TORONTO, Feb. 22, 2022 /CNW/ - Ahead of International Women's Day, and as Canadian small businesses continue to rebound from the pandemic, Visa Canada announced today the third round of its She's Next Grant Program that supports women-owned small businesses (SBs) in Canada. Women entrepreneurs can apply for a chance to receive one of ten grants of $10,000 CAD each and one year of mentorship support to further develop their businesses. Starting today until March 15, Canadian women entrepreneurs across all sectors can apply at ifundwomen.com/visa-canada.
According to Visa's most recent Back to Business Study, optimism is growing among Canadian small businesses with four out of five (86%) feeling optimistic about their future coming out of the pandemic, the highest level of optimism in studies to-date1. However, when compared to businesses owned by men, Canadian women entrepreneurs are less confident in their firm's financial position2. Additionally, funding for women-owned SBs continues to be a challenge, with only 79% indicating full funding, compared to 85% of businesses owned by men3.
"The rise of digital payments and shifting consumer preferences is creating new opportunities for small businesses to thrive in today's environment," said Stacey Madge, president and country manager, Visa Canada. "At Visa, we know that women entrepreneurs continue to have unique challenges. The She's Next Grant Program aims to further bolster women-owned small businesses to help them adapt to changing consumer needs."
Looking back at 2021, nearly half (47%) of Canadian small businesses said the year presented them with opportunities and that their business is doing well4.
An SBs digital presence emerged as a major contributing factor in helping them sustain during the pandemic: more than 80% attribute their survival to e-commerce, with nearly half of their revenue (47%) coming from online channels5.
"We used to rely on in-person events to introduce people to our company," said Laurinda Lee-Retter, founder and jeweller, Kind Karma. "Since receiving Visa's She's Next Grant, we've transitioned to an e-commerce model and are focusing on our digital presence, using digital ads to target people searching for jewellery, who are interested in social enterprise, ethical business and ending homelessness."
For The Plot Market Garden, a BC-based small business focused on high-quality, sustainable farming, the pandemic highlighted the importance of diversifying market streams. "With the grant from Visa, we were able to expand our business and harness e-commerce tools to reach our consumers in new ways. We were also able to build a new greenhouse to help extend the production cycle into winter and earlier in spring," said co-founder Emily Harris.
Two-thirds of Canadian consumers expect to shift to being cashless within the next 10 years, reporting the top benefits as being easier shopping online (45%), followed by less physical contact (36%) and convenience (34%)6.
"The ever-changing business landscape is pushing small businesses to find new ways to succeed,” said Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO at IFundWomen. “We’re thrilled to continue our collaboration with Visa and providing more women entrepreneurs the funding and resources they need to thrive, innovate and ultimately grow the small business community in Canada.”
To learn more and to apply for the Visa She's Next Grant Program, applicants must submit a short video with details about their business and digital presence to ifundwomen.com/visa-canada. Ten winners will be selected and receive grants of $10,000 CAD each and coaching for a year from leaders within the Visa and IFundWomen network.
With the extension of the grant program, Visa Canada furthers its commitment to support SBs across the country, particularly those led by women entrepreneurs. The company's ongoing efforts to support SBs include the Visa Canada Small Business Hub, which has new programs and solutions to enable them to drive efficiency and sales through acceptance of digital payments and expanding businesses online.