workshop. This workshop brought together organizations committed to moving the needle to close the gender entrepreneurship gap in Saskatchewan. We are currently working on a Charter Champion toolkit to provide our Champions with best practices to better support the women-owned businesses within our province.

Lastly, if require support for your business due to the impacts of the pandemic, I encourage you to apply for the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF). To date, WESK has provided over $3M in COVID-19 support to women entrepreneurs and helped save 557 jobs.

As our communities begin to re-open, I wish you good health, time with your loved ones, and much hope and optimism for what lies ahead.

Sincerely,

Prabha Mitchell,

Chief Executive Officer, WESK

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Message from the CEO

We are living in unprecedented times from the onset of the pandemic to the enormous burden–on small businesses to reinvent and remerge. It is a consistent onslaught of a million bytes of data and information in every moment, urging business owners to make decisions, be nimble, agile and pivot.

The question that our women-owned businesses in our province are contending with is – how do we remain relevant? How do we pivot? How do we emerge successfully? These are the very fundamental queries that WESK is contending with.

“A Brand is worthless if it doesn’t CONNECT with the right audiences in a RELEVANT way”.

We are expanding our horizons, becoming more inclusive and building momentum. To continue to be relevant and inclusive to you throughout your entire entrepreneurial journey, we will be launching THREE new membership packages in early April. That’s two additional options than before, so you can find your perfect fit for the stage you are at.

I am excited to share with you, for the first time ever, our three new membership packages:

A. The Pioneer: She is the first

  •  Ideal if you have an idea or are thinking about entrepreneurship.

B. The Trailblazer:She is proving it’s possible.

  • Ideal if you are starting a business and want continual support from WESK throughout your journey.                                                                                                

C. The Changemaker:She is making a difference.

  •  Ideal if you have an established business that you want to take to the next level. WESK will help you scale and make meaningful connections.

From pioneer to changemaker, entrepreneurs receive support from business advisors, access to financing, exclusive programming discounts, and essential business networking connections.

Many of you may recall that in July of 2020, WESK and the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee released a report with 10 recommendations on how Saskatchewan can affect change and close the gender entrepreneurship gap. Over the course of the last 7 months, WESK, our Team, has worked relentlessly to advance four of these recommendations.

First, the creation of the Saskatchewan Women Entrepreneurship Charter will call upon organizations to increase their support of women-owned businesses and work towards closing the gender entrepreneurship gap. This is a necessary and significant stride in the right direction, empowering organizations to adopt and adapt practices to be more inclusive. The Charter affirms a commitment to advance women entrepreneurship and build connections through four defining principles:

  1. Procure with her
  2. Amplify her voice
  3. Share skills with her
  4. Shatter a ceiling

Second, the development of Brand Identity to celebrate local Saskatchewan women entrepreneurs. This brand identity consists of two components:

  1. Women-Owned Saskatchewan Business: Not only will majority woman-owned businesses have access to utilize a unique “Women-Owned Saskatchewan Business” brand identity, but they will also have the opportunity to be showcased through our Woman-Owned Saskatchewan Business Database. This database will be accessed by our Saskatchewan Women Entrepreneurship Charter Champions, prominent, influential organizations, who are committed to closing the gender entrepreneurship gap and publicly to all those dedicated to continuing to support local.
  2. For organizations or businesses that are not majority women-owned, the “Supporter of Women-Owned Saskatchewan Businesses” was created to allow advocates of women entrepreneurs to show their support.

As part of the brand identity, WESK will be launching a campaign focused on showcasing and elevating our Saskatchewan women entrepreneurs. These features will highlight various woman entrepreneurs that have signed on to the brand identity as an official woman-owned business

Last, but not least is the development of the revolutionary WESK digital entrepreneurship hub, an innovative, pioneer and trailblazing initiative for WESK. This hub will provide seamless access to services, resources, and more. Through the Hub, entrepreneurs can take our quiz/audit to define needs, then navigate the Hub in a seamless manner to access the most relevant resources.

While all these initiatives will be officially launching on April 7th, I encourage you to stay connected as we start to unveil more exciting details in the coming weeks.

As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, we recognize the growing void for many of not being able to: connect in person, share a laugh in person, see the twinkle and passion in the other’s eye as you swap stories about business/personal lives. However, we cast our sight to the horizon with much optimism, primarily because of the vaccine.

To transition from this extraordinary world of isolation and virtual reality to the more normal world of in-person gatherings and networking, WESK is hosting a safe “COVID-conscious” hybrid approach to our annual business conference. This conference has been rebranded this year as the WESK Summit and WESK Summit Gala. The hybrid approach will allow entrepreneurs and business professionals from across Saskatchewan to join us.
In-person and Livestream tickets are now on sale. If you have not done so, I encourage you to purchase your preferred ticket type and join us in May.

To all that stand with us, by us and support us in moving the needle on closing the gender entrepreneurship gap – thank you for your belief, your courage and faith in POSSIBILITIES.

The future belongs to people and organizations that see POSSIBILITIES before they become obvious (great words spoken by Ted Levitt, American economist, and Harvard Professor). At WESK, we remain committed to supporting you in discerning these possibilities and turning them into reality

Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you in person in the near future.

Sincerely,

Prabha Mitchell,

Chief Executive Officer, WESK

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Happy Holidays from WESK

As we bid farewell to 2020, part of me is relieved to put behind the year of the Black Swan that swooped in on us and changed our lives irrevocably. We look ahead to 2021, with hope and optimism, recognizing that our small businesses continue to be challenged as we work together on economic recovery.

Conforming to the guidelines set out by the Government of Saskatchewan is imperative, to ensure that we can welcome 2021 with some semblance of normalcy. The Open Letter to the People of Saskatchewan, a message from WESK, along with 33 other local organizations, was intended to reflect our support for our government’s plan, while recognizing that safety of our citizens is paramount and survival of our small businesses is essential.  

We applaud our members and women entrepreneurs in our province for their resilience and grit in navigating these uncertain times. Our entrepreneurs and small businesses need our support now more than ever. Let us commit to shopping local, spending our money locally, and supporting small businesses in our communities recover and grow. 

Through this devastating year, WESK remained unwavering in its commitment to support women entrepreneurs and our community in the rebound from COVID-19. The ideology of “business as usual” was even more pivotal during this crisis to ensure women entrepreneurs received the resources, programs and services required to sustain their businesses. While the organization pivoted to deliver all programs and services virtually with minimum disruption, several new initiatives were also undertaken:  

  • The Saskatchewan Advisory Committee completed their work with the release of a final report of recommendations entitled “Enabling Scale in Saskatchewan” on July 29th ;
  • The virtual launch of our newest program, The Exchange, with 7 cohorts of female entrepreneurs; and
  • The virtual launch of our second year of Founders Table, province-wide this time around, with double the number of participants.

 Stay tuned for exciting announcements in 2021 regarding:

  • Recommendations from the Enabling Scale in Saskatchewan report; and
  • Building a more inclusive organization.

Lastly, I would like to thank my team, who are committed, passionate and driven. I am grateful to work with a purpose-driven group who are focused on making a difference and rising to the challenges created by this extraordinary year. I would also like to recognize our board for their guidance and engagement as the organization adapted and pivoted to remain agile. Lastly, I want to express sincere appreciation to, and acknowledgement of our funders, partners and friends who support our mandate and stand resolutely with us and women entrepreneurs in our province.

Wishing you all a restful, peaceful and above all a healthy holiday season. May you and your loved ones have time to create new memories and new dreams with a renewed hope for the year ahead.  

Until 2021….

Stay well and stay safe,

Prabha Mitchell

CEO of WESK

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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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Message from the CEO

As we navigate our way through a “new normal”, we recognize that the way we conduct business in the future has likely changed irrevocably. While we welcome the creativity and innovation of the “new normal”, there are still concerns and uncertainty that plague much of how the economy will unfold. The re-opening of our Saskatchewan economy is critical in spurring recovery and infusing some sense of normalcy but for many, it also creates new challenges.

Our team has started to gradually transition back to the office, though we remain closed to the public for the time being. We continue to serve our clients remotely and encourage you to reach out and connect with us. Like many entrepreneurs, COVID has provided an opportunity for WESK to take pause and reassess our programs and services to ensure relevance, effectiveness and efficiencies. I welcome any ideas and feedback you may have regarding enhancing our service delivery.

One of the pivotal and redefined programs we are launching is The Exchange: Rebound Edition. We recognized that the pandemic significantly impacted small and medium-sized businesses and as a result, we pivoted from our original focus on scaling up. The redesigned year one of the program ensures women entrepreneurs acquire the knowledge and business acumen to successfully rebound from economic shock.

Applications for The Exchange: Rebound Edition closed on July 13 and we are thrilled with the response! If you are interested but missed the deadline, please reach out to us. The program will be launched on July 22, 2020 by bringing all applicants together for a virtual retreat. The retreat is an opportunity for participants to come together and receive guidance and mentorship from other reputable entrepreneurs.

On July 16, Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Western Economic Diversification Canada), announced that WESK will receive $2M through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF). This fund will enable WESK to assist Saskatchewan female-owned businesses by providing them with immediate liquidity to face COVID-19-related challenges. Loans of up to $40,000 are available through WESK’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) to female entrepreneurs who unable to access larger federal relief programs.

As we enter the summer months, we take a break from our monthly networking events Shaken with a Twist and Uncorked. Thank you to all of you who have joined us over the past few months as we transitioned to a virtual format. Both events will resume virtually in September.

We understand that virtual events cannot take the place of the personal experience of an in person gathering. We all miss the networking, the laughs, and reuniting with familiar faces. I am looking forward to reconnecting with you all in January 2021 when we resume with Shaken with a Twist and Uncorked in person should the curve stay flattened.

Lastly, I am proud of how Saskatchewan residents have come together to flatten the curve, ensure safety, and support our small businesses. As businesses begin to re-open and small gatherings become more acceptable, I encourage you all to stay safe and continue to engage in healthy practices recommended by our Chief Medical Officer. As I’ve said before, TOGETHER, we can get through this and beyond.

Stay well and stay safe,

Prabha Mitchell

Chief Executive Officer,

WESK

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Message from the CEO

We are living in extraordinary times. Nothing is the same anymore, whether it is working, connecting, networking, exercising, or even shopping. Perhaps, there will be a new normal post-COVID-19.
WESK is here for you. We are working to do all we can to support our members and all Saskatchewan women entrepreneurs during this period of uncertainty.

Here are some of the measures we have implemented:

  1. Waived our annual membership fee for the month of April, enabling you to meet with a business advisor for free
  2. New payment solutions for our loan clients
  3. Free weekly webinars, virtual workshops, and virtual “networking” events
  4. COVID-19 webpage that includes up-to-date information, resources, and tips for small business owners
  5. Advocacy strategy for women entrepreneurs to both the provincial and federal governments to ensure that small businesses with 0-9 employees receive relief measures that are applicable and relevant

For those of you who participated in our Small Business Survey, thank you. Your answers have helped us to be your voice with the provincial and federal governments. I’d like to highlight some of our key findings:

  • 57% of businesses categorized themselves as “solo entrepreneurs”
  • 92% of businesses have under 10 employees
  • 80% of businesses generated under $250,000 in revenue prior to COVID-19
  • 60% indicate they can only sustain their business for less than 3 months
  • 70% require financial support of under $10,000-30,000 in the next 3 months

We understand that these are difficult times for most of you. The federal and provincial governments have various funding and relief programs available to you. You can discover what funding options are available to you in the “Emergency Funding for Small Businesses” section of our COVID-19 page. Please note that our provincial government recently announced the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment that provides up to $5000 for every small business. Please take advantage of this support.
The key message I want to leave you with is that WESK is here to support you. We will advocate for you, and we will provide you with relief measures as needed.


Keep well, stay safe. TOGETHER, we will get through this.

Prabha Mitchell
Chief Executive Officer, WESK

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Season’s Greetings from the Desk of the CEO

We bid farewell to 2019 with much optimism and gratitude for the support and endorsement of our mission to close the gender entrepreneurship gap in Saskatchewan. 2019 was punctuated with many exciting milestones, including the launch of the SK Advisory Committee, and the announcement of The Exchange, a program aimed at helping successful female entrepreneurs scale their businesses. While there are many promises to keep and miles to go before we reap the benefits of closing the gender entrepreneurship gap – we can say with pride that we DID move the needle in our province.

As we bring this year to a close, I am deeply thankful for my team, our board and our partners who have influenced and shaped our accomplishments this year. I am inspired by the resilience and grit of women entrepreneurs in our province and am very grateful to serve in my role.

We ring in 2020 with much anticipation, excitement, and resolve to continue building on the momentum of 2019. We are fortunate to live in this country and this province where gender equity, equality, and diversity are valued.

As we take pause this holiday season to reflect and celebrate, I wish each of you rest, reprieve, and joyous times with your loved ones. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a new decade of happiness and prosperity.

Sincerely,

Prabha Mitchell
Chief Executive Officer,
WESK

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Seasons Greetings from the Desk of the CEO

As we bid farewell to 2018, I hope you feel a sense of progress, a sense of
accomplishment and contentment as you get ready to pause, rejuvenate and recharge. For us at WESK, 2018 was akin to being on a major trajectory and racing through, recognizing it is not about the destination, but the journey.

This year, we made a commitment to impact as many women entrepreneurs as possible. We made a commitment to be a strong voice for closing the gender gap related to entrepreneurship. We embarked on this journey and it is not over yet. We picked up speed and traction and we will keep moving forward.

Gender equality is fundamental to the fabric of a culture and community; equally important is the recognition and acknowledgement that the economic contributions of women are enormous and remain an unrealized opportunity for productivity and growth. Defining the challenges and opportunities to increasing majority female-owned businesses in our province became a priority. We commissioned PwC to conduct an
independent study exploring Women Entrepreneurship in Canada and its possible implication on Saskatchewan. Through the report we explored:

  • Why does the gender gap exists?
  • How does Saskatchewan compare to the rest of Canada?
  • What more can we do to close the gap and unleash the immense opportunities before us?

We have been following up to make change happen in our Province. Indigenous women entrepreneurs, an equally untapped segment require concerted, dedicated support. We launched Matchstick: Spark for Indigenous Entrepreneurs to support Indigenous women start and grow a business, fuel economic independence, drive growth and foster entrepreneurial activity in Indigenous communities.

As we bring this year to a close, I am deeply grateful for our Team, our Board of Directors, our Partners and all those who support women entrepreneurs.

I wish you reprieve, and rest from the hustles and the routine of your everyday lives. I wish you time for reflections and celebrations with your loved ones. I wish you happiness and anticipation as you welcome the New Year!

Prabha Mitchell

Chief Executive Officer, WESK

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